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 Compassion Practice for Healthcare Workers

Our minds are never really still. And in moments of uncertainty or crisis, whether in life or in a clinical setting, our minds can complicate our emotional and practical responses with thoughts that make our experiences more intense. 

In this guided loving-kindness meditation, Dr. Mark Bertin invites us to work with our thoughts. This practice strengthens our intention to notice and label whatever may arise, as a tool to anchor ourselves. While you follow along, simply recognize where your mind gets caught up in thinking about the future or the past. Quite often we get lost in thought—even while meditating. When this happens, we can use an immediate sensation or a phrase to ground ourselves again.

What to do When Thoughts Arise While Meditating

We can’t wrestle with or suppress thinking. No matter how hard we try, thoughts will always come and go. Often, they’re like trains leaving a station, Bertin says. They sweep through our minds, we hop on the train of thought, and get lost. 

Within any mindfulness practice, we can anchor our attention with something neutral, like the breath, and recognize that our thoughts are not inherently good or bad, useful or useless.

A Simple Compassion Practice

1. Find a comfortable posture for yourself. You can sit, stand, or lie down, with your gaze lowered or eyes shut.

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Teaching that Empowers Creative Minds

Ashanti Branch is founder and executive director of the Ever Forward Club, an Oakland, CA-based group that supports young Latinx and African-American men to engage with high school and achieve their potential. Founded in 2004, the Ever Forward Club has helped 100% of its members graduate high school, and 93% have gone on to attend college. Branch studied life design through a Stanford fellowship in 2015-2016, and the experience helped to transform his approach to leadership.

Mindful: What led you to study design theory?

Ashanti Branch: Ever Forward Club started out as a small volunteer-run nonprofit. When we started, I was doing it after work and on weekends and holidays, while teaching math full time. I had this dream of it being bigger, and believed it was going to happen one day, but didn’t know how.

How did Design School change that picture?

Before D-school, it was like I was rowing a boat, always rowing and rowing. Now that rowboat is more like a motorboat, with a perpetual energy of its own. It was absolutely life-changing for the organization. Through D-school, I came to understand three things: who our users are, how to tell the story of what we were trying to change, and how small, easy changes could elevate our work.

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Communicating in COVID

Many of us are experiencing heightened anxiety during the global coronavirus crisis. In response, Tricycle is offering free access to select articles during this uncertain time. If you are able to, please help support this offering with a donation. Thank you!

Being present in our relationships and connecting with compassion and care was already a challenge before social distancing. Now, in the pressure cooker that is sheltering-in-place, it’s even harder. 

Despite the easing of restrictions in some places, we will likely be under the pall of COVID-19 for the foreseeable future. Wanting to better understand how to communicate with those around me (both the people I’m sheltering with, and the faces I see on Zoom), I reached out to Oren Jay Sofer, a meditation teacher who combines the tools of mindfulness with the practices of Nonviolent Communication, a system of communication strategies meant to attune our capacity for cooperation. Sofer’s book, Say What You Mean, is an excellent primer on how one can engage with others with intention and clarity. 

Over a series of email exchanges, Sofer assured me that mindful communication can help enrich our relationships—even in the midst of a global pandemic.

Let’s start with our roommates, housemates, and families. How can we maintain civility, autonomy, and compassion in the inevitable friction of quarantine?  “Civility” isn’t a perfunctory social behavior; it’s not about being polite. It’s about connecting with the depth of our values and allowing those to animate our words, choices and relationships. The place that our these values arise from can be a powerful guide for our speech and action. One way to find out what our values are is by asking ourselves, What is in our hearts that recognizes the possibility of harmony?

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Racial Justice Is Everyone’s Work

This week, people gathered in cities across the country to protest police brutality and racial injustice. The demonstrations began after a video captured a Minnesota police officer killing George Floyd, a black man who became the latest casualty in America’s long history of violence against people of color. 

As a Buddhist publication, we have asked ourselves how we can be of service. There are some Buddhists who would tell us to recognize this suffering as samsara and to refrain from political and social action: samsara can’t be fixed. We don’t believe that is the most beneficial or compassionate message that the dharma can offer right now. 

With some exceptions, social action has not been at Buddhism’s center, but the dharma can give us insight into the suffering that we are all experiencing and witnessing. Although the answers we seek may not be explicit in ancient scripture, they nonetheless can be derived from its teachings on wisdom and compassion. What Karen Armstrong writes in paraphrasing the Christian theologian Hans Frei’s understanding of the role of scripture in the current issue of Tricycle applies as well to our reading of Buddhist scripture: “the Bible and the newspaper, as it were, lie side by side.” Our fellow citizens, drawing from the teachings, may have more to teach us about this particular moment than the masters of old.

Traditions change to meet the needs of the times, and Buddhism is no different. New schools of thought have emerged that see the dharma as a call to engage with the issues of the day. This has resulted in many eye-opening talks, discussions, and essays by Buddhist teachers and practitioners of color. 

Tricycle has had the honor of serving as a platform for these works throughout the years. We have selected some of those that are particularly relevant today, and as events continue to unfold, we will continue to seek out voices that can bring greater clarity. If the killing of George Floyd makes anything clear, it’s that we cannot afford to stand by in passive indifference.

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How Your Mindfulness Practice Can Support the World Right Now

There’s a lot of pain, righteous anger, and sorrow permeating our lives right now. This is a moment that is asking much of all of us. This moment is asking us to truly listen to the voices of people who are systemically oppressed. This moment is asking us to truly hear what those voices are saying. And this moment is asking us to act. 

Mindfulness equips us for these moments. It’s compassion and love that connect us all. It’s wisdom that calls you to practice mindfulness, to wrestle with your inner demons so that, to the best of your ability, you may embody equanimity in the face of difficulty. That can feel like a tall order in the midst of chaos, confusion, and competing narratives. 

But one thing that’s been revealed over the last few months is the reality of our interconnectedness. We are one. And as the poet Emma Lazarus wrote, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., echoed: Until we are all free, we are none of us free.

1) Mindfulness teaches us how to STOP and listen. Every one of us is being called to create space to listen, really listen, and observe and tame our reactive feelings so we can access the deep well of compassionate awareness that lives in us all. It is our emotional intelligence that will allow us to, in the words of Killer Mike, “plot, plan, strategize, organize, and mobilize.” Utilize the STOP practice to gain greater mastery over challenging reactivity and confusion. 

2) Mindfulness allows us to work with our own conditionings. Rhonda Magee, author of The Inner Work of Racial Justice, says it’s people with a deep mindfulness practice who can “sit in the fire of the painful recognition that, oh, my mind actually does orient me to people who look like me.” Mindfulness, she continues, “can help us with a lot of the really subtle difficulties of doing the work that must be done to dismantle these patterns and habits that draw us to reinvest in segregation. Mindfulness compassion practices, these actually can help.” Try this compassion practice to connect with deep loving awareness.

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