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…”

What Happened When I Leaned Into My Fear of Not Achieving

I’m convinced that everything I do is either to A) steer myself toward feelings that I interpret as positive or good, or B) avoid feelings I interpret as negative or bad. There really isn’t more to it than that.

I will go to incredible lengths to curate the feelings I’m exposed to. I have ended relationships rather than face my own failings within them. I have blamed others or the world rather than confront something I’ve done wrong. Most often, I will imprison myself and everyone around me in my tunnel vision, diminishing everything that is not the goal with a wave of dismissal in an effort to avoid my deepest fear: shame, stemming from my deeply rooted belief that I’m not good enough.

Usually this means making knee-jerk, fear-based decisions in reaction to feeling Not Good Enough, that seem reasonable but that I often regret later on. Like sending irritating “just following up” emails to potential investors which probably didn’t help my chances of closing the deal. I’ve sent so many emails that enabled me to check a box, get that dopamine hit from productivity in the moment, but that actually did more harm than good in the long run. (Sometimes I see this as quickly as five seconds after hitting send–grateful for the ability to un-send emails these days.)

It took me a long time to realize what was going on, and develop an alternative.

Confronting Feelings of Inadequacy 

I learned that I wasn’t good enough early in life, sometime before I can remember. When I learned that, I made the decision that I would do anything necessary to prove otherwise. My whole life from that point forward has been one long series of achievements without end, each one seeming like the most important thing in the world until I attained it, at which point it was, and had always been, irrelevant. I was still not enough, and only the next achievement would prove otherwise. 

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A 10-Minute Gratitude Practice to Notice, Shift, and Rewire Your Brain

When we find ourselves in a rut, it becomes easier to focus on what’s wrong and minimize what’s right. This gratitude practice is designed to change that; its aim is to amplify the experience of optimism. Hundreds of studies show that this simple shift leads to enhanced mood, better relationships, and even enhanced physical health. 

Audio recorded by Priti Patel.

1. Begin by finding a comfortable seat, your eyes can either be closed or open with a soft gaze for this practice. Be sure that you’re sitting comfortably and to the best of your ability, see if you can sit with a straight spine. To find that perfect point of balance, you might sway back and forth as well as side to side until you find your ideal seat. Feel your body settle.

2. Now, take a few slow breaths. Let go of any attempt to control or shape the breath. Let it move in and out naturally. Allow yourself to relax and let go of any tension or stress. Feel a sense of relaxed alertness, grounded yet present.

3. Start by noticing. Notice your current state of mind. What’s the current tone of mood? How are you feeling right now in this moment? See if you can simply notice with no judgments of good or bad.

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What Does Happiness Mean to You?

We often place high value on happiness and the happiness of those around us. But what does being happy actually mean? Ahead of the International Day of Happiness, Mindful asked 12 mindfulness teachers: What does happiness mean to you? Here are their answers. 

Michelle Maldonado

Coauthor of A Bridge To Better: An Open Letter To Humanity & Resource Guide and founder of Lucenscia.

“I love the question: What does happiness mean? But at the same time, there is a quality of happiness that feels very fleeting to me. So when I think about happiness and I feel what that means to me, there is an element that’s a little bit more elevated: That is joy. 

If you look up happiness, sometimes you’ll see it can range from contentment to this incredible joy. And that’s where I tend to fall on the spectrum. Not because anything big has to happen, I find happiness and joy in the smallest of things.

I find such joy and happiness when I see people finding themselves and loving themselves fully. There’s just nothing more remarkable than being witness to someone who has discovered how important they really are. That is joyful, that is jubilant, and beyond happy.”

Dr. Sará King

Neuroscientist, medical anthropologist, and founder of MindHeart Consulting.

“Happiness, to me, is very rich, rewarding, and complex. It’s not diametrically opposed to suffering, but rather, happiness is something that I can experience when I know that I’m really being held in the integrity of my community and my family and what it is that I am rooted in, what it is that I stand for. 

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How Leaders Build Trust at Work Through Authenticity

How much trust does your organization experience? That’s the first question I ask when I do a culture assessment with the businesses I serve. Trust is the essential ingredient and foundation for all relationships and businesses. Without trust, you can’t build anything that will succeed for the long term, and any kind of organizational change will be seriously challenged.

Organizational scholars define trust as our willingness to be vulnerable to the actions of others because we believe they have good intentions and will behave well toward us. In other words, we let others have power over us because we don’t think they’ll hurt us; we think they’ll help us and have our backs. When the trust level is high within coworker relationships, it corresponds to trusting the company that employs us, and we feel confident it won’t deceive us or abuse its relationship with us. 

But what are the mechanics of this? How do we trust? In order to trust someone, especially someone who is unfamiliar to us—which means we haven’t had the opportunity to develop trust yet—our brains build a model of what the person is likely to do and why. And there’s a lot going on beneath the surface; we use both mindfulness and empathy during every collaborative endeavor. This means both people in an interaction are always assessing, Should I trust you? How much do you trust me? Some of us are innately trusting, naturally seeking positive intent and putting we, before me. But in my experience, trust is earned. It is not wise to trust someone blindly until you have vetted that they are, in fact, trustworthy.  

Trust and Safety Requires Nurturing

The level of trust in an organization is influenced by how much psychological safety exists. Do people feel safe voicing their honest opinions? Do they believe that any criticism aimed their way will be fair and that their response to it will be heard? Teams that enjoy high trust levels have been shown to be more creative and to come to decisions faster. They’re higher performing teams because they’re willing to admit mistakes and to call out problems and challenges and ask for help. If two teams are equally smart, why would a more trusting team be more productive than a less trusting one? Because they iterate faster. They learn faster. And why do they do that? Because they trust each other to be honest and point out the things they’re discovering in real time. A foundation of safety helps these team members understand and develop those discoveries quickly, collaborate smoothly, and cocreate with flow. 

In the workplace, trust is highly influenced by leadership because leaders model the behaviors others will follow. When leaders lead with fear and dominance, trust and safety suffer in the long run. A boss who berates, threatens, or punishes you will affect your performance and ability to speak up authentically as you focus your attention on self-protection. This leads to feelings of “learned helplessness” as employees avoid the boss and/or remain as invisible as they can by doing the minimum. And face it: this kind of leadership behavior hurts, to the point of inflicting trauma. 

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Getting Started with Mindful Movement

Mindful movement allows us to check in with our bodies and get moving in a way that can help us lower stress, release stagnant energy, and strengthen our mind-body connection. It’s a great way to practice self-care by incorporating both mental and physical well-being. Oftentimes, when we engage in mindful movement to help our body feel better, our mood is uplifted, too. 

What is Mindful Movement?

The principles of mindful movement are the same as any other mindfulness practice. We aim to bring our full attention to the present moment to experience the here and now. We bring our awareness to our movement and focus on our breath or the way our body feels as it moves. When our mind wanders, we bring our attention back to the practice, to our breath, to our body.

4 Types of Mindful Movement

Breathing exercises are different from when we observe our breath at rest during seated meditation. Instead, we connect with our body by purposefully elongating our breaths to calm our parasympathetic nervous system, or shortening our breaths for short periods of time to refresh and refocus. A walking meditation can be a simple and effective way to explore mindful movement. The biggest difference between a walking meditation and going for a walk as we usually would is that when we’re practicing meditation, we aren’t aiming to go anywhere. Instead, we walk slowly and try to bring our full awareness to the act of walking. That can look like focusing on our breath, or feeling the ground beneath our feet as one step turns into the next. When our mind wanders, we bring it back to the sensations of the moment.Stretching and yoga can help us release tension, stiffness, and heavy emotions. When  our bodies don’t move, they don’t feel good, and neither do our minds. Taking a moment to let go of the day’s distractions, getting away from the desk or couch, and engaging in gentle movement can help us boost our energy, focus, and resilience.If you’re looking to blow off steam, working out is another opportunity for mindfulness. Getting exercise can be a great way to tune in to our body, synchronize our breath, and be in the moment, all while building strength and nourishing our muscles.

The Benefits of Mindful Movement

Mindful movement helps us nourish our body by stretching, strengthening and toning, or even just by paying attention and bringing awareness to how our body feels. But we can also use movement to elevate our emotional wellness. 

When we move our body and adjust the postures in which we hold our body, we also shift the activity of our autonomic nervous system which influences reactions like our heart rate, blood pressure, and fight-or-flight response. This means that mindful movement can give us access to shift our emotions and moods from the outside-in. 

How Tuning Into Your Body Can Make You More Resilient

Resilience expert and author Linda Graham writes about how mind-body awareness can be a source of power and assurance in moments of self-doubt. And it can start with something as simple as the way we sit or stand. A study in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that when we hold our body in an upright, open position with our head held high, we tend to feel more confident. That means that in moments when we feel nervous or shy, taking a more confident posture can help us counteract those feelings and embody that power. 

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