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.
Research shows that mindfulness practices help us focus, give us greater control over our emotions, and increase our capacity to think clearly and act with purpose. Might mindfulness assist police and other public servants in minimizing the mistaken judgments that lead to such harms? Might they help the rest of us—professors and deliverymen alike—minimize our biases as well?
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.
When people first hear terms like “mindfulness” or “contemplative,” it is common for images of cross-legged silent meditation or perhaps uttering “Om” to be conjured in the listener’s mind. This is a stereotype of course, and like others, it is constructed from things that actually happen (i.e. seeing someone cross-legged and meditating and/or chanting) and then extrapolated into a caricature of reality.
Oppression causes deep wounds, both individually and collectively. It results in deeply held grief and sadness, much of which emerges when we discuss issues of oppression in social justice classrooms. Part of healing as individuals and as communities is to acknowledge those wounds and begin to heal that grief. Doing so will take time and many different paths, but pretending that it isn't present in our classrooms only makes it stronger.