The Trance of Unworthiness

In my ongoing journey through the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program (MMTCP), I recently re-listened to a talk by Tara Brach that profoundly resonated with me. 

Her exploration of the “Trance of Unworthiness” sheds light on deep-seated beliefs that can hinder our personal and professional growth.

This month, I’m eager to share these insights and discuss how these ideas can transform our approach to entrepreneurship.


Tara Brach describes the trance of unworthiness as an underlying sense of being fundamentally flawed, which can pervade our thoughts and actions without us even knowing.

This isn’t merely about occasional self-doubt; it’s a pervasive feeling that can affect our decisions, leadership, and ability to innovate.

Tara explains that this trance is not a true reflection of our capabilities but rather a limiting belief where we’re ‘spellbound‘ by our own negative self-judgments.


Tara shared a captivating story about a Clay Buddha in Thailand, which serves as a powerful metaphor for discovering our hidden potential.

This statue, which stood in an old temple in Bangkok, was long thought to be made of clay.

Its true nature was revealed only when it accidentally cracked during a move, and a curious monk noticed something shining through.

This monk decided to investigate further and discovered that the statue was actually made of solid gold covered in clay.

Historians believe that the clay was applied by monks centuries ago to protect the invaluable statue during times of war.

This story powerfully illustrates how, like the Clay Buddha, we often cover our innate strengths and qualities with a “spacesuit” layers of self-doubt or conformity to protect ourselves or fit in.

The curious monk’s discovery invites us to be curious about our own hidden potential, encouraging us to look beneath the surface and question the protective layers we’ve built around our true selves.

“We think we’re the spacesuit, and not the one looking through”


1. Embracing Natural Presence:

“The practice of natural presence can allow us to open and arrive in a very spacious and awake place.”

Tara highlights the importance of being present and open, which can lead to clearer and more effective decision-making in business.

2. Understanding Our Instincts:

“We wake up 10 times a night to scan our environment, to make sure there’s nothing wrong.”

Our evolutionary traits, such as the alertness that wakes us up at night, play a role in our everyday reactions and can exacerbate our sense of unworthiness.

3. Recognizing Emotional Patterns:

“It’s actually really difficult to be right here, to be present, especially in the face of difficult emotion.”

“We’re designed to identify as a self, identify as some separate entity and then try to control our environment.”

Understanding how our thoughts about past experiences and future worries shape our emotional landscape can help us manage stress and avoid burnout.

4. Challenging Cultural Norms:

“In this culture, there’s a lot that exacerbates the sense of unworthiness… We don’t have much of a sense of natural belonging.”

Tara points out that societal expectations can feed into our feelings of not being enough. As entrepreneurs, breaking free from these norms can be a source of innovation and personal growth.

5. The Power of Mindfulness:

“Any moment that I was judging what was happening, that wasn’t a moment that I was at home. There was no inner freedom.”

Mindfulness helps us return to our true selves, enhancing authenticity in our leadership and relationships with teams and clients.

6. Practicing Yes Meditation:

“The ‘yes meditation‘… a way of cultivating acceptance, of beginning to recognize and allow what’s here.”

This meditation technique involves silently saying “yes” and accepting each moment and thought without judgment, encouraging resilience and flexibility —key traits for any successful entrepreneur.

One favorite phrase Tara suggests we use: “This, too.”


  1. Introduce Mindfulness to Your Team: Discuss the concept of the trance of unworthiness and the story of the Clay Buddha to illustrate the potential everyone has beneath their surface layers.
  2. Incorporate Yes Meditation: Adopt this practice in your daily routine to improve focus, reduce stress, and cultivate a positive work environment.
  3. A Culture of Curiosity: Encourage yourself and your team to be curious about your own capabilities and hidden strengths, much like the curious monk. This can lead to greater self-awareness and innovation.
  4. Develop Positive Affirmations: Use affirmations that reinforce your business values and personal self-worth, such as “I am capable,” or “I innovate with confidence.”
  5. Encourage Reflective Practices: Promote a culture of reflection where team members can consider their challenges and successes, which helps to build self-awareness and cohesion.

Integrating Tara Brach’s teachings, especially the insights gained from the story of the Clay Buddha, can profoundly impact our effectiveness and fulfillment as entrepreneurs. 

By recognizing and challenging the trance of unworthiness, we open up our ability to lead with confidence and authenticity.

Wishing you all the best always,


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Are you tired of feeling like you’ve created a job for yourself instead of building a thriving business?

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Use this worksheet to reflect into a recent business challenge as if you are the curious monk—peering beneath the surface to discover the gold within both the situation and yourself.


Discover how Van Lai-DuMone, founder of Worksmart, revolutionizes team and leadership development with a focus on creativity and experiential learning. Learn from her journey as a Vietnamese war refugee, witnessing the transformative power of creativity and innovation in shaping company culture and performance. With 17 years of corporate and startup expertise, Van is rewriting the narrative of workplace creativity. Join the conversation now!