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…”

Easing Teen Angst with Mindfulness

Easing Teen Angst

Can mindfulness help teens to ruminate less? Led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, a new study tested whether 80 adolescents would use and benefit from a smartphone-based mindfulness app. Teens were asked to complete surveys on their mental health, including tendency to ruminate. Those who noted a moderate tendency were provided a mindfulness phone app and taught how to use it. For three weeks, they received random reminders to engage with the app based on their availability, and had a greater likelihood of being asked to complete an exercise if they reported a worse mood on the initial survey.

Mindfulness instruction lasted 1—12 minutes, and included focused attention on the breath, sounds, or bodily sensations. After each session, teens rated their level of rumination and emotional state. In the end, 90% of the teens used the app, with the typical user completing 29 minutes of training, or an average of 1.5 sessions per day, with 91% of these sessions lasting 1 minute. Girls and older teens showed the most immediate improvements in mood and rumination after each session.  Those who were more likely to get stuck in repetitive unpleasant thoughts and suppress their emotions at the beginning of the study had better overall results.

Researchers concluded that teens who tend to get lost in negative thoughts might be best served by mindfulness approaches that accentuate present-moment awareness and attentional control.    

MBSR for Perimenopause

In a study led by researchers from the University of Regina in Saskatchewan, 104 perimenopausal women with no prior meditation experience were randomly assigned to either a standard eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program, or a waitlist control group. Baseline estrogen levels and daily mood were assessed for all participants for 30-50 days prior to training. Depression, anxiety, mindfulness, and other factors were evaluated immediately before and after the intervention, and every two weeks for the following six months. Results showed women who attended MBSR classes noted significantly less depression, anxiety, and perceived stress, and higher levels of mindfulness and resilience than they meditated on their own during training, the less depressed they were at program’s end.

Treating Schizophrenia

To see if mindfulness training might serve as a helpful add-on to routine treatment for schizophrenia, researchers in China randomly assigned 100 patients to either six weeks of general rehabilitation (GR) treatment or GR plus a mindfulness-based intervention.

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What to Do When Self-Care Feels Like a Burden

Sometimes I’m just too tired to run through my self-care things and I know it’s a bad cycle, but I work as a nurse and some days, I just can’t do it.

Self-care can feel like a burden. We can get lost in the gap between where we are and where we think we should be. So, when you’re too tired for self-care, try the three-minute breathing space.

First, check in with where you are, what is here for you right now in thoughts, emotions, the body. Just get to know your current experience, wanted or unwanted. Then narrow the attention to the sensation of breathing, the rising and falling of the abdomen with each in-breath and out-breath. And finally, widen the attention to the entire body around the breath, taking in any and all sensations. This brief inquiry into our own experience can give us the awareness we need to be able to take care of ourselves and others.

When even the three-minute breathing space feels like work, we may just need to give ourselves a break.

When even the three-minute breathing space feels like work, we may just need to give ourselves a break. Forget the big self-care list. What is a small thing you can do? It might be something that you might not think of as particularly healthy if it was to become chronic, but what are the things that make you feel good? When you’re tired, choose something small and manageable, and let it be enough.

Original author: Patricia Rockman
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When Doing Nothing Is The Only Kind Thing to Do

Lately, I’ve been practicing what I call “active non-doing.” It’s a liminal way of being where I observe the things I’m “supposed” to do—as a mother, a wife, the caretaker of my dying father, a manager, an editor, a friend, a homemaker, even a musician. I notice all the deeply ingrained ways I believe I’m supposed to show up. And rather than immediately acting on my inclinations, I’ve been just not doing anything for a little while and seeing what happens.

This practice doesn’t come naturally to me. By nature, I’m a doer. For me, the pull to act is a whole-body sensation: tension in my chest, flush cheeks, hot hands, as well as a rush to judgment and immediate problem-solving. My whole being doesn’t just scream “do something”; it insists “here’s how!” I try to pause, relax my (probably) tensed-up shoulders, and breathe until the feeling passes, noticing the swirling eddies of ideas, emotions, and physical sensations my halting leaves in its wake.

This “active non-doing” practice didn’t come my way by choice. I resisted fervently, choosing instead to barrel into situations with ideas, projects, answers, and solutions. It’s only been through my most difficult pain point, caring for my father, that I have been able to see active non-doing is sometimes the most compassionate action to take.

I’ve been getting in my own way for so long that I missed the magic of allowing. The beauty and grace of it. The compassion and joy that’s always there, waiting for us to gently tap in.

And honestly, I don’t like it. At all. I would much rather jump in and do something. But I’ve discovered through this practice that welcoming everything—the discomfort, the heat, the disappointment in myself, the judgment—and letting it be (even when wanting to act feels like a blazing fire) opens up options that I never would have thought of, but are often the perfect next thing to happen. I’ve been getting in my own way for so long that I missed the magic of allowing. The beauty and grace of it. The compassion and joy that’s always there, waiting for us to gently tap in.

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A 12-Minute Meditation to Welcome Deep Rest

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Jenée Johnson leads us in a guided meditation to encourage deep relaxation at any point during the day. With a reminder to listen to our bodies and acknowledge when it’s time for us to rest, she shares an effective technique known as quiet sitting to inspire us to simply be. Jenée Johnson is the founder of the Right Within Experience and the program innovation leader at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, Mindfulness, Trauma and Racial Healing. Her goal is to improve her organization’s ability to manage change, stay resilient, inspire growth and become a mindful culture that leads and serves with compassion.

Sitting in an upright but relaxed position, drop your gaze or close your eyes. Take a deep breath in and an audible exhale out. Breathing in and breathing out, sitting quietly, free floating, invite your body to relax.When we simply sit and breathe, we activate the body’s calming response. It allows the brain to display the calm, smooth, harmonious waves called alpha brain waves—like the waves of the ocean, coming in to the shore and rolling back out. Coming in and going out. Breathing in and breathing out. Relax.Drop your shoulders, relax the jaw, and unfurl your brow. Allow your mind to float freely until it settles down. Let thoughts come and go as they please.Bring your attention back gently to your breath. Don’t exert yourself trying to block thoughts. Just remain passive and remind your body that we’re sitting now, we’re breathing now, we’re relaxing now. Sit quietly, stay with your breath. Like the waves of the ocean, breathing in, breathing out. Let thoughts fade into the background. Relax. To be still, to be quiet, to be at ease. This is the gift of relaxation.
Original author: Jenée Johnson
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The Science of Curiosity

Curiosity—our drive for information—can induce a pleasant state or an aversive state. In 2006, the psychologists Jordan Litman and Paul Silvia identified the two main “flavors” of curiosity: I-curiosity and D-curiosity. The I in I-curiosity stands for interest, the pleasurable aspects of the hunger for knowledge, while the D in D-curiosity stands for deprivation, the idea that if we have a gap in information, we go into a restless, unpleasant, need-to-know state.

Deprivation curiosity is driven by a lack of information, often a specific piece of information. For example, if you are in a meeting or out to dinner, and you feel or hear a text come into your phone, you might notice that suddenly it is really hard to pay attention because not knowing what the text says makes you restless, causing your body temperature to rise. It’s as though your phone starts burning a hole in your purse or your pocket. That fire of uncertainty is put out when you check your phone to see who texted you or read what the message says. The relief of the negative state, the itching of the scratch, is in itself rewarding. That’s why TV shows have cliff-hangers—to drive deprivation curiosity. We have to know what happens, so we binge-watch!

Interest curiosity is piqued when we become interested in learning more about something. Usually, this isn’t a specific piece of information (like who texted you), but a broader category. For example, did you know that there are animals who keep growing in size until they die? They are called indeterminate growers, and include sharks, lobsters, and even kangaroos. In fact, based on its size, one 20-pound lobster was believed to be 140 years old. That’s one big old lobster! Isn’t that fascinating?  

Interest curiosity is like diving into an internet search and realizing hours later that you’ve learned a whole bunch of stuff and your thirst for knowledge has been quenched. It feels good to learn something new. This is different from filling a deficit, simply because there wasn’t a deficit there in the first place (that is, you didn’t know you didn’t know about big lobsters, but when you found out about them, you were intrigued and delighted). Unlike D-curiosity— which is about destinations—the I-curiosity is more about the journey.

So why do we have curiosity in the first place? It turns out curiosity builds on reward-based learning.

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