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…”

The Mindful Kitchen

Food can be a source of joy and nourishment, self-expression, and sharing. Yet too often, conflicting messages and expectations around food can create feelings like shame, guilt, and anger that affect the way we eat. 

When we bring mindful self-compassion to the table, we can start to shift some of those habits, and feel a little less overwhelmed and more embodied in the act of eating.

Explore our guide on how to slow down, savor, and enjoy your meals to the fullest. 

A good meal can have a profound effect on our mood (there’s a reason “hangry” is a thing), and mindful eating can further enhance these benefits by helping us notice the taste, quality and overall experience of our favourite foods.

Here are six ways to boost your awareness with mindful eating:

1) Let your body catch up to your brain

Slowing down is one of the best ways we can get our mind and body to communicate what we really need for nutrition. The body actually sends its satiation signal about 20 minutes after the brain, which is why we often unconsciously overeat. But, if we slow down, you can give your body a chance to catch up to your brain and hear the signals to eat the right amount. Simple ways to slow down might just include follow many of your grandmother’s manners, like sitting down to eat, chewing each bite 25 times (or more), setting your fork down between bites, and all those old manners that are maybe not as pointless as they seemed. What are some ways you can slow down eating and listen more deeply to your body’s signals

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Why The Army is Training in Mindfulness

Army Lieutenant General Walt Piatt currently serves as the Director of the Army Staff. Piatt has been working with neuroscientist Amishi Jha to understand the impact of mindfulness training for high stress situations. Plus, listen to neuroscientist Amishi Jha explain the science of focus and attention.

I first met Dr. Amishi Jha back in 2010. I was a brigade commander in Hawaii, and we were on a deployment rollercoaster like everyone else, year on, year off since 2001.

We were just trying to do something different when we came back from deployment because we were just falling to pieces. And you could see it in the soldiers and families when we came back, we weren’t reintegrating, and no matter how good our training was on what not to do we seemed to do the exact opposite, and it just happened faster the more times we were deployed.

We were lucky enough at that time, we were introduced to Dr. Jha. And in three minutes she just described us perfectly, and I realized we were really living on fast forward and fast rewind, we’re never really here, and it got my attention right away.

I knew how to stand at attention. I could do it an hour straight in the blazing sun and I wouldn’t even move to swat a fly off my nose, but I didn’t know how to pay attention.

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Four Ways to Calm Your Mind in Stressful Times

Life throws chaos at us on a regular basis—whether it’s our finances, our relationships, or our health. In the work world, around 50 percent of people are burned out in industries like health carebanking, and nonprofits, and employers spend $300 billion per year on workplace-related stress.

In response, we just keep on pushing through, surviving on adrenaline. We overschedule ourselves; we drink another coffee; we respond to one more email. If we stay amped up all the time, we think, we’ll eventually be able to get things done.

But all that does is burn us out, drain our productivity, and lead to exhaustion.

There’s another way—a calmer way. Cultivating a more restful, relaxed state of mind doesn’t mean we’ll drown under all our responsibilities. Instead, research suggests it will bring us greater attention, energy, and creativity to tackle them. And science also points to simple ways we can tap into that calm state of mind to be more resilient in our chaotic lives.

A stressed mind vs. a calm mind

Stress was never meant to be a 24/7 experience. As Stanford professor Robert Sapolsky explains, you’re really only supposed to feel stressed in the five minutes right before you die. When you are being chased in the savanna by a wild animal, your stress response is supposed to save your life—it mobilizes your attention, muscles, and immune system to get you quickly out of danger. When animals escape, they come right out of fight-or-flight mode and into “rest-and-digest” mode, where the parasympathetic nervous system is working to replenish their resources. 

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The One Question That Can Save Your Relationship

For a moment, think of seeing your partner or close friend as they walk in your front door. You jump up to greet them, exclaiming that their new jacket looks great on them, and you’ve been excited to see them all day. In the midst of your rush of enthusiasm, how are they reacting? Do you have a sense that they believe and trust what you’re saying, or do your compliments seem to isolate them? 

Although love is the quality we tend to glorify the most in romantic relationships, trust is equally indispensable. It’s the sustaining, slow-burning element of love. If you want to actively cultivate a deeper trust with your partner,  new research has found it could be as simple as asking them one important question.

How Low Self-Esteem Interferes with Trust

Researchers from the University of Waterloo conducted two studies with people in romantic relationships who suffer from a similar problem: One partner has a poor opinion of themselves. This insecurity makes that partner more likely to reject expressions of praise and esteem—even from the people closest to them—and thus to feel less satisfied in their relationship. 

If your partner is already sure of themselves, the occasional shower of praise will have the desired effect of reaffirming to your sweetheart that they can trust you. This, of course, reinforces your relationship. But when a partner is insecure about themselves, being praised can spark an anxious reaction. Instead, praise becomes a trigger for doubting the sincerity of their partner because the compliment contradicts the negative emotions they have toward themselves. 

Ask This One Question to Show You Care 

To avoid having your communication backfire, the researchers found that trust is gained by asking simple, meaningful questions about their daily experience. Simply asking: “How was your day?” or “What were your classes like today?” or “Where did you go for lunch?” conveys your genuine interest and attention in how they’re doing and feeling. 

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Could Mindfulness Decrease the Severity of Opioid Cravings?

Opioid addiction can be very difficult to treat, particularly for those suffering from acute or chronic pain. Now, a new study finds that people suffering from opioid addiction and chronic pain may have fewer cravings and less pain when adding mindfulness to the traditional methadone treatment.

Roughly half of people who are addicted to opioids also suffer from acute or chronic pain. In a study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers at the University of Utah and Rutgers University found that adults who received methadone treatment combined with mindfulness training were 1.3 times more effective at controlling their cravings. They also were more likely to report less stress, a more positive mood, and less pain than those receiving typical methadone treatment and counseling. 

Methadone maintenance therapy (MMT) is a key strategy in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Unfortunately, roughly one half of people receiving methadone treatment either continue to use opioids during MMT treatment, or relapse within six months. Part of the reason for this lack of success may be the fact that many suffer from depression, anxiety, and acute or chronic pain

Treating Opioid Addiction with Mindfulness

For this study, thirty adults with opioid use disorder and acute or chronic pain who were undergoing MMT were randomly assigned to either a Mindfulness-Oriented Recovery Enhancement (MORE) group, or a treatment-as-usual control group. 

MORE integrates mindfulness training with reappraisal skills, which include observing and reappraising thoughts, and savoring skills, such as increasing time spent on rewarding activities. Preliminary research has shown MORE to be effective in reducing pain and opioid use, but researchers had yet to test its effectiveness for those with opioid use disorder combined with pain. 

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