voices in the family

“True Refuge” with Tara Brach

When we’re afraid and overwhelmed, it’s easy to turn away from ourselves for comfort. In her new book True Refuge: Finding Peace and Freedom in Your Own Awakened Heart, clinical psychologist Tara Brach explores pathways that carry us to an inner sanctuary that she says is always there for us — and within which we begin to find strength and peace.

Dan Gottlieb talks to Tara about her new book. It’s a collection of teachings, guided meditations, and narratives of those who look within for wisdom.

Tara Brach is a leading western teacher of Buddhist meditation, emotional healing, and spiritual awakening. She has practiced and taught meditation for over 35 years, with an emphasis on vipassana (mindfulness or insight) meditation. She’s the senior teacher and founder of the Insight Meditation Community of Washington.


I had a student once who was so depressed
she wanted to die. She was a young single mother,
lonely, poor, watching other girls
go to parties and bars while she was home
cutting the crusts off peanut butter sandwiches,
reading The Berenstain Bears And the Bad Dream.
Then she collapsed with heart disease
and spent the next few years waiting for a transplant.
The strange thing is, now she was happy.
Every day, almost every breath, was semi-ecstatic.
She was a modern day Chicana Rumi,
hanging out with the Beloved, grateful just to touch His hem.
I find I’m telling myself all the time now,
look how you lift one foot and then the other,
all the nerves and synapses firing together.
Look how you reach for a carton of blueberries
and eat each dusky globe, one by one.
Look at the spotted dog tied to the newsstand,
drops of saliva sliding off his tongue
and the cracked Bic lighter in the gutter,
shining a watery turquoise blue.
Even when your heart is a used teabag
you can lie down in a warm bed,
even though you cry half the night
with the window open a little
to let in the stars.

— By Ellen Bass

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  • Mark Pepper

    Please send me a copy of the poem Dan Gottleib read during his program with Tara Brach (about the depressed mother waiting for a heart transplant). I only heard a small segment of the program but was very moved by what I heard. I will be getting Tara’s book asap.

    thank you,
    Mark Pepper

    • Sarah Kaizar

      Hi Mark: Ellen Bass’ poem “Happiness” has just been added to this post. Thanks for listening! — Sarah Kaizar, WHYY Web Producer

  • Alana

    Dr. Dan,
    Thank you so much for hosting Tara Brach on your show. Her loving voice was a strong anchor for me during a terrible time a few years ago while living in Washington D.C. Similarly, your voice has been a soothing balm now that I live in Philadelphia. It was wonderful hearing you both together on the radio today.

  • Joanne Passmore

    I checked the website for Ellen Bass’ poem “Happiness” but cannot find it. Please send it to me.

  • Teri Goszka

    I am a grateful reader of Tara’s work, as well as delighted to have worked with her husband (Sudhir) in meditation at Kripalu. Thank you for this program and the regular offering of compassionate programs such as this, Dan.

  • http://www.easemeditationonline.com/ Meditation for true happiness

    Meditation for true happiness confirms that true happiness is found inside us. The feelings of satisfaction and completeness that we often seek outside ourselves are actually part of our basic personality. Sorry to say, we have become so used to looking outside of ourselves for happiness that we often do not know how to find out this inner wealth.

  • Cheryl Walmsley

    5/5/13 Broadcast
    I’m trying to find the poem that was read during the Terry Brock interview (orb of the blueberry). It was so lovely,and I thought Dan said it could be found on the website, but I’m not finding it. Thank you.

    • Sarah Kaizar

      Hi Cheryl — The poem you’re looking for is available via a link directly above the video on this page. (Click on the link reading “Award-winning poet Ellen Bass shares a story of happiness »”) Glad you enjoyed the program, thanks for listening! — Sarah Kaizar, WHYY Web Producer

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