Developing Mindfulness Skills To Better Understand Race

 

Interview with Dr Tina Basi 

Tina Basi is a mindfulness teacher and guest lecturer on the subject of sociology at the London School of Economics, specialising in culture and technology. In developing the Mindfulness and Racial Awareness Course (MBCT), Tina has brought together two of her lifelong passions, sociology and mindfulness.

Tina is currently researching the concept of community and the role it has played in traditional mindfulness practice, bringing to light the work that is yet to be done in contemporary western mindfulness practise. She recently contributed an essay on the subject of community for the Mindfulness Initiative’s forthcoming publication ‘Mindfulness: Developing Agency in Urgent Times'.

 

What motivated you to develop the Mindfulness and Racial Awareness Course (MBCT)?

This came out of my own experience in having challenging but necessary conversations with my own friends and communities. I found that as a woman of colour I often felt apologetic in putting my views forward or creating a conversation, and that my white friends were often very defensive and sometimes aggressive in the way that they were engaging with the conversation. I wanted to bring together my skills and experiences as a meditator and a teacher of mindfulness to help bring about this very necessary social change of creating racial awareness and ending racial injustice. 

 

What do you hope participants will achieve from the course?

I believe that being able to sit with unpleasant experiences when having discussions of race are going to be vital in progressing this period of social evolution for all of us. For all of society and for all the world.

At the moment, there are lots of internal flashpoints when discussions of race come up and I think we understand from our studies of mindfulness that this is the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) kicking in. What we want to do is to be able to notice the way in which terms of race trigger the SNS. We want to notice it in the same way that we do with overthinking, signs of depression or any other triggers that take us into negative spaces. 

It’s really about cultivating an awareness and a sense of spaciousness when we’re dealing with race. 

 

How does the course differ from a standard MBSR or MBCT mindfulness course? 

The course is in line with the curriculum of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) courses. It’s an eight-week course and follows the same themes and exercises each week. The only real difference is the parts of the sessions in which you can share what has come up for you and in the weekly homework assignments. There will be a really open invitation to share how those experiences have connected with racial awareness.

We wouldn’t usually talk about something so thematically organised in the MBSR / MBCT, and here we’re going to actively invite opportunities to notice, experience and then articulate anything that might connect with race, racism or racial awareness. 

 

Is the course suitable for everyone? 

Absolutely, the course is suitable for anyone. My hope is that the topic of racial awareness might bring people who have previously thought mindfulness wasn’t for them into the conversation because this is a new way of engaging with race, racial awareness and conversations of race. Mindfulness is another tool to engage, just like debate, discussion, reading, learning, seeing, watching, and hearing. 

 

What will I be doing on the course? 

There will be a lot of practices - body scans, mindful movement, seated practice, awareness of sound, etc. A lot of mindfulness practice, and then opportunity to share what comes up with the group. 

 

How many people will be in the group? 

It will be quite a small group - up to 12 people. We have found that smaller groups mean that you have the chance to connect and share with almost everyone in the group and that really does help in the articulation process.

When the group is too big it can be a bit intimidating to share what’s come up in your practice, but in a small group there’s a sense of intimacy and trust that is built right from the outset. This makes the learning process a little smoother and softer. 

With an online course, again it would be a small number and there is a chance to really share and listen to one another when we feedback to the group. It makes it easier to learn from other people’s experiences as well. Quite often in mindfulness we find that others are having similar thoughts and feelings, and it can help to have someone else articulate what you have been through. 

 

What do I need to bring to the course? 

There’s nothing in particular you need to bring to the course. If you are doing the course online, it would be a good idea to tell those you are living with that you are doing the course and to find a room where you can close the door and not be disturbed for a couple of hours. This includes not just partners, family, friends, but pets as well.

You want to be comfortable enough that you can focus on the practice itself, but not so comfortable that you will fall asleep. For the practices themselves, you might find it handy to have a blanket, cushion for your chair and a pair of warm socks -- there’s no need to have meditation cushions or to sit on the floor, unless you want to.

Please note, the safety and welfare of all participants is a priority for us in running the course. 

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