Summary: Radical Compassion (2019) introduces readers to a 4-step meditation tool called R.A.I.N, which can be incorporated as a mindfulness program and is aimed to help individuals cultivate compassion and bring greater presence in their life. The author, Tara Brach is a psychologist, author, and renowned spiritual teacher who founded The Insight Meditation Community of Washington, D.C.

 

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Tara Brach ‘Radical Compassion’ Summary

Book Notes

Presence Vs Trance…

  • “Do not try to save the whole world or do anything grandiose. Instead, create a clearing in the dense forest of your life.” – MARTHA POSTLEWAITE
  • “We’ve all touched presence. We’re resting in presence in the moments before sleep when we become still and relaxed, listening to the rain on the roof. We open to presence in gratitude for someone’s unexpected kindness.”
  • “In contrast, trance encloses us in a virtual reality of thoughts and emotionally charged stories. We’re trying to solve problems, satisfy desires, get rid of discomfort, or make our way to a future when things might be better. We are at the mercy of unconscious beliefs, feelings, and memories that drive our decisions and reactions to life.”

Our Pathway Out of Trance: Taking A U Turn…

  • “We are taking a U-turn whenever we shift our attention from an outward fixation—another person, our thoughts, or our emotionally driven stories about what’s going on—to the real, living experience in our body.”
  • “It’s like being at a scary movie where we’re totally gripped by the story on the screen and then suddenly become aware: Okay, it’s just a movie. I’m watching it with hundreds of other people. I can feel the seat under me, feel myself breathing. And we’re back again, aware of our own presence, grounded in our real life.” 

On Radical Compassion… 

  • “ ‘Radical compassion means including the vulnerability of this life—all life—in our heart. It means having the courage to love ourselves, each other, and our world. Radical compassion is rooted in mindful, embodied presence, and it is expressed actively through caring that includes all beings.”
  • “Thanks to current understandings of neuroplasticity, we now know that our brains can change throughout our lives. This means that even the most deeply rooted and harmful habits can be de-conditioned. The phrase that sums this up is this: ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together.’ ”
  • “The most recently evolved part of our brain, the prefrontal cortex, gives us our capacity to witness and feel compassion for whatever’s going on inside us—and in others. As neuroscientists have discovered, learning to deepen our attention with meditation activates the parts of the brain that correlate with self-awareness.” 

R.A.I.N – Step by step… 

  • “I’m writing this book to share a practice of radical compassion that brings alive the wings of mindfulness and compassion when we most need them. It helps heal and release the painful beliefs and emotions that keep us from living true to ourselves. This practice is called RAIN.” 

Recognize what is happening;
Allow the experience to be there, just as it is;
Investigate with interest and care;
Nurture with self-compassion.

In ‘Radical Compassion,’ Tara Brach walks the reader through her own experience on using the R.A.I.N meditation. Below is a summary of each of the steps…

  • “The first step was simply to Recognize (R) what was going on inside me—the circling of anxious thoughts and guilty feelings.”
  • “The second step was to Allow (A) what was happening by breathing and letting be. Even though I didn’t like what I was feeling, my intention was not to fix or change anything and, just as important, not to judge myself for feeling anxious or guilty.”
  • “Allowing made it possible to collect and deepen my attention before starting the third step: to Investigate (I) what felt most difficult. Now, with interest, I directed my attention to the feelings of anxiety in my body—a physical tightness, pulling and pressure around my heart.”
  • “I asked the anxious part of me what it was believing, and the answer was deeply familiar: It believed I was going to fail. If I didn’t have every teaching and story fleshed out in advance, I’d do a bad job and let people down. But that same anxiety made me unavailable to my mother, so I was also failing someone I loved dearly.”
  • “As I became conscious of these pulls of guilt and fear, I continued to Investigate. Contacting that torn, anxious part of myself, I asked, “What do you most need right now?”
  • “I could immediately sense that it needed care and reassurance that I was not going to fail in any real way. It needed to trust that the teachings would flow through me, and to trust the love that flows between my mother and me.”
  • “I’d arrived at the fourth step of RAIN, Nurture (N), and I sent a gentle message inward, directly to that anxious part: “It’s okay, sweetheart. You’ll be all right; we’ve been through this so many times before . . . trying to come through on all fronts.”
  • “I could feel a warm, comforting energy spreading through my body. Then there was a distinct shift: My heart softened a bit, my shoulders relaxed, and my mind felt more clear and open.”
  • “My pause for RAIN took only a few minutes, but it made a big difference. When I returned to my desk, I was no longer caught inside the story line that something bad was around the corner.”  

R.A.I.N And Forgiveness… 

  • “I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with the pain.” – JAMES BALDWIN
  • “Forgiving means letting go of the protective armor of blame and/or hatred that encases your heart.”
  • “We don’t have to wait until we’re dying to free our hearts from the coils of resentment, anger, and blame. Yet because these habits of aggression are so deeply ingrained, we do have to be dedicated and purposeful in order to release them.”
  • “I often invite students to imagine they are at the end of their life looking back. This vantage point helps us remember what matters most so that we can recognize the habits that separate us from each other.”
  • “Take a few moments now to travel into the future and imagine yourself close to death. Now, as if you were looking back through the years, reflect on an important relationship.”
  • “Was there openness, acceptance, and care? Or were you distanced by judgment, anger, and blame? If you were with this person right now, how might this end-of-life perspective guide you?”
  • “When we’re in trance, we are easily triggered by situations and people that are associated, often unconsciously, with our original wounds. Awakening from trance begins with recognizing when we are inside it—when our thoughts and feelings are operating “under the line,” outside conscious awareness.”
  • “Forgiveness is a process that unfolds over time. In both myself and others, I’ve noticed that forgiving often becomes possible after we ourselves have been the recipient of another’s kindness.”

Misunderstandings about Forgiveness:

  • “Forgiving Does Not Mean We Should Deny or Suppress Our Anger or Fear, Hurt or Grief.”
  • “Forgiving Is Not Condoning Harmful Behavior; nor Does It Mean Passivity or Inaction.”
  • “Forgiving Does Not Have to Be Done on Our Own.”
  • “Forgiving Is Rarely a One-Shot or Quick Process.”

Brach introduces the reader to a Meditative Exercise, ‘The R.A.I.N of Forgiveness:

  • “Sit in a comfortable way, closing your eyes and coming into stillness. Take several full breaths, and with each exhale, release any tension you are aware of. Begin by reflecting on your intention to cultivate a forgiving heart that includes yourself and all beings.”
  • “Scan your life, and sense where you might be feeling unforgiving toward someone and caught in anger and/or blame. Remind yourself of what happened (or is happening) to cause these feelings. You might ask yourself, “What is the worst part of this? What about this most upsets me?” “What am I believing about this person? What am I believing about how they are relating to me?” ”
  • Recognize: “Mentally note whatever feelings and thoughts are predominant as you bring this person to mind.”
  • Allow: “Pause and Allow this experience to be here, as it is, without any judgment or effort to do anything.”
  • Investigate: “Now make the U-turn, letting go of thoughts of the other person and bringing your full attention to what is happening inside you.”
  • Nurture: “Call on your wisest, most loving self (your future self, your awakened heart). Imagine that you can listen and respond from your future self: How might you offer what is most needed? Is there a touch (like your hand on your heart), a message, or an image that helps that wounded part receive what it needs?”
  • “Take some moments (thirty seconds) to bring Nurturing to this part and to sense how this part experiences the compassion that is offered.”
  • After the RAIN: “Notice and rest in the sense of who you are when you are offering and receiving inner Nurturing.”
  • “Perhaps the biggest tragedy of our lives is that freedom is possible, yet we can pass our years trapped in the same old patterns…We may want to love other people without holding back, to feel authentic, to breathe in the beauty around us, to dance and sing. Yet each day we listen to inner voices that keep our life small.”

 

The Book on Amazon:
“Radical Compassion: Learning to Love Yourself and Your World with the Practice of RAIN”