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…”

How Your Brain Creates Your Sense of Self

Some years ago one of my neighbors worked in the film industry doing special effects. He showed me a brief clip for one of his projects, of a whale swimming underwater, and he mentioned that the powerful computers at his company had worked overnight to render that single beautiful scene. It seemed remarkable to me that it had taken many hours for their equipment to create a few seconds of imagery that the brain could produce at any time in the theater of imagination.

The circuitry of this inner theater has been one of the major evolutions of the brain over the past several million years. It’s an extraordinary capability that helped our ancestors survive, and it aids and enriches our lives today. But it has some drawbacks, and it’s important to learn how to use it wisely and not let it use you.

Watching Your Inner Movie

Our powerful brains allow us to mental time travel and have a strong sense of self. We draw on our neural networks for what’s called affective forecasting; affective is a psychological term that means “relating to moods, feelings, and attitudes.” This forecasting involves imagining and evaluating different scenarios, such as considering how it would feel to talk with someone in a certain way or simply wondering, “What would taste good for dinner tonight?”

Pause for a moment and consider how much time you spend in the mental activities that draw on these powerful neural capacities. For most of us, it’s a lot. Experientially, we’re caught up each day in many mini-movies in which there is a kind of “I” observing various situations, people, events…and often a “me” to whom things are happening…with lots of thoughts and feelings about the show.

The more a person’s mind wanders, the more it tends to tilt negatively, toward anxiety, resentment, regret, and self-criticism.

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5 Mindful Books to Read Right Now

1. Mindful Movement in Psychotherapy

How many movies or TV series have you seen depicting psychotherapy? Every time it’s the same scene. The therapist in a comfortable chair, their hands nested beneath their chin, listening intently or speaking wisely. Across from them sits the client on a chair or couch, usually a little more anxious. Salmon, a clinical psychologist teaching in the department of psychological and brain sciences at the University of Louisville, asks us: Is anything missing from this picture?

Paul Salmon • Guilford Press

No movement. Because movement is, he says, traditionally “viewed as outside the realm of ‘talk therapy.’” Salmon—who is also a certified exercise physiologist, registered yoga teacher, personal trainer, and mindfulness teacher—encourages clinicians to consider incorporating “purposeful, mindful movement” in their interventions. He is not talking simply about exercise but about movement infused with awareness of what’s going on in body and mind, which can “provide a way to rekindle appreciation for our ability to move and be physically active.” Moving, he emphasizes, is baked into our DNA, but our lifestyles have greatly reduced it. Physical activity itself can create tangible experience that helps us be more than sedentary bodies with overactive brains, providing “an anchor to moment-to-moment reality.”

Salmon leads off by offering five progressively more engaged ways to bring movement into therapy. He then defines mindful movement and makes a case for it, as well as reviewing how mindful movement is used in existing clinical programs. From there,Salmon offers practical applications, first in a general way, and then for various kinds of conditions, such as anxiety, depression, PTSD, eating disorders, and addiction. There are also 29 audio guided practices that purchasers of the book can use personally or with clients.

2. Strange Situation: A Mother’s Journey into the Science of Attachment

Bethany Saltman • Ballantine

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Point of View, Episode 16: It’s Funny Because It’s (Sometimes) True

Episode 16 of the Point of View Podcast: In which we are far apart, but still connected to each other.

Stephanie: Hey there, I’m Stephanie Domet, I’m the managing editor at Mindful Magazine.

Barry: And I’m Barry Boyce. I’m the founding editor of Mindful Magazine and mindful.org. And I write the regular column Point of View.

Stephanie: And this is the Point of View podcast.

Welcome to a special, pandemic edition of Point of View. As we record this—me in my home, and Barry in his—many places around the world are locked down, quarantining, self-isolating, social or physical distancing—whatever you want to call it, we are doing it. Separately. Via Zoom! So today on Point of View, we’re glad to have an opportunity to come together in this way and talk about mindfulness and meditation and a particularly delicious spoofing of the mindfulness world courtesy of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s brilliant BBC show, Fleabag.

Hello, Barry Boyce!

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What Day is it? 4 Ways to Cope with Blursday

Are you finding it harder to get traction these days?

Since entering lockdown mode, my days are narrow and familiar, but at the same time, different and undependable.

The footholds I counted on to scale my day have given way. In place of a reliable routine are last-minute Zoom meetings, round-the-clock emails, willy-nilly walks, and family meals that resemble cows grazing in the field with all of us nibbling from the refrigerator at whim.

One day flows into the next, and entire days have changed personalities. Lazy Sundays look like hectic Wednesdays. The glee I usually feel on a Friday afternoon gets tempered by another quiet night at home.

Call this no man’s land of calendar time, Blursday.

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A 15-Minute Meditation to Cultivate Equanimity

When you’re faced with difficult emotions, it’s natural to find yourself in a reactive state, but it doesn’t have to be your mind’s default setting. 

In this guided meditation, Diana Winston leads us through a practice to find balance and cultivate equanimity.

Cultivating Equanimity

1. Find a position that’s comfortable and take a few breaths. Invite yourself to soften and connect. Coming into your body and mind, right here, right now.

2. Imagine a time when you felt even-minded and balanced. It could be a time you were about to yell, but instead, took a pause. It could be anything.

3. See if you can bring to mind a time when you felt balanced. Notice if you can see, sense, or feel what it was like. Where were you? What did you see? What did you hear? Most importantly, what did you feel inside yourself?

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