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 Loving-Kindness Practice to Foster Acceptance

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Accepting love from others and believing that you deserve to be happy isn’t always easy. Consider how much time many of us spend wishing we were different—ruminating over the past, judging ourselves for our mistakes, comparing our life to others, worrying about what the future will bring. It uses up a huge amount of our attention. By practicing loving-kindness, you can take all of that energy and re-direct it towards yourself in a positive way.

By practicing loving-kindness, you can take all of that energy and re-direct it towards yourself in a positive way.

Loving-kindness helps us focus our attention on a place within ourselves where we can foster love and compassion, and let it flourish. By taking care of yourself first, you open up space to then include others into your sphere of kindness.

This loving kindness practice involves silently repeating phrases that offer good qualities to oneself and to others.

You can start by taking delight in your own goodness calling to mind things you have done out of good heartedness and rejoicing in those memories to celebrate the potential for goodness we all share.Silently recite phrases that reflect what we wish most deeply for ourselves in an enduring way. Traditional phrases are, “May I live in safety. May I have mental happiness or peace or joy. May I have physical happiness health or freedom from pain. May I live with ease.”Repeat the phrases with enough space and silence between so they fall into a rhythm that is pleasing to you direct your attention to one phrase at a time.Each time you notice your attention has wandered, be kind to yourself and let go of the distraction. Come back to repeating the phrases without judging or disparaging yourself.After some time, visualize yourself in the center of a circle composed of those who have been kind to you or have inspired you because of their love. Perhaps you’ve met them or read about them. Perhaps they live now or have existed historically or even mystically that is the circle as you visualize yourself in the center of it experience yourself as the recipient of their love and attention keep gently repeating the phrases of loving kindness for yourself.To close the session, let go of the visualization and simply keep repeating the phrases for a few more minutes each time you do so you are transforming your old hurtful relationship to yourself and are moving forward. Sustained by the force of kindness.
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The Six Rules of Conscious Emailing

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Have you ever sent an email and immediately wanted to take it back? Who hasn’t! We can churn out emails at such lightening speed, it’s easy to write something that accidentally offends someone or is easily misunderstood. Emailing feels almost like a conversation, but we lack the emotional signs and social cues of face-to-face or phone interactions. If there’s any challenging content to convey—and if you’re sending it out to more than one person—it’s easy for problems to arise.

Here’s how you can communicate more thoughtfully and effectively via email.

Four Mindful Tips to Email More Clearly

Keep it short and sweet. Using fewer words usually leads to more clarity and greater impact. Your message can easily get lost in the clutter, so keep it simple.Ask yourself—should I say this in person? Some messages are just too touchy, nuanced, or complex to handle by email. You may have to deliver the message in person, where you can read cues and have some give and take. Then, you can follow up with a message that reiterates whatever came out of the conversation.Notice your tone. If there’s emotional content, pay close attention to how the shaping of the words can create a tone. If you have bursts of short sentences, for example, it can sound like you’re being brusque and angry.Consider your role. If there’s a power dynamic (for example, you are writing to somebody who works for you or who reports to you), you need to take into account how that affects the message. A suggestion coming from a superior in an email can easily sound like an order.

Try this Mindful Emailing Practice

Begin by composing an email as usual. Try using the Enter key more. Shorter paragraphs are easier to read on screens.Then stop, and enjoy a long deep breath. Put your hands in front of you and wiggle your fingers to give them a little break. Now, lace your fingers together and place them behind your head. Lean back and give your neck a little rest. Now you’re in a good position for the next step.Think of the person, or people, who are going to receive the message. How are they reacting? How do you want them to react? Do they get what you’re saying? Should you simplify it some? Could they misunderstand you and become angry or offended, or think you’re being more positive than you intend when you’re trying to say no or offer honest feedback?Look the email over again and make some changes if necessary. Notice any spelling or grammar errors you may have missed the first time.Don’t send your email right away. If it’s not time-sensitive, leave it as a draft, compose some other messages or do something else, and then come back to it.Take one last look, and press send.
This article also appeared in the December 2015 issue of Mindful magazine
Original author: Mirabai Bush
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Being Empathic Doesn’t Make You a Pushover

Looking back at the financial collapse of 2008, I often wonder: How could investors have been so greedy? It seems as if they were so bent on “winning” that they made pretty dumb investments, which cost them—and the rest of us—dearly. In fact, history is filled with examples of people behaving aggressively for short-term gain, only to pay a long-term cost. Why do we keep behaving this way?

My question is at the heart of a new study by Carsten de Dreu and colleagues published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology. Their findings give us insight into the relationship between aggression, empathy, and decision making.

The Relationship Between Empathy and Decision-Making

In the study, participants played an investment game called “Predator-Prey Contest”—similar to the old board game Risk—which measures how much people will invest to win money off of others versus defending their own holdings. Participants were paired up with different players and given up to 10 euros to invest in each round—half the time playing the role of “attacker,” half the time acting as a “defender” (though these labels were not used in the experiment’s setup to avoid leading people one way or another).

Attackers won a round if they invested more money than a defender and kept whatever they and their defender hadn’t spent. So, for example, if an attacker invested 6 euros and the defender invested 5, the attacker “won” and ended up with 9 euros (the 4 they saved + the 5 the defender didn’t spend). However, if attackers invested the same amount or less than defenders, they lost what they’d invested. The researchers used how much people invested in either role as a measure of their aggressiveness.

The researchers wanted to understand what influenced aggressive investing and how that determined players’ winnings. In particular, they looked at whether being prosocial (other-oriented and empathic) toward others, in general, affected people’s aggression. They also considered whether deliberating longer or being stressed influenced investment choices.

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How to Use the Breath to Strengthen Your Mind

How you’re breathing can tell you something about your current state of mind—maybe you’re feeling pretty good, thinking about happy hour cocktails with colleagues. Or maybe you’re feeling a bit stressed, trying to wrap everything up before the workday ends.

Not to say that all stress is bad, says Emma Seppälä, Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education (CCARE) at Stanford. But if you’re running on high-octane all the time, you can easily become a candidate for burnout.

The breath restores us, and helps us save our energy for those big moments when we need our mental resources the most.

“We know that short-term stress can be great. It can really help you get through a deadline and mobilize you,” says Seppälä in a recent video for Big Think, “However, if you depend on that day after day after day you’ll find that your body becomes worn out, your immune system is impacted and even your mind, your attention and your memory are impaired through that long-term chronic stress.

That’s where the breath comes in: it restores us, and helps us save our energy for those big moments when we need our mental resources the most. Below, Seppälä explores the link between emotions and breath, and how you can train yourself to introduce more calm into your day.

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A One-Minute Grounding Meditation in Nature

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We’re in Valley Forge National Park, sitting under this amazing tree that’s still alive but lying on the ground, with these deep exposed roots. It’s a great place to practice meditation.

The tree we are sitting under is that small yellow spot in the middle of the above panoramic image of Valley Forge National Park.

There are days when we feel flustered and unrooted, moments when we feel like we’re just living in our head. Those are the times when it’s most important to pause, even for a minute, and practice some deep breathing with your feet on the ground.

Take a seat with your feet on the groundTake a deep breath in. Feel your body as you inhale.
Take a long breath out. Notice your body as you exhale.
Follow your breath in and out.
Rest your mind on your belly or your chest or at your nostrils. Just be aware as you breathe in and aware as you breathe out.
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