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…”

Mindful Kids Practice: Coming Back to the Positive

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One way our brain keeps us safe is by staying very focused on whatever seems wrong or off or dangerous. Sometimes, it’s important to notice that kind of thing: Take care of yourself or find someone you trust to help.

You may feel stressed by a test, or a friend, or your parents. It can be hard to let go of that kind of thought.  Sometimes, it takes practice to focus on the good stuff, too.

Other times, what happens instead is that we can’t stop thinking about something we don’t like. You may feel stressed by a test, or a friend, or your parents. It can be hard to let go of that kind of thought.  Sometimes, it takes practice to focus on the good stuff, too.

Lie down somewhere comfortable. Let your arms and legs fall to the ground. Close your eyes gently.Start to notice how your body changes with each breath you take. Each time you breathe, your belly moves up, and your belly moves down. If it is easier, put a hand on your belly. Or if you want, put a stuffed animal there.Each time you breathe, your belly moves. Your hand, or your toy, rises, and then falls. See if you can count ten breaths that way. Breathing in, one, breathing out, one. (Repeat for nine more inhales, and nine more exhales.)When you lose count, don’t worry about it. That’s normal, and happens to everyone. Come back to whatever number you last remember.Now, shift your attention to your day. Breathing in, focus on your breath as your belly goes up. Breathing out, focus on something that went well today.With each breath: breathing in, noticing your belly move, and with each breath out, noticing something that went well today.Now, picture something about yourself that makes you proud. Breathing in, focus on your belly moving. Breathing out, picture something that makes you proud about yourself. If nothing comes to mind, that sometimes happens. If that’s how you feel, picture what you’d wish for yourself instead.Finally, bring someone to mind who makes you happy. Before we end, try one more practice. Breathing in, notice your belly move. And now, breathing out picture someone who makes you happy.As you come to the end of this practice, take a few deep breaths, and start to wiggle your arms and legs. Pause and decide what you’d like to do next.It’s normal to have thoughts that make us feel scared or bad. We should never ignore anything important, but it’s useful to focus on the rest of our lives too. Take a few minutes every day to notice what has gone well, and see what happens next.
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How We Learn To Observe Our Own Biases

We are in front of a diverse group of frontline social service workers teaching them to deliver mindfulness training to youth. Many of the people they serve are homeless or unstably housed sex-trade workers trying to leave this work, or substance-dependent and have been subjected to trauma. With a few exceptions, we teacher-trainers are predominately middle-aged white women trying to pass our “wisdom” to a diverse group of future teachers whose audience will be an even more diverse, and disenfranchised, group.

This is a huge elephant in the room, and so we say, “Clearly we are white older women of privilege and don’t know your culture or the issues you face. But you are the people to take mindfulness beyond the white world and it’s time for us to let you lead.” There was an audible letting go in the room. People were happy to have the situation named and for us to show respect for their efforts to bring diversity to this work.  

This situation continues to be a learning experience for all of us in the project, where age, power, inequity, color, and issues of gender are concerns we all have to contend with. Most mindfulness teachers are middle-class women; in addition, women, and the middle class are represented far more than men as participants in mindfulness-based programs. Yet this skew is only beginning to be discussed in mindfulness along with issues of racism, inclusion, power, and oppression (see mindful.org archives on racism). So, this raises the question of how can the world of mindfulness continue to grow attuned to these issues, and be used to build a better world as well as building a better individual? We don’t need to look very far to find other teachers and initiatives taking this work beyond the white middle class and middle-aged female.

Transforming “Us” and “Them” Thinking

As Mark Nepo so wisely put it we can think of mindfulness training as, “’transformational education,’  …understood as educating the whole person by integrating the inner and the outer life, by actualizing individual and global awakening, and by participating in compassionate communities.”

While he was referring to educational institutions, we can take this idea of transformational education and apply it directly to a discussion of mindfulness whether one is working in health, social service, psychotherapy, the work environment, or education. Mindfulness enhances one’s reflective capacity and trains us to loosen our attachment to our self-importance and our identities. As Beth Berlia states, “contemplative practices….can help students develop this ability to critically self-reflect. It can also offer them tools to remain present—and embodied.” These are important skills because they can help us to be more open, to become aware of our own biases—our tendency to engage in “us versus them” thinking or the contemplation of who is in and who is out.

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5 Rules for Sharing Genuinely and Safely Online

There are a rich array of articles, practices, and resources out there for anyone who wants to make mindfulness and its benefits a part of daily life. There are also online community platforms and events (like the Mindful30) that create opportunities for people to go from learning and practicing mindfulness solo, to being able to become part of supportive, empowering communities of fellow practitioners.

At Mindful we are very excited to see our community grow, and we love fostering genuine communication and sharing among our Mindful readers. Being part of Mindful.org’s events and social media requires mutual trust and compassionate consideration.

In order to maximize the benefits for all, no matter what kind of social community you find yourself in, it is important to abide by a few specific guidelines for safe sharing.

5 Rules Sharing Genuinely and Safely Online

1) Be kind and compassionately courteous with all posts and comments.

Whether it’s commenting on a post or contributing to an online group discussion, let’s treat everyone with compassion and respect. At Mindful.org, you’re participating in order to create a welcoming, supportive, educational environment for the practice of mindfulness. Healthy debates and discussion are natural, but kindness is required.

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Four Ways to Support Teens’ Social-Emotional Development at School

According to a 2018 survey, many high school students don’t believe their schools have done enough to help them deal with stress (51 percent), understand their emotions (49 percent), and solve disagreements (46 percent), and fewer than half of graduates surveyed feel prepared for life after high school.

We’re learning that some social and emotional learning approaches simply aren’t as effective with teens as they are with children. When teaching relationship skills, teens can sometimes find direct teaching (in the form of lectures, videos, and homework) to be patronizing and heavy-handed. 

Why? Teens need more opportunities to dig deeper—to actively explore who they are, what drives them, and who they want to be in the world. So how can we better address teens’ developmental needs?

Researcher David Yeager and his colleagues argue that it’s important to address teens’ needs for status (“How do others treat me?”) and respect (“Am I granted the rights I expect to be granted as a student?”). If teens feel competent, autonomous, and valued in their community—if they have a sense of high status and respect, in other words—they’re likely to be more motivated and engaged.

Here are four ways you can help teens to develop greater self-awareness—and ultimately enhance their sense of status and respect among peers and adults.

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A Practice to Welcome Everything

To welcome something doesn’t mean we have to like it, and it doesn’t mean we have to agree with it; it just means we have to be willing to meet it. We temporarily suspend our rush to judgment and are simply open to what’s occurring.

With welcoming comes the ability to work with what is present and what is unpleasant. After a while, we begin to discover that our happiness isn’t determined simply by what is external in our life but also what is internal. To be open means to embrace paradox and contradiction; it’s about keeping our minds and hearts available to new information, letting ourselves be informed by life. Openness welcomes the good times and the bad times as equally valid experiences. Openness is the basis of a skillful response to life.

Openness welcomes the good times and the bad times as equally valid experiences. Openness is the basis of a skillful response to life.

At the deepest level, this is an invitation to fearless receptivity. To welcome everything and push away nothing can’t be done as an act of will. This is an act of love.

Mostly, we think of mindfulness as bringing a very precise attention to what’s happening, as it’s happening. In this way, we bring an almost laser-like attention to our practice. We bring a careful moment-to-moment attention to sensation, to thoughts, to emotions. But sometimes this kind of precise attention can create a sort of tension or struggle in the mind.

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