In her book “Mindful of Race,” author, educator, and meditation teacher Ruth King writes, “When we begin to notice the constellations instead of just the stars, we can see the patterns of harm toward aboriginal and native people, dark bodies, and immigrants.”
“These struggles interconnect,” she adds. To create more compassionate communities, ”we all must think about things together that appear to be separate.”
To deepen Mind & Life’s commitment to anti-racism, representatives of our senior leadership, Board, and Steering Council recently completed a yearlong leadership training through Ruth’s Mindful of Race Institute. The program invited participants to look deeply at their racial histories, use contemplative practice to connect to their experiences, and lead with compassion and awareness of identified patterns.
The training provided space for deep reflection in race identified groups. Together, members found connection and support in exploring their relationships to systemic patterns of oppression. Said Mind & Life Board member Aaron Stern, “This program helped me become aware of a racist-derived, deep internal cognitive dissonance between my true, loving interest to reach out to know the ‘other’ and the prevailing social messaging throughout my life that taught me to fear and dismiss the ‘other.’”
Foundational to the success of this work was trust in the process and in the group itself. Through monthly themes (like false refuge and structural racism and leadership), personal inquiry, and group discussions, and with Ruth’s leadership, individuals gained the confidence needed for this deep work to evolve. Trust enabled participants to reflect on their personal narratives around racial history and relationships, and ask probing questions like “what’s not in this story?”
“The group helped me dive deeper into nuances I hadn’t yet explored, which I couldn’t have done without their encouragement and trust,” says Mind & Life Steering Council member Bobbi Patterson.
Towards the end of the program, each member of the group was asked to create a racial memoir using journaling, poems, or collage, among other options, to thoughtfully express racial awakenings discovered throughout the program.
While most opted to write their reflections, Bobbi seized the opportunity to explore art. “I spent my life writing single-spaced papers,” she says. “I just couldn’t do that for this work. Something in me was getting quickened at a deeper level, and it felt like art could keep that process going.”
Using a friend’s art studio filled with magazine scraps, tissue paper, and paints, Bobbi started to tell the story of her Southern Presbyterian family rooted in the Southeast dating back to the 1640s. The collage inspired her to dig through old newspaper clippings and photographs, rich with stories of her family, their community, and their relationship to racial histories in the American South.
“This group encouraged me to bear witness to my own process of digging deeper and revisiting the history of my family,” she adds.
The Mindful of Race training aims to transform patterns of oppression and racism from the inside out. From personal discoveries and internal growth, Mind & Life’s leadership has deepened its commitment to the organization’s role in recognizing and repairing these patterns.
“The program helped uncloud my perception,” said Aaron Stern. “I found an opportunity both to see and share deeply with others an unbinding of the cognitive dissonance I felt throughout my life.”
Moving forward will take many forms for participants and for Mind & Life. The group sees the need to listen deeply, engage diverse perspectives, and acknowledge how power and privilege show up in their everyday lives and leadership roles.
Mind & Life President, Susan Bauer-Wu reflects: “The Mindful of Race training opened our eyes; it put a fire under us and allowed us to get real. To move the needle it’s critical to engage people who are knowledgeable and can guide us on this journey.”
The unfolding path to collective well-being is a long and complex journey, and we hope you’ll join us in this ongoing work to ask questions, dig deeper, and look beyond the stars to seek out the constellations.