Incorporating Mindfulness into Diversity and Inclusion Work

Mindfulness Based Social and Emotional Learning provides the foundation of awareness necessary to address biases and break down barriers in order to create inclusive communities that actively promote social, economic, and educational equity and racial justice. Inner Explorer brings daily mindfulness practices to whole school communities to address the root causes of inequity and injustice by mitigating stress, improving academic outcomes and breaking the chains of generational poverty.

Mindfulness is learning from the inside out, and we apply that same principle when our Inner Explorer Team regularly examines what diversity and inclusion mean for us as a collective. On the second Monday of every month, the Inner Explorer team forgoes our weekly status meeting to take a deep dive into topics such as race, privilege, allyship, immigration, as they impact us personally and professionally.

Spearheaded by team members Laurie Grossman and Joan Tetrault, meetings have included a presentation on diversity by board member Dr. Janette Hernandez and a discussion of immigration issues by team member Victoria González. Forthcoming sessions will explore the equity and justice issues faced by our colleagues in the India office, and the meaning and larger purpose of Land Acknowledgement for indigenous people in the United States. In addition, the Inner Explorer Team dedicates an hour per month to self-study on various topics of equity and justice – we have even created our own library of resources!

Why this work is important

“It’s important to meet people where they are, and to do that we have to be conscious of our own assumptions, beliefs and biases. Spending time each month in deep reflection and discussion about issues of equity and justice - examining our own thought patterns, emotions, and habitual responses - helps us to be more authentic with each other as a team. In turn, I believe that we can then be more authentic in our service to whole school communities. Yes, this is hard stuff. Yes, this is messy. But that’s how we grow as humans and as an organization. Think of it as another form of mindfulness in action.”

- Joan

Each session incorporates mindfulness skills, such as empathy, compassion, and self-awareness, as we practice mindful sharing and listening. Team members are encouraged to explore full-body awareness as they respond to discussion material with questions such as:
1. How is your body responding to this inquiry?
2. Where do you experience resistance or constriction?
3. Where do you sense recognition or affirmation?
4. What impulses, images, or emotions arise?
5. Can you bring kind awareness to both the intensity of your experience and its release?

The goal of each session is to explore our personal biases and where they stem from, share perspectives from team members of various racial and socio-economic backgrounds, and educate ourselves as to how we can use the findings to support equity and justice everywhere as a mindful organization.

This monthly meeting is just one part of the Inner Explorer pledge to improve social, economic, and educational inequity. Other pledge initiatives include working to:
1. Support schools where communities of color will have access to our program and resources.
2. Amplify the voices of children/families/teachers of color.
3. Expand our group of diverse narrators, program developers, and researchers.
4. Seek diversity for our staff and Board of Directors.

“ Advice to organizations who wish to begin diversity/inclusion work + how to incorporate mindfulness as part of it”

- Laurie