Mindfulness and Interpersonal Barriers to Full Participation (Entry II)

Welcome! You have found your way into the middle of a discussion of the experiences of people of color in primarily white meditation communities. To access the beginning of this thread, click here. Otherwise, please read on.

Interpersonal Barriers To Full Participation

A lot of the people of color (POC) I interviewed at the East Coast Meditation Community (ECMC) reported being excluded by interactions with white people in the community. Most of the experiences described fall under the rubric of microaggressions.

For example, an Asian American woman in the study talked about white folks coming up to her and asking, "Where are you from?" as if she was somehow foreign. A black woman talked about the looks she receives when she walks into the primarily white meditation group: "The stares go over as if to say, 'What is she doing here?'"

A number of participants talked about acts of tokenism from the leadership of ECMC. For example, being asked to be a black or brown face in a brochure without a prior relationship. Or, as one black woman put it when speaking about being invited onto a teaching team: "I never hear from this woman, she never picks up the phone. I don’t know her middle name. It was just because she wanted black people, a teacher of color.”

Finally – and perhaps most interestingly – some folks I interviewed talked about the way Buddhist doctrine had been weaponized to undermine POC experiences at ECMC. The doctrine of non-self was particularly effective for the purpose of disarming racialized critiques leveled by people of color. Put simply, white members made the case that race didn't need to be discussed, addressed, or challenged, because it was just a social construct. 

The full list of the six themes we discovered in our research includes:

  1. Interpersonal Barriers to Full Participation
  2. Institutional Barriers to Full Participation
  3. Strategies for Coping with Racialized Exclusion
  4. Range of POC Experiences
  5. Failures of Leadership Support for People of Color
  6. Promoting Equity and Inclusion

For the intro (Mindfulness and the Problem of Whiteness) click here. Click here for some closing thoughts.

For information about upcoming mindfulness workshops with Craig & Devon, please click here.

Craig Hase