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 Review of McMindfulness

In his new book, McMindfulness: How Mindfulness Became the New Capitalist Spirituality, Ron Purser contends that mindfulness dulls our social awareness and discourages us from taking action. Thought leader Andy Lee explores why Purser missed every opportunity to prove those points. 

Despite its ever-growing popularity and mounting evidence of its benefits, mindfulness as it is being taught today is not without its critics. Ron Purser is one of them. In his book, Purser assesses the contribution that mindfulness is making in helping people to reduce their stress and enhance their well-being, and finds it wanting.

His main concern is not what mindfulness does, but what it doesn’t do. In his estimation, much of people’s suffering is not caused by how they manage stress internally, but rather by the hardships and inequities imposed upon them by our capitalist society. To Purser, mindfulness courses are advertised as a meaningful and sustainable way to reduce your stress. But as long as the social and economic causes of stress are not discussed in mindfulness courses, they are not living up to this billing. In his words: 

“Reducing suffering is a noble aim and it should be encouraged. But to do this effectively, teachers of mindfulness need to acknowledge that personal stress also has societal causes. By failing to address collective suffering, and systemic change that might remove it, they rob mindfulness of its real revolutionary potential, reducing it to something banal that keeps people focused on themselves.”

That is a strong indictment of a practice that has been beneficial to countless people. To better understand it, we need to look at Purser’s argument from a few different angles. And to get started, let’s look at the big picture: What do we know about the causes of people’s stress and illness, and what mindfulness does and does not address?

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The Inner Work of Racial Justice Series with Rhonda Magee

Dive deeper into The Inner Work of Racial Justice with Rhonda Magee on Mindful.org where we’ll be hosting excerpts of her book as well as Q&As and guided meditations.

This October 2019, Mindful.org is hosting law professor and mindfulness practitioner Rhonda Magee for in-depth Q&As and live guided meditations based on her new book. Magee explores how the work of racial justice begins with ourselves. When conflict and division are everyday realities, our instincts tell us to close ranks, to find the safety of our own tribe, and to blame others. The practice of embodied mindfulness—paying attention to our thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations in an open, nonjudgmental way—increases our emotional resilience, helps us to recognize our unconscious bias, and gives us the space to become less reactive and to choose how we respond to injustice.

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It is only by healing from injustices and dissolving our personal barriers to connection that we develop the ability to view others with compassion and to live in community with people of vastly different backgrounds and viewpoints. Incorporating mindfulness exercises, research, and Magee’s hard-won insights, The Inner Work of Racial Justiceoffers a road map to a more peaceful world.

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A Meditation for Decentering Your “Self” (And Why You Should Do It)

We were running a workshop for future teachers of mindfulness. When asked about their intentions one of them said: “I want mindfulness to help people to find their authentic selves, to get in touch with who they really are.” Hmmm. So, this raises the question, what is the self, let alone our authentic self? Not to mention, how do you find it?  Questions that have been debated by philosophers, psychologists, and theologians throughout the ages. 

Mindfulness actually uses meditation to examine the phenomena of experience (e.g. body, thoughts, emotions and feeling tone -the pleasant, unpleasant or neutral charge of an experience) rather than debating issues related to the “self”, authentic or otherwise.  Mindfulness teaches us how too much “selfing” leads to fixed identities, that result in suffering if we hold on to them vigorously. It is easy for us to take our “selves” too seriously, getting stuck in self-importance that either emphasizes how bad we think we are or how great. Neither extreme is particularly helpful. 

In fact, we would argue that a main principle underlying all mindfulness teachings is that rigid attachment to who you believe yourself to be and the stories you tell about yourself are limiting and are the root cause of many of our problems. So, we would rather talk about self as a “process”, or as mindfulness scholar Andrew Olendzki has said, “self as verb”, which allows us to be more open to possibility when we don’t see ourselves as unchanging. For example, if one sees themselves as “a depressive” or as “a sick person” or “incompetent” or “a failure” then, we are fixed or static and as in the words of British blues musician, John Mayall, “I can’t give the best, unless I’ve got room to move.” In this case, what we mean is that when we are tightly bound to who we believe ourselves to be or to how we think things “should” be, we’re stuck in a place that narrows options and responsiveness. 

When we are able to have a less judgmental, immersive stance in who “I am” this may enable us to be gentler and kinder with respect to what arises and our subsequent behaviors.

When we are able to have a less judgmental, immersive stance in who “I am” this may enable us to be gentler and kinder with respect to what arises and our subsequent behaviors. Bringing awareness and accountability to how we treat ourselves without so much self-recrimination makes space for less self-absorption and more compassion for others. If we are all “process” then you really are just like me, and I am just like you. There is then, so little separation between us. And, if I can stop blaming myself, hopefully, I can stop blaming you, particularly when you cut me off in traffic. I can be open to the possibility that you are not a malicious jerk but, just like me, self-absorbed at times or preoccupied or in a hurry. I can be gentler, and kinder to both of us and perhaps bring empathy and concern for the suffering of others who are beyond my social circle.

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Mindful Educators Community

Caring for teachers is caring for our future! That’s why we’re launching the Mindful Educators Community, a free resource for teachers and parents.

We’ve gathered the best practices for bringing mindfulness into the classroom from 25 of today’s leading mindfulness experts and educators and we’re offering them to you for free.

The Mindful Educators Collective launches on August 21st, 2019

Educator Resources for Finding Calm:

Richard Davidson, PhD on The Science of MindfulnessCrystal McCreary on How to Bring Embodied Mindfulness Practices to Kids and YouthPatricia Jennings, PhD explores How Mindful Teachers Lead to Mindful StudentsAndres Gonzalez, Ali Smith, and Atman Smith report on their Detention into Meditation programPeter Levine, PhD on Working with Stress and Healing Trauma

Educator Resources for Honing Attention:

Dan Siegel, PhD shares Mindsight for the ClassroomWendy Baron explores How to Create Healing-Centered SchoolsRick Hanson, PhD on What Mindfulness Has to Offer YouLaura Bakosh, PhD and Mark Sikora M.Ed offer The 5 Myths of Bringing Mindfulness into Schools

Educator Resources for Building Resilience:

Daniel Goleman, PhD reveals How to Lead with MindfulnessLeslie Booker explores Embodied ResilienceMark Greenberg, PhD on Creating Resilient Students and Systemic ChangeMeena Srinivasan MA on Integrating Social/Emotional Learning and Mindfulness at a District Level

Educator Resources for Nourishing Compassion

Kristin Neff, PhD on Self-Compassion for You and Your KidsDacher Keltner, PhD shares The Science of a Meaningful LifeOren Jay Sofer shares A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent CommunicationVivian Elliott, PhD on Leading by Example and Looking at Equity in SchoolsAmy Saltzman, MD on Breaking the Cycle of Bullying with Mindfulness

Educator Resources for Creating Cultural Transformation

Elisha Goldstein, PhD & Stefanie Goldstein, PhD on How to Create a Culture of MindfulnessBarb Catbagan, MEd on Developing Your Capacity for Cultural ResponsivenessSusan Kaiser Greenland Shares Fun Ways to Share Mindfulness with your KidsRose Pavlov on Bridging Research with Practice in Diverse PopulationsEleonora Cahill, PhD on Resilient Futures: Shaping Schools with a Trauma-Informed Approach

This project is generously supported by the Pure Edge Foundation and the Awake Network.

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Six Ways Relationships Help You Thrive

Every week, my wife and I have a meeting where we talk about what is going well in our family, but also what we could be doing better. She knows when I am giving less than my best, and she calls me out on it—which isn’t always easy to hear. But I know I’m lucky to be married to someone who always challenges me to work on myself and become a better person.

When we think about personal growth, we often envision a solo quest, like Don Quixote on a journey of self-improvement. We are advised to increase our self-control, get grittier, and develop a sense of purpose. So we hunker down, turn inward, and start the solitary task of reshaping our habits and behaviors.

And yet people who are thriving are usually doing so with the help of others. Peak athletes have coaches. Top executives have mentors. Great parents have parenting blogs and other great parents to bounce ideas off of. Even those contemplative Buddhist monks who seem to be at the pinnacle of self-transcendence are almost always surrounded by other transcendent monk friends. 

Research backs this up, suggesting that positive relationships can help us succeed, grow, and become better people. As my wife and I have experienced, romantic partners often encourage and support one another toward shared goals. When parents are highly involved in school, their children tend to do well academically. And positive support from friends, especially during adolescence and early adulthood, can encourage us to be more empathic and helpful toward others.

Across all different spheres of our lives, our relationships can not only help us feel good, but they can also help us be good. If you want to tap into these benefits, here are six simple ways to draw on your relationships to fuel your growth.

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