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As we write this, they’re still flooding in. Hordes of revelations about well-known public figures sexually harassing and abusing colleagues and employees. Thousands of personal stories from mainly, but not solely, women, of being subjected to such treatment, all shared under the #metoo hashtag.
As momentum builds, it seems we may have reached a tipping point for change. But what’s all this got to do with mindfulness?
We believe that mindfulness training is ideally suited to bringing about transformation in the workplace and wider society, and that this applies here too. Here are some areas where it can contribute to positively shifting relationships and the power balance:
- Self awareness and self management
Practising mindfulness prompts us to question our own assumptions- beliefs and reference points we’ve taken on that may no longer be valid, if they ever were. We become more able to see more clearly- patterns and blind spots in ourselves, in others, in the systems in which we operate. These may include gender inequality, cultures in which sexual harassment is normalised, and/or in which whistleblowing is actively discouraged, as has been the case in the entertainment business. Once we have clarity, we can then choose what to keep and what to let go of. We become better able to manage ourselves, and thus less likely to take our aggression out on others.
- Kindness and empathy
We highlighted the power of ‘kindfulness’ and its connection with mindfulness in our last blog. Mindfulness helps us be more accepting of, and to feel more kindly towards, ourselves, and others. Thus we may be less likely to get trapped into a toxic power dynamic where we’re treating others badly in a bid to feel better about ourselves. And if we have crossed boundaries, we can more easily make peace with that and make amends. Mindfulness helps us develop compassion, which is a wonderful antidote to shame.
- Finding our centre and aligning with values
Mindfulness can help us be more grounded, and thus more responsive rather than reactive. In addition to being less likely to treat others badly, if someone treats us badly, instead of running away or reacting aggressively, we can find it easier to stand firm, to share our story. If we practice mindfulness, we’re more likely to be aligned with our true values too (Hall, 2015 in Mindfulness in Organizations: Foundations, Research, and Applications), and thus more likely to want to call out undesirable behaviour and not be a fearful bystander.
· Turning towards difficulty
Very often, underlying sexual aggression are ‘difficult’ feelings such as fear and anger, and painful thoughts such as “I’m not good enough.” Mindfulness helps us be open and curious about what’s really going on for us, giving us a chance to process this, and pressing the pause button so we don’t act out of pain, for example.
- Changing culture
Where mindfulness becomes part of an organisational culture and leadership approach, this is typically characterised by open-ness, curiosity, kindness and so on. Such an environment offers many more opportunities for systemic culture change, opening up and shifting the dialogue around relationships, including in the arena of gender, highlighting what’s acceptable in how we treat one another and choose to show up, and enabling authentic conversations, collaboration, mutual appreciation and respect, and embracing diversity.
Mindfulness Blog by Liz&Luis
Liz Hall and Luis San Martin are co-founders of the International Summit for Mindfulness & Compassion at Work. They offer tailor made mindfulness programmes for business.