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 to Keep Your Brain Fit as You Get Older

If you are of a certain age, it’s probably happened to you: You walk into a room and forget what you came for. You misplace your car keys. Again. And although you try and try to remember the name of that acquaintance in front of you, your mind goes blank.

Oh no, you think. Is this a sign of Alzheimer’s? Am I losing my brainpower?

If you have such concerns, you’re not alone. A recent survey by the Alzheimer’s Association showed that 60 percent of people worldwide believe—incorrectly—that Alzheimer’s is an inevitable part of aging, a worry second only to getting cancer. The good news is that there is more information than ever available these days about staving off mental decline and staying sharp into your twilight years.

There’s so much research out there, in fact, that it would be hard to wade through it all. That’s what makes the new book Ageless Brain: Think Faster, Remember More, and Stay Sharper by Lowering Your Brain Age so useful. Written by the editors of Prevention magazine and Julia VanTine, it offers an easy-to-read, practical, and solid guide to keeping your brain young, while distilling the latest findings from research on nutrition, physical and mental exercise, stress reduction, and more.

The format is reader-friendly, with boxes, outlines, lists, and self-assessment quizzes. Early on, for instance, there’s a section on “Memory Issues: What’s Normal, What’s Not.” “Not all memory lapses spell trouble,” the authors report—something readers may find especially reassuring. There are ways to distinguish normal, age-related memory glitches from dementia or Alzheimer’s: If you find yourself unable to recall the details of an event or conversation from a year ago, that’s normal; but if you find yourself unable to remember the details from an event or conversation from last week, that’s reason to check with your doctor.

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A Compassion Practice for Opening the Heart

1) Imagine your are encircled by people who love you. Sit comfortably, eyes open or closed, and imagine yourself in the center of a circle made up of the most loving beings you’ve met. There may be some people in your circle who you’ve never met but have been inspired by. Maybe they exist now or they’ve existed historically, or even mythically.

2) Receive the love of those who love you. Experience yourself as the recipient of the energy, attention, care, and regard of all of these beings in your circle of love. Silently repeat whatever phrases are expressive of that which you most wish for yourself, not just for today but in an enduring way. Phrases that are big and open, something like: May I be safe, be happy, be healthy. Live with ease of heart. May I be safe, be happy, be healthy. Live with ease of heart.

3) Notice how you feel when you receive love.  As you experience yourself in the center of the circle, all kinds of different emotions may arise. You may feel gratitude and awe, or you might feel kind of shy, like you would rather duck down and have all of these beings send loving kindness to one another and forget about you. Whatever emotion may arise, you just let it wash through you. Your touchstone is those phrases—May I be happy. May I be peaceful… or whatever phrases you’ve chosen.

4) Open yourself up to receiving love. Imagine that your skin is porous and this warm, loving energy is coming in. Imagine yourself receiving. There’s nothing special that you need to do to deserve this kind of acknowledgement or care. It’s simply because you exist.

Open yourself up to receiving love. There’s nothing special that you need to do to deserve this kind of acknowledgement or care. It’s simply because you exist.

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The Key to a Mindful Work Life

Mindful Editor-in-Chief Barry Boyce sat down with world-renowned meditation teacher and author Sharon Salzberg, and Janice Marturano, the founder of the Institute for Mindful Leadership, to discuss the role of mindfulness at work and at home.

Barry Boyce: The two of you are working together on an initiative to explore, in a retreat with experienced mindfulness practitioners, certain kinds of deeper challenges we all face—and particularly challenges that emerge as we take on positions of responsibility and leadership. Mindfulness is often about stress-reduction and focus, which can become the entryway to a deeper exploration, which is what it seems you’re interested in doing now.

Janice Marturano: Yes. This really came about here at the Institute, from people who have been through other retreats that the institute taught, Mindfulness at Work or Mindful Leadership, and we kept hearing a consistent drumbeat of people saying “I want more.” How about a mindfulness 2.0 version that helps us explore how we can use mindfulness for some of the real significant challenges in our society and in our workplace.

Sharon Salzberg: One of the things I’ve been saying for years is that mindfulness is so often beautifully presented as a way to inhabit our lives more fully—to be more present drinking a cup of tea and not always be multitasking. That can bring on a huge change in the quality of one’s life, but classically mindfulness was designed to deepen insight. It’s not just about inhabiting our lives more fully—it’s about understanding our lives and having much sharper discernment about where we want our lives to go and what gives us meaning, what actually makes us happy.

Mindfulness is not just about inhabiting our lives more fully—it’s about understanding our lives and having much sharper discernment about where we want our lives to go and what gives us meaning, what actually makes us happy.

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Free Audio Resources for Mindfulness Meditation

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Interested in mindfulness, but not sure where to start? There are many meditation apps, audiobooks, and programs available to you — before you get lost in the pile of choices, explore these three basic mindfulness meditations.

To start, explore these awareness of breath meditation practices:

A basic meditation that focuses on following the breath to cultivate mindful awareness. 

An awareness of breath practice that centers on one of the basics of mindfulness: how to sit and know you’re sitting.

A longer breathing practice to tap into your capacity to be in touch with your experience, and to be awake and aware with no agenda other than to be awake and aware.

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A Mindful Breath-Counting Practice for Teens and Tweens

As a parent, your job is to prepare your child for the road ahead, rather than endlessly (and impossibly) trying to fix the road itself. You can’t predict every potential difficulty and protect your child from every pothole. But if you help your child cultivate mindfulness, research suggests they’ll develop resilience, improved executive function, and social and emotional skills that allow him to steer himself when the time comes.

You can’t predict every potential difficulty and protect your child from every pothole. But if you help your child cultivate mindfulness, research suggests he’ll develop resilience, improved executive function, and social and emotional skills that allow him to steer himself when the time comes.

You don’t need to be a “perfect” meditator to begin discussing it with your child — you just need to be genuinely interested in the process and honest about your own experience. Once you feel familiar with the ideas and practices, you can introduce them to your family. Be sure to talk about your own difficulty sustaining attention and resisting reactivity. This can be an important part of the lesson for your child: you’re fallible and yet remain open to trying something new.

Preadolescents and teens can practice mindfulness the same way as adults, although the practices are often shortened and the language should be adapted into their vernacular, making it engaging and real to them. On the one hand, adolescents are in a stage of development that focuses heavily on peer groups, so group learning and classes may make it easier to connect with mindfulness practice. When discussing mindfulness with them individually, we can tailor it to their changing experience as they strive for independence, manage school stress, and learn to handle teenage related emotional and physical growth.  

There isn’t a consensus about what length of practice most benefits adults, even less so in children. Starting with shorter practices often works best but isn’t required. It’s all about making it feel natural individually, adjusting to whatever you observe.

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