Diversity and Inclusion in Mindfulness

by | Aug 30, 2022

As a counselor, diversity and inclusivity are very important to me. Mindful meditation has allowed me to become a more competent multicultural counselor and be aware of my own privilege. This practice can be used as a tool to uncover and make you more aware of your thoughts, feelings and beliefs. 

Utilizing mindful meditation assists me when sitting across from clients who aren’t part of privileged majority race, ethnicity, socioeconomic, gender or sexuality backgrounds of American society. It’s essential to see the world through a different lens as a counselor. 

Keep in mind that mindfulness and meditation practices can be a double-edged sword. While typically well-intentioned, some of those who practice use them as a means of materialism, spiritual by-passing, difference-blindness and limited world views. Let’s talk about it. 

What is Mindfulness Meditation?

To start, mindfulness is a type of meditation that focuses on being in the moment. You’re encouraged to be intensely aware of your thoughts and feelings without judgment. Taking the time to practice allows you to reflect on yourself and become aware of your own privilege and experiences. Mindfulness meditation typically includes:

  • Breathing exercies
  • Guided imagery

Through practicing mindfulness, I have been more able to notice my behaviors and attitudes that harm myself and others. I’ve noticed my attachment to and codependency in unhealthy relationships, which allowed me to change that pattern. 

Mindfulness can be helpful in personal relationships such as it was for me, as well as in the bigger picture. For example, it can make you aware of and liberate you from immature attitudes and behaviors that perpetuate the “isms” of society.

Sitting on my cushion, I am paying attention to my breath, noticing when and where my mind might drift, noticing the pain in my hip and coming back to my breath. This attentiveness to myself in the here and now has been helpful off the cushion as well.

The Issue With the “Spiritually Enlightened” Individual

Here’s the thing about mindfulness meditation. You can practice it, but may not get the proper take away. I have seen and experienced all too often the “spiritually enlightened” individual. They are usually white, privileged men and women turning their heads on the suffering and atrocities experienced by people of color. 

The reaction to the murders of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and the Charlston Church shooting which left nine black attendees dead, by these “spiritually enlightened” people is always color-blind and spiritually materialistic.

I see these people post their opinions such as “there is no difference between white and black,” and “If we could all just realize that we are all ONE we would be free,” “I see a person, not color,” and “That wasn’t about race. We should quit making everything about color.” They just blatantly deny the inequality and the horrific reality of people of color living in our white, hetero, privileged society.

The Benefits of Mindfulness Meditation

Thinking about people who turn the other way at these issues has me reflecting on my own privilege. It has become obvious to me that people are so uncomfortable with their own privilege that they have to talk about their suffering and experience with inequality. The shame and guilt is too much to confront. I believe that mindfulness meditation is designed to do just that. It forces us to confront our discomfort and pain just as much as happiness and joy. 

Practicing mindfulness meditation has helped me keep myself in check. I am now aware of my participation in sexism, racism, able-ism, heterosexism, etc. One thing I have learned about myself is that I practice silence too often. I don’t speak up when I see or experience one of the ‘isms. 

The Luxury of Silence

I’ve been in situations where my peers may say something to be racist and I am too afraid to confront them so I stay silent. My silence is a luxury, a privilege, and a choice. If the conversation is uncomfortable, I want to sit there silently until it’s over. I’m lucky to be able to do this, but it’s unfair to others. I will no longer be silent. 

Now that I have used mindful meditation to recognize my discomfort and silence, I have made the choice to speak up. Even when I’m uncomfortable, I get support from those who I know can help me articulate my thoughts. I will stand up and tell my “spiritually enlightened” friends that they are being racist. The truth is important, and so is the health and well being of the oppressed. 

Closing Thoughts

My work with mindfulness meditation to be aware of diversity and inclusivity is never done. To turn the other way and not support those in minority categories is against my values and unethical mental health practice. 

As I continue my journey, I am still opening new closets and cleaning the basement of my own unconscious attitudes and behaviors. I strongly believe that my mindfulness meditation practice is increasing my ability to be uncomfortable. I’m seeing parts of myself that would typically go unnoticed. 

Mindfulness will help me to uncover and heal immature attitudes, beliefs and behaviors that perpetuate oppression. As a counselor, it is my ethical obligation to know how I participate in and can prevent racism, sexism, and all of society’s isms. I encourage you to try mindfulness and do the same.  

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