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 Top 10 Insights from the “Science of a Meaningful Life” in 2018

There is plenty of science to convince us that social connection is key to well-being. But relationships are complicated, bringing good and bad into our lives. This year’s top insights speak to the practical forces that unite us or divide us—both in intimate relationships and in our communities. They offer some hints about how to overcome anger or loneliness, and help explain why it’s so hard to make friends and offer them emotional support. They demonstrate the psychological forces that lead to conflict and the kinds of environments that promote greater generosity.

All of these insights remind us of the interplay between our inner lives and our social conditions. Ways we might take care of ourselves, like practicing mindfulness and getting good sleep, have implications down the line for our relationships. And the type of neighborhood and culture we live in, in turn, influence our own well-being.

This year’s top insights from the science of a meaningful life move from our most private emotions to the ways different groups of Americans relate to each other. They won’t solve all of our social problems—but we hope this list of discoveries will help you to better understand yourself and the people around you.

1) It takes 120 hours (or more) to make a good friend

A great deal of research has investigated the tricky realms of parenting and romantic relationships. Yet studies on friendship—which can offer so much joy and meaning in life—remain less common.

This year, University of Kansas researcher Jeffrey A. Hall helped demystify the process of friendship-building in a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. It’s the first to explore how many hours it takes for an acquaintance to become a friend.

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Sports Don’t Make You More Mindful, Actually

Jackson Hole is full of athletes—from weekend warriors to professionals and the extreme. It’s the kind of place where your second-grade teacher is an ultra-marathon runner and your doctor is currently training to ascend Everest.

As a Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction teacher, I walk around this relatively small town and run into people who know what I do for a living. Often the first thing I hear is, “Oh but, I don’t need training in mindfulness. Running/skiing/climbing/biking is my moving meditation.”

For the most part, I believe that answer.

The self-awareness and mental precision I learned from my years as a competitive skier and mountain biker were my doorway into contemplative practice. I can consistently count on finding flow and feeling at ease within myself when I take part in those sports.

I once spent all my weekends in full flow, out in the mountains, completely ignoring the fact that my career was depleting me and the stress of it was negatively impacting my relationships and family life.

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Take Three Minutes to Bring More Mindfulness to the Holidays

When did December 1st become a finish line? Get your presents wrapped, house ready, parties lined up. This three-step mindfulness practice—moving, breathing, and sitting—helps you to shift your state, especially in the next few weeks, as things can get a bit ridiculous. What can you do about this time of the year, about our cultural conditioning, that has us running all over the place?

We can do daily short daily practices to help us manage the overwhelm and shift ourselves into a place of feeling more clear and awake yet also relaxed and at ease.

We can do daily short daily practices to help us manage the overwhelm and shift ourselves into a place of feeling more clear and awake yet also relaxed and at ease. Being mindful doesn’t mean being so chilled out all the time that nothing fazes you. This sense of “being mindful” is about being clear and alert in life and also calm and at ease so when we meet someone in the street in the hustle and bustle of December, you actually pause to look them in the eyes and ask, “How are you doing? How is your mom?”

Dynamic Mountain
Stand with your feet hip-width distance apart and your arms hanging loose down by your sides, palms forward. As you inhale, extend your arms forward and up toward the ceiling. Exhale, and spin your palms open as you reach out and down. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.

Side Sways
Now, inhale and reach your arms forward and up toward the ceiling and exhale toward your right side, tilting gently with your left arm overheard. On an inhale, come back to center, with both arms overhead. Exhale, sway to your left, allowing your left arm to reach down by your side with your right arm overhead. Repeat for 3-5 breaths.

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A Meditation for Offering Yourself Kindness

This meditation is a rare and unique opportunity to offer yourself the phrases, words, and intentions that you most need to hear in this moment, at this time. You can customize words and phrases for exactly what you need.

Consider the following questions as a guide, asking yourself:

What is it that I truly need?What is it that I need to hear from others?What would I like whispered in my ear every single day, something that would make me realize that I needed to hear that?

See if these can be formulated into phrases or wishes for yourself. Phrases that are clear, direct, warm, and kind. Phrases that don’t provoke any argument in the mind, and are accepted freely by your open heart. 

See if these can be formulated into phrases or wishes for yourself. Phrases that are clear, direct, warm, and kind. 

You can use phrases that are fairly standard and available, like, “May I be happy. May I be peaceful. May I be healthy. May I live with ease.”

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The Best Mindfulness Books This Year

As Editor-in-Chief of Mindful, I have the honor of receiving and reviewing hundreds of books over the course of a year. After careful review, only a handful make it into the pages of the magazine. Here are nine books that stand out as being my favorite this year:

1. Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important 
By Jon Kabat-Zinn, Hachette

In 2005, Jon Kabat-Zinn published his magnum opus, Coming to Our Senses. At 650 pages and years in the making, it was a monumental achievement. It allowed the founder of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction to put his life’s work in a larger context. Mindfulness is not a mental trick, an adjunct to regular life. It’s a basic human inheritance that is essential to life. We need to be optimally aware of who we are, where we are, how we are, if we are to survive individually and as communities, and even as a species in Kabat-Zinn’s view. The book amounted to a bold call for us all to quite literally “come to our senses,” to as often as possible experience where we are and what is going on within and around us—and to take up practices that cultivate our ability to do so.

Now Hachette has decided to reissue the book as four separate small books, starting with Meditation Is Not What You Think: Mindfulness and Why It Is So Important, followed by Falling Awake: How to Practice Mindfulness in Everyday Life, both of which are available now. The third and fourth books will come out late this year and early next.

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