Overcoming Obstacles Series

Learn how to use Mindfulness to Liberate Yourself

American society today is facing serious and chronic problems on many levels. As political, social and economic institutions becoming increasingly dysfunctional, problems such as stress, burnout, cynicism, blue and white collar crime, overcrowded prisons, rampant unemployment, loss of homes and retirement savings heighten and intensify the feelings of fear, stress and worry.

Stress, for example, is a pervasive and chronic problem in America today. In 2007, an American Psychological Association study found that three-quarters of Americans experience symptoms of stress in a given month and that one-third of Americans feel they are living with extreme stress.

It is  a major contributing factor directly or indirectly to coronary artery disease, cancer, respiratory disorder, accidental injuries, cirrhosis of the liver and suicide, the six leading causes of death in the United States.

Stress can aggravate other existing conditions such as multiple sclerosis, diabetes, herpes, mental illness, alcoholism, drug abuse, and family conflict and violence. At work, stress often can lead to loss of productivity and low morale. 

Simply put, stress is a state of tension that arises from both external and internal sources. It is both additive and cumulative. It adds up over time until a crisis is reached and physical and psychological symptoms begin to appear. Common physical symptoms of stress include: muscle tension, headaches, low back pain, insomnia and high blood pressure. 

Overcoming Obstacles Series

Because of these widespread problems in our society today, the Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago has developed a new set of offerings called the Overcoming Obstacle Series (OOS).

Each series of 4-5 classes has a theme. They are not sequential; each class is designed to stand on its own which means you can choose to take just one or two or all of them. Of course, we still strongly recommend that you consider taking all of the classes to get the maximum benefit of learning, but it's solely your decision.

Series 1: Overcoming Stress, Worry, Anxiety and Anger

Instructor: Zen Master Robert Althouse

Class 1: Taking Care of the Self
Saturday, November 5, 2016, 1:00—2:30 pm

Do you find that your life seems to be out-of-balance? Do you lose track of taking care of yourself when you are under pressure or feel overwhelmed? Do you lose sleep and find yourself exhausted and irritable the next day?

If so, this class can offer you a way to restore the balance you need to sustain your life energies. It will help you learn how to regulate and discern what you need to do to maintain good health and well-being in the face of change and uncertainty. By teaching you how to be more mindful of the signals your own body is giving you, you'll learn ways to monitor your stress levels and how to take charge of your happiness.

The class will include a mindfulness body scan, some gentle stretching, tips and advice on good nutrition, diet and exercise. The class will introduce life style changes that can help you slow down, feel more grounded, and ensure that you get a sound and full nights sleep so that you can face the next day with renewed energy, focus and clarity.

Class 2: Disarming Negative Thoughts and Emotions
Saturday, November 12, 2016, 1:00—2:30 pm

When difficulties arise do you habitually stress, worry and obsess over them? Are you plagued by a busy and self-defeating mind that won't stop? Do you struggle with strong emotions such as anger? Does your inner critic tire you out and wear you down?

If so, this class will help you begin approaching your thoughts and negative emotions more mindfully. You'll learn how to acknowledge and approach these experiences without getting trapped by them.

The class will include a loving-kindness and a guided meditation that teaches you how to calm your overactive mind and transform your toxic emotions into a wiser, healthier and happier outlook for yourself.

Class 3: Resolving Differences with Others Mindfully
Saturday, November 19 2016, 1:00—2:30 pm

Are you terrified of conflict? Do you avoid it at all costs? Do conflicts and disagreements with others create stress and anxiety in your life? Unfortunately, avoiding conflict can cause as much stress as facing it.

This class will offer you a way to approach conflict with more confidence that lessens stress in you and with others. The class will train you to use speech wisely and to listen deeply and mindfully to others.

The class will include powerful Compassionate Communication exercises and techniques for disarming anger in yourself and others, thereby facilitating clearer and more empathic communication that lessens stress for yourself and others.

Class 4: Conquering Fear of the Unknown
Saturday, November 26, 2016, 1:00—2:30 pm

Have you recently passed a major milestone in your life? Perhaps you've lost a loved one or have been diagnosed with a life-threatening disease. Are you facing the loss of a job or home or living alone after years of family life?

Life can throw you some unpleasant curves. Given the natural tendency of imagining the worst case scenario, the fear of the unknown looms its head and paralyzes you with anxiety.

This class will show you how to approach your fear and remain present with those experiences in your life that are uncertain and ambiguous. A Big Mind process will help you put your life back into perspective and begin facing the unknown with more fearlessness, humor, confidence and flexibility.

Workshop: Overcoming Stress, Worry, Anxiety and Anger
Saturday, December 3, 2016, 1:00—2:30 pm

This workshop will bring together and consolidate the teachings and practices presented in the previous four classes of this series. It will emphasize the power of applying mindfulness awareness to all areas of our daily lives from our personal experience to our interpersonal relationship and to our relationship to the larger society and world around us.

The workshop will review and strengthen effective practices and solutions for addressing the chronic suffering of stress, worry, anxiety and anger that is so pervasive in our culture today.


Classes will be taught by Zen Master Robert Althouse. Althouse has been practicing Zen for over 40 years and teaching for 20 years. Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue will help teach the first class of this series, "Taking Care of the Self" since she has a wealth of experience and wisdom in this area.

While there are no prerequisites for the Overcoming Obstacle Series, its highly recommended that you take Primers 1 - 3.


$35/class, $125/series for nonmembers and $110 for members.

Register for a class or the Series Today


Series 2: Overcoming Obstacles for Women: Cultivating Feminine Wisdom

This simple series of classes is designed to address relevant issues in the daily lives of women. The classes will have lecture, discussion, and interactive practices including the following elements:

  • Meditation instruction and practice
  • Mindfulness practices based on neuroscience research
  • Zen Precepts translated into values for living your spiritual life
  • Council Circle


Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue

Class 1: Owning Women's Collective History and Moving Forward 

Are you at a place in your life where you know that there is "more to it," yet you can't seem to put your finger on what "it" is? Are you feeling stuck in habitual patterns of thought that you wish you could change?

We'll shine light on roles women have played throughout history and learn how these roles may still be present in our lives. We'll explore how we can embrace them and flower forth into a new future.

Class 2: Facing Life with Courage and a New Perspective 

When challenges arise, do you automatically find yourself overreacting with anger, fear or jealousy? Do you have an inner critic that just won't stop making judgments about yourself or others? Do you need affirmation from others to feel good about yourself? Runaway emotions and low self-esteem can play havoc in our lives if we let them.

You'll learn how to work with these challenges through a deeper presence with your own self that cultivates fearlessness and compassion.

Class 3: Trusting Your Awakened Nature 

Are you ever afraid of being alone? Are you compulsively busy? You'll learn about neuroscience and the importance of a sitting practice to quiet the mind. You'll also learn about how to release patterns of inertia like procrastination.

We'll practice 'pauses that refresh' and walking meditation as well as guidance for the unfolding of your inner wisdom through a longer sitting meditation.

Class 4: Cultivating Integrity and Creating Our Future Together 

Are you really who you present yourself to be? Through Council Circle, we'll explore integrity as the ground of who we are. We'll acknowledge shadow issues of power and status. We'll look at how honesty toward self and others encourages true relationship.

Through shared values and common practices, we'll begin to realize a circle of awakened women who know who they are and support and strengthen one another. And we'll learn how to carry this forward with confidence into our daily lives.

Workshop: Overcoming Obstacles: Cultivating Feminine Wisdom

This workshop will bring together and consolidate the teachings and practices presented in the previous four classes of this series. It will emphasize the power of applying mindfulness awareness to all areas of our daily lives, from our personal experience to our interpersonal relationships and on to the larger society.

Cost:  $30/class, $125 series for nonmembers and $110 for members.

While there are no prerequisites for the Overcoming Obstacle Series, its highly recommended that you take Primers 1 - 3.

Cost: $35/class, series costs $125 for nonmembers, $110 for members