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…”

Encouraging Meaningful Conversations about Race and Trauma

Jenée Johnson wants the San Francisco Department of Public Health—all 9,000 employees—to take a deep breath. And another deep breath. And another. She wants them—janitors and judges, IT technicians and social workers—to find, in those breaths, the opening notes of a mindfulness practice. Those moments of calm, she believes, are the foundation of emotional intelligence and its skills of resilience and compassion. In effect, Johnson’s title—Program Innovation Leader: Mindfulness, Trauma, and Racial Equity —positions her as the municipal agency’s chief mindfulness officer.

In that capacity, she is bringing mindfulness into the agency’s ongoing work with trauma. That work includes mandatory training for every employee about the prevalence of trauma; how it can affect both the agency’s clients and its workforce; and how to take a systemic approach to foster wellness and resilience. Johnson also forged the agency’s partnership with the Google- bred Search Inside Yourself Leadership Institute, where she completed a nine-month teacher certification program. Previously, Johnson served for 15 years as the director of the agency’s Black Infant Health Program, incorporating mindfulness into her intervention work with mothers. Johnson lives with her husband in Oakland, where they raised their son.

Tell me about the words in your title at the Department of Public Health: mindfulness, trauma, and racial equity.

Trauma and stress are chronic public health issues. The department is saying we need to address the ways that trauma and stress affect us in the workforce, so that we don’t end up doing harm to each other and to the very people we seek to help. 

And mindfulness? 

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The Research On White Privilege Blindness

Back when my daily commute was a two-mile power walk through Manhattan, my idea of “fighting traffic” didn’t mean dodging cars or dashing across intersections seconds before a red light. It was more literal. When drivers sped through a yellow light and blocked my crosswalk, I’d pound on their trunk as I edged behind their bumper: “Nice going, idiot!”

And if they looked around for the culprit, they never suspected it was me. Female, white, middle-aged me.

Getting away with pedestrian road rage is the least of the privileges that age, sex, race, accent, or wealth bring. Being born into one racial or economic group or another—what group is privileged depends on the society, but most of the research focuses on the discrepancies between white and Black people in North America—offers you greater or lesser access to influential networks that can give you that all-important leg up. Accidents of birth can improve or worsen the odds of growing up in a safe, clean neighborhood with good schools and cultural opportunities. 

These “accidents” also determine your risk of someone calling the cops on you for driving while Black, barbecuing while Black, shopping while Black, or sitting in a college common room…

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Nourish Yourself By Honoring What’s Present For You Now

I love to cook. The kitchen was where, as a child, I first discovered that I could be a creator. As I explored and experimented with all kinds of dishes, I came to appreciate that it’s not just the ingredients, but how you work with them, that makes a meal wonderful. 

That’s why, in addition to cooking, I love watching cooking shows. One of my favorites is MasterChef, with its “Mystery Box Challenge.” The Mystery Box might hold durian or dogfish, Spam or spaghetti. All contestants start with the same raw materials, but they don’t know what they’ll get until the box is opened. Each chef draws upon the richness of their culture, their culinary training, and their unique take on life to dazzle the judges and win hearts and stomachs. Everyone has the potential to face glory or mishap. 

What a perfect metaphor for daily life. Each moment offers us a rich spread of ingredients and options. We might find some experiences more delectable or desirable than others, but it’s up to us to decide how we work with them, doing the best with what we have.  

We might find some experiences more delectable or desirable than others,…

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Let Nature Heal You

Stocksy

We all know intuitively that going outside is good for us, and a growing foundation of science and neuroscience underlies the health benefits of being outdoors. In the 1980s, the secretary of Japan’s Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries coined the term shinrin-yoku for making contact with and being affected—both physically and mentally—by the atmosphere of the forest. Shinrin-yoku translates in the West as “forest bathing” and is part of what I call the green cure: connecting with the natural world to help us thrive physically, cognitively, emotionally, and even spiritually.

Forest bathing incorporates many of the benefits of meditation while getting us outdoors and in motion. In a study at the College of Landscape Architecture at Sichuan Agricultural University, 30 men and 30 women were given a route of the same length to walk in either a bamboo forest or an urban area. The researchers measured blood pressure as well as electrical activity in the brain using an EEG, and they found that, among those who walked the forest path, blood pressure was lowered significantly as attention and concentration improved. The people walking in nature reported less anxiety and a generally happier mood than the urban group. 

The New…

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How to Get Quality Sleep Using Mindfulness

You can’t fall asleep, or maybe you drifted off a couple of hours ago, and now you’re wide awake, feeling lonely and a little desperate.

Lying in the dark, you start to panic: You know your alarm will go off in just a few hours and you’ve barely slept a wink. You need to be alert and ready to tackle the day ahead, and you’re sure that without enough deep, restful sleep, you’ll barely be able to function.

Your worry is well-placed, says Matthew Walker, PhD, professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, and director of the Center for Human Sleep Science. He has studied the many ways a lack of sleep affects you. For example, your attention span, mood, and memory suffer. Over time, he suggests, sleeplessness could also lead to unwanted weight gain and negative mood problems. In up to 15% of adults, insomnia causes daytime distress or impairment, with the risk for insomnia being greater in women and older adults.

When it’s happening to you, there’s little consolation in knowing that inadequate sleep, or insomnia, is a problem shared by some 50% of all adults, according to the American Academy of Sleep…

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