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…”

7 Ways Mindfulness Could Support Compassionate Policing

We have a big problem with policing—many problems in fact. That’s been clear for a long time. A force created for public safety and protection too often brutalizes the very public it’s serving, and the results of such brutality—often violent death—are borne most heavily by the racialized and marginalized. In recent days, it has once again reached a tipping point—and there is widespread hope that the shock and outrage and grieving will lead to real change this time. Many communities resolve to effect change that results in noticeable, measurable outcomes. Now.

Mindfulness may be able to help with that change. It can be a complementary part of broad, comprehensive transformation. 

Police have been telling Mindful for years that a few things are missing in their training and preparedness. For example, one thing that would help police de-escalate encounters would be methods for regulating stress based on an understanding of how stress operates in the body and mind. Also, many mindfulness teachers focus on uncovering and working with our implicit bias, which if left unexplored can have tragic consequences for first responders.

Mindfulness methods can transform the very act of policing into something based on compassion.

In 2015, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released recommendations for transforming police forces that included promoting “officer wellness through physical, social and mental health support”; encouraging communities to “support a culture and practice of policing that reflects the values of protection and promotion of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable”; and to develop practices that “emphasize deescalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate.” Wellness, mental health, promoting dignity and protecting the vulnerable, deescalating…these are mindful values. And mindfulness practice inculcates them in people.

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Making Friends with Difficult Emotions

When we find ourselves in the grip of fiery anger, or constricting sadness, or another powerful emotion, what’s often needed is to open up the inner space where we can simply notice what’s going on with ourselves. Yet, in the moment that seems ruled by the emotion (or emotions), we may be unsure how to even begin doing this.

One way to find a wise response is through understanding that difficult emotions like anger, fear, shame, and grief almost always involve a mix of conceptual and somatic (bodily felt) elements. The conceptual part involves the particulars of the situation that is giving rise to the emotions: its “storyline.” The somatic element is the way in which we experience the emotion in our bodies. If we are angry with someone, for example, there is the storyline of what they said or did that triggered our anger—That was unfair / What they said is wrong / They should know better!— and then there is the physical arousal taking place: our pumping heart, the heat in our belly, our shoulder muscles tensing.    

Dealing with Difficult Emotions 

A big reason that difficult emotions are so challenging to work with is that the storyline and the body arousal interact and feed each other. Perhaps we begin to calm down in our bodies, but suddenly we flash on the memory of what caused the anger, and our body becomes aroused all over again. Or our thinking mind starts to gain some perspective on the situation, only to be knocked off-course by a fresh surge of the bodily discomfort that is still present for us.

In processing difficult emotions, we need a way to disentangle the conceptual and somatic elements. Since the conceptual, thinking mind tends to dominate and impede clear awareness of what’s going on in the body, the first step is to pause the storyline. This means deliberately interrupting your thought process about the situation in order to clear a space to just be present for whatever feelings are in the body.

If we are angry with someone, there is the storyline of what they said or did that triggered our anger—That was unfair / What they said is wrong / They should know better!— and then there is the physical arousal taking place: our pumping heart, the heat in our belly, our shoulder muscles tensing.     

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Publishing Mindful Resources in South Korea

For the first time, select Mindful resources are available in Korean through an online platform based in South Korea.

Mind Ground began publishing translated Mindful articles this month in a weekly email called the M Letter. The newsletter offers mindfulness practitioners an in-depth look at how mindfulness can be applied to areas of everyday life including education, work, and parenting. The first volume features practices from Shelly Tygielski, Rich Fernandez, Sharon Salzberg, Dr. Mark Bertin, Dr. Christopher Willard, Hugh Delehanty, and more. 

Through the exchange of research-backed mindfulness resources between the East and West, Mind Ground hopes to offer their audience a new perspective on well-being, health, and mindfulness meditation. 

The interactive platform serves a collection of secular mindfulness content, community events and online programs ranging from yoga, meditation, and self-care for all levels of practice. It also offers reviews of mindfulness programs to help connect practitioners to mindfulness teachers and courses that best suit their needs.
This initiative stemmed from Mind Ground’s sister company, Mind Design. The social enterprise, founded in 2010 by a group of young meditation practitioners, works to generate interest in traditional industry in Asia—art, meditation, and other aspects of mindfulness.

“There was a [generational] and cultural gap,” says founding member AJ Kim. “Traditional work was mostly done by older generations.” To bridge the gap, Mind Design began connecting professionals and younger audiences to new avenues in the mindfulness industry. To further their mission to support healthy lifestyles—emotionally, physically, and mentally—through mindfulness and meditation, developing an online platform was the next step in reaching more people.

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How Being Held Accountable Is an Experience of Vulnerability

Increasingly, my mindfulness practice has been about learning how to take personal accountability. That means accepting the feedback I receive from the world around me, regardless of whether or not it agrees with my perception or intentions. As I extend my awareness beyond my own experience, and begin to recognize the suffering that exists in the world, some of which I perpetuate or cause, I experience intense shame and sadness. And when I allow myself to sit with those feelings, I’m overcome by the urge to run, turn away, or even strike out. 

Mindfulness practice has taught me that whatever turmoil or emotional storm I’m experiencing, I can trust that eventually I will be able to weather it and start again. The more I practice, the more confident I become in my ability to experience my own vulnerability, as well as the vulnerability of others. And being accountable is an experience of intense vulnerability.

When we are called out for being wrong or for hurting someone, we fear we will be deemed unloveable. But we are all worthy of love, and with accountability there is no blame. We can face the consequences of our choices or actions, of our engagement with the world, and we can grow and learn, communicate and do better. Accountability allows us to not have to hide from having done wrong, and we are then able to connect with others, and be connected with ourselves.

1. Recognize blame for what it is. Brené Brown says that blame is just the release of discomfort and pain. Accept that accountability requires courage and time, and learn two important insights on this toxic behavior

2. Let yourself feel shame. We defuse the power of difficult emotions when we explore them with mindful compassion. Get curious about the bodily sensations that arise as you lean into those emotions. And when shame rears its head, Patricia Rockman says in this guided meditation, we can learn to stay with the difficult feelings and survive them.

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A Compassion Practice for Healthcare Workers

Our minds are never really still. And in moments of uncertainty or crisis, whether in life or in a clinical setting, our minds can complicate our emotional and practical responses with thoughts that make our experiences more intense. 

In this guided loving-kindness meditation, Dr. Mark Bertin invites us to work with our thoughts. This practice strengthens our intention to notice and label whatever may arise, as a tool to anchor ourselves. While you follow along, simply recognize where your mind gets caught up in thinking about the future or the past. Quite often we get lost in thought—even while meditating. When this happens, we can use an immediate sensation or a phrase to ground ourselves again.

What to do When Thoughts Arise While Meditating

We can’t wrestle with or suppress thinking. No matter how hard we try, thoughts will always come and go. Often, they’re like trains leaving a station, Bertin says. They sweep through our minds, we hop on the train of thought, and get lost. 

Within any mindfulness practice, we can anchor our attention with something neutral, like the breath, and recognize that our thoughts are not inherently good or bad, useful or useless.

A Simple Compassion Practice

1. Find a comfortable posture for yourself. You can sit, stand, or lie down, with your gaze lowered or eyes shut.

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