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…”

10 Ways to Become More Grateful

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.

2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.

3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”

4. Share your gratitude with others. Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So the next time your partner, friend or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.

5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.

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Free Mindfulness Apps Worthy of Your Attention

There’s no shortage of mindfulness and meditation apps these days, promising to help you combat anxiety, sleep better, hone your focus, and more. In fact, the Wall Street Journal reports that more than 2,000 new meditation apps launched between 2015 and 2018. We scoured the app stores to find the most valuable and easy-to-use mindfulness apps that are available for free. Two on this list are completely free, while the rest include a free version with the option to upgrade to premium content and features.

Available for iOS and Android

Entry price: Free. But you have to navigate around the subscription screen with the button that says “Start 7 Day Trial. Once you scroll past that, you can access the free content. 

Insight Timer has an insanely huge library of content: over 25,000 guided meditations from around 3,000 teachers on topics like stress, relationships, creativity, and more.

Right from the beginning, the app feels like a community—the home screen announces, “420,065 meditations today, 5,059 meditating right now.” In fact, Insight Timer has attracted more than 6 million meditators from around the world. After you finish a meditation, you’ll learn exactly how many people were meditating “with you” during that time—and by setting your location, you can even see meditators nearby and what tracks they’re listening to.

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Rewire Your Brain for Joy With A Simple Gratitude Practice

The number one bad habit that most people have can be surprising—it’s our auto-pilot thinking.

In the moment before we fall into any kind of negative addictive behavior, like procrastination, stress eating, isolation, or endlessly scrolling through our phones, here’s a thought. The thought, whether fully formed or not, is usually something like, I need to get away from this uncomfortable feeling, or even, I want this good feeling that’s here to last.

It’s human nature to want to distance ourselves from what’s uncomfortable and seek more of what feels good. But it’s our auto-pilot thoughts and reactions that can take us places we would rather not go—that take away our choice for how we’d like to show up in the world. With a little practice, we can build our awareness muscles so that those auto-pilot thoughts don’t slip by unnoticed. And better yet, we can re-wire our brains to prefer to linger on moments of joy and happiness rather than seek out distractions and addictive avoidance behaviors.

One of the most powerful ways I have found to shift the atmosphere of the mind towards more focused awareness is a very simple gratitude practice—but with a power boost.

How Gratitude Gets Us Unstuck

Now, before your eyes roll, consider this: if you’re thinking something along the lines of, Not this gratitude stuff again, I’ve read this in a thousand places, ask yourself, what is the net effect of this thought here? Does it incline you to move toward this practice that you’ve heard about a thousand times, or away from it?

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Being Bored is A Gift: Here’s How to Use It

Stephanie Domet: Listen, I hope you can stay awake for this one. I need you to focus in. You know, I’m with Barry in his office at Mindful, the windows open. Squeaky chair is here and we’re getting ready to talk about, are you ready for this? We’re gonna talk about boredom. 

Barry, I feel that boredom is such a rich topic for a writer and for a meditator, and you start by writing about those long afternoons of childhood. And I feel like I can summon one of those up right now, forty-five years later. “Mom, I’m bored.” 

I know why boredom and thinking about it is important to me. But why was boredom on your agenda to write about?

Barry Boyce: Well, the Point of View is really about looking at the intersection between life and meditation and mindfulness practice. And it is just such a common experience to practice meditation and find that you’re bored, maybe even, you know, extremely irritatingly fingernails on the blackboard type of bored. So that was one reason to explore what the quality of boredom is and in mindfulness meditation practice and why it’s there, what its value might be. But also there is a lot being discussed and written about boredom these days because of the hyper stimulation that’s emerged from all the stuff that’s available to us on our devices. So people are writing about reclaiming boredom and enjoying boredom. And so I thought I would throw my hat in the ring.

Stephanie Domet: So it’s not generally socially acceptable for an adult to whine that classic sentence. “I’m bored.” But we do get bored. And you’ve thought a lot about this. So what is boredom made of? 

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How to Be Kind When Confronted with Cruelty

Kindness is not necessarily at all passive or meek. The manifestation of kindness is not just in being nice and sweet—it has great forcefulness. The certainty of someone’s conviction that we can be happy, manifested through their caring, animates a potential within us that might otherwise just have lain dormant because we simply did not believe in it.

Kindness is a practice of inclining the mind, of intention. Rather than laying a veneer of idealism on top of reality, we want to see quite nakedly all the different things that we feel and want for what they are. Perhaps it is anger or fear or repulsion rather than the kindness we would so much more strongly prefer. The mistake that most of us make at one time or another with a practice like compassion or kindness is to try to deny what is actually going on: “I mustn’t feel resentment; I must only feel love. Because, after all, that is my dedication—to be kind.”

It is a very delicate balance to bring together pure awareness, which is completely honest in seeing what is happening, with an unwavering confidence that reminds us we are genuinely capable of love and compassion. We manage to do so to some extent by practicing love and kindness toward ourselves and by seeing the negative feelings that arise as not our fault. We must learn to view the fact that we have negative feelings not as an irreversible personal defect or as some kind of portentous setback on our path to liberation, but simply as the result of conditioned habits of mind. We can hold both a vision of our heart’s objective and a compassionate acknowledgment of whatever truth is manifesting in the present moment.

Six Ways of Increasing the Force of Kindness in Your Life

Reflect on someone in your life who has reached out to you in kindness. How do you regard him or her?Notice how the mood of someone in a chance encounter— such as the checkout person in the supermarket or a bank teller—affects you.Think about your degree of confidence in yourself. What factors have helped enhance it or decrease it?Reflect on why kindness might be considered a force instead of a weakness.Make the effort to thank someone each day. Notice what is created between you and the other person in that way.Reflect on who you admire in life, and why.

How to Be Kind When Confronted with Cruelty

One of the terrible things about experiencing the cruelty that can flow from others toward us— whether through racism or sexism, through being dismissed as secondary, or through any of the varied ways we might be categorized, filed away, and ignored by someone—is the way it grinds us down. It is all too easy to begin believing this projected image of ourselves as someone not worth much—and to take that in and begin to live from that reflection as though it were true. To get back in touch with kindness is to get back in touch with our own bigger, vibrant, more expansive potential instead of being defined by the limited, biased vision others put upon us. Why see ourselves through the distortion of their particular lens?

Even if others don’t intend to harm us, their careless disregard or easy assumptions about us can be demeaning. Any of us might recall being misunderstood, overlooked, abandoned, treated unjustly. Even if we are encountering cruelty, we must try to understand its roots and determine not to be the same as those acting it out. We must determine not to simply keep perpetrating the forces of separation and disregard. If we don’t make that effort, what will we really have accomplished?

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