10 Tips for Reducing Stress in Workplace

How do you work with stress when it arises in your place of work? Do you just push on through it; drink more coffee and hope it will go away? Stress is very common today. We can learn to bring principles of a Zen-inspired life into our workplace by using some simple mindfulness techniques when stress arises. Here are 10 tips for reducing stress:

1. Be Proactive If you procrastinate and put off things that are pressing on you, they weigh on you and effect every thing else you do. Learn to recognize when something is pressing on you and remove the pressure by addressing it now.

2.  Listen to Your Body It's amazing how little we do this. We push through stress and we often treat our bodies as if we were simple mechanical machines. When you are feeling anxious, it will show up in the body. The simple practice of paying attention to the body, is a focusing technique we teach in our Corporate Wellness program.

3. Practice Deep, Empathic Listening This kind of listening is rare. But it can be learned and practiced. It can help reduce misunderstandings and clarify agreements. These kind of communication skills are taught as part of the Corporate Wellness program and the Core Curriculum of ZLMC.

4. Breath Awareness of the breath is really critical in helping us dampen down stress levels. How this works is that by taking deep breaths and particularly emphasizing the out breath, we are stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system which helps us regulate, balance and calm automatic nervous system.

5. Learn to Pause Learn to pause and be still. It might only be a minute. Even though you may be stressed because of lack of time, it's amazing how effective simply pausing and giving yourself a moment of stillness can be in helping to restore balance and calmness in yourself. When you return to your task, you will do so with a little bit more focus.

6. Take short breaks Learn to step back from your computer with short breaks. Shift your energy. Stand up, take a short walk. Breath. Stretch. Stay in touch with your body, especially during those times when you are inclined to push through an awareness of your body.

7. Get more sleep This is important. When we are anxious and stressed, it often begins to compromise our sleep patterns, so work on relaxing before you go to bed, and finding ways to get more sleep. It will dramatically improve your ability to handle stress the next day when it arises at work.

8. Drink plenty of water This sounds stupid and silly, but it's true. Water is the most under-appreciated way to flush out toxins from our body. So drink plenty of it. If you are used to drinking soft drinks, you may want to consider changing to simple water. It doesn't have all the sugar that soft drinks do, so it will be more restful and restorative for your body.

9. Don't sweat the small stuff If you have a perfectionist streak in you, learn to let it go when you are working with small things. Mindfulness meditation is a basic practice that can help you begin to re-program negative, reactive habits that no longer serve you into more pro-active, positive habits that help you work with more focus and less stress.

10. Set Boundaries Learn to say "no". When you are over loaded with things to do, it's important to acknowledge this to yourself, and no add to your stress by taking on more tasks that you do not have the time to complete well.

Fire will Never Say that it has had Enough

'A'ole e 'olelo mai ana ke ahi ua ana ia. Fire will never say that it has had enough. The fire of anger will burn as long as it has something to feed upon.

'Olelo No'eau - Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings #225 Collected, translated and annotated by Mary Kawena Pukui

An incident with my husband a few days ago caused angry feelings to arise in me.  We were preparing breakfast.  He was sitting at the dining room table waiting for water to boil for his poached eggs.

He began complaining bitterly (it seemed to me) about how we make so many announcements after sitting practice but don't announce what's really important.   He's said this before to me but not with as much emotion. I hadn't really heard him before.

But I heard him this time.   I also "heard" something extra - something that wasn't there - something I projected onto the situation.  I heard him attacking me in some way - suggesting that it was my fault that announcements of upcoming events didn't emphasize what was really important.   I reacted defensively and said, "Why are you talking this way?  It sounds just like kvetching to me!"

He immediately toned his manner down when he heard what I said and realized what he was doing.  I continued a bit harshly, "I'm just starting to have my breakfast and I have to listen to this?!"

We teach at our zen center that various situations can stimulate negative emotions in us.  When that happens we have a choice to continue to make more drama for ourselves and others (having the emotion work us) or start the process of working with the emotion.

The first thing to do - then or later - is to name the emotion.  For me it was anger.  Second is to identify the intensity of the emotion on a scale of 1 - 10.  10 being most intense.  Mine was 8.  If the intensity is over 5 or 6, it's best to have a cooling off period before doing or saying anything.  It's hard to think straight when you're angry.

Third is to identify the trigger.  The trigger was my husband complaining about the length of announcements, letting off some steam.

The fourth step is interpretation.  What is the story that I was telling myself?  My story was that it was my fault and that I wasn't good enough.  The story can be very seductive and may be quite habitual so even though the story is making you miserable, you keep staying with it.  Notice that behavior if you can.

The fifth step is to become embodied which means to shift the focus from your mind to your body and really see what's going on there.  You'll have to shift from "knowing" what happened to opening to a more spacious "not knowing."

Set your thoughts of being right aside and fully bear witness to your body.  The body has incredible wisdom.  When I did that, I noticed that my eyes felt a little squinty like there was pressure in my head.  I noticed my chest and neck felt tight, and my body ached a bit but honestly I didn't want to be in my body or feel too much - I just wanted to be done with the feelings.  I felt like I was caving in on myself.

When you feel this way, it's good to stay with the body because returning to the mind and obsessively thinking about the storyline is more fuel for the fire.

I eventually noticed an old thought going through my mind, a thought of not being appreciated or respected.  When I'm in that frame of mind, it's all about ME and the other person always seems wrong. But that's not helpful or true.

I stuck with that story in my mind for most of the day and observed how I felt.  I noticed that the story only fueled my feelings of being dis-respected.  When I got busy and let the story go, I felt better, but it still lurked.

In Non-Violent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg teaches that when people communicate they are just saying "please" (when they're trying to get their needs met) or "thank you"  (when their needs are met).  Many people aren't skillful when they say "please" because they don't even realize they have needs or understand that it's ok to have them.  So they overreact.

In the midst of my suffering, I did have fleeting empathy for my husband.  It's a big job running the zen center.  Since I'm co-founder we talk to each other whenever we're having an issue.  I knew that he was saying "please" unskillfully.  Yet because of my anger, I couldn't empathize with the burdens he carries.

Thank goodness for my practice of meditation.  It was a beautiful day and I felt like going for a walk.  I listened, walked in the warm sunlight, saw gold and red autumn leaves shimmering in the breeze.  It helped to clear my mind.  It wasn't my husband that was wrong.  He was just expressing frustration over a need that wasn't being met. But I didn't have to meet it, not then anyway.  Just listening to him would have been a gift.

I realized he was a catalyst for some strong emotions that arose in me.  And emotions are part of being human.  I moved through it thanks to my meditation practice and my relationship with my husband is stronger.

Meditation is an antidote to strong emotions.  It helps me to pause, breathe and observe without becoming absorbed and losing all perspective.  Slowing down lets us see with more clarity and respond skillfully instead of just reacting.  Reacting only fuels the fire.   These kinds of negative interactions are difficult but ultimately prove to be the best teachers for learning patience and humility.

by Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue Zen Teacher, Co-founder of Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago 

The Bird That Observes the Ocean

 It's my favorite month - the month I was born in and named for.  June is also the season in Chicago when we know that winter is mostly over and summer is on the way.  That also makes me happy.

Beautiful flowers abound, and now that we've sold our house, the way that I see flowers is on my walks through the neighborhood.  Big red, white and pink peonies scent the air and make me smile.  I kneel to smell the purple yellow irises and the many different shades of lilacs delight me.

This past Sunday I gave a talk about the Seven Factors of Awakening at our Zen Life & Meditation Center.  Mindfulness is the practice that forms the foundation of living a Zen-inspired life for us.  It's also very much a part of living a Hula-inspired life.  Mindfulness is the first factor of awakening or enlightenment - an essential quality for helping us on our path in life.

Awakening can mean getting up from a deep sleep.  I think many of us virtually sleepwalk through life and miss a large part of it.  And then we die and it's over.  So how do we wake up and really see and appreciate our lives while we are alive?

Mindfulness is defined as an intentional awareness which is embodied and nonjudgmental.

When we dance in hula, we first learn the placement of our arms, hands, body, and feet in space. We remain very mindful of that.  We don't have mirrors in the center so it's a wonderful practice to just feel our bodies in space without our eyes.

Then we move our bodies to music.  At first we usually are extremely mindful of how we are moving in space.  This can be difficult to do - especially if we aren't sensitive to being in our bodies and dancing.

So, we must notice and stay with the edges of our discomfort by making time to practice. We must be okay with the difficulty of learning something new.  That takes patience and persistence.  When that is too hard for people, I say, "No problem, just back away for awhile."

I have a 75 year old student, Theora Humphrey, who has been practicing hula for 2 years with me.  When she first came, she couldn't raise her arms over a certain height and her posture was a bit stooped. She also had problems with the hula step. But she had a persistent attitude. She wanted to learn and practiced regularly - almost daily - every week.  Today her posture is much better: she can raise her arms beautifully, and she has learned to combine the hula steps with the hand gestures.

Mindfulness is being a careful observer of what is right in front of us.  There is precision in such attention.  It's simple, direct and without judgment.  It's not telling ourselves stories about our experience - it just the simple awareness of things as they are.

It's not so hard to be mindful.  It just takes training to remember to be aware of what's present.  When we dance hula, we train ourselves to observe where we are placing our hands and feet.  After enough practice, the body learns to do this without a lot of thought.  But we must still stay alert.  We must be present and aware of things going on around us as well as of our dance movements.

Hula is very much a group activity.  You are dancing with your hula sisters or brothers.  Like any team activity, learning your part is very important.  But being mindful of where you are in relationship to your hula sisters and brothers is equally necessary. It's learning humility and great generosity of spirit.

With such awareness - the hula of many bodies becomes the hula of one body.

Malama pono (take care of your body, mind and heart),

 

 

 

 

Sensei June Ryushin Kaililani Tanoue Zen Teacher, Kumu Hula

Felt Sense

"In working with the felt sense, we need to counteract the way in which conceptual thinking usually dominates our waking consciousness. We have to learn how to drop the story line of discursive thought in order to enter the nonconceptual felt space of direct experience. The story line is our internal narrative about our life experiences. It helps us make sense of our experiences and allows us to share them with others—both very important—but it is an interpretation of experience rather than the experience itself. This is a subtle point: most of the time we get along fine without differentiating direct experience from our interpretations of it. But it is a crucial difference. Like the proverbial finger pointing at the moon, our interpretation points towards the experience, but if we take it as the whole truth, we lose the connection to our actual, lived experience and can easily end up misleading ourselves. To contact experience directly, we need to release the story line and sense, beneath it, how our body is actually living our life situations. " from Your Body Knows the Answer by David Rome

Returning to Square One

We live in a complex world, soaked in information and 24-7 hour news cycles that never sleep. Words cannot wait for thoughts. There is no time to reflect and patience has become a professional liability. We are increasingly disembodied and disconnected from ourselves and the natural world. So we're happy to offer as part of our Core Curriculum at the Zen Life & Meditation Center, Chicago, the Gateway Series consisting of three mini-courses in Focusing, Compassionate Communication and Big Mind. I hope these classes will teach you new, important and pracitcal skills for navigating your way in a complex and often fragmented world.

In the 1950's Eugene Gendlin and Carl Rodgers did a study to determine why some people were successful in therapy and others were not. They found that people who were able to connect with their own embodied, non-conceptual experience about the issues that brought them to therapy had better outcomes. Often they did not speak in complete sentences, but in tentative, uncertain phrases such as "I'm not sure how to say this", or they might say one thing, stop and rephrase it another way. Gendlin demonstrated that these people were in touch with an unclear, not fully formed inner sense, a nonverbal inner sense meaning that he simply called a "felt sense".

Recently David Rome, one of the early pioneers of Focusing in the Western Buddhist community published a book called "Your Body Knows the Answer". Though other books have been written on the Focusing process, they have often been done in the context of therapy. David Rome's book brings a refreshing perspective to the process of Focusing in what he calls "Mindful Focusing".

David says "Felt senses are unclear somatic sensations that for the most part go unnoticed, yet they are not wholly unconscious. They can be "found" by bringing a special quality of gentle mindfulness to the zone of subtle bodily experiencing in which they form. When attended to with friendly but dispassionate attention, felt senses that start out vague and indescribable can show up with greater clarity and presence. A felt sense can come alive and offer what it already knows about life situations that you—the conscious, conceptualizing you—don't yet know. Entering into a process of inquiry with the felt sense invites spontaneous flashes of intuitive insight that generate novel perceptions and understandings, leading to fresh solutions to life's challenges."

Integrating mindfulness and Focusing is a powerful way to trust and acknowledge your embodied, non-verbal experience. Instead of being lost in the stories of your conceptual mind which seems to have a life of its own, you can return to square one, and listen to a larger wholeness in your embodied experience that can help move you forward in areas of your life that are often troubling and difficult.

Robert Althouse

Facing Difficulties

Avoiding difficult situations or running away from them does not usually take much skill or effort. But doing so prevents you from testing your own limits and from growing. The ability to face difficulties can be crucial for your growth. However, if you are faced with a situation in which the difficulties are simply overwhelming, you should step back for the time being and wait until you have built up enough strength to deal with it skillfully. Sayadaw U Tejaniya

 

8 Steps for Working with Emotions

Life is too short to live on the surface all the time. Our depths are where all the richness is, even though it can be scary to dwell there. My Zen practice is about being brave and doing things that are hard to do. My Hula practice is just the same. Much inner growth can come from the practice of fearlessness. I'm not saying that anxiety doesn't ever arise. It does, but there is a way to work with it.

I've been learning about emotions and how they are designed to alert and move us to do something. If an emotion "gets stuck," a mood can settle over us. Regulating emotions isn't about repressing them or acting them out. It's about recognizing and working skillfully with them when they arise. There are eight core emotions: anger, sadness, fear, shame, jealousy, disgust, happiness and love.

And there are 8 steps to help you regulate these emotions.

  • First, identify the emotion
  • Second, rate the intensity on a scale from 1 to 10.
  • Third, identify the trigger—the situation from which the emotion arose.
  • Fourth, notice the interpretation—what you tell yourself about what happened.
  • Fifth, check how your body feel about what occurred.
  • Sixth, note the actions you want to take.
  • Seventh, note the actions you actually took.
  • Eight, notice the aftereffects.

Next, apply these basic steps to your emotions by writing them down in a journal.

Last week, at my writing group, we had an opportunity to write for five minutes on four questions. There we could read our responses aloud if we wanted to. There questions could be answered deeply or superficially—either was ok. Here were the questions:

  • What is an important goal for you?
  • What is something very fun that you'd like to do in your remaining time on earth?
  • What helps you bear the cold days of early spring?
  • Write about an important personal issue.

I decided to be brave and go deep with my writing—though five minutes isn't much time to write about subjects that could easily take much longer. But I felt safe diving deeply because I've been meeting with this group of women monthly for several years now.

When I returned home that evening, I felt that something had opened in me. I felt so energized. I decided to do the 8 step process and write in my journal. It was quite revealing. The trigger for my happiness was my feeling that this group of women listened deeply with empathy to thoughts I've revealed to few.

The power of listening is such a gift to others. I felt so nourished by how they listened without judgment or a misplaced desire to "fix me." What a wonderful way to transform the feeling of a cold wintry evening into a bright warm dawn.

Malama pono (take care of body, mind and heart),

Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue

Nature of Mind

Space is beyond color or shape.It doesn’t take on color, black or white: it doesn’t change. Likewise, your mind, in essence, is beyond color or shape. It does not change because you do good or evil.

The darkness of a thousand eons cannot dim The brilliant radiance that is the essence of the sun. Likewise, eons of samsara cannot dim The sheer clarity that is the essence of your mind.

Although you say space is empty, You can’t say that space is "like this". Likewise, although mind is said to be sheer clarity, There is nothing there: you can’t say "it’s like this".

Thus, the nature of mind is inherently like space: It includes everything you experience.

Stop all physical activity: sit naturally at ease. Do not talk or speak: let sound be empty, like an echo. Do not think about anything: look at experience beyond thought.

Your body has no core, hollow like bamboo. Your mind goes beyond thought, open like space. Let go of control and rest right there.

Mind without projection is mahamudra. Train and develop this and you will come to the deepest awakening.

- Tilopa

Attention Matters

Robert Joshin Athouse, RoshiMindfulness is a powerful practice for harnessing your attention and directing it in intentional ways that change your brain and help you develop new habits for living a happier life. Understanding the relationship between mindful attention and changing your brain is empowering. So I'd like to talk about five aspects of the mind-brain relationship and how you can harness your attention to change and improve your life. 1. Negative Bias There is a negative bias built into your brain. Sub-cortical areas of your brain, primarily in the reptilian and limbic parts of your brain are designed through evolution to keep you safe and free of danger.When danger is near-by, these parts of your brain are triggered, causing a cascade of physiological reactions in your body that put you into a state of hyper-vigilance. This is not trival because if you make a mistake at this level, you just become part of the food chain.

Naturally, this part of your brain is very reactive, and is easily triggered, not only by danger but by many other unpleasant and difficult situations as well. As a result you tend to dwell on and remember painful experiences more than pleasant ones. That is, negative experiences carry more weight in your brain and in your subjective experience.

Understanding that this is how your brain has been designed through evolution, you can develop strategies for regulating and modifying this reactive, negative valence that resides in your brain.

2. Memory is Not Fixed Memory is malleable and easily changed. Memory is selective. You don't remember everything about an experience because your brain couldn't store all of that information, so you select aspects of the experience to remember. Since you have this negative bias built into your brain, you will often select more painful experiences to remember than pleasant ones.

And it gets more complicated because your brain has different kinds of memory. Your brain has both explicit and implicit memory. Your explicit memory gets integrated and stored through the hippo-campus in your limbic brain. This part of your brain helps you store experience and place it in a temporal, narrative context that makes sense to you.

If you have a traumatic experience the hippo-campus in your brain shuts down so that other resources in your brain can deal with the trauma. This means that painful experience does not get integrated into explicit memory but resides in your implicit memory which, because it's not integrated in a temporal, narrative way, is always experienced as if it's taking place right now. This is why soldiers who have PTSD constantly re-experience the trauma of their war experiences as if they're happening in the present moment.

Painful and difficult memories often reside in implicit memory and one important way we can heal this painful experience is by learning to re-integrate implicit memory into the temporal context of explicit memory.

3. Reframing So this means that when you have a difficult experience, it can hang around in implicit memory and the negative associations you have of that memory hang around too. That's the bad news. The good news is that you have the power to change that. Instead accepting your memory and your experience as a fixed fact, you can change the associations you have with a particular memory.

So for example, let's say you recall a painful experience of being fired from your job. Each time you remember that episode, you feel a heavy weight in your chest and you feel terrible. You feel like a loser and a failure. If you are practicing mindfulness with this experience, you can first appreciate, with some kindness and empathy that this is a difficult memory for you. But you also know it's not fixed, so that means you could reframe it. Instead of just letting the memory take you over, you could actively recall some person in your life that you love. And the memory of them brings a calm confidence into your subjective experience. And since you've brought up this memory in close conjunction with the painful one, they are now both connected together in your brain. If you do this enough times, in the future when you bring up that memory of losing your job, it will not have the same negative weight it had before. Through the power of your own intention and attention you've altered and modified that painful memory into one that is much less painful.

4. Plasticity and Focused Attention So you can change your brain through the quality of your attention. Your brain is plastic but only in certain ways. You are much more likely to be able to rewire a part of your brain though focused attention.

Let's take an example. You want to learn to play the violin and you practice many hours each day. If you do this practice with focused attention you will change an area in your brain that corresponds to your left fingers, and that area will become larger and more developed as a result of your practicing with focused attention. But if you do the same amount of musical practice, but watch T.V. at the same time you will not change the brain in the same way, because the quality of your attention has been divided and distracted.

Attention matters.

5. Two Kinds of Attention As I teach mindfulness, I differentiate between two kinds of attention. In the Buddhist tradition we refer to these as Shamatha and Vipassana mindfulness practices. There is much we could say about these, but just to keep it simple, we could refer to these as one-pointed attention and open awareness. The practice of one-pointed attention allows you to land on one spot with precision. But there is also a further development in mindfulness practice that brings a broader, more open awareness. This awareness is relational, empathic and spacious. It is contextual.

Since we're talking about mindfulness here in terms of neuroscience, what's really interesting is that these two kinds of attention also seem to be built into our brains. Think about it. We have two hemispheres in our brain and so do most living creatures that have brains. Why would evolution do this? You'd imagine that over time, evolution would have grown our brains into one unified whole brain, but it didn't. So there must a reason evolution designed our brains to have two sides.

If you observe robins hunting for worms, or a sparrow picking up seeds from the ground, you may notice that they often tilt their heads. They may be using their right eye, which is connected to the left side of their brain for finding the worm or the seed amidst a vast array of textures, earth, pebbles and other objects that aren't food. As they've got their right eye pointing down towards the ground, their left eye, which is connected to the right side, is simultaneously pointing up towards the sky, scanning the horizon for danger and predators. Now you might begin to understand why evolution designed our brains this way. It seems that our brains are designed so that we can have these two kinds of attention at the same time. They both have different functions and they're both important.

So it seems that our left brain is designed to focus, to deal with what is predictable and what it knows. Whereas the right brain is designed to read the wholeness of the situation, to take in the gestalt and the context, to see something new or different and put it together. These are two different functions built into our brains. The left brain seems to prefer abstract and linear operations, and the right brain is more metaphorical, and connected to our body and our emotions.

When talking about this, it's easy to over simplify. A part of the brain can be damaged, and the other side can often take over that function. So our brains are indeed, plastic and amazingly flexible up to a point.

It wasn't so long ago that it was an unquestionable dogma in the neuroscience community that mind was nothing but the physical brain. And I suppose there are still many neuro-scientists that embrace this materialistic philosophy. But the moral implications of this belief for free will, choice and intention are depressing and unacceptable to anyone who has experienced the power of mindfulness.  We are indeed, fortunate that within the last 10 to 15 years, some brave and stubborn scientist have done enough clinical work to establish the efficacy of mindful attention for our happiness and well-being.

by Robert Althouse ©2014

Metta Prayer

This is what should be accomplished by the one who is wise.May I be well, loving, and peaceful. May all beings be well, loving, and peaceful. May I be at ease in my body, feeling the ground beneath my seat and feet, letting my back be long and straight, enjoying breath as it rises and falls and rises. May I know and be intimate with body mind, whatever its feeling or mood, calm or agitated, tired or energetic, irritated or friendly. Breathing in and out, in and out, aware, moment by moment, of the risings and passings. May I be attentive and gentle towards my own discomfort and suffering. May I be attentive and grateful for my own joy and well-being. May I move towards others freely and with openness. May I receive others with sympathy and understanding. May I move towards the suffering of others with peaceful and attentive confidence. May I recall the Bodhisattva of compassion; her 1,000 hands, her instant readiness for action. Each hand with an eye in it, the instinctive knowing what to do. May I continually cultivate the ground of peace for myself and others and persist, mindful and dedicated to this work, independent of results. May I know that my peace and the world's peace are not separate; that our peace in the world is a result of our work for justice. May all beings be well, happy, and peaceful.

written by Kushin Seisho Maylie Scott © 2000 Berkeley Zen Center

Fresh Start

January is the month you often feel inspired to make some kind of fresh start. Maybe it's that diet you've been trying to begin. Or maybe it the new gym you join to begin working out and taking care of your health. Perhaps you enroll for a class at our Zen Center or sign up for a class at a yoga studio. It's wonderful to use this time of year to get a fresh start on some aspect of your life. If you haven't already, I encourage you to seriously consider making  the practice of mindfulness meditation a regular routine.  It can have a profound and transformative impact on the quality of your life. Mindfulness can help every moment and every month be fresh and new.

Life can be challenging. You might have a very stressful job. You might be overwelmed by financial worries. You might feel down because your life has lost its purpose and meaning. These problems can weigh you down. You begin to feel stuck and something in your life begins to feel stagnant. Zen and mindfulness become important tools and practices for getting unstuck and moving forward again. It's like cleaning your house. If your office is too cluttered, if you clean it up, you'll immediately feel better. If your clothes are dirty you wash them and enjoy their fresh feeling on your skin. When you take a shower, you feel fresh and alive as you step out of the shower.

Mindfulness can also help you sweep out your mind. Your thoughts and feelings can drag you down. You may obsess and worry about a problem, and as you do this, your thoughts about this situation become very solid and large. Essentially, they become unworkable. Mindfulness helps you to come at these thoughts in a fresh way, with more spaciousness. And it's practice will help you work with those thoughts in a way that doesn't solidify them. In this way, it can bring a  freshness to the problem and give you a new way forward.

Zen and mindfulness are very direct and to the point. They help you appreciate this very moment where your life is actually taking place. In the singularity of this moment, you are whole and complete, and nothing is lacking. Everything in your life is constantly changing and shifting. You can begin to relax and be at home with this. The good news is that even your suffering is impermanent. The bad news is that the pleasures you try to hang onto are also changing constantly.

So while January may be here and its an excellent time to get a fresh start, from a Zen perspective, this moment of your life, regardless of the month, is always an opportunity to experience your life with new eyes and ears.

If you're looking for a place to find support for your burgeoning meditation practice, the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago offers you many opportunities for getting started.

Happy New Ears!

Robert Althouse