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 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 2: Overcoming Obstacles for Women: Cultivating Feminine Wisdom

The Zen Life & Meditation Center of Chicago has developed a set of offerings called Overcoming Obstacles. This series is designed specifically for women and will address mindful awareness of the body, the impact and management of emotions and compassionate and skillful communication. You will learn ways to move forward in decision-making and standing your ground with assurance, dignity and joy.

What is it to be a woman in the twenty-first century? Although gains for women have been made in recent decades, many challenges such as stress and burn-out intensify worries, anxieties and fears. We question our personal and work-related effectiveness as we undermine ourselves with self-judgement. We are stretched and stressed to the maximum. Stress is a leading cause of heart and auto-immune diseases, headaches, depression and obesity. Simply put, stress is a state of tension that adds up over time until we recognize that we need help learning to manage our own lives more mindfully.

The series will be co-taught by Sensei June Tanoue, MPH and Susan Sensemann, MFA. Each class of four in the series 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 recommend that you take all of the classes to get the maximum benefit of learning.

As women, we may fear our own voices in establishing boundaries and expressing our needs. Can we learn to accept ourselves as we are? Along with “finding a home within,” can we discern healthy changes to make in our perceptions and patterns of behavior? Can we live fearlessly with an open heart?

Each class has two main sections that will include teaching points along with experiential exercises (body scan, drawing, writing, movement, role playing, improvisational games). No experience is necessary, just a willingness to take a deeper dive into teaching points from the Foundation series. Meditation and journaling for 21 days will strengthen your practice and give you practical skills for being a proactive woman in today’s rapidly changing world.  


Sensei June Ryushin Tanoue and Susan Keijo Sensemann

Class 1: Body: Somatic Awareness 

Does your life seem out of balance? Do you feel overwhelmed, exhausted and stuck in habitual patterns? Have you lost track of your body, yourself? 

We will explore ways to restore balance to your life by attending to the wisdom of the body. This class will focus on the body’s effect on the mind: bottom up rather than top-down awareness. You will learn ways to explore using mindfulness to pay attention to the signals that our body gives us to slow down. You will learn ways to develop your natural abilities to make positive change.

Class 2: Mind: Radical Acceptance 

When difficulties arise, do you habitually stress, worry and obsess over them? Does your inner critic wear you out and prevent you from moving forward creatively? Do you struggle with strong emotions such as anger or sadness? Are you impacted by self-judgments? Do you seek affirmation from others to feel good about yourself? Are you overwhelmed by playing the “good girl”?

We will focus on thoughts and emotions through an acceptance of what they are revealing. Through mindfulness exercises, you will learn to “get in touch with” potent emotions such as fear, anger, sadness, shame, and jealousy. You’ll learn the importance of establishing boundaries as we discuss self-care as the first-step in living a fully clear-sighted and joyful life.

Class 3: Speech: Connecting and Communicating Skillfully

Are you afraid of conflict? Do you avoid it through passive acceptance or emotional reactions? Do conflicts in your life with family, friends, co-workers or socio/political situations tire you out and wear you down? Do you jump into a defensive or offensive behaviors when met with disagreement? Can you learn to be proactive and not reactive?

In this class, we will explore tools for resolving conflict with discernment through reflective listening and proactive self-advocacy

Class 4: Spirit: Metta and Courage 

Do you wonder about your larger purpose in life? Can you strengthen your resolve to open your heart to situations as they arise? Can you conquer fear of the unknown? What are the roots of suffering and how can you practice the antidotes to pain of body, speech and mind? What’s the ‘ego’ got to do with it?

In this class, we will discuss and practice strategies personal empowerment. You will learn skills for living a more open-hearted life with compassion for self and others. This class will emphasize the benefits of mindfulness awareness in all areas of your daily lives including personal experience, interpersonal relationships and your wider communities.

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 Foundation Classes 1 - 3.

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