Bringing diversity and inclusion to mindfulness communities

Recognizing creative leaders Booker, Brach and Magee

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Summer Joy Beaufort photographed by Mark David

Many perceive mindfulness, yoga, and meditation as elite practices for the top 1 percent or millennials who can afford $10 lattes with avocado toast.

Mindfulness communities, which are microcosm of our larger society, are not immune to the socio-political environment in which we live. Parallel homogenous mindfulness communities may be a choice for some. I understand the need to create safe spaces.

Nevertheless, mindfulness – particularly in this time when our nation is so divided – holds the potential to enable us to connect with compassion and find humanity in faces that don’t resemble our own.

The Wisdom 2.0 Mindfulness in America summit earlier this month reflects some of the challenges to making mindfulness available to all. Several speakers commented on the lack of diversity in the room. One speaker reminded us that to build a community, people need to be invited to the table.  Newcomers also need to feel that they can bring their authentic selves and participate equally without judgement.

So how do we take the practices now enjoyed by corporate leaders, the Hollywood elite, and star athletes to underserved populations?

While much work needs to be done, some true believers are working across socio-economic and cultural lines to take mindfulness to some of the communities that need it the most.

Leaders in the field – John Kabat-Zinn, Sharon Salzberg, Dan Goleman, and Soren Gordhamer among others – are making opportunities available through scholarships and sliding fee scales.

Perhaps at a later date I’ll address some of the opportunities to improve inclusiveness in mindfulness communities that address factors other than financial constraints.

Today, I’d like to affirm a few in the field making mindfulness accessible. These three women – along with many of their male counterparts –hail from diverse backgrounds and serve underrepresented communities in different but equally valued ways.

Leslie Booker has shared her passion for social justice, yoga, and mindfulness with vulnerable populations in New York City since 2006, working in juvenile detention centers, residential treatment centers, and on Riker’s Island.

Tara Brach, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist who founded the Insight Meditation Community of Washington, DC, has taken mindfulness practices to prisons and schools.

Professor Rhonda V. Magee teaches mindfulness-based stress reduction interventions to lawyers, law students, and for minimizing social-identity-based bias. Her work is improving equitable treatment by making those in the justice system more compassionate.

I look forward to reading about the people making mindfulness accessible in your communities and in other spaces where mindfulness is needed the most.

Follow me on Twitter: @DonnaOti or

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