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…”

Running Can Teach Us A Lot About Courage, Resilience, and Mindfulness

One step at a time… This one. This one. This one. Another one. One more? Yes, I can do one more. This one, too.

This is how I overcame the hardest inclines of a recent trail race through the beautiful mountains around Los Angeles, my adopted home. The run was filled with substantial climbs, one of which was over three miles long. I’ve been running since my mid-20s— when it was mostly jogging around my neighborhood in order to be outside and to get some exercise. But over the last few years, I’ve ventured into running marathons and most recently I morphed into an ultrarunner: Somebody who runs distances longer than a marathon, usually on trails in nature, often in the mountains.

Because I practice and teach insight meditation and mindfulness, people automatically assume that I also practice mindful running. When they ask me about it, my answer is: “It depends!” And often also, half-jokingly: “I try not to!” Even though I love running, it can get strenuous, tedious, and boring, especially on long runs and races, and I usually prefer to be comfortable. I can completely relate to my running buddy who says that at times the best thing about running is when it’s over.

My own motto for running—and for life—is to have a well-stocked toolbox. This equips me to savor the great moments, persevere through the unpleasant ones, and even surprise myself with how determined and resilient I really am. Here are a few of the “tools” I’ve gathered on my journey with running—and, as I’ve discovered, this toolbox naturally applies to life’s other challenges too.

One Foot in Front of the Other

When things get really tough during a long run or a race, I keep asking myself the question: “Can you still take this one step?” “And this one?” “And what about this one?” I have found out that that one step is still possible, and then I restart the whole thing from the beginning. It is important to keep asking yourself the question honestly and not to let your mind drift toward the future: Yes, this one is still OK—but not 10 more miles!!

Continue reading
  11 Hits

Why You Should Invite Your Inner Demons to Tea

It’s a dark and stormy night, and it’s only 8 a.m. My demons are knocking.

I barricaded the door, but they slipped in through the cracks. They seem to be everywhere, and there aren’t enough blankets or beds to hide under. So I’m trying something novel—I’m inviting them in for tea, exploring what happens if I stop trying to avoid the little beasties that seemingly just won’t go away.

Demons can manifest in many dastardly ways. As the voices that whisper persuasively that you are destined to fail. Demons can grab you by the throat and shake you when you listen to the news, or they can be the fears that assail you when you leave the cozy cover of your bedroom.

For instance, if you pulled an all-nighter to prepare for a job interview, your exhaustion might be what gives your demons their ferocious fuel. Suddenly, your heart’s racing. And then like freakin’ flying monkeys, the demons arrive: “They’re never going to hire me! I’m too old, too young, too tall, too me!”

Now you’re wondering why you were so foolhardy as to even apply for this job. As the demon forces gather strength, you look for ways to numb the effects of the threat-chemicals that are charging through your bloodstream. You want to run to the local bar or leave the galaxy altogether.

Continue reading
  8 Hits

A “Prescription” that Cares for the Whole Person

Researchers and doctors know that the social determinants of health—access to child care, healthy food, community, activities, and more—contribute to 80% of health and well-being. Social prescriptions are becoming more common, and here are three recent examples from the UK.

The Comic Will See You Now

They say laughter is the best medicine, and in this case, it might also be just what the doctor ordered. Angie Belcher, a comic with a background in psychology, has teamed up with the National Health Service (NHS)-backed Wellspring Settlement Social Prescribing unit in Bristol to prescribe comedy classes to patients. The “comedy on referral” class is aimed at helping those suffering from postnatal depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders, and more. With group work, games, and one-on-one coaching, the classes are a way to remove the taboo around discussing mental health. The pilot has been labeled a success and has now won funding from the NHS to help men at risk of suicide in London, England.

Debt Relief

Studies have shown that financial stress can have a significant impact on your physical health, and now a new program is looking to target both. Led by the Centre for Responsible Credit and funded by Impact on Urban Health, Financial Shield is a pilot program that aims to provide residents in Lambeth and Southwark with “more time and space, without the threat of debt enforcement, to address their financial and health problems.”

A Walk a Day

Research and experience reveal that spending time in nature can do wonders for your mental and physical health. A cross-government Green Social Prescribing project in the UK is trying out ways of improving health and well-being through connecting people with nature and green spaces. Seven projects—including ones that teach people the joys of swimming in open water, working in community gardens, and generally hanging out in nature—have received £85,000 to explore how nature can improve health and well-being.

(Originally posted by Mindful Staff)

  8 Hits

Helping Black Men and Boys Find Peace Within

Kenneth Bourne’s pursuit of peace and joy for Black boys and men began when he was a kid growing up in Southwest Philadelphia.

“I was never a person that could withstand any kind of mistreatment toward a human being around me at all,” he says.

As a teenager, he took the long way to and from school to avoid fights. In class, he battled to succeed in an institution wrought with instability. At university he faced overt racism. He also learned that police would stop and question him, presumably, he says, because he is Black.

“Personally, I find just being Black in America is beyond stressful,” he says. “I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired.” That exhaustion led to frustration and anger, which brought Bourne to mindfulness. He says deep breathing and meditation helps him get out of a stuck mindset and “comprehend the goal, the purpose, or the bigger picture of life.”

After graduating from Rutgers with a master’s degree in social work, he committed to helping others not have to fight so hard, to helping them heal and know their worth.

Continue reading
  8 Hits

The Space to Feel

Two days after my dad’s funeral was the sixth anniversary of my mom’s passing. That pretty much sums up my summer. Now, randomly, I just start ugly crying without notice. My chest tightens, my breath gets caught in my throat, my eyes feel pressure—I think: Maybe I can hold it together? But no. These “cry bursts’’ don’t last long, but they are clear messages from the deep that grief is always with me. Grief I haven’t allowed myself to fully feel yet.

I have a complicated relationship with the word “allow.” Maybe it’s my, let’s just call it “willfulness,” but I’ve always associated this word with permission or power being given or withheld, not assumed. During a recent meditation, however, there was a moment when I understood that “allowing” is actually always there. Always accessible. That to “allow” is to get in touch with our most natural selves.

The moment was fleeting, but it felt like a physical shift in my body, a revealing of space I was too stubborn to notice before. Space to feel without identifying fully with, or judging myself for, what I was feeling. All the feels were still there—the grief, the shame, the wanting to cocoon-up in bed with bad TV—but they weren’t alone.
Turns out, allowing feels more like awareness with a side of discernment, and a hint of intention and possibility. An expansiveness that offers the promise of choice and trust, with a heavy dose of kindness for yourself and others.

Turns out, allowing feels more like awareness with a side of discernment, and a hint of intention and possibility. An expansiveness that offers the promise of choice and trust, with a heavy dose of kindness for yourself and others.

The October issue of Mindful dives into the intersection of mindfulness and difficult emotions, illuminating the balance that can be found when we breathe and befriend. Pulmonologist and mindfulness teacher Dr. Ni-Cheng Liang shares the 4-7-8 breath for moments when you’re feeling anxious or stressed. Health writer Caren Osten Gerszberg interviews world-renowned meditation teachers and researchers steeped in the transformational (and research-backed) art of turning toward difficult emotions. Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Katherine Ellison digs into the science of wanting and explores how we can take back our contentment. And author, poet, and meditator Yung Pueblo shares his wisdom on letting go, saying: “I’m not enlighened or anything, but I feel lighter.”

Continue reading
  7 Hits