Equity, Interbeing, and Ahimsa

What’s your why?

Why do you do the things you’re passionate about? What change do you hope to make in the world? What lofty goals inform the small steps of your labor?

For me that answer is usually rooted in equity – a world where each person has access to the things they need to thrive. This is different than equality. We don’t all need the same things.

If equity is a concept discussed frequently in your circles, you’ve almost certainly seen some iteration of this graphic.

There are some obvious issues with it. It might be interpreted to mean our various needs are solely biological, since the boxes address differences in height, and wouldn’t it make more sense to remove the barrier to create greater equity than to make people stand on boxes? That said, it does help clarify the concept.

My work this week led me to be thinking about the connections between equity and mindfulness, how mindfulness practice supports social emotional learning (and vice-versa), how both support increased equity, and how that all connects to ahimsa (nonviolence or non-harming).

Consider this in terms of the five social emotional core competencies outlined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. Self-awareness promotes deeper understanding of the myriad implicit biases we all carry. Implicit biases* are the deep ones we may not consciously think we have, but that exist in our subconscious. It’s virtually impossible not to have them. (If you’re wondering about yours, try Harvard’s Implicit Association Tests.)

Self-management encourages thoughtful responses rather than unconscious reactions when those biases surface. Social awareness prompts us to consider different perspectives, to understand our own cultural norms may be different from others, and to value and celebrate these differences rather than hold expectations based on our own experience. Relationship skills help us to develop meaningful connections with people of diverse backgrounds. And responsible decision-making draws on all of these competencies to help us make more thoughtful and equitable decisions.

Mindfulness, that is training ourselves to be more aware of and able to manage our thinking, can enhance all of those competencies, and they in turn promote greater mindfulness.

This week I listened to a talk by Meena Srinivasan on the online Mindful Education Summit in which she talked a bit about interbeing and said, “how, if I know that I am in you and you are in me, could I practice anything other than nonviolence.”

How, if we know that we inter-are, could we practice anything other than seeking to ensure each person has what they need to thrive? How, if we know that inequity causes violence, could we practice anything other than seeking equity?

Where ahimsa intersects with interbeing, it becomes clear that harm to the other is harm to self, and harm to self is harm to the other. As a middle-aged, white, cis woman, I hesitate to say that inequity to others is inequity to self, because I know I don’t feel the inequity experienced by, for example, people of color, differently abled people, and LGBTQ folx. That said, inequity does a different kind of harm to dominant populations, though many are not aware of that harm, and many consciously or unconsciously welcome the privilege that comes with that inequity. But privilege encourages ignorance. Without self-awareness and social awareness and mindfulness, it is easy for the privileged to move through the word ignorant of others’ experiences. Privilege impairs the ability to see other realities, and that harms both parties because benefiting at the expense of others harms the very core of our selves and our inter-being. Practicing ahimsa requires us to understand and address our bias and privilege, and to take action to improve equity in our relationships, communities, and beyond.

In writing this I acknowledge that my privilege impacts my ability to fully understand the experiences of others. If you disagree with something I’ve written, please challenge me.

*Note: I use the term “implicit bias” to refer to biases against a number of groups, not to avoid the term racism. Implicit bias based on race is racism. Ignorance does not excuse it.

Featured image by johnhain on Pixabay

#fullymyself #equity #interbeing #ahimsa

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