In a recent discussion at the end of the Mindfulness for Social Change meditation class, we shared about diversity and how it is seen in various ways. The impetus was the excerpts that I read from Sharon Salzberg’s book Real Change in Chapter 7. Our Mindful Book Group will be discussing this book starting in September.
Our sharing occurred around the idea of the awareness of our embodied self. If we are to see others more clearly, we have to see beyond. Now, we recite how we are dedicated to loving everyone, but assumptions about race, for example, can still be buried deep without our cognizance.
One person shared how they were in reverse racism when living in another country that was not the US. Another shared their own experience with racism just from the time of COVID-19 and the unsafe feelings that arose. Another shared about their physical disability in a wheelchair and their challenges with dealing with insensitive people when out in public.
Our stereotyping and prejudices can come in other ways as well. If we look at someone different from us, say financially, does a reaction arise? What about a differently abled person? Ageism? Gender? Medically? Politically? Spiritually?
How about, as I spoke to the group, the prejudice in wellness and yoga spaces with someone with a larger body?
As one who is in a larger body than I used to be these days and owning a studio, there are moments where I feel the discrimination imagined or real in my mind when potential students or clients contact me and arrive for a session.
Do I have to present as a shield my list of health challenges that has caused my body to take on a shape it did not have in the past? Interesting right?
I was raised by a mother who focused on appearances outwardly to everyone, no matter who or what they were. Body shapes, financially, clothing, and then later in life, she became more prejudicial racially.
When she moved into racial prejudice, like the other situations, it was quite uncomfortable, especially as I was raising my own children to be open-minded, compassionate and speak for social justice. I shared with the group the various conscious efforts I had made. I am proud to witness my oldest, who has our two grandchildren, now to be doing the same as I did for her.
Being on either of the sides of these issues shows us our own assumptions that we may have in different areas, some our minds may be nodding in agreement against racism, but what of the others? Are we truly committed to eliminating our own stubbornness in seeing injustices?
Scroll through an Instagram or Facebook feed and what do you see? What arises within you? Notice where the mind goes. Are their deeper patterns? Can you acknowledge those?
With mindfulness we have the space to break out of our habitual perceptions and take action. Mindfulness can help dissolve, as Sharon Salzberg says, the habits of stereotyping and attribution bias. The principle of mindfulness training, she says, is that clearly seeing our assumptions will deconstruct them.
This is what I have found in my own mindfulness practice. I am willing to uncover the areas where there may be unconscious bias. If even to myself, as I shared earlier, in the wellness, meditation and yoga spaces. Instead of being concerned with others’ opinions about me and if I am the “perfect” example of what I teach in a physical form, how am I discriminating against myself and comparing myself to others?
Our own harsh judgment towards ourselves also holds us back. Offering compassion to ourselves when we criticize our skin, body, and other attributes, as well as when we have mistaken thoughts about anyone else is crucial to our growth. Mindfulness helps us to make peace with ourselves.
Sharon’s book is needed for our times. It combines interview with individuals from all over the world working on social change and how mindfulness fits in.
If you are interested in joining with us in September, we have two meetings available. The meetings are every other week, either on the Fridays at 12:00 pm CT or the Saturdays at 9:00 am CT. Anyone is welcome to attend and share in the discussion and what arises because of our reading and practice. Sign up at https://mindfulbookgroup.com The groups are held online with Zoom with myself and my collaborator, Sarah.
The recordings from the Mindfulness for Social Change class are available at this link. Group members will receive the meditations each time we meet.
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