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…”

The Power of Forgiveness During Shelter in Place

With less freedom and more family members at home together during this time due to shelter in place, the circumstances may be creating more tension than meaningful connection. For some, this additional time together may be bringing greater intimacy, care, and empathy, but for others, it may be adding salt to a resentment wound that has yet to be healed. In trying times, we can use whatever arises as a path for practice.

As we prepare to slowly re-open our workplaces in the next few weeks, it feels like a very important time to ask ourselves, “How do I want to show up right now as a leader, partner, friend, coworker, and member of  my family?”

Personally, I have been using this time of quarantine as an opportunity to take greater personal responsibility, shed the stories that keep me disconnected or stuck in patterns that no longer serve, remove the armor of self-protection, and notice where I can create more connection and harmony with the people in my life. The following questions are ones I ask myself daily—especially when I notice rupture or disconnect in a relationship.

Where can I take personal responsibility?Is there an opportunity to invite repair?How can I be more vulnerable?Where can I forgive myself and others right now?How do I want to show up to create more connection and trust with this person?

How to Foster More Harmony, Connection, and Forgiveness During Shelter in Place

Step 1: Awareness

The first step is to notice where there is resentment. It may be a narrative that is keeping me disconnected from a family member, friend, roommate, colleague, or partner.

Ask yourself, “What story is keeping me stuck in ‘being right’ or in conflict with this person right now?”

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5 Ways to Reimagine Life in Quarantine

“I would hate meditating in silence for a week. It would be so boring. Are you allowed to bring your phone?”

This is what a friend of mine said when I told her how much time I’ve spent on silent meditation retreats. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard many times. I used to respond by talking about the benefits, but this time, my answer was much simpler: 

“You’re right. You would hate it, but you wouldn’t keep hating it for the whole week. Have you considered what might happen next?”

As I write this, many of us have been stuck at home in quarantine for about two months. We’re facing a choice, and it’s a choice we have to make over and over again. We can resist the reality of our situation, or we can seize the opportunity to evolve. As challenging as this pandemic is, I can’t help but wonder: What might happen next?

It’s not that COVID-19 is a good thing. It’s a disaster and I wish it weren’t happening. But it is happening, and within that reality, we are being forced to reflect on the path we’re on and where it leads, both as individuals and as a society. A think-tank recently published consumer survey results showing that, post-pandemic, Chinese people are becoming more interested in financial responsibility, stronger relationships, spirituality and self-development. In many ways, crises bring out the best of humanity. If you’re lucky enough to be healthy right now, you might be waiting for things to go back to normal. I hope you also explore how things might improve if they don’t go back to normal. Here are five areas of life worth reimagining in quarantine:

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How Much Self-Knowledge is Too Much?

Gabrielle was lonely. A series of short-lived romantic relationships had left her heart in tatters. Although she said she was ambivalent about pursuing a committed, long-term relationship, she reported feeling lonely and continued to fall into intense relationships with men who didn’t give her the support and intimacy she craved.

With just a few pointed questions, psychologist Colleen Becket-Davenport got to the bottom of what was going on: Gabrielle was choosing men who were “all unavailable in some way,” said Becket-Davenport, who practices in San Francisco. “They were already in a committed relationship, they had mental health issues of their own, or lived far away, for instance.” When these men didn’t respond to her texts, Gabbie made excuses for them (“He has a lot going on right now”). Despite her insistence that she didn’t “need a boyfriend,” she found herself feeling hurt and rejected when the relationships ultimately imploded.

By helping Gabbie see how their unavailability made her feel (“When he doesn’t respond to my texts, it makes me feel like I don’t matter”), what she truly wished for (“An emotionally intimate relationship with someone who checks in with me and cares how I feel”), and why she was choosing unavailable men (“I don’t think my needs are important”), Becket-Davenport was able to give Gabbie something psychologists have long seen as crucial to well-being: self-insight.

How Much Self-Knowledge Is Too Much?

“Most therapy is going to aim to increase self-insight in some way,” said Becket-Davenport. “This may mean gaining insight into your less conscious motivations, understanding how your thoughts influence your behavior, or simply developing better emotional awareness.”

If you don’t look too deeply, it’s hard to argue with the ancient Greeks’ counsel: “Know thyself.” To understand one’s motivations (Why do you procrastinate? treat a certain family member or “friend” like dirt? act like a doormat in relationship after relationship?) is to take the first step toward being mindful about behavior that messes up your work, relation-ships, and life in general. In my own case, I finally understood that much of what I do—from working compulsively to obsessively checking on my children to periodically blowing through my apartment like a Category 5 hurricane to cull unneeded possessions—arises from anxiety. That insight enabled me to set priorities and behave more thoughtfully.

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Being Gentle with Your Feelings In Lockdown

Anyone else feel like an oppressive wave of suffocating gloop is bearing down upon them and choking out all hope of hope? Me neither.

Like a few billion of my dearest friends, I have been sheltering at home for what feels like multiples of dog years. Overall, I think I am handling the whole pandemic-thingy rather well. But it turns out that I am human after all, and in the face of a global pressure cooker, a small irritation has been known to turn me into a weapon of mass destruction.

I have never been through a world-wide shut down before, and I need to regularly remind myself to go gently, because I have a lot to learn.

Now that I am safe in my hermetically sealed bubble, I have more time to see how my unease with uncertainty can turn me into a fireball from space. Bizarrely, this is good news. With mindfulness as my companion, I am learning to catch habit patterns muscling in on me. And once I notice, I can take a nice deep breath and offer myself kindness and compassion, even when my behaviour is less than peaceful.

Life was not a box of chocolates, it was more like a tube of toothpaste and I could feel pressure and uncertainty squeezing my dark, sensitive interiors.

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Online Mindfulness-Based Therapy May Keep Depression at Bay

Many of us will experience depression in our lifetimes. Although many treatments like cognitive behavior therapy and antidepressant medications are found to be effective for some, many others may still feel residual symptoms of depression (RSDs) after treatment is over and not everyone has access to a trained therapist.

Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) combines the tools of cognitive therapy with mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) skills to teach individuals how to better regulate their emotions. Previous studies have found MBCT to be as effective as antidepressant medication in preventing depressive relapse. To date, however, access to the program has been limited largely to those living in large cities. Mindful Mood Balance (MMB) was created to fill the access gap by delivering MBCT online. 

Web-based delivery of mindfulness-based cognitive therapy may be an accessible, cost-effective means of preventing relapse, and may provide more people with access to MBCT.

To see whether MMB would enhance the impact of conventional depression treatment, researchers randomly assigned 460 adults who had experienced at least one major depressive episode to receive either conventional depression treatment consisting of individual or group therapy, or conventional treatment supplemented with MMB.  

MMB was delivered in eight self-administered online sessions over 12 weeks. The program focused on teaching people how to detach from their habitual thoughts to prevent them from spiraling into depressive rumination, which can lead to relapse. Each session combined mindfulness practice with video-based learning and information. Study participants also received email and phone coaching and technical support. Members of both groups completed questionnaires about their depression and anxiety symptoms before and during treatment, then again one year later.

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