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 Practice to Diffuse Financial Stress

Are you feeling the effects of this pandemic on your finances? Join the club. The loss of employment or income, the need to financially support family members or friends, the fear of money matters getting worse, and even the shame of having plenty while others suffer—all of these things cause stress. While money has always been a source of instability, in our lifetimes we have never experienced this level of uncertainty and stress. And that is why you might never have a better opportunity to cultivate a mind that is more resilient to the ups and downs: of money, and all things that come and go throughout our life.

Let’s start with an awareness of our cultural conditioning around money: that is, we tend to want more and to expect all things measurable (like money) to increase. Although we’re taught that these expectations are normal and reasonable, obviously, it isn’t so. This is our momentous opportunity to examine these beliefs and let them go.

Instead of pining for more, perhaps we can feel that we have enough. I’ve often said “enough” is the dirtiest word in the English language.  Have you ever said that you have enough money, time, etc?

Enough brings us into this moment, this breath. It’s not about enough in the past or future; it’s sensing enough now.

And yet, we’re already experiencing it: Those of us who are still healthy and able to take a (socially distanced) sunset walk feel, perhaps, more grateful than we ever have for life’s simple, and free, pleasures. Besides, we’re all reflecting on how much we used to spend on things that no longer seem important. Why did I eat out or travel so much? Why did I buy all those clothes I don’t wear? Why wasn’t I more generous?  

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7 Ways Mindfulness Could Support Compassionate Policing

We have a big problem with policing—many problems in fact. That’s been clear for a long time. A force created for public safety and protection too often brutalizes the very public it’s serving, and the results of such brutality—often violent death—are borne most heavily by the racialized and marginalized. In recent days, it has once again reached a tipping point—and there is widespread hope that the shock and outrage and grieving will lead to real change this time. Many communities resolve to effect change that results in noticeable, measurable outcomes. Now.

Mindfulness may be able to help with that change. It can be a complementary part of broad, comprehensive transformation. 

Police have been telling Mindful for years that a few things are missing in their training and preparedness. For example, one thing that would help police de-escalate encounters would be methods for regulating stress based on an understanding of how stress operates in the body and mind. Also, many mindfulness teachers focus on uncovering and working with our implicit bias, which if left unexplored can have tragic consequences for first responders.

Mindfulness methods can transform the very act of policing into something based on compassion.

In 2015, the President’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing released recommendations for transforming police forces that included promoting “officer wellness through physical, social and mental health support”; encouraging communities to “support a culture and practice of policing that reflects the values of protection and promotion of the dignity of all, especially the most vulnerable”; and to develop practices that “emphasize deescalation and alternatives to arrest or summons in situations where appropriate.” Wellness, mental health, promoting dignity and protecting the vulnerable, deescalating…these are mindful values. And mindfulness practice inculcates them in people.

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Making Friends with Difficult Emotions

When we find ourselves in the grip of fiery anger, or constricting sadness, or another powerful emotion, what’s often needed is to open up the inner space where we can simply notice what’s going on with ourselves. Yet, in the moment that seems ruled by the emotion (or emotions), we may be unsure how to even begin doing this.

One way to find a wise response is through understanding that difficult emotions like anger, fear, shame, and grief almost always involve a mix of conceptual and somatic (bodily felt) elements. The conceptual part involves the particulars of the situation that is giving rise to the emotions: its “storyline.” The somatic element is the way in which we experience the emotion in our bodies. If we are angry with someone, for example, there is the storyline of what they said or did that triggered our anger—That was unfair / What they said is wrong / They should know better!— and then there is the physical arousal taking place: our pumping heart, the heat in our belly, our shoulder muscles tensing.    

Dealing with Difficult Emotions 

A big reason that difficult emotions are so challenging to work with is that the storyline and the body arousal interact and feed each other. Perhaps we begin to calm down in our bodies, but suddenly we flash on the memory of what caused the anger, and our body becomes aroused all over again. Or our thinking mind starts to gain some perspective on the situation, only to be knocked off-course by a fresh surge of the bodily discomfort that is still present for us.

In processing difficult emotions, we need a way to disentangle the conceptual and somatic elements. Since the conceptual, thinking mind tends to dominate and impede clear awareness of what’s going on in the body, the first step is to pause the storyline. This means deliberately interrupting your thought process about the situation in order to clear a space to just be present for whatever feelings are in the body.

If we are angry with someone, there is the storyline of what they said or did that triggered our anger—That was unfair / What they said is wrong / They should know better!— and then there is the physical arousal taking place: our pumping heart, the heat in our belly, our shoulder muscles tensing.     

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Asian Buddhists in Western Contexts

‘Culturally specific venues allow safe spaces to become sacred spaces through the exploration of dharma and meditation practice,” Insight Meditation teacher Larry Yang wrote in his book Awakening Together. “They invite the universality of the teachings to be felt through the particulars of one’s own cultural experience—to see and directly experience how relevant these teachings are to each life.” 

Until recently, the first and last time Spirit Rock Meditation Center organized a gathering for Asian Dharma practitioners was the Asian American & Pacific Islander Dharma Retreat and Conference in 2004. Led by Larry Yang, Buddhist teacher and activist Mushim (Patricia) Ikeda-Nash, and artist Michele Benzamin-Miki, this retreat offered teachers, leaders, and practitioners of Asian descent an unprecedented opportunity to meditate together and foster mutual support as Buddhists. 

An Asian-specific retreat provides a sacred arena to explore what it means to be an Asian Buddhist in Western convert contexts. For these practitioners, the experience of being a minority is further complicated by the mostly white founding teachers and history of American convert Buddhism, which can render the dharma’s Asian lineage largely invisible. 

I recently attended Coming Together: A Retreat for Asians in the Diaspora, a weekend retreat held virtually and led by Dawn Mauricio, Gulwinder “Gullu” Singh, and Louije Kim, all of whom are second-generation immigrants and members of Spirit Rock’s Teacher Training Class of 2020. 

A gathering that centers Asian voices allows practitioners to embrace the diversity of their experiences as belonging within the domain of Western convert Buddhism. The cultural specificity enables community practice that does not require participants to position themselves in dialogue with white supremacy or within broader conversations about race. 

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Publishing Mindful Resources in South Korea

For the first time, select Mindful resources are available in Korean through an online platform based in South Korea.

Mind Ground began publishing translated Mindful articles this month in a weekly email called the M Letter. The newsletter offers mindfulness practitioners an in-depth look at how mindfulness can be applied to areas of everyday life including education, work, and parenting. The first volume features practices from Shelly Tygielski, Rich Fernandez, Sharon Salzberg, Dr. Mark Bertin, Dr. Christopher Willard, Hugh Delehanty, and more. 

Through the exchange of research-backed mindfulness resources between the East and West, Mind Ground hopes to offer their audience a new perspective on well-being, health, and mindfulness meditation. 

The interactive platform serves a collection of secular mindfulness content, community events and online programs ranging from yoga, meditation, and self-care for all levels of practice. It also offers reviews of mindfulness programs to help connect practitioners to mindfulness teachers and courses that best suit their needs.
This initiative stemmed from Mind Ground’s sister company, Mind Design. The social enterprise, founded in 2010 by a group of young meditation practitioners, works to generate interest in traditional industry in Asia—art, meditation, and other aspects of mindfulness.

“There was a [generational] and cultural gap,” says founding member AJ Kim. “Traditional work was mostly done by older generations.” To bridge the gap, Mind Design began connecting professionals and younger audiences to new avenues in the mindfulness industry. To further their mission to support healthy lifestyles—emotionally, physically, and mentally—through mindfulness and meditation, developing an online platform was the next step in reaching more people.

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