By Dan Huston, NHTI professor
Our world is in in the midst of unprecedented upheaval on a variety of fronts. Recent events have presented us with new challenges and revealed old ones, leaving us to accept that certain uncomfortable realities within our community, our society, and perhaps ourselves exist.
To make significant change, we need to see things clearly without being blinded by fear, defensiveness, or anger. Mindfulness is a powerful tool for doing just that. Through careful observation during these tumultuous times, we can find insight to build a more equitable, healthy, and just society for everyone.
NHTI is proud to be running our upcoming speaker series, “Mindfulness in Society: Moving from Stress Reduction to Transformation.” Each Monday of October will offer a talk or workshop by a mindfulness professional who has been working for decades to help people develop an increased ability to practice awareness, acceptance, and compassion that can be translated into understanding and action.
- October 5: After a meditation led by renowned mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg, Mark Leonard, who helped found the Oxford Mindfulness Centre, will discuss his work with social mindfulness as a form of organizational transformation.
- October 12: Mirabai Bush, founder of the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, will lead a workshop on compassion, focusing on its importance in connecting with others and building a society in which all are cared for and respected.
- October 19: Richard Goerling, founder of the Mindful Badge Initiative, will share his experiences bringing mindfulness training to police officers throughout the U.S. and Canada as a means of personal and cultural transformation.
- October 26: Stephanie Briggs, a retired professor and founder of Be.Still.Move, will explore how our lives intertwine and converge, emphasizing the importance of mindful presence, speech, thought, and listening.
As our speakers will emphasize, mindfulness is often misunderstood as the equivalent of meditation, which is seen as a stress reduction activity along the lines of taking a bath or listening to soothing music. While meditation does help nurture mindfulness, the two are not one and the same. And while meditating can sometimes decrease anxiety or anger, it’s much more than a stress reduction tool. Sometimes we encounter unsettling thoughts or emotions when we meditate. Sometimes we come face to face our judgments, assumptions, and unproductive habitual ways of thinking. And that’s a good thing. That’s good knowledge to have. We can use that awareness to make change.
In these days of economic uncertainty, social unrest, political discord, and climate challenges, if all meditation and mindfulness had to offer were an opportunity to bury our head in the sand and feel better, it would not be a very powerful tool. Instead, it offers us a way to see ourselves, others, and situations clearly, not just what’s pleasant but also what’s not. It gives us a way to see things as they are—and that helps us improve our lives, on an individual and societal level.
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Professor Huston teaches mindful communication and writing in the English Department at NHTI—Concord’s Community College. He has been incorporating mindfulness, meditation, and emotional intelligence in his communication curriculum for 20+ years and was awarded NHTI’s 2008 Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence. Huston is the author of the textbook Communicating Mindfully: Mindfulness-Based Communication and Emotional Intelligence, which has been adopted at numerous colleges and universities, as well as other publications on mindful communication. His Communicating Mindfully course is required for students in several degree programs at NHTI and strongly recommended for others. The course doubles as a form of professional development for faculty and serves as the foundation of NHTI’s Mindful Communication Certificate.