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…”

Let Go, Find Warmth: 11 Mindfulness Practices for the Winter Blues

As we journey on through the days of a relatively new year, the gleaming colors and exuberance of the holiday season fade behind us. Meanwhile, at least for those of us in the northern hemisphere, we look down the long path of short days and cold weather that will take us to springtime. A lack of sunlight, darker nights, and isolation or stress due to yet another wave of the pandemic may make this time of year feel long and bleak for many. Sometimes we call this “winter blues” and in more extreme cases, Seasonal Affective Disorder. 

It’s normal to feel a little down sometimes, especially during these darker months, but the journey is easier when we move through it with the knowledge that we are not alone and that there are supportive, self-compassionate steps we can take to let a little light in. So, here are some guided mindfulness practices to keep in your back pocket (or the bookmarks bar on your browser) to return to any time you’re feeling the winter blues.  

Check In: What’s Here Now?

The foundational principle of mindfulness is the practice of presence. To be aware of where we are and what we’re doing. When we’re not feeling so hot, the temptation is often to turn away, dive into distraction, and essentially hope whatever doesn’t feel good just goes away on its own without any intervention or particular attention on our part. But when we practice turning toward and being with what is present for us in this moment, we give ourselves the opportunity to understand what we need—and respond with wisdom. Here are two guided mindfulness practices to help you do just that.

A three-minute guided mindfulness practice: how to tune in to the present moment and acknowledge wandering thoughts.

Explore this guided practice to calm your mind, notice sensations in the body, and bring awareness to the present moment.

Continue reading
  14 Hits
  0 Comments
14 Hits
0 Comments

Don’t Stop at Empathy. Your Employees Need Compassion

As the pandemic drags on, data around the world shows that burnout is deepening, resignations are climbing, and employer trust has plummeted. Leaders are looking hard for ways to stabilize their organizations and retain their employees. Whether by deliberate choice or happy accident, many leaders have discovered the positive impact of showing more vulnerability and empathy with employees around the challenges we’ve all struggled with. In fact, many are pointing to “empathy” as the top leadership trait needed at this time of tumult and uncertainty. To this, we say “yes, and…”: Yes, empathy is good, but it does not go far enough. Leaders need to pair empathy with action. When they do, they are showing compassion. 

As humans, we are biased for empathy. Empathy is the natural human instinct of recognizing another’s emotions and using this awareness as a catalyst for forging bonds. As a leader, it’s important to empathize with your people, to understand their perspective, and to be able to put yourselves in their shoes.

But, in the workplace, that only gets you so far. Leading with empathy alone can distort judgment and halt progress, and when practiced without any associated action, it can lead to empathetic burnout. There are many symptoms of empathetic burnout, but some of the more obvious warning signs include feeling physically and psychologically exhausted, the inability to stop worrying about the stressors affecting your team members, or the experience of a decreased sense of personal and professional accomplishment. However, when you pair empathy with action, the result is compassion. Compassionate leaders can get on the same level as their people, and then ask, now what? They can acknowledge a problem, and then use compassion to help define the next best steps.

The Science Behind Leading With Empathy vs. Compassion

Another way to understand the difference between the two is that empathy is an emotion, while compassion is an intention. Empathy is when we see someone suffer, take on the suffering they experience, and suffer together with them. This is a good, altruistic response. But compassion is different. Compassion is to take a step back from empathy and ask ourselves what we can do to support the person who is suffering.

Tania Singer, a celebrated neuroscientist and the head of the Social Neuroscience Lab of the Max Planck Society in Berlin, Germany, conducted a study that illustrates this distinction perfectly. She performed a series of brain scans on Matthieu Ricard, a well-known Buddhist monk. For the study, Ricard was strapped into an fMRI machine and asked to imagine the suffering of orphaned children. In previous tests done by Singer, this type of thinking activated the same brain areas as feeling actual physical pain. But with Ricard, as Singer described it, “I saw networks activating that are associated with reward, like having a pleasant feeling.” Singer was confounded. “What is he doing?” she wondered. “Is he thinking about lunch?” 

Continue reading
  13 Hits
  0 Comments
13 Hits
0 Comments

Avoiding a Difficult Conversation? Start with Self-Compassion

There are a few things I want you to remember about difficult conversations: 

You’re not avoiding difficult conversations because you’re bad or broken. Your brain is protecting you. Self-compassion helps you face the discomfort of tough conversations.Self-compassion is not selfish or passive. It’s courageous. 

With that in mind, it is crucial that we not only start having difficult conversations, but that we start learning to master them. Along the way, practicing self-compassion is key to transforming the muck of difficult interactions—the blame, shame, resentment, and anxiety—into moments of connection, solutions, and leadership in our relationships at home and at work.

There have been conversations I was far from mastering. Many years ago, a trainee of mine was falling far short of what her clients needed. The focus for her appeared to be compulsive overdoing in a grab for recognition. She even fell asleep in session with a client! When awake, she often pushed her agendas on clients and had a large no-show rate.

She was also personally connected to someone I felt indebted to. Falling prey to an old habit of avoiding the discomfort of confrontation, I sidestepped the inner call to give her direct feedback. I avoided the elephant in the room (even the sleeping one!).

You have likely experienced similar pain points when faced with difficult conversations. When others are on a volatile path, you may have found yourself lashing out or looking for the door. When the other person is smug in their “rightness,” maybe you’ve felt pulled to argue your point to the end. When faced with sarcasm or the insincere “sure-have-it-your-way” deflection, you may have felt pulled to yank them toward something approaching honesty and clarity only to end up with a Grand Canyon of uninspiring distance between you.

Continue reading
  21 Hits
  0 Comments
21 Hits
0 Comments

Break the Cycle of Stress and Social Media: Learn a 3-step process that builds healthy habits

Faced with uncertainty, an overabundance of information (and misinformation), among other challenges, our minds struggle to keep up. Our brains default to old survival mechanisms to help us deal with anxiety, which can lead to the development of unhealthy coping habits such as “doomscrolling” or spending too much time on social media.

Drawing on his clinical work, neuroscience research studies, and development of next-generation digital therapeutics for anxiety habit change, Dr. Brewer explores the underlying behavioral and neurobiological mechanisms behind anxiety and habit formation.

Watch the video:

Break-the-Cycle-of-Stress-and-Social-MediaDownload

Guided Meditations

A collection of guided meditations from Dr. Jud Brewer to tame feelings of anxiety and unhook from habit loops.

A 4-Minute Meditation to Work with Anxiety

Please feel free to download this meditation.

Continue reading
  22 Hits
  0 Comments
22 Hits
0 Comments

5 Ways to Shift from Diet Culture to Loving Your Body

We live in a world that is obsessed with weight and body size. There are thousands of diets, diet foods, and diet programs all proclaiming their ability to help you lose weight, and yet the statistics show that for many of us, the number on the scale is going up. Researchers and other experts agree that the long-term success rate for diets is dismal, with many people gaining the original weight back and often even more. And, this weight cycling is inextricably linked to adverse physical health and psychological well-being. 

When we have been taught to distrust and dislike our bodies, we can become susceptible to other harmful patterns of attitude and behavior.

While many people equate attaining a certain size with health (and happiness), that is an inaccurate evaluation. Despite persistent bias against higher weight within research and medicine, current studies show that weight shaming and yo-yo dieting are more damaging to a person’s health than their body weight. What if your problem was not your weight, but your relationship to your weight and your body? 

Attitudes to Shift for a Healthy Relationship with Your Body

When we have been taught to distrust and dislike our bodies, we can become susceptible to other harmful patterns of attitude and behavior. Here are a few of them: 

1. Dieting. You will try and try again, but it is clear from the research that weight-loss dieting doesn’t work. The issue is not that you haven’t tried the “right” diet, or that you were not disciplined enough. It is that all diets are designed to fail. When your diet is unsustainable over the long-term, you will, sooner or later, go back to the way you were eating to begin with. Employing willpower to continually deprive yourself has serious limitations, and it will get depleted from overuse. 

Continue reading
  26 Hits
  0 Comments
26 Hits
0 Comments