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 Walking In the Woods Helped Ease My Anxiety

We spotted each other at the same moment and both stopped in our tracks. A dense fog blanketed the woods and cast a ghostly aura around the fox. He lifted his head, catching a whiff of me on the early morning breeze, and then turned and silently darted through the bush.

It was common for me to cross paths with wildlife in these woods, though the ravine was boxed in on all sides by dense suburbs. In the ten years I had been walking through this suburban forest I had spotted coyotes, foxes, rabbits, beavers and once, a majestic snowy owl hooting softly on the tallest branch of a tamarack. The trees showed their age, with climbing footholds that children had nailed onto the trunks over 50 years ago, now beyond reach of the next generation.

I hadn’t always been so keen to take a walk in the woods. As a child I hated the outdoors, with its abundance of creepy crawlies, eight-legged Charlottes and rumbling black bears. Growing up with a family cottage in Northern Ontario meant that I was regularly shunted out of my big city bliss to a place where danger seemed to lurk around every corner. While my cousins played on the steep slopes of the lake, their shouts and laughter floating up through the windows, I preferred to curl up on the weather-worn couch with a good book. 

Growing up with a family cottage in Northern Ontario meant that I was regularly shunted out of my big city bliss to a place where danger seemed to lurk around every corner.

In university I met the man who would become my husband, and who (regrettably, I thought at first) loved nothing more than to escape to the woods with a tiny tent carried on his back. Eager to teach me the beauty of nature, he took me on a week-long camping trip where I learned to portage a canoe and hang my food in a tree. 

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Investigating Your Emotions Without Suppressing Them

When presented with difficulty, a first reaction may be to ward off or ignore unpleasant emotions. It’s normal. However, with practice, we can learn to lean on the comfort of safe spaces—or meditation spaces—to instead engage with them directly. One of the essential qualities of mindfulness is being with whatever comes up, rather than running away from the challenges of emotion.

In this short video, founding editor Barry Boyce answers our questions about emotional health and how we can turn toward our feelings.

Mindful: If we let ourselves feel our emotions, one concern may be that we won’t be able to stop feeling them. If we’ve avoided our emotions for a long time, will it be too much to handle? What would you recommend? 

Barry Boyce: The fear that our emotions will overtake us and rule our lives (or at least a significant chunk of our time) is indeed one of the reasons we seek mindless distraction. Being kind to ourselves, repeatedly, is job one. Mindfulness practice is not about aggressively “tackling” our emotions in a fight to the death. If we’ve been suppressing something for a long time and mindfulness begins to bring it up into our conscious awareness—as it will—the key instruction is to notice it and move on. When it comes up again, maybe seconds later, we do the same. This approach of a little bit at a time, moment by moment, reduces the emotional wallop by breaking it into momentary pieces, rather than treating it as one big permanent thing, which it is not.

It never pays to push ourselves to the brink in the hopes of gaining freedom or insight.

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Reading Aloud: Teaching Kids About Mindfulness

Caverly Morgan was boarding a cross-country flight when she noticed someone in her seat. After sorting out the mix up, she found herself sitting next to Kevin Carroll, author of A Kids Book About Belonging, for the rest of the trip. 

The two of them hit it off like long-lost siblings, Morgan writes in a recent email exchange with Mindful. By the end of the flight, he texted an introduction to Jelani Memory, founder of children’s publisher A Kids Book About and author of A Kids Book About Racism—and that’s how Caverly’s newest book A Kids Book About Mindfulness came to be.

A Mindful Book Reading for Kids

Q&A with Caverly Morgan

Mindful: What inspired you to write a book about mindfulness specifically for kids, and in what ways do you think it was different than writing a book for adults?

Caverly Morgan: I practice listening to life. I’ve already been asked to write a book for adults—and when Jelani invited me to write a book for kids, I said yes to that, too! It’s deeply engaging to write for kids. It pushes me to be clear, concise, and to the point—without dumbing down the material. I believe it’s important to speak to kids like the engaged thinkers that they are. As founder of Peace in Schools, I’ve seen the benefit of connecting with young people in this way firsthand.

Mindful: You use words like super-duper and rad—language that is fun. How did you approach crafting the tone of voice for this book? 

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The Best Gift You Can Give Yourself Is Rest

Having trouble sleeping? Yeah, me too. 

Lately I feel like I’m running on high and pumping adrenaline in fight-or-flight mode, even when my body isn’t moving. 

I was off work last week, and went careening into my staycation with a to-do list of household chores and long put off paperwork to accomplish. Instead, I found myself taking comfort in my usual coping mechanisms—snacks and reality TV, and experiencing a weird cycle of sleeping either too much or not enough, never quite able to hit the sweet spot. There are a few things that likely contributed to this particular state—lingering stress from the workweek, trying to avoid feeling the weight of the world through my emotions, and some restlessness and pain in my body. Here are a few practices to explore what’s keeping us awake.

Usually I have total faith that my body knows what it needs, but this time I tricked myself into believing I was resting. While binge-watching TV shows, I was suppressing my looming feelings of overwhelm and stress. Elaine Smookler says, “When some piece of news or alarming reality knocks you down, you may well feel completely overwhelmed. It’s natural. It’s your body’s response to alarm.” If you can relate, check out Elaine’s practice for making friends with what you’re feeling. 

So many of us are trying to be empathetic and kind, and feel our feelings, but it draws on our energy and attention in a way that can interfere with basic needs like sleep. This can feel like walking on a tightrope and coming back to the breath can be a steady anchor when we’re teetering. In this practice roundup, Executive Editor Heather Hurlock reminds us to “take a deep, calming breath, and notice what is happening in your body.”

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It’s OK to Ask for Help: Mindful Policing Gets Real

Founding Editor Barry Boyce recently sat down—virtually—with Captain Eynat Naor, the Executive Officer of the New York City Police Department’s Health and Wellness Section to talk about the evolving importance of her role. Naor expands on the Health and Wellness Section’s mission to provide the support and tools needed to educate and empower their members to improve their well-being and strengthen their resilience—whether that’s physically, mentally, or emotionally. She also talks about how that could affect policing.

Listen to the full conversation:

The NYPD Health and Wellness Section

Barry Boyce: Often health and wellness are divided into physical health and mental health. At Mindful, we like to think in terms of the intersection of those two aspects of wellness and how they’re interrelated as a whole. How do you view that in the Health and Wellness Section of the NYPD? 

Eynat Naor: That’s definitely how we view it. Every initiative or program we try to implement is from that holistic lens. And we understand that mental health approaches really align with mindfulness, physical health, and mental well-being. So, our model is really that holistic approach.

We have several members specialized in different disciplines. We have a nutrition coach and personal trainers. I, myself, am a certified yoga teacher and a mindfulness meditation teacher along with another officer on the unit. We also offer programs for financial literacy and retirement wellness. There’s a lot and there’s something for everyone.

Reactions to Mindfulness and Meditation

BB: Often, when the average person hears about mindfulness and meditation or yoga, they think it’s kind of woo-woo and weird. One would think, frankly, of the average police officer as being somebody who might think that. What would you say the response has been in your experience?

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