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Feel More Compassionate

Saturday, March 2nd, 2013

meditation increases compassion

meditation increases compassion

Maitryadisu balani

The cultivation of friendliness creates inner strength. (Yoga Sutra III.24)

We typically think of our emotional range as something that is fixed and unchanging—a reflection of the personality we’re born with. But research is revealing the possibility that we may be able to cultivate and increase our ability to feel the emotional state of compassion. Researchers have found that feeling connected to others is as learnable as any other skill. “We are trying to provide evidence that meditation can cultivate compassion, and that you can see the change in both the person’s behavior and the function of the brain,” Lutz says.

So what does compassion look like in the brain? To find out, Lutz and his colleagues compared two groups of -meditators—one group whose members were experienced in compassion meditation, and the other a group whose mambers were not—and gave them the same instructions: to generate a state of love and compassion by thinking about someone they care about, extend those feelings to others, and finally, to feel love and compassion without any specific object. As each of the participants meditated in-side the fMRI brain scanners, they were occasionally interrupted by spontaneous and unexpected human sounds—such as a baby cooing or a woman screaming—that might elicit feelings of care or concern.

All of the meditators showed emotional responses to the sounds. But the more experienced compassion meditators showed a larger brain response in areas important for processing physical sensations and for emotional responding, particularly to sounds of distress. The researchers also observed an increase in heart rate that corresponded to the brain changes. These findings suggest that the meditators were having a genuine empathic response and that the experienced meditators felt greater compassion. In other words, compassion meditation appears to make the brain more naturally open to a connection with others.

These meditation techniques may have benefits beyond the experience of spontaneous compassion. A study by psychology professor Barbara Fredrickson and her colleagues at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the University of Michigan, found that a seven-week lovingkindness meditation course also increased the participants’ daily experience of joy, gratitude, and hope. The more participants meditated, the better they felt. Participants also reported a greater sense of self-acceptance, social support, purpose in life, and life satisfaction, while experiencing fewer symptoms of illness and depression. This study provides strong evidence that chipping away at the illusion of separation can open us up to a far more meaningful connection to life.

adapted from Yoga Journal by Kelly McGonigal

Zen Timepiece, a brass singing bowl clock and timer for meditation

Zen Timepiece, a brass singing bowl clock and timer for meditation

Now & Zen

743 Pine St.

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, intention, Meditation Timers, mindfulness practice, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Well-being, Zen Timepiece by Now & Zen, Zen Timers


tranquillity of the body

Friday, March 1st, 2013
tranquillity

tranquillity

In Buddhism, passaddhi refers to tranquility of the body, speech, thoughts and consciousness on the path to enlightenment.  As part of cultivated mental factors, passaddhi is preceded by joy (pīti) and precedes concentration (samādhi).

adapted from wikipedia.org

Digital Zen Timers, a mindfulness practice tool

Digital Zen Timers, a mindfulness practice tool

Posted in Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Progressive Awakening, Yoga Timer


Mindfulness Meditation By Frank Jude Boccio

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
mindfulness meditation

mindfulness meditation

Put it into Practice.

Mindfulness requires concentration, but rather than concentrate on any one object, we concentrate on the moment and whatever is present in that moment.

To begin, take a comfortable seat.  Set your Zen Timer for 20 minutes.  Bring attention to your breath by placing your awareness at your belly and feeling it rise and fall. This will help you tune in to the sensorial presence of the body. Once you 
feel settled, widen your awareness to include all the sensations in your body as well as any thoughts or feelings.

Imagine yourself as a mountain. Some thoughts and feelings will be stormy, with thunder, lightning, and strong winds. Some will be like fog or dark, ominous clouds. Inhaling, note “mountain.” Exhaling, note “stable.” Use the breath to focus on the present moment; cultivate the ability to weather the storm. If you find yourself swept up in 
a thought or emotion, notice it and simply return to the breath. The key is to pay attention to the ever-changing process of thinking rather than to the contents of your thoughts. As you begin to see that they are indeed just thoughts, they will begin to lose their power. You will no longer believe everything you think! Continue to watch and become mindful of your thoughts, feelings, and sensations for 5 to 20 minutes.  Remember to set your Zen Timepiece to signal the end to this meditation.

adapted from Yoga Journal, by Kelly McGonigal

Zen Timepiece, a meditation timer with bowl/gong

Zen Timepiece, a meditation timer with bowl/gong

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, intention, Meditation Timers, Meditation Tools, mindfulness practice, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Well-being, Zen Timepiece by Now & Zen, Zen Timers


Buddhist Alarm Clock

Monday, January 28th, 2013
zen appreciation

zen appreciation

If you have been browsing on-line you may have seen a Google Ad-words for the search term “Buddhist alarm clock” that leads to our website www.Now-Zen.com.

“Buddhist Alarm Clock” is not a product name or search term we created, but instead one that people have been using on their own.  We are the makers of the world famous “Zen Alarm Clock” and although we are using the word “Zen” as part of our trademark, we are not trying to associate directly with Buddhism or any other organized religion. We have no control over “Buddhist Alarm Clock” being used by Google.

The founders of our company have great respect for the spiritual teachings and the aesthetic achievements of Buddhism, but we also respect and appreciate a wide variety of other spiritual paths as well. Zen is the name of an ancient form of Japanese Buddhism, but ever since Robert Pirsig’s famous book, Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, was published in 1974, the word “Zen” has come to have a larger meaning within American popular culture. Zen also connotes a sort of nondenominational metaphysical quality that transcends any particular spiritual forms or teachings. The word evokes the image of a beautiful rock garden or a weather beaten pine tree on a windswept mountainside.

The timeless aesthetics of Zen Buddhism did provide inspiration for our Zen Alarm Clock, but the design also arose from other influences, such as the sublime patterns of sacred geometry.  We thus use the word “Zen” in the name of our product as a kind of lighthearted tribute to progressive spiritual culture.  But, as we have been careful to explain over the 15 years we have been in business, we make products for both spiritual and non-spiritual people and we are not directly associated with Buddhism or any other specific form of spirituality.

Our motto is “quality of thought, stillness of being” and we hope that this is the kind of spiritual message that everyone can appreciate.

We apologize any confusion that the Ad-words search term “Buddhist Alarm Clock” may have caused. If you continue to have any questions at all, please contact us or visit www.now-zen.com for more information.

Posted in Chime Alarm Clocks, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Natural Awakening, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Progressive Awakening, zen


Mindful Walking, a Spiritual Practice

Sunday, January 27th, 2013
mindful walking

mindful walking

When you apply a few simple techniques, you can turn your daily walk into a rewarding practice.

What is mindful walking? It’s a technique that uses awareness of the mind/body connection to improve the quality of your walking experience on all levels. By approaching a walk in a mindful way, you make it a practice like yoga, meditation, or tai chi; every session brings new insights and challenges. As in yoga, you think about your body position, breathing, movements, and awareness, turning inward and outward at the same time. You’re working to get fit, and to improve your life as a whole. Treat walking as a practice, and it will become not only something you do with your legs but also a way to bring your mind, body, and spirit into balance.

Five Steps to Make Walking a Mindful Practice

Identify your intention. The key to any mindful activity, intention provides focus and motivation, elevating your practice from routine to ritual. What is your intention? To walk for an hour every day? To develop a sense of centeredness and calm? To reduce stress? Your goals and intentions will evolve as you evolve. Let them, as long as they keep you in line with your higher sense of purpose — and keep you moving forward.

Be consistent. A true practice requires ongoing attention. Of course, it’s natural to feel resistant at times, no matter what kind of activity you do. Your mind will create a thousand excuses not to walk today. Don’t let these passing thoughts distract you from your deeper intention. Get moving; start walking around your office or home, or wherever you are. You can quiet the mind by moving your body and get yourself back on track.

train your mind to focus

train your mind to focus

Train your mind to focus. The mind loves — and craves — engagement. Without something to focus on, it will tend to wander, taking your practice with it. By learning to focus, you will be able to walk more efficiently.

Listen to your body. As with any relationship, the connection between mind and body depends on how well one listens to the other. Our tendency is to try to rule the body with the brain; however, they are more like equal partners, offering feedback and direction as you go. Listen to what your body is trying to tell you by noticing any sensations that come up while you’re walking. You may feel energized as your leg muscles engage or relaxed as your breathing deepens. If you detect any complaint from your body, such as pain or discomfort, identify the source. Then make small adjustments in your technique and see whether the sensation lessens.

Embrace the process. Goals provide a greater context for your practice. But building patient awareness of the process is even more important. Sometimes walking will feel easy and rewarding; other times, more like a chore. As part of a mindful practice, you accept the challenge as part of the process and continue to stick with it. My tai chi master sees difficulty as an opportunity — a lesson to be learned. Accepting all of these parts of the process lies at the heart of making walking a mindful exercise.

adapted from Body + Soul Magazine, April/May 2006

Meditation Timer, The Digital Zen Alarm Clock in Solid Walnut

Meditation Timer, The Digital Zen Alarm Clock in Solid Walnut

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO 80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, mindfulness practice, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Uncategorized, Well-being, Zen Timers


The Wabi-Sabi Garden

Saturday, January 26th, 2013
zen-like garden, a perfect meditation space to use your Zen Meditation Timer

zen-like garden, a perfect meditation space to use your Zen Meditation Timer

A couple of years ago, I heard Diane Ackerman, who writes beautifully about gardens and gardening, discussing her ­passion on National Public Radio. She and the host agreed that our gardens reflect ourselves, our way of looking at life. I thought about my own garden, and I liked the idea. My lavender was just plumping with sweet-smelling buds, the vinca was fresh and green with perky purple flowers, and the peonies held promise in their tight little fists.

That was in June. By August, the thought of my wild, out-of-control garden reflecting anything about me was slightly horrifying. The lemon balm had run amok; the peony bush—never caged—was limp and trampled. In my backyard, a virulent type of Japanese knotweed had grown into a jungle. As it does every year, nature had taken its course in my yard, and I hadn’t managed to keep it in check. Oh, the temptation to just call it wabi-sabi and leave it at that. It was, after all, very natural in its untidy way.

But I know better. Wabi-sabi is tamed, subdued, and serene. I know that the natural gardens I inevitably fall for—which feel almost untouched by human hands—actually owe their serenity and peace to hours of hard labor. There’s a fine art to creating a garden that feels close to nature but also offers carefully thought-out spots for meditation and reflection, just the right combination of color and blooms throughout the season, and enough structure and muscle to provide interest even in December.  One where I can use my Zen Timepiece to each day to do my mindfulness practice.   A truly wabi-sabi garden is a creative endeavor of the highest sort. (And some day—when my kids are older and my work life slows down—I vow I’ll ac­complish that.)

Zen Timepiece with brass singing bowl, a meditation timer

Zen Timepiece with brass singing bowl, a meditation timer

I’m slowly working toward my wabi-sabi paradise by putting in plants that are native to my place: slightly weedy black-eyed Su­sans and columbine, wild rosebushes dug up from my neighbor’s yard, heat-loving yar­row. I’ve welcomed intruders, if they have something to offer and don’t get too pushy. The chokecherry that made its way down from the foothills near my house provides long, delicate white blossoms in springtime and brilliant red-orange leaves in the fall (great branches to bring inside). The mullein that planted itself in my flower garden is tough and phallic, but the bloom of tiny yellow flowers around its stalk in late summer expresses its feminine side.

These indigenous species, adapted to my brutal high-desert climate, can take care of themselves and manage to look good—even in August—without a lot of care and attention. The creative part, for me, is mapping out where they’ll thrive and how they’ll interact with each other and with the humans who visit. And this is where the wabi-sabi spirit really comes in. The wabi-sabi garden em­braces and enhances the delicate balance between nature and nurture. It’s not formal and prissy like an English garden—but it’s not overrun with lemon balm and knotweed. Plants are chosen because they belong in that garden, in that climate. They’re allowed to strut their stuff, but they’re expected to be considerate of the plants around them—or be tamed. Brash, blowsy blooms, which generally require a high degree of maintenance, are used sparingly, if at all.

Just as important as what plants are chosen and where they’re placed are the garden’s bones: the stones and pebbles used to create winding paths and delineations, the rusty iron gate beckoning entrance, the trellis teasing vines up its length. In this aspect, gardens offer all sorts of wabi-sabi opportunity. Place an old, broken-down chair in the flowerbeds; let the weather work its magic and the plants grow up around it until it seems rooted and organic to that place. Plant gourds in an old wheelbarrow and let them spill languidly over the sides. Build a stone wall; the very act of placing stone upon stone is a satisfying meditation. Create paths that encourage guests to meander, with stopping points where the vista is ideal.

With the right structure in place, the wabi-sabi garden is as beautiful—if not more so—in December as it is in June. The sculptural bare branches, brittle seedpods, and somber palette of the winter garden are as wabi-sabi as it gets. Stark and naked, the plants stand as vivid symbols of nature’s way: birth, death, rebirth. The blossoms of life are easy to admire; the quiet integrity of plants gathering energy for rebirth takes a deeper appreciation. A stroll through the garden in the dead of winter is a fine place to cultivate that depth.

Adapted from Natural Home Magazine, March/April 2005 Reprinted with permission from The Wabi-Sabi House: The Japanese Art of Imperfect Beauty by Robyn Griggs Lawrence (Clarkson Potter, 2004).

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Chime Alarm Clocks, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, wabi-sabi


Aromatherapy and Pure Essential Oils Promotes Sounder Sleep

Saturday, January 26th, 2013
Sleep sounder

Sleep sounder with pure essential oils

Studies indicate that certain aromas may promote sounder sleep, enhance dreaming, and improve awareness and receptivity the following day. EEG (electroencelphalogram) tests at the Smell & Taste Treatment and Research Center in Chicago indicate that lavender increases alpha wave activity in the posterior portion of the brain and helps induce sleep. “Alpha wave activity increases when you are relaxed,” says Alana Hirsch, M.D., medical director at the Center. “Put a few drops of lavender pure essential oils on your pillowcase before going to bed,” Hirsch recommends. Studies also show that vanilla helps people fall asleep quicker and promotes faster movement into the REM or dream state, he adds. In addition, research at the Society of Psychophysiological Research found that sleepers in jasmine-scented rooms enjoyed better quality sleep and morning-after alertness than those that slept in a non-scented room. To start sleeping sounder, purchase organic vanilla essential oil at your local natural food store or online at http://homespaorganics.com; pure essential oils of lavender and jasmine are also available at natural food stores and at www.aveda.com.  Sweet dreams…
adapted from Healing Lifestyles & Spas, Kyle Roderick, Sept./Oct. 2005
Bamboo Zen Alarm Clock with Chime

Bamboo Zen Alarm Clock with Chime

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Chime Alarm Clocks, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Natural Awakening, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Sleep Habits, Well-being


Korin

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2013

Irises by Ogata Korin Edo 1700s, Tokyo

Irises by Ogata Korin Edo 1700s, Tokyo

Ogata Kōrin (1658 –  1716) was a Japanese painter and lacquerer.

Zen Chime Alarm Clock, Digital Black Lacquer Chime Clock

Zen Chime Alarm Clock, Digital Black Lacquer Chime Clock

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Chime Alarm Clocks, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Meditation Tools, mindfulness practice, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Progressive Awakening, Zen Timers


wabi-sabi, a mindful approach to everyday life…

Friday, January 18th, 2013
the beauty of imperfection

the beauty of imperfection

Wabi and sabi refers to a mindful approach to everyday life.  Over time their meanings overlapped and converged until they are unified into Wabi-sabi, the aesthetic defined as the beauty of things “imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete”.

Things in bud, or things in decay, as it were, are more evocative of wabi-sabi than things in full bloom because they suggest the transience of things.  As things come and go, they show signs of their coming or going and these signs are considered to be beautiful.

In this, beauty is an altered state of consciousness and can be seen in the mundane and simple.  The signatures of nature can be so subtle that it takes a quiet mind and a cultivated eye to discern them. In Zen philosophy there are seven aesthetic principles for achieving Wabi-Sabi.

Fukinsei: asymmetry, irregularity

Kanso: simplicity

Koko: basic, weathered

Shizen: without pretense, natural

Yugen: subtly profound grace, not obvious

Datsuzoku: unbounded by convention, free

Seijaku: tranquility

Each of these things are found in nature but can suggest virtues of human character and appropriateness of behaviour. This, in turn suggests that virtue and civility can be instilled through an appreciation of, and practice in, the arts.  Hence, aesthetic ideals have an ethical connotation and pervades much of the Japanese culture.

adapted from wikipedia.org

Zen Alarm Clock, Ukiyo-e Hokusai Wave Dial Face

Zen Alarm Clock, Ukiyo-e Hokusai Wave Dial Face

Now & Zen Headquarter Store

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

(800) 779-6383

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Chime Alarm Clocks, Hokusai Wave, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, mindfulness practice, Natural Awakening, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Progressive Awakening, wabi-sabi


compassion

Thursday, January 17th, 2013

Iris Bath by Utagawa Toyohara, Ukiyo-e Print

Iris Bath by Utagawa Toyohara, Ukiyo-e Print

Compassion is that which makes the heart of the good move at the pain of others.  It crushes and destroys the pain of others; thus, it is called compassion.  It is called compassion because it shelters and embraces the distressed.

– The Buddha.

Bamboo Digital Chime Clock, a meditation timer and alarm clock

Bamboo Digital Chime Clock, a meditation timer and alarm clock

Now & Zen

1638 Pearl Street

Boulder, CO  80302

Posted in Bamboo Chime Clocks, Japanese Inspired Zen Clocks, Meditation Tools, mindfulness practice, Now & Zen Alarm Clocks, Progressive Awakening, Well-being


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