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…”

Can People Change?

Can people change? The question may sound overly dramatic or philosophical, but if we’re thinking about it, it tends to be very personal. We often ask ourselves this question when we’re in a strained relationship, whether it’s with a friend, family member, or partner, whose actions (or inactions) are continually causing pain—to you, or themself, or both.

This isn’t about forgetting to load the dishwasher, but rather things like substance use, or dishonesty, or behavior that’s detached or cruel. Even when we come to terms with the fact that change is needed, and we communicate clearly with our person about it, actually achieving change can be much more complicated. In the midst of our frustration, a deeper question bubbles up:

Are people capable of real change?

In this video, philosopher Alain de Botton explains some of the barriers we should be prepared to face during these sorts of crises of relationship. 

1) It’s really hard, for any of us, to achieve significant change in our lives.

First of all, one thing is clear: Even if human nature makes us capable of change, we don’t get there easily. 

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How the Body Scan Meditation Practice Reduces Biological Stress

We know that chronic stress can negatively impact our health. Now, a new study finds that doing a mindful body scan each day may reduce biological and psychological stress.

Stress among adults is rising at an alarming rate, according to the 2019 Stress in America Survey. This means that more Americans are walking around with high levels of the stress hormone, cortisol, which is linked to most diseases, including cancer, diabetes, and depression.

Cortisol is one of a number of biological measures of psychological stress.  Psychological stress occurs when the demands of our lives are greater than what we feel we can manage. Can practicing a simple, 20-minute recorded body scan help to ease both forms of stress? A team of German researchers decided to find out.

Researchers assigned 47 healthy young adults to either a body scan group, or an audio book control group. People in the body scan group were given an Android phone loaded with a 20-minute guided body scan adapted from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. The body scan involved paying attention to momentary physical sensations beginning with the feet and ending at the head. Although MBSR also includes meditation and yoga, researchers wanted to see if the body scan portion alone might help reduce stress. Book group members were given an audio book of “The Madman’s Tale” by John Katzenbach. Both groups were asked to listen to their recordings for 20 minutes per day, each day, for eight weeks.

Mindfulness and Stress Hormones

Before and after the intervention, researchers took two strands of participants’ hair, and asked them to complete a questionnaire about their stress level. Hair samples were used to measure cortisol and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), both biomarkers of stress.

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A Mindfulness Practice for Forgiving Your Imperfections

Giving is part of forgiveness. When we give, we make an offering to ourselves and others, creating a willingness to make peace with the conflict and pain that fuel our anger, resentment, and bitterness.

Although it feels easier to be critical―“I hate my body,” “She makes fun of my efforts to eat mindfully”―in fact, it’s actually easier to forgive. A form of letting go, forgiving creates a space to establish skillful habits and mind states that are in harmony with the desire to change. Forgiveness also diminishes the stress that comes from judging ourselves and others.

Just the willingness to be mindful of what is calling for forgiveness is a radical step.

The process begins by forgiving ourselves: our mistakes, feelings, and habits. From this perspective, everything is equally forgivable, whether it’s our laziness, self-hatred, impatience, large thighs, or tendency to overeat. Just the willingness to be mindful of what is calling for forgiveness is a radical step.

It’s helpful to do a forgiveness practice every day, including any aspect of ourselves or our experience that could benefit from this practice.

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What the Mirror Can Teach You About Yourself: Advice from a Mirror Gazing Expert

Mirrors can evoke strong feelings in us – and they can also be incredibly powerful tools for changing our perspective and seeing parts of ourselves that are usually hidden as we look out into the world.

Our desire to be seen and reflected is basic and innate. As children, we learn to understand ourselves through the reflections of those around us.  In fact, psychologists have found that face-to-face contact is essential for our social and emotional development. As we spend more time alone and on our devices, we miss out on this social reflection. Through the mirror, we can come face-to-face with ourselves at any time.

A practice that I have developed using a mirror mindfully in meditation can help uncover kinder self-awareness and strengthen our resilience to meet life’s challenges. 

Learning to tune into your image will not turn you into a towering narcissist. Quite the opposite: you’ll learn to stay present with yourself, manage the intensity of your emotions, and tap into a new inner strength. In fact, kinder self-awareness is the key to breaking free from the inner critic and the external world that stokes our fears and anxieties that we are never safe, never good enough, and never have enough.

Learning About Yourself by Looking at Yourself

When I was a little girl, I used to look at myself in the side of the shiny chrome toaster on the table, entranced by the expressions that crossed over my face, sometimes exaggerating them, and imitating the adults around me. Looking at my own reflection filled me with amusement and curiosity and it helped me understand and express emotions. I was able to see how I felt and what I looked like while I was feeling it. This seemed to soothe me and was somehow affirming. 

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3 Science-Backed Strategies to Build Healthy Habits in the New Year

Our habits create our lives. 

They are the basis for most of our positive outcomes in life. They determine how often we practice mindfulness, our exercise patterns, our ability to place our full attention on our work. They bolster our capacity to interact with the people around us from a sense of compassion and full presence.

Our habits also create most of the problems we encounter in life. They keep us stuck in self-defeating patterns like eating that full pint of ice cream, getting lost for hours on social media, or “checking out” instead of being present for the people we love.

As you begin this New Year, it’s easy to get caught-up thinking only about goals, outcomes, and New Year’s resolutions. These are important. But we think it’s even more important to consider the underlying habits that either keep you stuck or allow you to experience profound changes.  

How do you nourish healthy habits? Here are three proven steps:

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