It is so easy to get stuck in patterns of fear, oppression, or habits of mind. Whether you are teaching a class in physics, calculus, creative writing or science or working in social justice and human potential sometimes the solution, answer or outcome we are searching for doesn’t seem obvious; either for the community or for your self. In fact, at times it can feel nearly impossible and unreachable to come to a settled place. Even the thought of moving from stuck and paralyzed, from not knowing how to take the next step, or realize what the next step is can feel daunting. This work, of mindful self-awareness can help open the heart and gain perspective.
Unstuck...from Inaction to Action Research indicates that use of guided visualizations deepens the connection to our subconscious mind and can improve our visualization skills, which can help to improve right brain thinking. Guided visualizations also strengthen the connection between the right and left hemispheres of our brains, leading to more holistic or ‘whole brain’ thinking.
Here are what I see as the key steps to creating an environment on campus where students can “cross borders” and reach a place of genuine understanding and connection. I believe these principles are relevant to any classes or other on-campus forums aimed at fostering inclusion and positive cross-group relationships; I hope instructors for other courses also consider how to incorporate some of these principles into their work.
It is often said that we teach what we need to learn. Nowhere in my teaching career have I found this to be more the case than in my creation and implementation of a new course for our university’s curriculum titled, Sociology of the Body.
In my role as the Contemplative Life Advisor at Hampshire College, I support students to practice, develop and integrate meditation, mindfulness, and related principles of awareness and compassion into their lives. This includes reflecting on key systemic forms of suffering, particularly oppression, climate disruption and other environmental damage, and potential remedies/right actions of social justice and sustainability.
This activity helps students see the significance of partial perspectives; that every one of them sees the world through a particular lens, a lens that is shaped by their identity location. We get a more complete story by placing them in dialogue with one another.
If you haven’t heard: it has been a challenging year to inhabit a Black body as social media and cyber-activism have allowed us to witness the ongoing assaults against Black bodies on American streets, in parks, in the aisles of big-box stores, during traffic stops and in an array of public and private spaces.
Deep listening is a contemplative practice that assists us with dropping our habitual story lines so that we can genuinely engage with other people and the world around us. It is a practice of listening with an open mind, suspending our tendency to immediately label, analyze, critique, or organize the information that we are receiving. It is a more experiential approach to hearing in which we don’t just hear what the voice is saying, we hear the quality of the voice itself.
Watch Professor Rhonda Magee's powerful keynote talk at the "Meeting the World" conference hosted by The Center for Mindfulness in the Spring, 2015. In her presentation, she both leads us through practices to sit with discomfort and find some grounding and explains why these practices are so critical to both dismantling systems of oppression and healing from them.