Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Why We Must Practice the Art of Good Conversation

One day in the grocery store, I noticed long lines at the automated checkout stations while three cashier lanes nearby were empty. I took my groceries to a cashier, a man in his twenties, and asked him why he thought this was happening. Looking over at the line, where several people were checking their phones as they waited, he said, “Most of those people are young. Apparently, people in my generation just don’t much like to talk face-to-face.” And I thought, What if we all forget how to have a conversation?

Now, don’t get me wrong. Technology is important; it keeps us all connected in a way. But while we are more connected now to the whole world than we ever have been before, we are less connected to people in our everyday life. We’re having fewer conversations.

Why is this a problem? We all need someone to talk to. It’s easy to become isolated. A conversation is based on physical presence, which is rooted in feeling. All our senses are involved. By talking to someone in person, we gain access to specific senses: appreciation, compassion, and love. These are the feelings that connect human beings to reality, which stimulates our intuition and awareness. If we become conditioned to the computer, then we become one-dimensional. We are less deep as individuals and more shallow, predictable, anxiety-ridden, and irritable. By not having conversations, we’re forgetting how to feel.

These days, some of us avoid conversation altogether because it requires too much attention. We’re accustomed to being distracted, and we forget how to focus, so we have trouble listening. We may not have time; we’re so busy with school or our responsibilities at work or at home. We may see conversation as a superfluous social gesture. And some of us don’t know how to talk to people because we’ve never been taught.

At the same time, we’ve become more individualistic and opinionated. Because we want something stable that makes sense in the world, we hold on to themes and ideas that are grounding and meaningful. This fixation creates factionalism and polarity. Identifying strongly with our thoughts and emotions, we mistake them for a solid “me,” and then defend that apparition against the world. Social media and the news thrive on these elements. Our digital devices give us a false sense of power, creating a high-tech ego that wants to put its fingers in everything. Yet by having fewer face-to-face conversations, we are simultaneously disempowering the very source that can validate our identity: our relationship with other people.

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5 Reasons You (And Everyone Else) Are Having a Hard Time Meditating

Veteran ABC news anchor and self-proclaimed meditation evangelist Dan Harris is back with a second book, Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics, which has already made its way on to the New York Times bestseller list.

For his sophomore novel, co-written with meditation teacher Jeff Warren and journalist Carlye Adler, Harris goes beyond “simply demystifying meditation” to a how-to format aimed at “helping people get over the [meditation] hump and actually do the thing.”

The 10% Happier meditation tour bus

The best way to accomplish this, Harris and his 10% Happier podcast crew decide, is to embark on a 11-day cross-country journey on a rockstar tour bus (previously inhabited by the iconic seventies band Parliament-Funkadelic) in a modern version of a wandering retreat.

Meditation for Fidgety Skeptics is a combination of true stories from people who’d like to meditate but don’t know where to start, practical meditation exercises, and the self-deprecating anecdotes we’ve come to expect from Harris.

Here are five obstacles to meditating that Harris and his podcast team hear about along the way:

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Meet Three Buddhist Directors Exploring Faith through Film

When Asmita Shrish and Fateme Ahmadi first began working on what would become Chandra, a short film about a young boy and his grandfather, their original storyline was completely different from what they had first envisioned.

The 2015 Nepal earthquake forced the duo to rethink the story they wanted to tell.

“We were in Nepal preparing to shoot a different script,” Ahmadi explained. “The new script became the film now known as Chandra and is based on our own intense experience during that time.”

The need for a change in scripts quickly became apparent as they began planning the filming process. Many of their scheduled locations had been heavily damaged, and their crew had been emotionally devastated by the 7.8-magnitude quake.  

“We [realized we could either] mourn about the devastation or do something that would document the trauma,” Shrish said. She and Ahmadi quickly decided to do the latter.

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How New York City’s Lineage Project Introduces Mindfulness to Vulnerable Youth

Gabrielle Prisco is the executive director of the Lineage Project, a nonprofit organization that offers mindful movement, secular meditation, breathwork, and conscious conversations to vulnerable young people in New York City. Lineage Project was founded in 1999 by Soren Gordhamer, a mindfulness teacher and author who also established the popular conference series Wisdom 2.0.

In the organization’s early years, volunteer teachers coordinated with the city to offer classes to young adults incarcerated jailed at Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex. Since then, Lineage Project has expanded into an independent organization with paid staff and teachers, a board of directors, and ongoing professional development programs and trainings for adults. The nonprofit has also extended its reach to young people in homeless shelters, public schools, sites for students suspended from schools, and alternative-to-incarceration facilities across New York City. Additionally, Lineage Project contracts with the New York City Department of Youth and Community Development, and partners with that agency and the Administration for Children’s Services to offer an after-school arts and mindfulness program to young people who are in secure detention.

In an interview with Tricycle, Prisco—who formerly worked as a Legal Aid attorney representing children in family court—explains why our society has an obligation to not only keep children safe but also to see them for who they really are: multi-dimensional, complex, wise beings capable of self-reflection and transformation. She also introduces Lineage Project’s larger vision, which she has worked to cultivate since she joined the organization in August 2015: to shift public policies and institutions toward more mindfulness-based approaches.  

Photo by Sandra Wong Geroux

Can you describe the Lineage Project’s model? How is it embraced by the students?
The Lineage Project class is a three-part model. The first part involves mindful movement, which is often yoga or tai chi. The second part is breathing and meditation, and the third part is a facilitated group discussion around a theme. The theme may be something like responding versus reacting or what anger feels like in the body. The theme links the movement, the breathwork, the meditation, and the discussion.

The feedback we get from students is often positive. Many students in our programs have communicated remarkable insights about their own minds and bodies. They talk about how the practices change the way they feel about themselves or the way they feel in their bodies. They also say that they teach the breathing to their families. One young man said, “I feel like I come home.”

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Having Real Conversations (Even with My Sister)

We don’t know how to really listen.

Years ago, I remember hearing about a group of Christians who attended the Atlanta Gay Pride Parade with signs that read “We are sorry.” They were led by pastors and authors Craig Gross and Jason Harper, who were in Atlanta for the last stop on their book tour.

“At Atlanta Pride,” Mr. Gross recalled in a blog post, “we had hundreds of conversations, one person at a time, that helped close the gap that has created polarizing propaganda on both sides.” Kudos to them. In order to have those conversations, they had to really listen. They had to be authentically open to areas of common ground. But more importantly, they had to acknowledge that members of their own tribe had treated the gay community terribly.  

We need more courageous acts like this in our world. The genuine expression of remorse. The heartfelt apology. But it’s crucial to remember what came before that apology, which is what made the apology necessary—intolerance. The intolerance expressed, for instance, by the Westboro Baptist Church, whose members picket military funerals with signs that read “God hates fags” and “God blew up the troops” to protest a nation that tolerates homosexuality. This intolerance exists everywhere: in homophobes and gays, in Israelis and Palestinians, in Republicans, in Democrats, and sometimes, even in my own self.

The most dangerous intolerance registers in subtle ways, and can masquerade as friendliness or emotional support. In my case, it was a simple rolling of the eyes when someone mentioned their neighbor had gone “Christian.” That tiny human gesture says, “I am on your side. It’s too bad you have to deal with ‘them.’” This, from a gay woman — a Buddhist, gay woman, mind you! — who wants to be accepted for who she is. Does it bring me any closer to enlightenment if I just gather with more of my own kind so we can collectively piss on everyone who doesn’t understand us?

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