Mindfulness has recently become popular in the west, with many forms of psychotherapy and counselling drawing on mindfulness ideas and practices. Perhaps for this reason – and because of the wider connection between mindfulness and meditation – the focus has tended to be on mindfulness as an individual technique undertaken for personal reasons.
Social mindfulness draws together projects which explore the social potentials of mindfulness. Early Buddhism emerged as a form of activism, and we are keen to return to these roots.
Briefly, mindfulness involves remembering to bring alert, clear, attention to what are doing within a wide, open awareness of the totality of our experience. It is a way of being that can be cultivated through various forms of meditation, where we attend perhaps to our breath, or to our bodily sensations, but the aim is to bring this quality of being to the whole of our lives and everyday activities.
Many forms of mindfulness emphasise being in the present moment and accepting what comes non-judgementally (for example, letting whatever thoughts and feeling we have bubble up and fade away again without judging them as good or bad, or trying to cling onto them or get rid of them). However, it is also possible to be mindful when remembering or thinking about the future, or when evaluating things.
The kinds of issues and topics explored on the social mindfulness blog include:
- The potential of existing mindfulness practices for addressing social issues, such as conflict, sustainability, and discrimination.
- The development of mindfulness practices which are explicitly social and/or collective (e.g. with the aim of improving empathy, or conducted in conversations or groups).
- Explorations of the possibility of mindful relationships.
- Dialogues between mindfulness and social theory, social science and social psychology.
- Mindfulness therapies which are located more explicitly within sociocultural understandings of human experience.
- The application of mindfulness to social settings, such as healthcare, education, and social work.
Social mindfulness was set up by Meg Barker and Steven Stanley. Other people who are involve include Helen Spandler, Jyoti Nanda, Jamie Heckert, Jean Boulton, Udi Butler, Joanna Blake, and Marion Nao.