This past week has once again reminded us of the horrific injustices and violence inflicted upon people of color in our country and around the world. As a nation, and as a global society, we must continue to dig in and engage in the arduous work of uncovering and stamping out racism in all of its forms. Now, more than ever, social action is needed. In order for it to bring about true change, it must be sustained. And it must be done mindfully.
When it comes to social action, mindfulness is often dismissed. One of the criticisms of mindfulness and other related contemplative practices is that it turns one’s attention inward, disconnecting them from the outside world and the plight of others. While the internal benefits of mindfulness practice have been lauded, I would argue that mindfulness is not only a helpful component of social justice practice, but an essential one.
Mindfulness promotes awareness, not just of ourselves, but of the surrounding world. As we engage in mindfulness practice, over time, our minds settle, allowing for a newfound clarity to emerge. With more pristine vision, we are able to unearth the root causes of our social challenges and engage in more effective change efforts.
These practices are not meant to inhibit thinking but rather encourage an observation of our thoughts and feelings. At HLF, we follow each breathing exercise with an internal assessment to help us note how we feel in our bodies and minds. If we notice we are feeling angry and upset upon the events and conditions in our world, we may feel more compelled to act.
Mindfulness also promotes compassion and empathy for ourselves and others. At the Holistic Life Foundation, we place a considerable emphasis on teachings and exercises to develop this compassion. We fully believe that “Love is the most powerful force in the Universe” and it takes dedicated practice to manifest this love for ourselves and each other.
Racism and oppression are traumatizing. Mindfulness and meditation offer a powerful set of tools to cope with and heal the damage wrought by this trauma. Regardless of the personal impact that racism and other social ills have on oneself, self-care is critical when engaging in efforts to affect social change. We cannot be effective agents of change if we are not functioning at full-strength due to feeling overwhelmed or stressed.
For some, racism and police brutality are unavoidable realities. As a white person with privilege, I am not subjected to such treatment. Mindfulness and meditation are practices that can help me recognize my own implicit biases. In the fight for justice, well-intentioned allies must be mindful of how they interact with others to not to perpetuate injustice and trauma.
If we approach each moment with compassion for ourselves, our fellow citizens and the natural world, we will naturally engage in actions that help dismantle the systems, institutions and attitudes that continue to oppress and harm people of color and other minority groups.