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…”

Sparking Joy: A Mindfulness Practice for Everyday

Mindfulness involves several attitudes of mind that are pivotal to the transformation and liberation of the mind: befriending, compassion, joy and equanimity. These qualities are seen as the foundations of all our development as we embark on a path of mindfulness practice. They are seen as being potentialities and capacities of every human mind that can be cultivated, trained, and naturalized in the same way that attention can be trained and developed. In the face of great distress, though, befriending, compassion, joy, and equanimity can disappear just when they are most needed. Today we look at how to cultivate joy in mindfulness practice.

Joy is an intrinsic attitude of mind that includes gladness of the heart, softheartedness, and tenderness that supports a capacity for appreciation, contentment, and gratitude. Just as our hearts can tremble in the face of suffering, they can also tremble in the face of happiness and beauty. Its affective tone is gladness, aliveness, and vitality. It is associated with a range of emotions, including contentment, wonder, radiant pride, gratitude, and delight.

Empathy is as central to the cultivation of joy as it is to compassion. When we encounter pleasant states, empathy can blossom into appreciative joy, contentment, and gratitude. 

The Enemies of Joy

The near enemies of joy are sentimentality and exuberance. We may be carried away by the idea of joy, rather than being truly alive to it in a given moment. For example, we denote days of the year to celebration, and it is possible to get caught up in a pretense of gaiety rather than being open to joy whenever it arises. Joy helps us befriend difficulties and meet suffering with equanimity and compassion. We have a capacity for joy and a capacity to find joy in others’ happiness and success. Indeed, in the foundational teachings, the empathic, altruistic dimensions of joy are emphasized, creating the conditions for connection and harmony.

Finding joy in others’ happiness is an antidote to resentment, lessening our own sense of inadequacy and tempering our tendency toward envy.

Continue reading
  35 Hits
  0 Comments
35 Hits
0 Comments

The Nine Benefits of Mindful Leadership

We can experience great joy and great love right in the midst of pressure, exhaustion, and overwhelm when we practice mindfulness. In fact, it is possible for mindfulness practice, work, and leadership to be contextualized as one activity, right in the midst of many activities. This requires self-awareness, awareness of others, awareness of time, and awareness of the quality of one’s efforts. Mindful work and mindful leadership both require and cultivate the essential skills we need to thrive. The benefits of meditation and mindfulness support our entire well-being, far beyond the needs of the workplace. They help us thrive in any endeavor. 

Historically, people tend to be drawn to mindfulness practice during times of rapid change, which are accompanied by high levels of stress, volatility, and uncertainty; times much like those we live in right now. In addition, over the centuries, mindfulness has been adapted and integrated to meet the most vibrant and pressing needs of society — not only influencing spiritual traditions but seeping into many facets of daily life and culture, including the arts, food, education, work, and beyond.

The benefits of meditation and mindfulness support our entire well-being, far beyond the needs of the workplace. They help us thrive in any endeavor.

While it’s true that increasing self-awareness is a key aspect of mindfulness practice, the intent is more than awareness of one’s individual self. The intention is to cultivate a wider and more inclusive perspective, aspiring to loosen concern about oneself and to expand our narrow personal experience, so we adopt a more universal and less dualistic awareness. This is referred to as a shift from Small Mind to Big Mind.

Shifting Out of Small-Mindedness

Much of what we experience on a moment-to-moment basis is the world of Small Mind — of the personal self, of I, me, and mine. In fact, science now has a name for Small Mind — it’s called the “default mode network.” This is the part of the brain that is often worrying about the future or ruminating about the past, rather than being relaxed and alert to this moment, to seeing with greater clarity. From a psychological perspective, this is a lot like ego. Mindfulness practice includes learning from and appreciating Small Mind while cultivating Big Mind — the more open, curious, and accepting perspective or way of being. You might say that mindful leadership is about applying the experience of Big Mind, which is cultivated through meditation (but can be accessed anytime), to the concerns of Small Mind, or the pressures and joys of daily life and of working with others to accomplish time-sensitive goals.

Continue reading
  23 Hits
  0 Comments
23 Hits
0 Comments

The Mindfulness Skill That Is Crucial for Stress

Life can be stressful. Whether it’s the stress that comes with having too much work to do in too little time, fulfilling caregiving obligations, or dealing with a major illness or setback, sometimes it can be hard to cope.

In response to stress, many people today are turning to meditation or mindfulness apps (myself included). But not all mindfulness practice is equally effective for combatting stress, a new study suggests. It’s possible that some of our practices may be missing a vital ingredient: acceptance.

In this study, researchers randomly assigned 137 stressed adults of various ages and ethnicities to one of three programs: an eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, where they learned to mindfully pay attention to their present-moment experiences in an accepting, nonjudgmental way; an MBSR course without instructions on acceptance; or no course. The courses included many lessons—for example, how to pay attention to your breath and your body sensations, and how to eat food or take a walk mindfully—as well as practice time outside of class. Before, during, and afterwards, participants reported five times daily about how stressed they felt in the moment and whether they’d experienced a stressful event since their last report.

Though all of the groups experienced less stress and fewer incidents of feeling stressed over time, the people who took the full MBSR course had a significantly steeper improvement than the other two groups.

“Learning how to accept your present-moment experience is really important for reducing stress,” says Emily Lindsay, one of the study’s coauthors. “It seems to be a key element of mindfulness training.”

Continue reading
  26 Hits
  0 Comments
26 Hits
0 Comments

Four Ways to Wire Your Brain for Gratitude

There are many different ways to express gratitude—be it a quick thanks, a heartfelt card, or maybe a favor in return. No matter how you express it, being mindful of the moments when you feel gratitude can rewire your brain for the better. Research has found that simply feeling grateful, even if you don’t necessarily share those feelings with anyone, can boost your mental health in the long run and have lasting effects on the brain.  Furthermore, expressing and accepting gratitude from others can strengthen you relationship and your overall sense of well-being.

Here are four ways to train your brain to practice more gratitude:

1. Take time to notice what’s around you

Practicing mindfulness helps you tune in to the present moment. It is possible that if you are a grateful person, you are more mindful of others’ gestures. The more often you tune into your awareness, the greater the chances you will notice all the good that’s around you to feel gratitude for, which can then bring satisfaction and happiness.   Our ability to pick up on the beauty of nature, kindness from one another, the chance to make a living via a job, all require our ability to be cognizant of ourselves and our surroundings. Being mindful of help in the kitchen, or the color of the sky allows us to generate gratitude by simply noticing them.

2. Practice gratitude for the little things

We often remember to be grateful for big events, like graduating from university or getting married, but it can be more difficult to feel grateful for the small things we do every day. Reminding yourself that eating a meal, for example, is in itself special can be very powerful.  Your immediate awareness of the food in front of you, combining flavors while removing hunger, is a great way to enjoy gratitude as often as you eat! Another example is feeling grateful in the morning for being able to comfortably sleep at night. We gain comfort, satisfaction and peace by practicing mindfulness and gratitude in this repeated fashion.   

3. Share your gratitude for your loved ones

Most of us are a little bit guilty of taking our loved ones for granted. The next time you notice a kind act by a loved one, why not show gratitude by simply saying ‘thank you’ or giving a hug? We ought to show appreciation and not let kind acts go unnoticed. Training yourself to show your gratefulness for loved ones can strengthen your relationships with others.

Continue reading
  37 Hits
  0 Comments
37 Hits
0 Comments

Finding a Mindful Balance

Mindful’s content director Anne Alexander sat down with Army Lieutenant General Walt Piatt, who 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.

Anne Alexander: You have been in extreme situations, including combat. How do you deal with fear?

General Piatt: You have to embrace every environment you’re in and fear is a real thing; it serves a real purpose to heighten your senses to the threats around you. However, if it reaches high intensity and you’re not regulating, then you could act irrationally, which we’d never want.

Anne Alexander: So how do you stay calm and see things clearly when things are at their absolute worst?

General Piatt: It’s a very difficult thing to do as a soldier or even as a boxer. How do you take a punch while keeping your eyes open? How do you operate in a combat environment where you may have friend and foe? It’s incredibly complex and nothing is clearly identifiable. Fear helps you. You can’t suppress it. You can’t dismiss it because you will lose an awareness that you absolutely need. 

Continue reading
  41 Hits
  0 Comments
41 Hits
0 Comments