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…”

Open Up to Your Experience

There’s a period that I’ve seen often when people are sick and dying, when one has a tendency to contract around their experience, whether it’s the experience of loss, dependency, physical pain, or fear. During this period there’s a hunger to cling to whatever is familiar, even if it’s their suffering.

Often as caregivers we actually exacerbate that clinging. One of the ways that we do that is by focusing on the problem. When we focus on the problem, we cause ourselves or others to feel small, and to become identified with the problem. It becomes something to be solved. It can happen in meditation as well. Imagine if we saw the people we served as a mystery to be discovered. Imagine if we saw ourselves that way.

I was with a woman in my retreat a couple of weeks ago, a cancer survivor. She said that when she went to the doctors they were always talking about curing, and never about healing. If only she had turned to her doctor and said “you know, curing stops the process, curing is what we do to pickles”. Could we just be open to the dynamic intrinsic of healing?

Even in…

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Why Vulnerability is Your Superpower

Dr. Michael Gervais has a podcast series called Finding Mastery built around a central goal: unpacking and decoding how the greatest performers in the world use their minds to create amazing journeys while they pursue the boundaries of human potential.

He recently sat down with Dr. Brené Brown, a research professor at the University of Houston where she holds the Huffington Foundation – Brené Brown Endowed Chair at The Graduate College of Social Work. She has spent the past two decades studying courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy and is the author of five #1 New York Times bestsellers: The Gifts of Imperfection, Daring Greatly, Rising Strong, Braving the Wilderness and her latest book Dare to Lead, which is the culmination of a seven-year study on courage and leadership

Michael Gervais: Brené, how are you?

Brené Brown: I’m doing great. I’m excited to be with you.

Michael Gervais: Yeah, this is fun. I’ve been wanting to have this conversation with you for a long time, so I’m super psyched as well.

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Explore Anxiety with Mindfulness

Anxiety can range from mild to overwhelming. It can be brought on sporadically by various work or relationship issues or other life experiences. Or it may be a chronic state. You may already have sought assistance from a physician, psychiatrist, or other mental health professional, and you may be taking medications to help manage symptoms. You may have been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, such as generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) or social anxiety disorder (SAD). In general, these diagnoses are made when symptoms become excessive, when anxiety arises with little or no provocation, or when anxiety reactions seem exaggerated in relation to the situations that bring them on.

Anyone who struggles with anxiety can reap benefits from mindfulness and the practices offered here, regardless of diagnosis. If you struggle with anxious thoughts, worry, fearful anticipation of the future, or a sense of dread, mindfulness will be useful for you.

If you struggle with anxious thoughts, worry, fearful anticipation of the future, or a sense of dread, mindfulness will be useful for you.

Fear is, of course, a component of anxiety. When experienced in the moment, perhaps in response to a sudden scare, fear resolves fairly quickly. However, if you then become worried that the fearful experience will happen again, this taps into the future, fuelling anxiety.

This is where mental distress comes in, and based on our own experience, we understand all too well how thoughts and worries about future events can set the mind spinning out of control, making it difficult or impossible to concentrate and focus in the present. Anxiety also has emotional and physical aspects illuminated by the roots of the word “anxiety”: the Latin anxietas, which means “anguish” or “solicitude,” capturing the feeling of heart wringing and contraction that can accompany anxiety. The other Latin root associated with “anxiety” is angere, meaning “to choke or squeeze” or, more figuratively, “to torment or cause distress.” This conveys the physical experience of tightness, constriction, and gripping that anxiety can create in the body.

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Six Signs of a Strong Friendship

Making friends is tough. It takes time, trust, and a little bit of luck (who knew that the girl you sat next to on your first day of university would still be your best-friend, all these years later?), but the right friend can be life-changing.  

In this video from School of Life, Alain de Botton shares six ways you can tell your friendship is the real deal.  

True friendship is about trusting one another. While acquaintances or work colleagues may hide their shortcomings from you, a friend confides in you.

“They show how much they trust us by confessing failings and sorrows which would open them up to possible humiliation from the world beyond,” de Botton says.

A friend gives you the gift of vulnerability, which allows you to be vulnerable in return.

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The Art of Gathering

Purposeful get-togethers and nights of conversation between friends can cement our relationships, start movements, and shape our memories for years. Priya Parker, a professional facilitator and the founder of Thrive Labs, asks us to re-imagine our approach to gathering in her new book The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why It Matters.  

The reasons we gather are as varied as we are, says Parker. “We gather to solve problems we can’t solve on our own. We gather to celebrate, to mourn, and to mark transitions. We gather to make decisions. We gather because we need one another. We gather to show strength.”

But often, we skip a few necessary steps when organizing gatherings, with lackluster results. Events flourish when they’re built on thoughtfulness, structure, curiosity, and generosity of spirit, says Parker. Here’s how to pull off a meaningful gathering.

Even in cases with obvious purpose (to read a book, to celebrate a birthday) there’s often a way to go deeper.

Ask yourself: What do people want from the gathering? Are the book club members only there to discuss literature, or are they there because it is the one night of the month they see their old friends?

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