Mindfulness and Racial Bias: Resources For Deeper Understanding

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In early December 2015, Mind and Life was honored to host a live chat with MLI Fellow and Law Professor Rhonda Magee that explored the following theme:

Many who examine the growth of the field of contemplative practice see it as coming only from straight, middle-class whites and corporate America. How might we work to shift that perception and to broaden the reach of our work? What practices can assist us in deepening our understanding of these criticisms and lessen “mindful bypassing?”  

The hour-long chat included periods of meditation and a lively question and answer section. One question that was asked during the chat concerned insights about how to approach the topics of mindfulness in minority communities. From Rhonda’s response, which can be watched here:

“From my perspective, we are engaged in a kind of a deep effort to find ways of reaching everyone and to find ways of bringing these supportive practices to bear wherever they might be useful…and that work looks differently in different places.”

Rhonda suggested a number of resources such as this study, “Mindfulness equity and Western Buddhism: reaching people of low socioeconomic status and people of color” by Harrison Blum.

Additional resources by Rhonda include:

The Way of ColorInsight: Understanding Race and Law Effectively Through Mindfulness-Based ColorInsight Practices, to be published in Spring 2016 by the Georgetown Journal of Modern Critical Race Perspectives.

Teaching Mindfulness with Mindfulness of Diversity for a forthcoming book Resources for Teaching Mindfulness: A Cross-Cultural and International Handbook, eds. Don McCown and Diane Riebel.

How Mindfulness Can Defeat Racial Bias published by the Greater Good Science Center. 

 

 

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Meditation: It’s Not What You Think

Think you can’t meditate? Mind and Life’s resident neuroscientist explores some popular misconceptions surrounding meditation, and reasons to keep trying.

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DSC_0132_crop2When I explain to someone that I’m involved in research on meditation, it’s not uncommon for me to hear, “Oh, meditation—I tried that. I couldn’t do it.”

This response brings up a mix of emotions in me that is equal parts sadness and frustration, with a heaping dose of motivation on top.

Sadness because people have experienced meditation in a negative light and come to associate it with a sense of failure. Frustration because that association often stems from pervasive cultural misunderstandings about what meditation is (and how it should feel when you practice). And motivation: to change this misperception, so those who are interested can experience the benefits that accompany a meditation practice.

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Arming Introspection

Does meditation make a more ethical soldier, or a more dangerous one?

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When Buddhist-based contemplative practices burgeoned in popularity in the United States and Europe during the 1950s and 60s, their central tenets were often disregarded in universities as New Age frivolity. Departments of religion and philosophy made some allowances for their study, but the same open-mindedness rarely occurred in “respectable” laboratories of psychology, cognitive science, or neuroscience.

Since then, a major shift has occurred, and the question is no longer about the scientific value of contemplative studies but instead on how they should be implemented. Should public schools be teaching meditation? Should prisons? Corporations? Why or why not? What are the major differences, if any, between learning how to meditate in a Zen center versus being taught mindfulness by a human resources manager? And what about the military? Read More