Day 13: Mindfulness is More Than Stress Reduction


One critique of mindfulness is that it asks us to be complacent in the face of suffering. By accepting everything just as it is, the thinking goes, one is passive. This is a misrepresentation.

I believe in a socially-engaged mindfulness. One that asks us to look clearly at any problem in front of us, unflinchingly accept that it is the way it is right now, and then, as skillfully as we can, make decisions that move us closer towards equity, justice, and compassionate resolution.

This is not the mindfulness of pure stress reduction. Looking at suffering can evoke all sorts of difficult emotions and thoughts. Mindfulness asks us to develop a level of comfort with those feelings by practicing being with them.

Mindfulness asks us to be comfortable with the uncomfortable.

Teachers are at no loss for discomfort. We are consistently asked to witness and support students with intensely difficult home lives. We are challenged by parents, colleagues, and administrators with radically different ideas than us about how things should be. We are meant to meet an impossibly high bar as someone inspiring and engaging to every student who walks through our doors, no matter what. Plenty of practice material.

When we can see those truths, without defense or minimizing or turning away (or even just seeing those reactions), then we have more freedom to act less reactively and more skillfully. Then we are deeply practicing mindfulness.

To read a more in-depth reflection on this topic, see The Art of Being Comfortable with the Uncomfortable