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Mindfulness of Race

Graduating from the Mindfulness Facilitator Training, I feel that I’m part of an emerging wave of engaged mindfulness. If you applied for the next cohort starting in September, your year-long training would culminate in designing an Introduction to Mindfulness for a population you chose. Among my peers, I witnessed creative, wide-ranging innovations for this assignment. One project will bring mindfulness and compassion to bankers while another did so for students in an inner city school. One addressed insomnia, while another dealt with drug addiction.

With whom do you work?

Who do you serve?

What issues are you most passionate about?

Could you imagine how a mindfulness-based training could benefit people at your work or community?

Considering this question myself, I realize there are so many directions I could go. Could mindfulness support those harmed by domestic violence? What about connecting mindfulness with dance, my favorite leisure activity? I ultimately chose to develop curriculum for a nonprofit I founded. Like many people, we are committed to improving the quality of our service, the effectiveness of our work, the fluidity of our collaboration and our sense of inclusion and diversity. Mindfulness can help with all of these.

In the process, I reviewed the rich Mindfulness Facilitator Training faculty videos and resources, including those that that emphasize the voices of people of color. In her video,  Rev. angel Kyodo williams differentiates between mindfulness based on the basic human quality of relationship versus a neurotic mindfulness in which we merely apply our practice in a self-centered way to areas in which we are already comfortable. Mushim Ikeda shares strategies and community agreements that proved successful for building a diverse, inclusive community at the East Bay Meditation Center.

Our reading assignments helped frame lessons from faculty in the context of research. According to John A. Powell Ph.d is the Director of the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society at UC Berkeley, “Research has uncovered overwhelming evidence that conscious egalitarian goals are often undermined by deeply rooted implicit biases.” Social psychologists have observed that even when people profess being more or less colorblind, anxiety resulting from encountering racial Others results in people

  • arranging seats farther apart than they otherwise might
  • over-anticipating disagreement and conflict
  • avoiding potentially charged topics that actually lead to deeper understanding.

Fortunately, research shows that mindfulness can interrupt the link between past experience and impulsive responding. This has been demonstrated in a variety of circumstances, including reducing automatic bias against blacks and older adults. EMI faculty Rhonda Magee’s Colorinsight practices introduce several mindfulness-based techniques for reducing bias and experiencing connection across real and perceived lines of difference.

If you would like to use mindfulness to create inclusive and welcoming environments, or address a number of other needs in your community, please consider applying today to join the Mindfulness Facilitator Training starting next fall.

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