new year 2021

How to heal. How to hold the immense suffering.

IMCW New Year Retreat 2020 – 2021 Q&A Session, December 30, 2020

“If we think we’re a self holding the world’s suffering, it will be too much.” Tara Brach

Tara goes on to explain that we can open ourselves to be the heart of the universe holding the suffering, that it’s not a separate self holding it.

We can create the openness that has room for the pain.

One of the most powerful practices for this is Tonglen, a Tibetan Buddhist practice for creating an openness that has room for the pain.

Breathing in and letting ourselves be touched by the realness of the pain, our own pain and others.

Breathing out and letting that pain be held by the spaciousness and vastness of this world.

We continue this rhythm, breathing through it. We take care not to hold the pain. If you’re taking in the pain, letting it out and letting it be held by the love in this universe.

And, more and more we might find that our heart space has room for it all.


another learning from Tara from this session:

What to do when overwhelmed and you can’t access your practice, your center or the care of your community. Something to practice everyday…to build resource for challenging times.

Think of someone who has your back, who you really trust. You can feel their love and care. Someone who brings comfort. Actually see their eyes and sense they’re right there with you.

Sense them looking at you with love.

Sense what you most would want to hear from them, what would most comfort you.

Hear the words.

Notice what happens in your body, mind and spirit.

This can be a beautiful bridge to our own awake awareness, when it is difficult to get there.

When we were very young, we really needed that someone else. Sometimes, we still do.

Season of Light 2020 – 2021

…like human fish, we are asked to experience meaning in the life that moves through the gill that is our heart. Ultimately, we are small living things awakened in the stream, not gods who carve out rivers. We cannot eliminate hunger, but we can feed each other. We cannot eliminate loneliness, but we can hold each other. We cannot eliminate pain, but we can live a life of compassion. — Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening

Sit quietly and simply let your heart breathe without focus.

Noticing obvious areas of tension, and allowing for some release of tension.

Breathe deeply, and accept the jewel and grit of this moment.

(adapted from Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening)

For singers, flutists, and all other sound makers:

Breathe in and allow sound to flow from your voice, your flute or other instrument. The flowing vibrations provide the water that flows into your heart and nourishes you with fresh oxygen to energize and inspire your healing and growth.

Allow the sounds of your flute to embrace you, to warm your heart. If there is some pain or sorrow in your heart, let the ribbon of sound hold that block of pain or sorrow.

You can be like a drop of water in the heart of a river of mindfulness, compassion and music.


Hi Everyone, 

Given the context we are living in I wanted to share with you a practice that is dear to me and that I find healing.

4 years ago around this time…I found myself feeling distraught. My heart ached for our world, for our country, for life.

I felt anxiety, hopelessness and helplessness. Feeling angry and also, paralyzed to act.

I began to incorporate this practice into my morning routine and found ease, freedom, and a way forward. Anxiety eased. Sorrow moved through and could be expressed and released. I felt empowered to take steps forward, to continue my work in the world, my work to meet the world with openness and compassion, to join waves of people creating ripples of goodness and love. 

The beauty of this practice is that it helped me to shift from “being” anxiety, to “being aware of”, to observing, anxiety. This allowed it to move through, as understanding and compassion arose around it.

Here is the practice:

There are 3 melodies.

While playing (or listening to) the first melody, bring awareness to challenges in your life. The purpose is to allow understanding to arise and compassion to be born in our hearts, to help heal us.  (allow your eyes to close…inhale deeply… slow outbreath…) 

While playing the second melody, bringing awareness to someone close to you, and sense challenges they may be experiencing. The purpose is the same: to allow understanding and  compassion to arise. (relaxing with the breath, with the movement of the breath…)

While listening to or playing the third melody, bring attention to the suffering in the world a little bit everywhere: violence, illness, social and racial injustice, poverty, hunger, war…with the same purpose, to allow understanding to arise and with it, compassion.  

You can play through, or listen to, the cycle of 3 melodies several times. This creates a field of mindfulness and compassion…

Sit back and listen to the practice:

I have found that this practice creates shifts in me that are liberating.


This practice is adapted from a Thich Nhat Hanh talk. I first heard it on the podcast, Thich Nhat Hanh Dharma Talks. The title of the talk is, This is a Legendary Moment.

Thich Nhat Hanh explains that we likely have a strong desire in our hearts to help people suffer  less, to relieve suffering and pain in the world.

This takes tremendous energy. You can renew your energy when you wake up to the beauty of the world – being in Nature, feeling the miracle of our bodies, sharing moments of love and connection.

With mindfulness practice, mindful breathing, mindful walking, you can awaken to the infinite beauty of Nature. 

Another source of energy, he says, is when you listen to the suffering inside, you come to understand, and in the moment of understanding, compassion is born.

This shift in ourselves heals us and gives us the energy and space to listen to the suffering of others.

“When compassion is born in your heart, you don’t suffer anymore. You are no longer angry at yourself, or another person, because you understand your suffering, you understand his or her suffering.”

This is why the practice of deep compassionate listening, or mindfulness of suffering, is so important.

With this practice we can generate the energy of mindfulness and compassion and help hold our pain or despair.

As Thich Nhat Hanh says, you practice like a drop of water in the heart of a river, letting the river embrace you and transport you.

It is a way of turning mud into a lotus.

Here are some ways to get comfortable playing it yourself.

1. Check out this video.

Recording for learning the fingerings on an A minor Native American flute

2. Fingering charts

a) Simplified melodies, using only the notes of the pentatonic scale. 

b) Full melodies