Tara Brach

The teachings of Tara Brach

Who is Tara Brach?

Born in 1953, Tara Brach is an advocate of the healing nature of certain aspects of Buddhism, specifically focussing on the in the Vipassana meditation tradition. This form of meditative Buddhism centres on prajñā, something that approximately translates as achieving insight into the true nature of reality. In addition to her work as a teacher and advocate of this form of healing and mental well-being, Tara Brach is a PhD level psychologist. She gained her qualification in clinical psychology from the Fielding Institute years after attending Clark University, in Massachusetts, where she gained bachelors degrees in psychology and political science. As such, she is one of the growing number of Buddhists in the West who combine their understanding of Eastern traditions, such as mindfulness, with their knowledge of psychology and science in their work, writing and teaching.

Where does Tara Brach live?

Tara Brach resides in the US state of Virginia. She lives close to Bethesda, Maryland, a suburb of Washington DC, where she teaches a regular class to her students of Vipassana meditation. She is married to Johnathon Foust, a teacher of meditation and yoga.

Why does Tara Brach advocate meditation?

According to Tara Brach's many lectures, teaching videos and books, concentrated forms of meditation – like those associated with the Vipassana Buddhist tradition – are able to bring about mental well-being in those who follow it. Advocates for the scientific basis for following things like mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques will often quote from the work of Brach and others in her school. In short, she claims that meditation and other activities, such as yoga, have the power to help people overcome trauma and mental anguish. Consequently, she claims, they are a part of the toolkit that psychologists all over the world should be using.

What books has Tara Brach written?

Tara Brach's first widely received book was called, “Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha”, first published in 2003. She followed this up nine years later with, “Mindful Presence: A Foundation for Compassion and Wisdom, in Wisdom and Compassion in Psychotherapy: Deepening Mindfulness in Clinical Practice” and, “True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart” in 2013. Tara Brach went on to add to her published works with, “Healing Traumatic Fear: The Wings of Mindfulness and Love” in 2014.

How did Tara Brach get into Buddhism?

After she gained her degrees, Tara Brach decided to spend some time in an ashram along with other members of a spiritual community. In the end, she spent a decade there, learning and teaching techniques in yoga and concentrative meditation. Later, she attended a Buddhist Insight Meditation retreat where her ideas in psychology found a spiritual home. The retreat was run by Joseph Goldstein, one of the first teachers of the Vipassana tradition anywhere in North America.

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In short, mindfulness is the ability to pay proper attention to the here and now. Psychologists usually describe it as living in the present moment, with less emotional energy being expended on things that have passed or which may – or may not – occur in the future. Various techniques are used by people to achieve a greater level of present-moment living. In most cases, modern methods for achieving mindfulness are based on Buddhist concepts, such as sati. In large numbers, people practise mindfulness by meditating and paying more attention to positive things in their lives to reduce stress. These mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) techniques which have a proven scientific effect.
Often regarded as something that is related to empathy, compassion is the feeling that comes when you notice someone or something, that is suffering. You may not be able to put yourself into the shoes of the person you are feeling compassionate about. However, having compassion for them means that at least you understand that they in difficulty. What happens after this feeling is felt does not necessarily flow from the sense of compassion. One might, for example, feel compassionate about a child that is in anguish but do nothing about its suffering. On the other hand, if it leads you to comfort the child or to alleviate its pain in some way, then this would be rightly regarded as a compassionate act. Compassion is first and foremost an emotional response, therefore, but it can lead to compassionate actions being subsequently taken, too.
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