For decades, a prayer has circulated in the background of my daily life. May I trust my own goodness. May I see the goodness in others. This longing emerged from a deep place of suffering I went through as a young adult. During that dark time, I felt anxious and depressed, separate from the world around me. I was continually judging myself as falling short, not good enough, doubting my basic worth. That of course kept me from feeling close and connected to others and to the world. It blocked me from feeling creative, stopped me from being fully alive.
It feels like grace that this “trance of unworthiness” led me onto a spiritual path that showed me how to hold myself with compassion. This allowed me to see through the layers of judgment and doubt and discover beneath them clarity, presence and love. Increasingly over the years, my trust in this loving awareness as the essence of who we all are has become a guiding light. No matter how wrong or lacking we may feel, how caught in separation, or how trapped in limitations imposed on us by the society we live in, this basic goodness remains the essence of our Being.
A beautiful story holds within it this truth. In the mid 1950’s in Bangkok, a huge clay statue of the Buddha began to crack due to heat and drought. When some monks arrived to investigate, they shined a flashlight into the largest of the cracks. What they saw surprised everyone. Deep under the gray clay was the gleam of gold.
No one had known that inside this popular but ordinary looking statue was a solid gold Buddha. As it turns out, the statue had been covered with plaster and clay 600 years earlier to protect it from invading armies. While all the monks living in the monastery at that time had been killed in the attack, the golden Buddha, its beauty and value covered over, had survived untouched.
Just as the monks had disguised the beauty of the golden Buddha in order to protect it during dangerous times, we cover over our own innate purity and goodness as we encounter a challenging world. As children many of us were criticized, ignored, misunderstood, or abused, leading us to doubt that gold within us. As we grow up, we increasingly internalize the judgments and values of others, further losing touch with our innocence, our creativity, and our tender hearts. We cover over the gold as we seek the approval of others, looking to them to measure our worth, to determine whether we are good enough, smart enough, successful enough. And if we are part of a non-dominant group in our culture, we take on additional layers of protection in facing the violence of social injustice and oppression.
Adding layer after layer to protect ourselves, we become identified with our coverings, believing ourselves to be limited, separate, and deficient. Yet even when we cannot see the gold, the light and love of our true nature cannot be dimmed, tarnished, or erased. It calls to us daily through our longing for connection, our urge to understand reality, our delight in beauty, our natural desire to help others. Our deepest intuition is that there is something beyond our habitual story of a separate and isolated self, something vast, mysterious, and sacred.
What helps us uncover that gold? How can we learn to trust the pure awareness and love, the basic goodness that is our very essence? How can our lives be an active expression of wisdom and love? These questions have shaped my spiritual path, and in Trusting the Gold I share my own challenges and discoveries in stories that I hope you’ll find meaningful on your path as well.
The three sections of Trusting the Gold—Truth, Love, and Freedom—explore the basic teachings of the Buddha that awaken us to who we are. We begin with learning to recognize the Truth of our experience, by opening to life, just as it is. Then we discover how to awaken our inherent capacity to meet this ever changing life with Love. This unfolding of presence and love reveals the Freedom of our true nature. You might find it beneficial to follow the sequence of these teachings by reading the book from beginning to end. But because the teachings are so interwoven, you might also open the book randomly to discover what, in any given moment, might bring some illumination into your life.
Some of the stories here are accompanied by an invitation to pause, reflect, and allow your own wisdom and understanding to awaken. These moments of going beyond the words and coming home to presence are the gateway to all true healing and freedom.
Even though the gold of your true nature can get buried beneath fear and confusion, the more you trust this loving presence as the truth of who you are, the more fully you will call it forth in yourself and in all those you touch.
May we trust and live from the purity of our boundless, radiant heart.
And may we hold hands as we awaken together, bringing our collective
caring to this precious, troubled, mysterious and beautiful world.
With loving blessings,
Tara Brach is IMCW’s founder. Her newest book, Trusting the Gold (2021) is available at bookstores now. Her events, talks and articles can be found on her Teacher page.