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…”

Three Meditations for Beginners

Connect with the breath. One of the most basic methods of meditation is to anchor your attention to the breath. Since the breath is always with you, you can practice following its movement anywhere you may find yourself, making it an ideal introduction to meditation. Explore this practice to focus on your breathing in the moment and, over time, reduce the effects of stress and anxiety. 

Tune in to the body. Our body often takes on the brunt of our stress, whether that be from clenching our jaw in frustration or pushing ourselves too hard at the gym. A body scan practice helps direct your awareness toward the parts of your body that need the most care, so you can discover relaxation and ease. Explore this brief meditation to reconnect with body and mind. 

Be in the moment. When we are in “doing mode,” we’re so busy jumping from one activity to the next that we lose sight of what’s happening here and now. In order to get multiple things done at once, we slip into autopilot and miss out on all the smaller details of our day. Try this meditation to transition from doing to being, so that you can deeply appreciate the present moment.

Original author: Nicole Bayes-Fleming
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Tara Brach on The Transformative Power of Radical Compassion

To find Tara Brach on a summer Saturday morning is to follow a path that seems to naturally ease one into a state of mindfulness. From the multi-lane Capital Beltway that girds Washington, DC, one exits with relief onto a two-lane, tree-lined byway where streetlights are few and commercial strips nil. Eventually, the road narrows to a single lane, announced by a row of mailboxes and shrouded heavily with trees. Stillness and quiet prevail. Soon, a steep driveway delivers the visitor into a sunny glade with a modest, window-rich house. With the ringing of a doorbell and the barking of a dog, Tara Brach, meditation teacher and author, appears. 

Brach, who worked as a clinical psychologist for 16 years, is the author of three books: Radical Acceptance, True Refuge, and the just-released Radical Compassion. Her podcasted talks and meditations often originate in her well-attended Wednesday night meditation and class, held in Bethesda, MD, and in the half-dozen retreats that she offers annually. She and fellow teacher Jack Kornfield are cofounders of the Awareness Training Institute (ATI), which offers online courses on mindfulness and compassion, as well as the Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program. Brach is also the senior teacher and founder of Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC. She has taught classes to staffers in the US Senate, and, beginning in February 2020, she will offer teachings in the House of Representatives.

Let’s start with coming home—from travel, from the city, from other excursions—to this property where you live and work, nestled in the woods. 

The closer I get to home, the more trees I see, and my nervous system starts to calm down. I’m privileged: My home is a sanctuary that allows me to call on what feels deepest and most true. 

And you live near the Great Falls section of the Potomac River—an area of stunning natural beauty.

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Investigate Anxiety with Tara Brach’s RAIN Practice

We all get lost in the dense forest of our lives, entangled in incessant worry and planning, in judgments of others, and in our busy striving to meet demands and solve problems. When we’re caught in that thicket, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. We forget how much we long to be kind and openhearted. We forget our ties to this sacred earth and to all living beings. And in a deep way, we forget who we are. 

My dense forest hums with a background mantra: There’s not enough time. I know I’m not alone; many of us speed through the day, anxiously crossing tasks off the list. This often comes hand in hand with feeling beleaguered, annoyed at interruptions, and worried about what’s around the corner.

My anxiety escalates when I’m preparing for an upcoming teaching event. I remember an afternoon some years ago when I was in last- minute mode. I was madly searching through my very disorganized electronic files, trying to find material for a talk I’d be giving that evening on loving-kindness. Much like the files, my mind was stirred up and muddy. At one point, my 83-year-old mother, who had come to live with my husband, Jonathan, and me, popped into my office. She started to tell me about an article she liked from The New Yorker. But seeing me glued to the computer screen (and probably frowning), she quietly placed the magazine on my desk and left. As I turned to watch her retreat, something in me just stopped. She often came by for a casual chat, and now I was struck by the reality that she wouldn’t always be around for these companionable moments. And then I was struck again: Here I was, ignoring my mom and mentally scurrying around to compose a talk on love! 

When we’re caught in that thicket, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. We forget how much we long to be kind and openhearted.

This wasn’t the first time I was jarred by forgetting what mattered. During that first year my mom lived with us, I repeatedly felt squeezed by the additional demands on my time. Often when we had dinner together, I’d be looking for the break in the conversation when I could excuse myself and get back to work. Or we’d be on errands or going to one of her doctor’s appointments, and rather than enjoying her company, I’d be fixated on how quickly we could get everything done. Our time together often felt obligatory: She was lonely and I was the main person around. While she didn’t guilt-trip me—she was grateful for whatever time I offered—I felt guilty. And then when I’d slow down some, I also felt deep sadness.

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What Happens When Meditation Replaces Detention

One afternoon in May, sitting on the floor in a small, private room at Fort Worthington Elementary/Middle School in Baltimore’s Clifton-Berea—one of the poorest urban neighborhoods in America—Kamaya, ten years old, in fifth grade, and Jahlil, ten, also in fifth grade, are talking about something new. It’s the role of mindfulness in their lives.

Kamaya’s father is in prison (“I don’t have my dad right now—he’ll be home next year”) and her mother has her own house; Kamaya lives with her grandmother. A natural chatterbox, Kamaya quickly mentions uncles and cousins and a great-grandmother, a big extended family. She says she got mad just last night, because she wanted to play with her friends, and her mother, who visits her sometimes, wanted her to go to sleep. But instead of fussing and yelling and waking her grandmother, who wasn’t feeling well, Kamaya “took a stress breath,” which calmed her down. She didn’t wake her grandmother. And then she went to sleep herself. 

Jahlil is a different sort of child—so quiet you might worry about what he’s thinking or feeling. He lives with his mom, and has a three-year-old sister; a younger brother died in childbirth. Jahlil gets to see his…

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Original author: Bob Huber
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How Our Minds Tell Fact from “Fake News”

Stocksy

The email seems to offer a solution to a problem you weren’t sure you had but that you’d heard of: Spy Wiper has found a long list of malware, spyware, and other threats on your computer, but if you call the toll-free phone number, a technician—who has kindly asked for remote access to your computer—will walk you through the steps needed to disinfect your machine.

You might think you’re too smart to be swindled by this or other scams. But not everyone is so fortunate. Microsoft estimates that this and similar tech scams (which in fact either upload malware to your computer, charge hundreds of dollars to remove nonexistent or planted bugs, or exploit the access you’ve provided to steal your identity or financial information) net their perpetrators $1.5 billion a year. Facebook “love scams,” in which criminals posing as US service members prey on the credulous and soft-hearted and get people to wire money so they can fly back to the US, netted $362 million in 2018. Some victims—well-educated, productive members of their communities—have lost tens of thousands of dollars to this fraud.

How the mind processes information has long been a focus of cognitive psychology, but now researchers…

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Original author: Sharon Begley
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