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…”

Healing Otherness with Compassion (and Sass)

Dr. Stacee Reicherzer lights up when she talks about Sassy St. James. Sassy, like Dr. Stacee, was a southern Texan transgender woman who worked to support her community. “Sassy totally owned her voice. She owned her right to take up space in this world that was very homophobic, very transphobic, and she was willing to be a presence and willing to live her truth and to do so without apologies,” Reicherzer says. “And that is an energy that people need to be able to tap into.” Which is exactly what Reicherzer helps people do.  She’s a counselor and author who works with people who have had to absorb the impact of a lifetime of feeling “othered”—people who feel different from the majority often because they are treated as such in society. 

Owning Your Experience

She’s developed a signature meditation framework with the four pillars: clarity, creativity, compassion, and sass. This process, laid out in her book and in a recent TED talk, is rooted in mindfulness-based therapy. 

Clarity: To begin with clarity, Dr. Reicherzer invites people to connect with their breath and simply get in touch with their experience and the impact it’s had. “We start seeing ourselves, we start seeing that we gave parts of ourselves away,” she says. And she stresses that this isn’t easy. Oftentimes, people feel angry with themselves once they start to see how they give themselves away. 

Creativity helps us visualize a new path forward as well as the actions needed to put it in motion. 

Compassion practice can help people develop empathy for themselves and their experience. 

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Mindfulness-Based Interventions During Pregnancy to Support Perinatal Mental Health

Pregnancy and postpartum, or what health practitioners call the “perinatal period,” is a vulnerable time in a person’s life. For many, parenthood can cause conflicting emotions: joy, love, protectiveness, anger, exhaustion, and confusion. Child-bearers can experience a significant amount of stress as priorities shift to the all-consuming role of caring for a newborn. For some, the added stress can lead to mental health problems. 

A recent report from the United States that examined pregnancies between 2014 and 2018 found that the number of women being diagnosed with postpartum depression is nearly one in 10, a jump of almost 30% from 2014. In Canada a 2018 survey found that almost one-quarter (23%) of mothers reported feelings consistent with a diagnosis of postpartum depression or anxiety.

There is growing evidence that mindfulness training may be effective in reducing the risk of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. A 2017 systematic review of the scientific evidence for mindfulness-based interventions (MBI) found that mindfulness programs were associated with reductions in perinatal anxiety, although results for depression were less consistent.

“Following mindfulness-based interventions…[there is a] strengthening of non-reactivity,” says Marissa Sbrilli, a graduate student in the Clinical Community Psychology PhD program at the University of Illinois. Mindfulness practice can help foster a non-reactive attitude, openness to experience, and cultivation of self-compassion during stressful times. Sbrilli feels that this attitudinal shift is just as important as the attentional skills we learn during mindfulness practice, such as becoming aware of bodily sensations, thoughts, and emotions.

Mindfulness-Based Interventions in Childbirth

One program designed for child bearers is Mind in Labor (MIL), developed by Nancy Bardacke, CNM, Founder of the Mindful Birthing and Parenting Foundation. MIL is a condensed version of the Mindfulness-Based Childbirth and Parenting (MBCP) program and runs as a 2.5-day weekend workshop. “MIL teaches mindfulness-based strategies for coping with labor-related pain and fear, as well as psychoeducation and birth physiology education,” says Sbrilli.

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This Is What Fierce Self-Compassion Looks Like

For women, it’s easy to internalize the message from our culture that we are the weaker sex, helpless maidens who need a big, strong man to save us. For too long we’ve been taught to value dependence over independence, to be attractive and sexy—not as a way of expressing ourselves, but as a means to attract a man who can protect us. We don’t need men to protect us, we need to protect ourselves. Women are strong. We handle the pain of bearing children. We hold families together and skillfully navigate interpersonal conflict and adversity. But until we learn how to stand up for ourselves with the same fierce energy we use to care for others, our ability to take on the world’s big challenges will remain limited.

Some people worry that self-compassion will make them soft, but it actually gives us incredible power.

Some people worry that self-compassion will make them soft, but it actually gives us incredible power. Olivia Stevenson from the University of Northern Colorado and Ashley Batts Allen from the University of North Carolina examined how self-compassion and inner strength were linked in over 200 women. They found that participants with higher scores on the SCS (self-compassion scale) felt more empowered: They felt stronger and more competent, asserted themselves more, felt more comfortable expressing anger, were more aware of cultural discrimination and committed to social activism. These findings are echoed in other research showing that self-compassionate women are more likely to confront others when needed and are less afraid of conflict.

The three elements of self-compassion—self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness—each have an important role to play when compassion is aimed at protecting ourselves. When we’re fighting to keep ourselves safe, the three components of self-compassion manifest as brave, empowered clarity.

This short practice cultivates fierce self-compassion in service of brave, empowered clarity.

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4 Types of Workplace Culture: Which One is Most Like Your Team?

Well-being and healthy relationships are defining characteristics of strong, long-lasting teams, and yet they are too often thrown into that bucket of qualities we think of as nice-to-haves. The typical company culture puts qualities like excellence, innovation, knowledge, financial performance, or industry leadership at the top, while losing sight of the fact that these are the result of strong and healthy people working well together. Perhaps the team will perform well for a while, but it won’t reach its full potential or remain on top for long.

We picture the dynamics of a workplace according to how much it values well-being and strong relationships. You can see how these influence workplace culture by laying them over a simple four-quadrant grid, with the x-axis representing the degree to which a culture values individual well-being, and the y-axis representing the degree to which it values relationships among employees.

The interplay between these values—strong and weak on each axis—creates quadrants that represent workplace cultures familiar in organizational life. We’ll describe each below, counterclockwise from top left. Each description includes the characteristics of the quadrant, its results for people and the organization, ways to address the situation, and (to make it memorable) a mascot and nickname representing the quadrant.

As you read the descriptions, ask yourself “Which of these cultures is most like my team, my division, and my company?”

4 Common Types of Company Culture

1) School of Sharks

In the School of Sharks, relationships matter but well-being is unimportant. This workplace is characterized by focusing relationships entirely on their utility for getting business results, regardless of their genuine qualities. It’s the height of workism: people work unmanageable hours and are expected to suck it up and not complain. Relationships are transactional—with others on the team, with people in the wider organization, and even with customers. Relationships are valued for their utility: acquiring money, success or prestige. The School of Sharks is characterized by zero-sum thinking and a scarcity mindset; people react to limits on promotions and bonus money by grabbing the most they can for themselves.

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How to Show Up Intentionally and Lovingly in Difficult Situations

At 11:00 am, just four hours before I was supposed to give a TEDx talk, I couldn’t remember my lines. 

I was rehearsing, ready to give the most important talk of my life, and after the third line into the talk, my mind would go blank. The words, drowned deep down inside me, just couldn’t make their way to my mouth. I tried three times and failed each time. I heard myself thinking, Maybe I should gracefully bow out and give this talk when I am better prepared. 

The irony wasn’t lost on me. What I was experiencing was exactly what my talk was about: “Returning to the Field Within: How to Be Mindful When It Matters Most.” Before acting on my impulse to back out from this opportunity, I decided to pause and follow my own advice to practice three mindful steps to return to my field of non-judging awareness. 

Has this ever happened to you—right before you’re about to give a presentation or go for an important meeting, and your mind goes blank? What did you do in that situation?

When we’re mindful, we return to a spacious mind that is open to a sense of awe and endless possibilities.

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