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…”

A Gentle Practice for Opening Up to Painful Emotions

This is a meditation that I sometimes rely on when I find myself feeling the reactivity that comes up from what’s happening in the news, what’s happening in our communities, what’s happening in our country, and what’s happening in the world right now. Whether it’s because of the pandemic, a shooting, or an unnecessary killing of a good human being—it happens too frequently. It happened to Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. 

Pausing with all of these sorts of things that obviously are coming at us, especially because we are people seeking to move in the direction of the suffering, to work, and to alleviate it, through our actions and our engagements in the world.

So, this is a gentle practice that can provide support to you in remaining grounded as you open up to information that might cause you pain. 

1. Noticing any of these kinds of reactivities coming up for you, you can, as always, just take a few deep and conscious breaths. And as you do so, you’re turning your attention in a very purposeful way toward these sensations that are coming up for you beneath the breath and in the body. 

2. Taking a long, slow breath in, and a gentle, even longer breath out. Continue to follow the flow of your breathing as best you can, resting your attention there.

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Taking Our Seat: Cultivating Strength and Stability

How can the concept of taking our seat serve us in the midst of our current challenges? Many of us are familiar with this phrase: A meditation teacher may say “Let’s start by taking our seat” to signal the transition into beginning our practice. But it can also be meaningful outside of seated, formal mindfulness practice. I have been considering this perspective of “taking my seat” as a metaphor for developing the capacity of how I want to move through the world, especially now.

In taking our seat, whatever that posture looks like for you, we begin by establishing a solid base, a foundation.  We cultivate some stability, strength, and a sense of being grounded. It is this steady base that forms the foundation for the rest of our practice and our capacity to cultivate calm, insight, and open-heartedness. Once our base is established, we can begin to open up with balance and equanimity to whatever is arising. In practice, as in life, it is crucial to cultivate this sense of balance and stability so we aren’t buffeted around by the difficulties in our lives and the world. We are developing the capacity to be steady amid life’s challenges.

The capacity to open and touch into our vulnerability is a key aspect of moving towards working with our experience in an open and loving way.

With this stability, we now have the framework to release and soften around that foundation. In softening and letting go, we begin to invite a sense of ease and calm. The inherent safety in the strength of the posture is supportive of ease, as we consciously cultivate calm through our practice.  This capacity to open and touch into our vulnerability is a key aspect of moving towards working with our experience in an open and loving way. As we move through the world with the support of a solid foundation, we can also now come to the edge of difficult experiences and emotions and begin to soften and open to the vulnerability.

And finally from the stability and support of the posture and the calm we have cultivated in body and mind, we begin to see more clearly as we open to what is arising in our moment-by-moment experience with more grace, compassion, and insight.

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How to Deepen Empathy and Reconnect with Your Estranged Child

Both in my capacity as a therapist and as a regular citizen, I’ve talked with adults who are struggling with the decision to cut ties with their parents, have already done so, or have recently reconciled with a formerly rejected parent. I’ve also followed the research that studies the feelings and motivations of these adult children. By all accounts, these folks take parental estrangement seriously. They feel weighed down by it. It hurts them profoundly to lose connection with a parent, even by their own choice.

Here’s what one estranged child wrote in response to one of my posts:

It is awful when you choose to end a relationship…especially when your parent doesn’t (maybe even can’t) understand what they did wrong. To turn away from them in order to move forward as a healthier person feels absolutely selfish and goes against my instincts to maintain that connection with my mother.

I’ve heard similar expressions of dismay from my clients, friends, and colleagues who reluctantly avoid their parents. Everyone wants to have parents they love, and who love them back, without chronic trouble or pain between them.

It Cuts Both Ways

Most parents don’t get to see the vulnerability and unhappiness in their distancing child. Instead, they’re presented only with heated rejection or chilly indifference. No wonder they’re sometimes ready to believe they created a monster.

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Mindfulness and Protesting: How to Show Up Without Burning Out

Have you ever wondered about the societal impact of your personal mindfulness practice—especially now, in this moment we are collectively facing? How does sitting in individual meditation have an impact on your family, community, country, or the human race? Many meditations, such as loving-kindness meditation, directly focus on how you feel about yourself and others. Learning to be present with yourself during a moment of societal turmoil may not seem like it is directly influencing efforts to create societal change, but it absolutely impacts how you show up, speak out, and protest. 

The recent protests about police brutality against Black bodies have erupted in an already tumultuous social moment as we reckon with the public health and emotional effects of COVID-19. Taking the time to care for yourself in the midst of advocating for justice is not simply a form of self-indulgence but a vehicle to improve efforts in supporting social justice.

The practice of mindfulness has a lot to contribute to help you prepare for, be present for, and understand the significance your efforts have in creating change through protesting. Meditating on and about the subject you are protesting can deepen your awareness and experience of the subject. 

1. There is a dialogue between your internal and external wounds

Protesting is a practice that allows public acknowledgement of societal wounds. Mindfulness meditation is a practice that allows an individual to acknowledge their emotional wounds. The relationship between the two is integral, as the degree to which you have been able to connect and engage with your personal pain increases your capacity to feel and be with the pain of others. Your capacity to notice feelings in your mind and body serve as a template for how you experience and understand the pain of others within our society. There is a reciprocal relationship between the pain you have been willing to face and acknowledge within yourself that allows you to open to the pain you can acknowledge in others and in society.  

Your capacity to notice feelings in your mind and body serve as a template for how you experience and understand the pain of others within our society.

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Mindful Education for Anti-Racist Allies

In the “Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man” video series, Emmanuel Acho sits down to lead viewers through the tough conversations white folks need to be having, in order to better understand struggles with racism and social injustice. In this first video, he discusses some frequently-asked questions around rioting, privilege, and the pain and hurt that Black Americans are feeling.

“In order to stand with us, and people that look like me, you have to be educated on issues that pertain to me,” he says. 

The whole video is well worth a watch—here are just three of the understandings Acho shares to help us increase our empathy so that we can act from deeper understanding and solidarity toward racial justice

1. Riots are a last resort

To many, rioting is simply an act of senseless and destructive aggression, and the recent riots in many US cities appear to have come out of nowhere. However, it’s clearer why this has happened when we look at the long history of struggle for equity in the US.

Acho reminds us that “For years, Black people have tried peacefully protesting, going back to 1965 and before with the Selma march.” The riots that broke out in June 2020 were only one facet of this most recent wave of protests. Even after decades of primarily peaceful demonstrations, Black people still face many of the same struggles of violence, poverty, and unequal rights they have always faced in colonial nations around the world. In recognizing this, we can better understand the perspectives of people who feel rioting is the only way to demand change.  

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