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…”

Why Do Resolutions Fail? 5 Ways to Invite Positive and Lasting Change

Is 2022 the year you finally meditate every day? Or do online yoga sessions three times per week for sure? You might be asking, “What should my New Year’s resolutions even look like in 2022?” 

We start the new year full of vigor and enthusiasm, but unfortunately the statistics on resolutions look a little disheartening: Around 80% of positive habit-change resolutions will be given up again by February. It is much easier to imagine making a change than to actually implement it—which is why it’s important to bring some mindful, science-backed strategies to your goals for the year. Before we get into the details of how to do this, I would like to invite us to take a big step back and ask, “Why? Why these resolutions?”

Learning something new, changing, improving, and growing are deep human needs. As babies, we would never crawl and walk if this wonderful curiosity and urge to explore were not innate. Change and growth can evoke deep joy and satisfaction, or we can feel overwhelmed by the pressure to perform and succeed. The difference is in the motivation. Bob Sharples, a meditation teacher from Australia, coined the expression “the subtle aggression of self-improvement.” Behind the desire for self-improvement, there’s often the nagging feeling that we are not good enough the way we are. Not fit enough, not smart enough, not sensitive enough, not [insert your answer here] enough. We are therefore constantly in the process of pulling and pushing ourselves in one direction or the other, or we are at least tinkering with this or that quality, taking aim toward a better version of ourselves.  

Change and growth can evoke deep joy and satisfaction, or we can feel overwhelmed by the pressure to perform and succeed. The difference is in the motivation.

This perfect version of us would, of course, already have an inspiring morning routine, complete with lemon water, journaling, meditation and, depending on the type, either a gentle yoga workout or sweaty run. And, of course, we would no longer be so terribly self-critical, but finally full of self-compassion!

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The 7 Best Mindfulness Podcasts of 2021

The world of mindfulness podcasts has grown by leaps and bounds in 2021, and we’re here for it. Major news outlets like NPR and Vox now frequently cover stories about self-care and emotional wellness; if you dig a little deeper, you’ll also discover an ever-expanding list of offerings from mindfulness teachers, experts, and authors, many of whom have started their own podcasts. 

Whether you’re looking for insightful conversations with teachers, skilful advice for working through a challenge, or simply inspiration for how to approach life with a little more mindfulness, we hope you enjoy the following podcasts that stood out this year. 

1) Life Kit

Episode: “Poet Maggie Smith On ‘Trying On’ Hope”

Maggie Smith wrote Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change at a time in her life when everything felt unsure. By mere happenstance, the book was released during a global pandemic when the world began collectively grappling with the same feelings. Prompted by perceptive questions from host Kat Chow, Smith explains the “notes to self” found in her book, in the context of holding on to hope with “self-pep talks” and daily practices like making time to do something “that makes you feel like you.” Smith says this felt like “trying on hope every day, even though it didn’t fit well, like it was scratchy and oversized.” But after a while, she says, she was able to connect with a “kinder story” about herself. – Kylee Ross

2) Walking Each Other Home  

Episode: “The Importance of Narrative in Social Justice, with Rhonda V. Magee”  

Old friends and mindfulness experts Mirabai Bush and Rhonda Magee engage in a rich conversation about how narrative—listening to others’ stories and experiences—helps extend our empathy and understanding. Magee draws a direct line between mindfulness and antiracism work as “a way in which to fully engage our practice…to move from the cushion into the world, supported and informed by our practice. Mindfulness is a perfect technology for working with racism and other isms.” Magee notes that being inclusive with our language, and imbuing it with love and kindness, is vital if we are going to hear each other’s stories and learn from them. – Stephanie Domet

3) The Prize of Possibility 

Mindfulness teachers and authors Shelly Tygielski and Mitch Abblett have a laid-back conversation about Tygielski’s new book Sit Down to Rise Up and what it means to show up. Early in the pandemic, Tygielski founded Pandemic of Love, a mutual aid group to help those struggling to make ends meet in her Florida community. Overnight, the initiative went viral and is now an international organization that has given her story after story to tell about the power of openheartedness. Showing up doesn’t have to be a big event, though, she says. All you need to do is tend to the part of the garden you can reach, and the blooms will spread from there. – Ava Whitney-Coutler

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14 Books and Podcasts to Embrace the New Year

1) Managing Uncertainty in Mental Health Care

This is an extraordinarily honest book about one of the hardest challenges we face: assessing and treating mental health problems and addictions. We’d like them reduced to a checklist of symptoms, diseases, and treatments. Hard enough with bones, organs, and blood vessels, but the mind is so intangible and perplexingly varied, determining what needs to be treated and how is a challenge of the highest order of complexity. Silveira and Rockman evince compassion from the first page, writing of patients “drowning in their distress…who sometimes draw others down with them.” They stress that clinicians treat not diagnoses but individuals, each of whom “experiences a unique journey that shapes their brain and mind into one of a kind” that “deviates from the script written from population studies.”

In other words, a clinician facing an individual may have to admit what they do not know—not what the world expects of “experts.” The authors liken the work to meteorology, where professionals’ conclusions emerge from wrestling with nature’s chaos. Like meteorologists, mental health clinicians try to impose order on disorder, and often create “narratives that are incomplete or wrong.”

A clinician facing an individual may have to admit what they do not know—not what the world expects of “experts.”

Given this sober assessment, what do the authors suggest? For one thing, they counsel the field to start with a little more humbleness, being honest about the fact that human beings have an overconfidence bias that causes us to overlook errors. If we admit to ourselves that we are going to make mistakes, the very admission will make us more mindful in our assessments. With this groundwork of realism laid, Silveira and Rockman go on to present a variety of ways errors and risks can be mitigated, leading ultimately to the greatest benefit and least harm for patients. –BB

2) Prizeworthy

How to Meaningfully Connect, Build Character, and Unlock the Potential of Every Child

This practical guide offers relatable insight and mindfulness practices to move toward a “mutually beneficial way of relating to children and teens” and to honor emotional pain and potential in children. Each section is aptly titled: On Your Mark, Get Set, and Go! as if readers are track athletes “running toward the prize in our kids.” Between actionable journal prompts to build “your mindfulness muscle,” and help kids develop compassion and courage, we’re treated to real stories from Abblett’s practice as a clinical psychologist and from his experience as a father. Each glimpse into moments of joy or struggle serves as a reminder that parenting is difficult—and the odd F-bomb might just slip when it comes time to put a toddler in a winter coat. –KR

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A 12-Minute Meditation to Meet Yourself Where You Are—Right Now

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This week, Cheryl Jones leads us in a practice to foster self-acceptance—another of our top guided meditations of 2021. Mindfulness meditation involves a willingness to be with ourselves as we are. It offers a way of learning to work with ourselves, and not on ourselves, especially if you are healing from perfectionism. We can start to notice whatever is happening within us and around us with curiosity and kindness. Cheryl Jones is a certified Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction instructor and author who provides mindfulness training to businesses, organizations, retreat centers, and more.

A 12-Minute Meditation to Meet Yourself Where You Are—Right NowFind your way to an upright and dignified posture. Close your eyes or lower your eyes in a soft gaze. Place your feet on the ground and relax your arms at your sides. Rest your hands in your lap. Draw your shoulder blades subtly toward each other, allowing the chin to be parallel with the floor. Lift the crown of your head toward the sky. Perhaps soften the belly and the jaw.Notice what it feels like to stop. Notice what it feels like to be sitting in this purposeful posture in this moment, in this space. And perhaps now take a moment to welcome yourself to your practice, acknowledging your willingness to be here for yourself in this way.Notice that you are breathing. There’s no need to change or manipulate the breath in any way. Allow the breath to be just as it is right here, right now. Simply follow the breath in and follow the breath out.Notice where you feel the sensations of the breath. Perhaps you’re aware of the air moving in and out at the nostrils and the upper lip. You could possibly be sensing the gentle expanding and contracting of the chest and ribs. Maybe you feel the abdomen rising and sinking. Allow your attention to rest on the sensations of the breath as it flows in and out of the body.As you’re sitting here with the attention on the breath, you may notice thoughts going through the mind. There’s no need to block thoughts out. Rather, see if it is possible to allow thoughts to pass through the mind one by one. Let go of any need to label thoughts as positive or negative. Good or bad. Find a neutral way to be with your thoughts. See if it’s possible to be aware of thoughts without grasping or clinging to any one thought. And also without rejecting or denying any particular thought.Shift your attention now to any feelings that may be present in this moment. Breathing in and breathing out. Acknowledge any feeling just as it is. Sometimes we have feelings about our feelings. We may feel that one feeling is OK or acceptable while another is not. All feelings are acceptable.Now, bring your awareness to sensations within the body. Warmth. Coolness. Tingling. Tightness. Pulsation. Relaxation. Hunger. Fullness. Notice what’s happening within the body in this moment. Do this with patience and kindness. Explore sensations both strong and subtle with curiosity.As you breathe in and breathe out, notice if your posture has shifted. And then make any adjustments, if you’d like. Allow yourself to tune in to the body just as it is.Center your attention on only the breath now. And as we near the end of this practice, follow three more full cycles of breathing. Be as present as possible for each one. Remember this place of awareness is always available to you because it’s within you.As you feel ready, allow your eyes to open gently if they were closed. Get reacquainted with your surroundings and prepare to reengage with the day. Perhaps set an intention to bring awareness to all that you do and into each interaction.

Show notes:

More from Cheryl Jones on mindful.org

thrivingwithcheryljones.com

Original author: Cheryl Jones
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10 Mindful Nonprofits to Donate to This Holiday

Celebrate the season by supporting those doing good work in the world. Here are 10 nonprofits we think are worthy of your attention and donations. Give the gift of mindfulness this year.

1) Ivy Child
A multicultural, multilingual and international nonprofit devoted to cultivating resilience and leadership in children, youth, families and communities through universal mindfulness education, prioritizing often overlooked populations. 
Donate

Donate to Ivy Child


2) Mindful Life Project 
Working diligently to support the mental and emotional wellness of students, teachers, staff, leaders, and families through mindfulness programming. Creating a foundation of well-being at the individual level that leads to a connected school culture.

Donate to Mindful Life

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