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…”

A 20-Minute Practice to Deepen Your Awareness

This is a guided meditation focused on deepening your capacity for awareness, for freeing yourself, and for allowing yourself to settle into the present moment. This practice may ultimately lead you to experience greater dominion over the mind, greater capacities that clear the mind, and increase your capacity to focus. You may also experience a greater capacity for insight, as you notice what arises when you are able to rest in a state of calm, while allowing thoughts to subside.

In addition to assisting you in deepening your capacity to settle into the sense of presence and groundedness beneath thought, this practice can really be an important support for your work in the world with others.

1. Feel the position of your body as you consciously invite these moments of meditation. Bring intentionality and commitment to these moments of practice. Begin with a few very deep breaths, sensing into the sensations of breathing in and out. Notice the rising and falling of your belly as you breathe deeply down into your diaphragm, expanding as you breathe in and then sensing into the contraction and collapsing of your belly as you breathe out. Bring your full attention this moment; to the sensations of your body as it breathes.

The invitation is to rest in these moments as you breathe out and breathe in, and notice that you’re alive.

2. If a position other than sitting is more appropriate for your body in this moment, you’re fully supported in choosing the position that’s right for you. Whatever your position, notice points of contact between your body and the floor, whether it be mediated through a chair, or coming to your sense awareness through the impressions of contact. Notice the sensations of your feet on the ground, the soles of your feet on the ground, your buttocks, or your ankles if you’re sitting in a more traditional cross-legged position. Bring attention to those points of contact between the ground beneath you and your body in this moment. As you do so, perhaps sense the support that exists for you in this moment, and these impressions of contact with the earth.

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Why Mindfulness Isn’t About Control

At this time of the pandemic, I hear many psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health practitioners recommending that people “focus on what they can control.” “We need to control this virus.” “Doctors are working hard to control the coronavirus.”

This advice irks me, and the word “control” rubs me the wrong way. Has anyone ever controlled a virus? No. While we do our best to prevent infection, illness and death, to treat infection, and to prevent spread of the virus, we cannot control it, any more than we can control birth or death or falling in love.

It’s not about control. Life is better without it, on the individual and collective levels. Let’s retire the word “control.” As the late Maya Angelou said: “Words are things. You must be careful about the words you use. They get into your rugs, in your upholstery, in your clothes, and finally into you.”

Control is a Popular Illusion

The word “control” means the power to restrain something, especially one’s own emotions or action. Respecting, accepting, and relating with our emotions is crucial for health and relationships; control is not. Control also means the restriction of an activity, tendency, or phenomenon, to maintain influence or authority OVER someone or something.

A popular word with the first known use in 1523, its use has increased dramatically since the early 1800s. It is found in the top 20% of frequently-used English words—for example, searching “control” on mindful.org brings up 658 hits!

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3 Practices to Come Back to Your Heart

My heart hurts.

Watching the brutality and aggression of hardened stances on whether to wear a mask, whether climate change is real, and whether conspiracy theories are valid has me feeling deeply unsettled. I’m worried about the chaos of so much division, and its potentially detrimental impact on our communities and our society.

In order to keep pushing forward into the work of connecting with compassion, I’m holding the words of John Lewis (who will no doubt be remembered as one of the greatest, most compassionate leaders in American history) close at hand. He said: “Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates.”

But sometimes it’s hard to hear the whispers.

And in those moments, I practice. And then I’m reminded of the infinite and innate capacity of the human heart to shine in the dark. I’m reminded that feeling the pain and the hurt is the practice. And then I remember that all of us are at home in our hearts and we can practice opening the door for each other. 

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A Guided Walking Meditation to Connect with Your Senses

We can connect to our senses and nourish our relationship to the peace, pleasure, and technicolor qualities of the present moment, as we walk. Starting your day with an intentional morning walk can be the key to bringing calm awareness, as you very simply turn your attention to what the body is experiencing, as you bring your awareness to feeling your feet as you walk. This morning walk can be done on the way to your car, in a park, or even as you’re walking down a hallway. All it takes is being awake to what you notice while you’re walking.

1. Choose a foot to start with. Pick it up, move it through space, and gently place it on the ground, feeling the sensations of each part of this process from heel to toe. So, picking the foot up, making a choice, picking a foot up, lifting it, moving it through space, feeling it touching down from heel to toe.

2. Walk with intention. We’re so used to walking in what we call automatic pilot, basically being tuned out and just letting the body go. You may notice that this feels a little strange to be so intentional about walking. That’s okay. This intention that you’re bringing is a way for you to reconnect with the present moment and what you’re feeling right now.

3. Let yourself notice.  Notice as much as you can about the feel of picking your foot up, moving through space, and gently placing it down. I get most of us are so used to walking, when we first bring our attention to it, we might even feel a little wobbly. It’s okay: this is normal, and part of what it feels like to wake up and actively notice the details of what we are doing.

We’re so used to walking in what we call automatic pilot, basically being tuned out and just letting the body go. You may notice that this feels a little strange to be so intentional about walking. That’s okay.

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How a Money Conversation Can Transform Your Relationships

In the age of digital media, many people seem quite comfortable sharing intimate details of their lives: whom they are voting for, how they look upon waking in the morning (and with whom), the contents of their closet. But who freely shares how much money they have in the bank, how much they get paid, and how much credit card debt they owe?

As a culture, we’re scared to talk about money. It’s primal. Money means survival. Without it, we may die. Talking about money can threaten our sense of inner worthiness (“I don’t have enough” or “I have too much and should be sharing it more”), and that can trigger our ancestral fight-or-flight response.  It’s that fight-or-flight response or fear that keeps us from talking about or mindfully engaging with money.

But, will that path of avoidance or reactivity bring you freedom and spaciousness? I fell in love with meditation practice when my teacher said “Mindfulness is meant to illuminate all topics, not just the comfortable ones.” The benefits of practice come from inviting all feelings to visit and shining the light of awareness on the scariest ones.

It’s that fight-or-flight response or fear that keeps us from talking about or mindfully engaging with money.

Particularly at this time of financial uncertainty and loss, how do we bring our full and open receptiveness to all that is arising in our financial lives? The COVID-19 pandemic, though an uninvited guest, bears gifts of more time and less travel, the ability to discern value beyond money (like the importance of friendship, our health, and our sense of humor), and the recognition that we can live with less. With fewer distractions, this moment offers a boundless opportunity to deepen our connection to our closest friends, work colleagues, family members, and ourselves, to cultivate a freedom in the midst of upset, shame, numbness, or guilt—whatever is arising. The courage to be present with and to voice our discomfort with money has the potential to liberate all of us.

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