Intergroup Dialogue and Practices of Mindfulness

What do we need? “A curated, adapted set of awareness (mindfulness) and compassion practices – experienced at the level of the personal, the interpersonal, and the systemic – as central components of teaching and learning about race.”
– Rhonda V. Magee, The Inner Work of Racial Justice, 2019, p. 157

Love and justice are not two. Without inner change, there can be no outer change; without collective change, no change matters.
– Rev. angel Kyodo williams, 2020

Our Intentions in Cultivating a Mindful Dialogic Praxis

Within the Intergroup Dialogue (IGD) classroom, we implement a research-based curriculum designed to promote “consciousness raising, building relationships across differences and conflicts, and strengthening individual and collective capacities to promote social justice” (Zúñiga, Nagda, Chesler, & Cytron-Walker, 2007, p. 9). This duality between understanding one’s situatedness in a powerful historical system and recognizing one’s peers’ contributions to and victimization by institutional forces is foundational to the coalition-building necessary for collective societal liberation. By situating students’ deepening of mindful self-reflection within the co-created IGD space, and particularly in dialogues on race and ethnicity, what internally arises for students is invited into the dialogue itself. As students grapple with their own connections to systems of privilege and oppression and how this manifests relationally, mindfulness practice can help this grappling occur on a deep and sustained level.

As King (2018) states, it is impossible to separate our connections to white supremacist systems from the ways in which such violence has shaped us and our capacities to react to the realities of covert and overt oppression. For King (2018), a tool that has revolutionized her ability to be with, know, and understand racism on a societal, psychological, and embodied level is mindfulness:

When introduced to mindfulness meditation…, I learned how to relate to distress with more compassion and I opened to a deeper understanding of my racial conditioning. I discovered that how I thought was core not only to my level of distress but also to my ability to break habits of harm. (p. 5)

“[F]oster[ing] self and collective awareness” (Zúñiga et al., 2007, p. 7) lies at the core of the IGD model, one that is replete with opportunities to engage in emotionally challenging yet transformative communications. From this foundation, it is possible to further extend the cultivation of such awareness not only to how people contribute to harming others through participation in systems of injustice but also to how each person perpetuates harm within themselves through attachments to socially constructed beliefs and ideologies. Mindfulness “supports us in dismantling the construction of racial ignorance and suffering in our mind, body, and heart. We do this not by focusing on our stories about what’s happening but rather by noticing the impact these stories have on us and how this impact leads to distress or freedom” (King, 2018, p. 124).

By intentionally infusing anti-racist, anti-oppression mindfulness practices into the IGD Program’s course, Dialogue on Race (SOC, WGS, CFE, & CRS 230), we hope to build on IGD’s preexisting mindful framework and dialogue participants’ capacity for nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness. Each week, students and facilitators will be given opportunities to extend the external dialogue into the internal realm. Centering the work of QT2PBIPOC mindfulness practitioners from a variety of cultural backgrounds, trainings, and lineages, this course invites students to use mindfulness to challenge and “critically examine how unequal and oppressive relationships between groups are socially constructed and structurally reproduced by systems of advantage and disadvantage” (Zúñiga, Lopez, & Ford, 2012, p. 2). Overall, this commitment to mindful dialogic practice can help us move toward individual and collective liberation – “the capacity to name, question, listen, and free ourselves from oppressive scripts through dialogue, problem-posing, reciprocal relations, and transformative actions” (Zúñiga, Lopez, & Ford, 2012, p. 2). Thus, by deepening our already cultivated capacities for nonjudgmental, present-moment awareness (Berila, 2016) within the intergroup context, it is our hope that a necessary transformation of form and construct (Williams, 2016, p. xx) can occur.

Below you will find a selection of resources that we have used to inform this mindful dialogic praxis. These resources are not static and will be updated, changed, etc. as this practice evolves and is further co-created in the intergroup dialogues themselves. We offer these as a beginning.

A Selection of Mindful Dialogic Resources

Books

You can also visit the author’s websites for mindfulness meditation videos, talks, upcoming events, and further resources.

  • Chodron, P. (2016). When things fall apart: Heart advice for difficult times. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications.
    More from Pema Chodron
  • Feldman, C. (2017). Boundless heart: The Buddha’s path to kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications.
    More from Christina Feldman
  • Hanh, T. N. (2017). How to fight. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
  • Hanh, T. N. (2014). The art of communicating. New York, NY: HarperOne.
    More from Thich Nhat Hanh
  • hooks, b. (2001). All about love: New visions. New York, NY: William Morrow.
    More from bell hooks
  • King, R. (2018). Mindful of race: Transforming racism from the inside out. Boulder, CO: Sounds True.
    More from Ruth King
  • Kramer, G. (2007). Insight dialogue: The interpersonal path to freedom. Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications.
  • Magee, R. V. (2019). The inner work of racial justice: Healing ourselves and transforming our communities through mindfulness. New York, NY: Tarcher Perigee.
    More from Rhonda Magee
  • Manders, K, & Marston, E. (2019). Transcending: Trans Buddhist voices. Berkeley. CA: North Atlantic Books.
  • Owens, L. R. (2020). Love and rage: The path of liberation through anger. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
    More from Lama Rod Owens
  • Rothberg, D. (2006). The engaged spiritual life: A Buddhist approach to transforming ourselves and the world. Boston, MA: Beacon Press.
  • Sofer, O. J. (2018). Say what you mean: A mindful approach to nonviolent communication. Boulder, CO: Shambhala.
    More from Oren Jay Sofer
  • Washam, S. (2017). A fierce heart: Finding strength, courage, and wisdom in any moment. Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press.
    More from Spring Washam
  • williams, a. K., Owens, R., & Syedullah, J. (2016). Radical dharma: Talking race, love, and liberation. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books.
    More from Jasmine Syedullah and Rev. angel Kyodo williams
  • Zúñiga, X., Nagda, B. R. A., Chesler, M., & Cytron-Walker, A. (2007). Intergroup Dialogue in higher education: Meaningful learning about social-justice. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Talks/Webinars

Additional Articles

For more information about Intergroup Dialogue academic courses and how we integrate mindfulness practices, feel free to contact IGD facilitators Jersey Cosantino and Easton Davis.

Undergraduate students may petition for the IGD course to meet the minor curriculum/requirements for Mindfulness & Contemplative Studies at Syracuse University. For more information, contact Kitty Nasto.