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Stanley: Mindfulness and Society

Elisabeth Stanley discusses her views on mindfulness and society.
Mindfulness can obviously be very transformative for individuals. As they bring awareness into their minds and bodies, they begin to heal and recondition old conditioning that moved them towards unskillful choices, towards pain, towards suffering. Instead, they can condition new choices that help them access agency and act ethically and responsibly and contribute in the world. It’s hugely transformative for us, our bodies, our relationships. It can be for our communities too. I think what’s most important to think about whether mindfulness can have a transformative effect at a collective level, is to think about the values within which mindfulness training is being offered. Many organizations have adopted mindfulness training in some form as part of their employee wellness programs.
They do this in large part in response to high rates of anxiety or depression or other signs of suffering, substance abuse among their workforce. But if it is offered only as a way to help someone cope with these things but continue with productivity without situating it more broadly, it can potentially not be in the service of transformation. It can be in the service of allowing people to stay in situations that might be very imbalanced otherwise. For mindfulness to really be transformative for communities and for societies, we have to think about the values that we are inculcating and why we are teaching these practices. They can be used collectively for good.
But it requires some mindful reflection about why are we practicing this? How are we going to practice this collectively? What are the outcomes we collectively want? Ideally, it’s going to be moving the collective in the direction of more curiosity, more creativity, more compassion, more capacity to navigate conflict effectively, and more capacity to strengthen relationships because communities can only be transformed through relationships and mindfulness can not do that. It comes back to the intentions behind why you’re teaching it for the collective.
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Demystifying Mindfulness

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