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…”

Offering Loving-Kindness to Yourself

My name is Andy Gonzalez, and I’m from the Holistic Life Foundation. Today we’re going to try a loving-kindness meditation—this is where you get to direct all that good energy back to yourself.

We can spend a lot of our time reaching out to other people and trying to help others. But in order to be giving, we need to be nourished ourselves. So today’s practice is about learning a technique to remind you to check in with yourself and to do so with love. It’s understandable, and necessary sometimes, to place ourselves on a kind of back burner. This practice will help you get back in touch with yourself and help you refill your tank.

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Listen to the practice:

Read the practice:

Let’s get into a comfortable seated position. Ideally, your head, neck and spine align. Feel your feet ground on the floor. If you feel comfortable doing so, I welcome you to close your eyes.Begin by breathing at our own pace. Find a nice, comfortable pace, and breathe in and out of your nose. Remember as you inhale, really try to focus on breathing from your diaphragm. So, breathe in through your nose, pushing your stomach out as air comes in. And with every exhale, pull your stomach in, helping to push out that air.Inhale cleansing breath and exhale stress. With every inhale, visualize and feel the healing oxygen coming into your body, cleaning your blood. With every exhale, focus on how all that stale CO2 is headed out, along with any stress or worries or anxiety.Feel your body relaxing with each breath. Feel your mind slowing with each breath. Maintain that comfortable breathing pace.Now we’re going to use our imaginations. You’re beginning a journey into your heart, and inside your heart is a beautiful cave. Inside that cave, hovering over a small pond is a bright light. That light is yourself: your true self.Feel the light of compassion within you. Feel its energy engulf you. Now I want you to try to be one with that light. And considering all aspects of yourself, I want you to send love to your physical, mental and emotional aspects. All of them get to be loved here.Place all attention on that light; all of your attention on your real self. And with each breath, focus on loving yourself.If you happen to get distracted by a thought or a sound, that’s fine. Life is filled with distractions. Recognize that distraction, let it pass, and return back to that light, to yourself, and continue to send yourself love.Let’s keep the focus on wrapping ourselves up with love—not engaging with any negative thoughts we may have. We can get so caught up with judging ourselves, with negative aspects. Let’s try to wash all that away with love. Any faults, any negative thoughts you have of yourself, clean them away with a wave of love. Continue to breathe at that comfortable pace—all your attention on sending love to yourself.Now let’s shift our focus toward all the positive thoughts we have about ourselves. Think of those aspects you appreciate. Really feel that love emanating from yourself and remember all that is good about yourself. Enjoy the warmth and happiness that comes from that feeling.Again, remember if you get distracted, that’s fine. Just let it pass. And return back to yourself and the love that you’re sending.Now let’s focus on the whole self. By that I mean, let’s combine the negative feelings you may harbour about yourself with the positive feelings you have. And let’s put them altogether and surround them with love. Fill every ounce of your being with love. And feel love exuding out of every single pore in your body.Hold that glowing, loving image of yourself in your mind. Now, I want you to say three times with me: I love you. I love you. I love you.Let’s slowly bring our attention back to our bodies now by wiggling our fingers and toes. Roll your wrists and ankles around. Stretch your neck out by just turning it to the left and to the right. Then take your time: when you feel comfortable doing so, slowly blink your eyes open and come back to your senses.

All right, I love you all, too. I hope you can feel that, along with the love you have for yourself.

I do have some homework for you. I want you to practice this loving-kindness exercise, using it as a guide to help you throughout the week. And, if you have a chance each morning, just when you wake up, try taking a few deep breaths and say to yourself three times: I love you. I love you. I love you.

Original author: Andres Gonzales
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The Three Most Effective Mindful Leadership Strategies

Great leaders are inspiring and motivating. They are strategic thinkers who can see the big picture in business and in life. And yet to sustain this task in our modern age, great leaders must also be present, resilient, and healthy in body and mind.

Thanks to changes in technology, the world of work now moves at an accelerated pace. We now have the ability to communicate with people across the world in seconds and to work anytime, anywhere. 

As a result, the line separating work and the rest of life has become increasingly blurred. We now live in a 24/7, “always on,” workplace culture. On top of all of that, most industries and businesses find themselves in a state of near constant change with increasing competitive pressures. 

The unique pressures of the modern age pose a real threat to leadership and indeed our very wellbeing. Today’s leaders require more than management skills, financial acumen, and the ability to inspire.

No wonder so many people complain of feeling stressed, anxious, and overwhelmed, struggling to maintain peak performance.

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Nine Ways to Deepen Your Relationships (Including with Yourself)

We all crave love, intimacy, and genuine connection, but our unconscious habits and reactions can get in the way of our most important relationship skill: mindful communication. When we  practice being fully present for the beautiful, dynamic, and messy realm of human relationships, we bring our mindfulness practice truly “off the cushion.” 

While every relationship we have begins with our relationship with ourselves, relational mindfulness gives us the tools we need to connect more deeply with others. Indeed it is the arena of meeting the day-to-day family, work, and societal struggles that we can profoundly deepen our mindfulness practice. 

What Does Relational Mindfulness Look Like?

Imagine yourself in one of these situations:

You are in conversation with your spouse or partner and you feel yourself becoming triggered. As much as you want to stay present, you begin to shut down and become reactive.

You are at a social gathering and don’t know many people, so you begin to feel awkward and disconnected. You try to make small talk but end up retreating into your phone.  

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Priming the Teenage Brain for Compassion

The adolescent period is absolutely amazing. People often give it a negative approach, saying it’s a time when adolescents are going to lose their mind, or it’s just immature, or raging hormones drive you crazy. These are not only wrong, but they’re myths that mislead us and actually disempower us. Whether we’re adults or adolescents, they actually give us the wrong message and they make it so there’s nothing we can do

So what is actually the truth? The truth is that instead of raging hormones what’s happening is we have remodelling in the brain in ways we never could have predicted. We now understand two big things are happening in the brain. Things you as an adult can support adolescents in developing well, and if you’re an adolescent, you actually can use this to help your brain grow in an optimal way.

Two Big Changes in the Adolescent Brain

What are those two things? Imagine that in childhood you’re growing like a tree, and establishing all these branches and all these leaves are growing. That means connections among the basic cell, the neuron, called synapses are being established, and you’re soaking in the knowledge of the world and that’s beautiful. The tree is just growing, growing, growing

But then what happens and surprised everyone is the brain begins to prune itself. You start carving away some of those leaves and the smallest branches, even some of the larger branches. And the reason for the pruning is to specialized the brain.

An adolescent is going to begin to find their passion, to actually find things they like, things they really love doing, and to drive their development in that way.

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Tame Feelings of Shame with this 10-Minute Practice

Elizabeth Lies/Adobe Stock

Becoming familiar with a difficult emotion means getting interested and curious about it, like you might do when visiting a new city. Take it slow, uncovering new “territory” a bit at a time instead of trying to get to know it all at once. As you do, you learn that you can sit with uncomfortable feelings, and that they will eventually pass. Over time, you develop resilience, self-knowledge, and trust in yourself—the best antidotes to the self-judgment that shame inspires.

Thoughts and feelings are larger and scarier when they’re left unexplored and kept in the shadows.

Whether you’re experiencing feelings of shame right now or have buried shame that you’ve been avoiding, are you willing to get to know it a bit better? Remember, thoughts and feelings are larger and scarier when they’re left unexplored and kept in the shadows.

Take a comfortable meditation posture, eyes closed if comfortable. Begin by bringing attention to the body sitting. Attending to the base of the body as it makes contact with the surface you are resting on. Allowing the jaw to soften, shoulder blades sliding down the back and hands at rest in the lap or on your thighs.Turn your attention to the sensations of breathing at the level of the belly. Attending to the in breath and the out breath, the rising and falling of the abdomen. Perhaps letting the breath move in and out of the body naturally, as best you can.And now, gently bringing to mind an experience or memory, a time in which you felt shame. Maybe it was something you did or something that someone else said about you or to you. Whatever it is, turning toward this memory, experience, or situation gently, as best you can, checking in with what thoughts are present, what emotions, and what body sensations.Without needing to change or fix anything, beginning to explore what is arising or what is here right now.If there are specific thoughts, as best you can experiencing them as sensations of the mind, as events that come and go.If there are emotions, naming or labeling them as they make themselves known. Saying to yourself shame is here or fear, anxiety or guilt, whatever it is and staying with these for a few moments.And now, shifting your attention to any associated sensations in the body. Investigate these with friendly interest, getting curious about them, even if they’re unwanted or intense……really getting to know them if this is possible in this moment.If the sensations are particularly intense or strong, saying to yourself, “this is a moment of difficulty. I can be with this, it’s already here.” If it is helpful breathing into the sensations, expanding on the in breath and softening on the out breath, staying with these sensations as long as they are capturing your attention.If this is too difficult or feels overwhelming there is always the choice to return your attention to the breath at the belly or to open your eyes, letting go of this practice. Otherwise, continuing with this attention to the sensations in the body…And now, returning to the sensations of breathing in the abdomen to the rising and falling of the belly with each breath, breathing in and breathing out…And when you’re ready, bringing attention to the entire body, to any and all sensations, resting here in a more spacious awareness if this is available…Then gently with this shameful experience in the background now, asking yourself:Can I let this be as it is? (It’s already here, after all.) Can I let it go? (It’s already happened.) Does it need addressing? Do I have to take an action? If so, what? Can I shift my attitude, bringing a different perspective to this experience?And then gently opening the eyes if they have been closed and letting go of this practice…
Original author: Patricia Rockman
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