People in cities in America – and other countries around the globe in solidarity – have taken to the streets to protest against the systemic inequalities that led to the death of George Floyd a few days ago. The unjust death of another black American, has brought the fault lines of deep tension around race that are still written into society forth, to be played out on the streets.
Meanwhile here in Mow Cop on the Staffordshire/Cheshire border, the birds are chirping, the sun is shining and its breakfast time soon. As I go about my lockdown days, issues around social justice and racism keep coming up and here at the Mindfulness Association we are living with the question of how our mindfulness skills can be put to good use in this area where so much suffering is created.
I feel a fault line running through my heart which reflects the tension on the streets. As I turn towards this tension, I’m aware of a strange cocktail of heartache and intense discomfort. Is it a wish to hide? It may be shame-related. It certainly feels like I’d rather push it back under the carpet. I think I feel exposed as ignorant and somehow complicit. That’s a yucky feeling.
This may be the feeling that many of us want to avoid as white people witnessing racism and perhaps beginning, as I am, to understand more of our conditioning in relation to it. It may be the feeling that makes some of us almost impenetrably resistant to really looking at this. It may be the feeling that stops us doing what we could do to become more aware of systemic injustice, even when the opportunity is offered. This all feels complicated, why bother with it? I don’t need to get involved with it, do I?
And haven’t I always been committed to anti-racist views as evidenced by the story of my life, my friends from different ethnicities, my community work in London, my gap year volunteer work? Yet, none of this means that I’m not deeply conditioned to make subliminal assumptions based on out of sight beliefs around what my life is and should be, what I’m entitled to, where I’d like to sit, who I’d like to work with, where I want to live, what school I want my son to go to, who I want my doctor to be, how I think things should be done, how I interpret things.
This is not my fault. Yet I can become mindful of it and learn. To do that I need to sit with the feelings with radical acceptance and forgive myself. I’m conditioned, as we all are. And what a wonderful thing to be able to uncover that hidden conditioning that controls me and impacts others! I have mindfulness practice to thank for this capacity.
I’m a self-confessed beginner on this journey, and I’m not sure I like this position. Shouldn’t I have sorted this out already? My own values say I should have. Well turning the other cheek won’t move this along. To find inner congruence I need to move through this and feel my ego squirm. If I know that’s what it is and know not to take it personally, then I can do this work for the benefit of all. I can then be powered by my intention – to ‘know how I am relating, whilst I am relating, to everyone and everything’ (Urban Mindfulness Foundation definition of mindfulness, Dean and Aesha Francis).
And now it’s time to submit this blog out into the world and I’m preoccupied by thinking I might have said something in it that reveals my ignorance even more, perhaps irredeemably. This too is what I can expose so that it becomes part of the journey rather than derailing the process. It’s fear. It won’t stop me.
Join us in this important work of becoming aware of the lenses we look through. We will find ways to widen our circle of inclusion through mindfulness and compassion practice. By understanding and accepting our conditioning, we can begin to go beyond ‘othering’ to live from a sense of We.
We will be offering a weekend in November (27-29th) and an evening CPD session online in the next month or two, both on Mindfulness-Based Inclusion Training. Watch this space.