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…”

Teaching that Empowers Creative Minds

Ashanti Branch is founder and executive director of the Ever Forward Club, an Oakland, CA-based group that supports young Latinx and African-American men to engage with high school and achieve their potential. Founded in 2004, the Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school, and 93% have gone on to attend college. Branch studied life design through a Stanford fellowship in 2015-2016, and the experience helped to transform his approach to leadership.

Mindful: What led you to study design theory?

Ashanti Branch: Ever Forward Club started out as a small volunteer-run nonprofit. When we started, I was doing it after work and on weekends and holidays, while teaching math full time. I had this dream of it being bigger, and believed it was going to happen one day, but didn’t know how.

How did Design School change that picture?

Before D-school, it was like I was rowing a boat, always rowing and rowing. Now that rowboat is more like a motorboat, with a perpetual energy of its own. It was absolutely life-changing for the organization. Through D-school, I came to understand three things: who our users are, how to tell the story of what we were trying to change, and how small, easy changes could elevate our work.

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How Your Mindfulness Practice Can Support the World Right Now

There’s a lot of pain, righteous anger, and sorrow permeating our lives right now. This is a moment that is asking much of all of us. This moment is asking us to truly listen to the voices of people who are systemically oppressed. This moment is asking us to truly hear what those voices are saying. And this moment is asking us to act. 

Mindfulness equips us for these moments. It’s compassion and love that connect us all. It’s wisdom that calls you to practice mindfulness, to wrestle with your inner demons so that, to the best of your ability, you may embody equanimity in the face of difficulty. That can feel like a tall order in the midst of chaos, confusion, and competing narratives. 

But one thing that’s been revealed over the last few months is the reality of our interconnectedness. We are one. And as the poet Emma Lazarus wrote, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., echoed: Until we are all free, we are none of us free.

1) Mindfulness teaches us how to STOP and listen. Every one of us is being called to create space to listen, really listen, and observe and tame our reactive feelings so we can access the deep well of compassionate awareness that lives in us all. It is our emotional intelligence that will allow us to, in the words of Killer Mike, “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.” Utilize the STOP practice to gain greater mastery over challenging reactivity and confusion. 

2) Mindfulness allows us to work with our own conditionings. Rhonda Magee, author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice, says it’s people with a deep mindfulness practice who can “sit in the fire of the painful recognition that, oh, my mind actually does orient me to people who look like me.” Mindfulness, she continues, “can help us with a lot of the really subtle difficulties of doing the work that must be done to dismantle these patterns and habits that draw us to reinvest in segregation. Mindfulness compassion practices, these actually can help.” Try this compassion practice to connect with deep loving awareness.

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Meditation Teacher Sharon Salzberg Talks About the Power of Loving-Kindness

Loving-kindness is so much more than “just” a feel-good practice. It is the force that can connect, inspire, and motivate us to transform the world. Here world-renowned mindfulness teacher, Sharon Salzberg, one of the foremost teachers of loving-kindness, helps to pave the way.

Barry Boyce: You’ve been practicing mindfulness for quite some time and I’ve heard you talk about how meditation and kindness are inseparably linked. Can you explain?

Sharon Salzberg: Let me start with a little background. Nowadays, if you want to practice meditation, there are meditation centers and studios all over the place. Or you could take a course online. You can go on Amazon and find 50 or 100 books on meditation.  

When I started, in the early ’70s, lots of us went to Asia. I chose India.

When I traveled there as an 18-year-old to meet great meditation teachers, I felt like I knew a lot. I had read plenty of Eastern philosophy and was pretty sure I had gained a good understanding. I was in for a bit of a surprise.  The first thing I was taught when I went on my first meditation retreat was to pay attention to my breath. 

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How to Bring More Peace and Presence to Family Life

Many families are spending more time together than ever, under extraordinary circumstances. In this video, psychologists and mindfulness teachers Elisha Goldstein and Stefanie Goldstein talk about the mindfulness techniques and skills they’re employing with each other and their three sons to make their family time richer, deeper, and more peaceful.

7 Things Mindful Families Do Differently

1. Embrace Imperfection

Even in the best of times, none of us are perfect parents: We get triggered, overreact, and say and do things that we wished we hadn’t. During this strange time in the world, parenting probably feels different, and harder than ever before. 

Let’s be clear—you are going to make mistakes, you are going to hurt your children’s feelings, and you are not going to be able to show up in all the ways you want to or the ways your children want you to, but NONE of that makes you a bad parent—it only makes you a human one.

When we beat ourselves up over our mistakes and imperfections we create more pain, fear, and disconnection. 

Maybe your kids are watching more TV than usual, or not eating as healthy as they used to. Rather than being hard on yourself, embrace this imperfection. Remind yourself: there is no book written on how to parent during a pandemic.

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5 Lessons to Remember When Lockdown is Lifted

A lot of people I know have been starting to wonder about life after the shelter-in-place orders have been lifted. What will it be like? What will the new normal be?

The answers to those questions will depend a lot on where you live, what your experience has been like, and what you make of it all.

Living in a city that imposed shelter-in-place orders 10 weeks ago, as of this writing, my own life has been a mixed bag. I shifted to working at home pretty easily, but it’s been hard finding a routine and avoiding distractions. I’m connected with friends online, but I miss their physical presence. Plus, my sleep and mood have suffered as anxiety looms over the future of our society.

I don’t want to negate these feelings or ignore our losses. But, as a writer for Greater Good, I can’t help but see some positives coming from this crisis, too. Reflecting on this moment has been a learning opportunity for me and for all of us—a chance to focus more on what matters and to think about living life differently going forward.

Here are some lessons I want to hold on to once sheltering in place is lifted.

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