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…”

How to Open Up Without Getting Overwhelmed

Whether you’re new to mindfulness meditation or have been practicing it for years, chances are you’ve heard the term ‘awareness’ come up quite a few times. You might have been told to be aware of your breath, your body, or your thoughts or to “rest in your awareness.” But what does it truly mean to be aware?

According to author and mindfulness teacher, Diana Winston, “awareness is a state of open, spacious, relaxed well-being where we’re deeply cognizant of what is happening without trying too hard.” Oftentimes we get so caught up in our busy lives that it can become difficult to fully engage in the present moment; awareness can help ground you in that present moment.

If you’ve ever sat in nature and deeply listened to the breaking of sticks under your feet, the chirping of crickets in the distance or inhaled the scent of pine trees; chances are you’ve experienced one of the ways it means to be fully and effortlessly aware.

But is it possible to bring this feeling to our mindfulness practice and everyday life?

3 Ways to Develop Greater Awareness (Without Feeling Overwhelmed)

For some people, the idea of awareness and simply being open to it all may feel overwhelming. At some point in our lives, we’ve all experienced the impulse to push down or ignore uncomfortable or challenging emotions. Winston teaches that it is still possible to develop greater awareness without feeling overwhelmed if we practice  taking these three steps:

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A 12-Minute Meditation to Notice, Shift, Rewire

When things don’t go according to plan it becomes easier to focus on what’s wrong and minimize what’s right. This mindful gratitude practice is designed to change that; its aim is to amplify the experience of optimism and studies show that this simple shift leads to enhanced mood and better relationships. This exercise is adapted from Start Here: Master the Lifelong Habit of Wellbeing by Eric Langshur and Nate Klemp, and is led by mindfulness coach Priti Patel.

Audio recorded by Priti Patel.

1. Begin by finding a comfortable seat, your eyes can either be closed or open with a soft gaze for this practice. Be sure that you’re sitting comfortably and to the best of your ability, see if you can sit with a straight spine. To find that perfect point of balance, you might sway back and forth as well as side to side until you find your ideal seat. Feel your body settle.

2. Now, take a few slow breaths. Let go of any attempt to control or shape the breath. Let it move in and out naturally. Allow yourself to relax and let go of any tension or stress. Feel a sense of relaxed alertness, grounded yet present.

3. Start by noticing. Notice your current state of mind. What’s the current tone of mood? How are you feeling right now in this moment? See if you can simply notice with no judgments of good or bad.

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7 Mindful Writing Prompts to Foster a Deeper Connection with Yourself

Sometimes the hardest thing about having a mindfulness or meditation practice is just making time. With 24 hours in a day, things to do, places to be, people who need us, things we need to take care of, we all ask ourselves, how do we make time? What I found is I can’t overthink it or it won’t happen.

Take a deep breath right now. That’s the practice. Imagine if every day you found moments to breathe, to reflect, to be more present. 

Breathe and Reflect 

As you pause to take one of those deep breaths, maybe you’re already reflecting on how you’re showing up in the world, what you’re letting people see, and what you’re not letting people see. Where can you begin to be more of yourself?

Dive into self-reflection about who you are—fears, love, things you want to show the world, maybe things you haven’t thought about in a while. 

7 Mindful Writing Prompts to Connect with Yourself

You can write this, you can say it aloud, you can think it quietly. It can even end up looking like a poem if you want. You can also explore these prompts simply as you pause throughout the day to take a deep breath. This is an opportunity to connect with yourself.

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4 Ways to Make Your Gifts Meaningful

During the holiday season and other celebratory occasions, such as birthdays or anniversaries, gift giving is a customary activity that is generally thought of as fun, joyful, and a way to bond with friends and loved ones. Although, it’s well-studied that the excitement we receive from gifts can be short-lived. One of the reasons that may be is that we tend to invest in gifts that excite rather than gifts that will deliver pleasure over time. Research shows that anticipating someone’s response to a gift—and wanting to wow the recipient—can overshadow thinking about the long-term happiness the gift can bring.

There are some easy ways to maximize the value of gift giving, as well as support sustainability at the same time. With a little forethought and a few simple strategies, we can elevate the experience of both giving and receiving gifts to make gift giving more fulfilling and rewarding as a result.

4 Ways to Make Your Gifts Meaningful

1. Make Thoughtful Purchases

Presents that are tied to an activity someone is passionate about are more likely to bring joy for months and years to come, especially when compared to fad gifts of the season. (Anyone still using their Snuggie?) For instance, if you have a friend that derives pleasure from waxing nostalgic about ‘80s music, gifting them with a quality vinyl record player could be a great way to help them savor experiences far into the future.

A gift tends to be more beneficial when it is in true alignment with the recipient’s identity and values. This doesn’t mean the gift needs to be elaborate; it can be something as simple as a coffee mug or a handmade craft with an inspirational quote that resonates with the individual’s worldview. Not only is such a gift more likely to spark joy, personalized gifts are also scientifically proven to be better received

Taking just a few extra moments to think through your purchase can have a significant impact. Rather than just assessing whether the purchase meets the recipient’s needs and expectations, think about the true utility the recipient will get from the gift. Does the present potentially have long-term value? Or is it a trendy object that could quickly lose its luster? Asking yourself these questions can guide you toward a meaningful decision.

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Creating a Mindful Gratitude Journal with Amber Tucker and Paige Sawler

Stephanie Domet:  Hello. Welcome to Real Mindful! This is where we speak mindfully about things that matter. 

We’re here twice a month, introducing you to some of the teachers, thinkers, writers and researchers who are engaged in the mindfulness movement. You’ll hear all kinds of conversations here about the science of mindfulness, the practice of mindfulness and the heart of it. 

I’m Stephanie Domet. I’m the managing editor at Mindful Magazine and Mindful.org. And this is Real Mindful. 

This is a time of year when many of us begin to turn our thoughts toward gratitude as the calendar year dwindles. And here in the northern hemisphere, the light does too. We might be inclined to turn inward and reflect on how and where we are and let the feeling of gratitude infuse us. And, you know, sometimes it doesn’t come that easily. And that’s what we’re talking about on Real Mindful today. 

We’re marking the launch of our first ever gratitude journal, which appeared on newsstands November 23rd. The journal is packed with personal essays, gratitude practices and the latest science on how and why gratitude works. It’s beautifully illustrated with lots of space for you to write and draw in response to the prompts that are tucked in every corner of it. Amber Tucker is a senior editor at Mindful and Mindful.org and Page Sawler is our junior designer. And together, they led the team that produced the Gratitude Journal, and the three of us met up recently to talk about the journal, The Science of Gratitude and our own relationships with feeling grateful. I hope you enjoy this conversation as much as we did.  

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