"WHEN WE THINK WE KNOW SOMEONE [SELF OR ANOTHER], WE NO LONGER ARE IN RELATIONSHIP WITH A LIVING, CHANGING BEING. RATHER, WE ARE NOW IN RELATIONSHIP WITH AN IDEA OF THAT PERSON." ~ MICHAEL LIEBENSON GRADY
"We're all in this smog of racism, and so when you're in the smog, you don't see it, but that doesn't mean you're not affected by it." ~ Dr. Sonia Nieto
"The challenge is...subtle and complex: people who believe in equality but who act in ways that perpetuate bias and inequality." ~ Nicholas Kristoff
MINDFULNESS-BASED BIAS AWARENESS & REDUCTION TRAININGS
Human beings have evolved to be biased; we need certain biases in order to survive. Yet the bias that motivates us to get out of the ocean as quickly as possible when we see a shark fin coming towards us is fundamentally different than many of the societal biases that we "breathe in" on a daily basis, often without our awareness or consent. The lenses through which we perceive and experience other people become clouded by these implicit biases, also referred to as unconscious or unexamined biases, and these biases inevitably inform how we treat and respond to each other and ourselves. In the United States, research has found that most children younger than ten harbor racial prejudices.
In recent years, numerous research studies and well-publicized events have revealed the detrimental and dangerous effects of specific implicit biases, especially racial biases, in the worlds of education, criminal justice, healthcare, business, religious life, and so forth. Many people have become interested in doing the inner work necessary to become aware of implicit biases they hold so that they can have the agency to behave more consciously, ethically, and compassionately in their personal and professional lives. (To learn more about implicit bias, you may be interested in checking out the books on the Resources page or the links on the What is Mindfulness? page.)
And then questions arise: HOW CAN I PRODUCTIVELY CONFRONT BIASES THAT I AM NOT EVEN AWARE OF? AND WHAT IF THE BIASES I DISCOVER MAKE ME FEEL ASHAMED?
This is where mindfulness-based training, facilitated by an experienced trainer, comes in. The fact that we have these biases is no fault of our own, but we are still responsible for their effects. In other words, we are responsible for whether or not we choose to become aware of implicit biases, confront those that need confronting, and ultimately change our behavior, behavior that was previously dictated by unexamined biases. In order to do this, it's essential to learn how to pay attention to one's moment-to-moment thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations with an open-minded, kind curiosity - and to develop the skills to respond effectively and compassionately when what we become aware of does not match our conscious values or beliefs, rather than becoming avoidant or counterproductively paralyzed by shame.
Choosing to engage in the process of mindful exploration of biases is courageous and much-needed and doing so can transform school relationships and dramatically improve student success..
One of Alison's passions is creating and facilitating safe, productive spaces for participants to embark on this journey, regardless of their prior levels of knowledge, exploration, or expertise. If your organization is interested in learning more about Alison's mindfulness-based bias awareness and reduction curriculum and training, please get in touch!