Speaker: Tracy Cochran

Presence: Coming Home To Yourself and Opening to Life

"For brief periods, when life breaks our way, it can feel as if we are finally getting somewhere. We may feel that we are finally becoming someone who understands this crazy life. With this self-image securely in place, we may decide that we are good and life is good and that we can share this with others. But things change. A voice or relationship or job or health is lost."

One morning in 2018, writer and meditation teacher Tracy Cochran woke up with little audible voice and just a faint, breathy whisper. In a matter of hours, she was supposed to tell a story and teach mindfulness meditation at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan. Concerned about how she would be able to lead on stage, the moment became another one for Tracy to take refuge in her practice of the past fifty years - to return home to the present moment with an open heart and mind through the sensation of breath. She accepted the circumstances, proceeding with the scheduled engagement. "I told people to lean in, as if I was on my deathbed and about to tell them the secret of life, and they did. All but one person stayed."

In her blog post "Speechless", Tracy reflects, "Meditation and spiritual practice have been called death in life. We die to the hope that our life is taking us somewhere. We let go and allow ourselves to open to a new life, a shared life."

In fact, Tracy learned to let go and open to new life many decades ago during her twenties, when a near-death experience turned into a pivotal turning point. While being mugged by three men on a deserted street in Manhattan one night, her heart opened to "a kind of feeling that cannot be created or destroyed by anyone, only received." "Behind the abandoned tenements, behind my attackers, behind all the appearances in this world, there was a gorgeous luminosity," Tracy wrote in "The Night I Died ". "It was clear to me that this light was the force that holds up the world, into which all separation dissolves."

In her recently released book Presence: The Art of Being at Home in Yourself , Tracy shares stories and suggested practices for taking refuge in moments of presence even in the midst of difficult challenges, thus illuminating deeper truths, grounding us, and making deeper connection possible. The book has been acclaimed by people as diverse as Martin Scorsese (famous Hollywood director who is a regular reader of Tracy's writings), to Sufi teacher Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, and including several meditation teachers like Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi, Sharon Salzberg, and Jack Kornfield.

Tracy is the editorial director of Parabola, an acclaimed quarterly magazine that draws on the world's cultural and wisdom traditions to explore the deeper questions all humans share. She has taught and led workshops at the Getty Museum in addition to the Rubin Museum of Art, New York Insight Meditation Center, the Jacob Burns Film Center, and at corporations, schools, and medical facilities. She is the founder of the Hudson River Sangha, which is now online and open to all. She also offers one-on-one mindfulness mentoring and teaching. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Psychology Today, O Magazine, New York magazine, Boston Review, and many book anthologies and podcasts. Her essays and offerings can be found on parabola.org and tracycochran.org.

"One of the most liberating things that's happened is that I've gotten over the aspiration to be special. The more I embrace my common, flawed humanity, the happier I am. And the more awake and aware I am." Then she adds, with a laugh, "I've discovered that I love being totally average. Even in the slow end of average. I love it. I'm so happy."

Our upcoming guest believes that we all have within us, "an enormous capacity" to heal and open our lives, by tapping into presence - "the wellspring of our deepest wisdom and compassion". Join us for a dialogue with this presence activist, writer, and meditation teacher on July 6th, in conversation with Richard Whittaker and Rahul Brown .

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