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…”

How to Rest in Awareness by Tapping into a Mindful Moment

On a bright sunny afternoon in Golden Gate Park, underneath a canopy of large trees, I led five kids through a day of outdoor activities at a camp for neurodivergent youth. Having a keen awareness of certain sensory challenges, I leaned on curiosity and kindness to manage emotions and to navigate a boundless environment of hard, sharp objects, with the threat of poison oak to keep us on our toes. A particular moment stands out.

On one of the first few days of camp, after circle time, introductions, and group norms, campers were off to play, picking up sticks, jumping on logs, and chasing each other around the park in joyful glee. The moment I began sensing energy that required in-the-moment, nonjudgmental, compassionate action (mindfulness) was when campers began to use the sticks as guns. The activity began to shift from kid play to violent acts, unbeknownst to the children. But the pointing of the stick guns, and the sounds they made with their lips to signify shooting, called for immediate action. This was going to be a learning moment. 

By cultivating a routine and deepening my own mindfulness practice, I was able to be in the present moment, witnessing the beginnings of toxic masculinity, and was able to redirect that energy in a more positive direction

I halted the game by physically placing my body in the path where they were aiming to “shoot.” With a friendly and curious tone, I asked if their sticks shot bullets. The campers replied, “Yes.” I said, “We are here to make friends and play. Bullets are not friendly and we especially do not want to hurt our friends—those that care about us most, even when we may be upset with them. How about, you can still play, but instead of bullets, we shoot ‘love potion.’” And just like that, love potion it was. Before any more shots were fired, almost simultaneously, campers dropped their sticks and ran to give each other hugs. They then promptly picked up their sticks and a game of love potion was on. 

By cultivating a routine and deepening my own mindfulness practice, I was able to be in the present moment, witnessing the beginnings of toxic masculinity, and was able to redirect that energy in a more positive direction without disrupting the goal of the camp and activity: togetherness, play, and fun. I will always remember this moment and how meeting youth where they are is a critical skill in developing healthy behaviors. Not heavy-handed yelling and force, because that is how toxicity is born, but kindness and care allowed them to feel seen and heard. These conditions lead to a sense of safety which is an effective container for holding space in development, teaching, and training.

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Turning Grief into Random Acts of Kindness

Sixteen years ago we said hello to our only child, a beautiful boy we named Thomas. Twenty hours later we said goodbye. 

There are lots of other things about me: I knit, I write, I live with an anxiety disorder, I’m still not sure what the offside rule in hockey is all about, and I have an alarmingly large collection of stuffed Snoopys for someone who is about to turn 51. But in so many ways, “bereaved mom” defines me because it’s the lens through which I view my world.

I’m living and Thomas is not. There’s no other way for me to exist now except in the shadow of that still-surreal reality. I will always be in two places: both here in this world and there, in that other world of enormous grief and overwhelming love.  

When I sat down to write Thomas’ obituary, my husband Sandy requested that I include a line asking people to do something kind in Thomas’ honor.

That was the spark that lit the fire that has become March 9 Random Act of Kindness Day for Thomas. Each year on his birthday, we encourage family, friends, and strangers to reach out and make the world around them a little sweeter by actively looking for ways to be extra kind in his memory. 

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10 Guided Meditations from the Powerful Women of the Mindfulness Movement

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we gathered mindfulness practices from some of the powerful women of the mindfulness movement featured in the magazine. Here they share their deep practice with you so you can be inspired not only to sit and practice, but also to rise and act.

1) A 10-Minute Meditation to Cultivate Embodied Awareness

Sebene Selassie

Mindfulness Teacher, Author, and Speaker

“Mindfulness presents the opportunity for us to be more fully present for ourselves, our loved ones, and the earth.”

1. Take a moment to find a comfortable position. You don’t need to be in a particular posture. You can be standing, sitting, or even lying down. The most important thing is that you feel relaxed and alert. Make sure that you have some openness in the front of your body. You can roll your shoulders up and back. Or if you’re lying down, just allow your shoulders to really relax into the floor. You want to have some uprightness or length in your spine without being rigid or stiff. And you want to invite a softness into the face, the jaw, the shoulders, and the belly. This balanced posture of being both relaxed and alert, being both soft and open, is the beginning of our embodied awareness. 


2. Notice how the body is feeling in this moment. You don’t need to change anything about the mind, your thoughts, the heart, your emotions, the body, or any sensations. Just simply allow what’s happening to be in your awareness. How does your body feel right now? 


3. Feel what’s going on physically or mentally. What sensations are you experiencing? Where may there be tightness or tension in the body? And where is there ease or relaxation? Just notice what’s here. As you continue to settle into this embodied awareness, you can close your eyes if you’d like, or keep them open as you continue to rest your awareness on the body. 


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How I Unplug From Social Media in One Second

Left to my own devices, it turns out, I will paper over my pandemic anxiety by mindlessly scrolling social media. My thumb does laps on my phone—email to Slack to Instagram to Facebook to Twitter, lather, rinse, repeat. I’ve tried various strategies in the past to at least slow those laps down, such as moving Twitter and Facebook off the front page of my smartphone, or setting a timer and buckling down to focus on a project in 25-minute chunks. I’ve even repeatedly deleted Twitter (where I easily lose all track of time, following threads of negative comments from complete strangers till I emerge suddenly back in the moment, flush-faced and tight-jawed, wondering what the heck just happened) from my phone, only to add it back during busy and chaotic news cycles. The habits from my years as a daily journalist die hard. And with the addition of pandemic stress and anxiety, endless social surfing was engulfing my early morning hours, intruding on evenings on the couch with my spouse, and nibbling the edges of moments in between.

And because social media is the highly palatable food of the internet, I was indulging all day every day. Then I happened across an app called one sec—take a deep breat‪h. Yes, as a matter of fact, I did encounter one sec on one of my social laps—on Twitter, I think. I knew my social media indulgence was out of hand, and I clearly needed help getting on top of it. So I immediately downloaded it and set it up on my phone.

The app works with the built-in Shortcuts function on my iPhone to force me to pause before gaining access to my social media apps. “It’s time to take a deep breath,” white type on a black screen informs me, while the screen slowly turns blue. After a second (the titular one sec, even), the now-blue screen shows me how many times I’ve attempted to open Facebook, say, in the last 24 hours. Then it issues an invitation to continue breathing, a button that I can press that says, “I don’t want to open Facebook,” or the option to continue on to the social media app. If I choose the latter, a pop-up asks: “What’s the purpose of opening Facebook this time?” I can choose from a past purpose (morning check, killing time, bedtime check) or type in a new reason. And when I do, the dialogue box says: “Don’t lie to yourself.” While at first this wording shocked me, I quickly came to see its value. It’s more pointed, somehow, than “be honest with yourself” would be. 

It’s an approach that resonates deeply with me. I take this kind of thing seriously. So seriously, in fact, that it only took me one mindless opening of Twitter, and having to consider my reason for opening it, to once again remove Twitter from my phone. The set-up is the same on Instagram, with the addition of the slightly ironic invitation to “share this moment of mindfulness with your friends by adding this breathing exercise to your Instagram story!”

Often, the moment of pausing is enough to remind me that I am unlikely to find happiness, peace, or relief from anxiety on an app on my phone.

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A 10-Minute Practice for Engaging Money Issues

We all know the simple instruction. And if we’ve been meditating for a while, we’ve heard it countless times: Bring mindfulness to the ever-present breath. That’s it. That’s the practice. From the breath, flows kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity (the ability to flow with the ups and downs that life brings).

But there’s another kind of mindfulness practice that also brings these great benefits: bringing mindfulness to our relationship with money. Money?! Yes, money. We think about money and make money decisions frequently. Every time we shop or spend, we engage with money. If we have signed up for alerts on our phone, we are pinged regularly when we pay for products and services, when our balance changes, when our stocks reach a certain price. And, of course, we have lots of emotions tied up with our money worries and goals: Did I overpay for my car, house/apartment, or sofa? How did she afford a house in that neighborhood? Am I saving enough? Will they think I’m cheap if I don’t buy them an expensive gift? Does my boss value me enough to give me the raise I want? Is it ok if I buy another meditation cushion or yoga mat, even though I don’t really “need” one?

When we are worried or confused about money, we are physically feeling ungrounded. Simply by focusing and giving space to the feelings when money thoughts arise, we are befriending instead of avoiding or running from those difficult feelings.

Let’s consider that our money fears and worries are tied to security and survival. When we are worried or confused about money, we are physically feeling ungrounded. Meditation can help. Simply by focusing and giving space to the feelings when money thoughts arise, you are befriending instead of avoiding or running from those difficult feelings. Think of those feelings as the friendly messenger. As you welcome the feelings, you are changing your relationship with money while doing your mindfulness practice at the same time.

I’m not suggesting that we can just flip a switch and start investigating difficult money feelings with ease, but to motivate us to seize the day, and reverse the way we relate to money. This is the area of our lives where we tend to avoid, repress, distract, panic, and react when a money challenge is present. And for the sake of full disclosure, I—a veteran financial advisor—have panicked and sold my investments when the markets have crashed. I am no stranger to money reactivity. In a way, the more often we experience money worry and stress, the more opportunities we have for mindfulness practice.

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