getting unstuck, mindful living, mindfulness, Racism, self-help

Mindfulness of White Privilege

protesters holding signs

 

In this present moment in 2020, protest marches, vigils, and extensive media coverage are bringing awareness of racism and racial injustice to the forefront.  But what happens when, in the weeks, months, and years to come, the visibility recedes, and sense of urgency subsides?  What will ensure that the demands for justice, equity, and the dismantling of the systems that perpetuate racism actually bring about a society that promotes opportunity, welfare, and well-being for all?  I believe that mindfulness has a crucial role to play in raising and maintaining awareness of White privilege, and preventing it from continuing to influence the individual behaviors of White people, and the systems – judicial, educational, economic, healthcare, and so many more – that have benefitted White people, at the expense of Black people, since the founding of our country.

I remember the day in graduate school, over 2 decades ago, when the professor teaching the required course that, I believe, was called “Diversity”, handed out copies of Peggy McIntosh’s article titled White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.  I found the article so powerful.  I believed that by learning about and being moved by my recognition of White privilege, I would be forever immune to the scourge that is racism. I have carried a copy of this article to each of the various positions and offices I’ve occupied and have shared it many times when it has been relevant to the conversation.  As I listen and learn from today’s voices, I realize that intermittent “aha” moments, as well as my best intentions to be a “good person”, are far from sufficient.

Many claims are made about the practice of mindfulness and its benefits to physical and emotional well-being.  It is defined by Jon Kabat-Zinn as “the awareness that arises from paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.”   I have thought about and practiced mindfulness to become more intentional in so many other facets of my life that were previously ruled more by habit and the feelings of the moment than by the values that I espouse.  Based on my experiences using mindfulness to make significant changes in many of my personal and professional habits, it is clear to me that mindfulness can and must play a crucial role in preventing racism from influencing  my behaviors (aware that NOT doing something that SHOULD be done is a “behavior”) related to social justice.  I am going to need to commit daily, and re-commit throughout the day, to being aware of thoughts and assumptions I may have because of the culture of White privilege in which I was raised, aware of opportunities to extend the rights and privileges I enjoy as a White person to others, and aware of systemic inequities that favor White people over Black and other non-White people if I am to consistently behave in ways that are aligned with the truth that we are all equal, as opposed to the racist fiction that White people are superior, more deserving, etc.   I will also need to be aware of, and accountable for, times when I unmindfully engage in behaviors through force of habit or the feelings of the moment that are racist or supportive of racism.

I have been most successful in remembering to be mindful when I have found or created a visual cue – an inspiring quote that I have copied on a post-it and placed next to my keyboard, a poignant comic taped on the wall above my desk, a phrase on the white board on my refrigerator.  I am currently reading  How to be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi , which would be an excellent visual cue to wake up to on my nightstand if not for the fact that it I am reading it digitally, on my Kindle.  Having been made aware of the potential to contribute towards economic equity by supporting Black owned businesses, I ordered the next book on my reading list, White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo from the Black-owned Frugal Bookstore in Boston.  In the meantime, I will leave a printed copy of this blog on my nightstand to serve as a visual cue to keep racism in the forefront of my awareness.  If the current passion for social justice is joined by sustained mindfulness that leads to consistent challenging and dismantling of racist institutions, I am hopeful for a more just and equitable future for all.

To read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, go to:  https://www.racialequitytools.org/resourcefiles/mcintosh.pdf

To read more about mindfulness from Jon Kabat Zinn, go to: https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/blog/details/511/mindfulness-and-awareness-according-to-jon-kabat-zinn

To order from Frugal Bookstore, go to:  https://frugalbookstore.net/

getting unstuck, mindful living, mindfulness, self-help

Set your GPS for Successful New Year’s Resolutions

smartphone car technology phone
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The New Year’s Eve ball has dropped, 2019 has begun, and we’re returning to “life as usual” after the disruption of routines that occurs during the holiday season.  For many, making resolutions for the new year – often related to habits that we would like to change – is a tradition associated with this place in the calendar.  Unfortunately, the pull of habits acquired in previous years is strong.  A number of people who would like to make changes eschew resolution-making as a set up for certain failure.  Perhaps by approaching resolutions differently, rather than abandoning hope, we can benefit from this age-old practice.

The “all-or-nothing” mentality created by the concept of “keeping” or “breaking” resolutions is a set up for failure.  If we have to be perfect in keeping our resolution, failure is likely.  If we accept that there will be mis-steps, and that each moment is an opportunity to either stray further from the new path we are choosing, or take a step that leads us back towards that new path, the resolution is still guiding us.

Mindfulness, awareness of what we are feeling, thinking, and experiencing in the present, is like a GPS – tracking our progress moment-by-moment, and suggesting a way to get back on track whenever we go astray.  Some simple mindfulness-based practices for effective resolutions include:

  • Starting the day with a reminder of the change you would like to make
  • Visualizing yourself engaging in the desired behavior
  • Noticing when you are vulnerable – feeling tired, under the weather, stressed – and give yourself the compassion and self-care that you would offer to a loved one who is in need of some kindness
  • Accepting recurrences of undesired behaviors as normal “bumps in the road”, or detours on the road to the desired behavior, rather than failure
  • Re-committing to the desired behavior NOW, rather than tomorrow, next Monday, next year….

Best wishes for your 2019 journey towards the person you want to become!