December 18, 2014

Mindfulness Without Accountability Isn’t Enough.

baldwin quote

Sometimes, the practice of mindfulness is like a magic salve.

Things that were too huge to approach dissolve, and we can breathe easier once more.

This isn’t one of those times.

In the last several weeks, two separate grand juries have chosen not to indict white cops who killed unarmed Black men.

Radical embodiment is the practice of turning towards life, in all its messy pain, rather than turning away from it.

And so we practice.

It doesn’t deserve an award. Maintaining awareness right now when the ugliness that has been a part of this country since it’s inception is bubbling up from under the surface is a bare minimum.

So feel your feet. Notice your breath. Look carefully, listen closely.

But that’s not enough.

Mindfulness has an evil cousin. It’s apathy. “Looking for the good” can sidestep reality if we don’t tend to it carefully. Images of peace and reconciliation are good, but not if they become a distraction from what is all too real:

Police killed an average of 400 black people each year from 2005 to 2012.

So I feel my feet. I notice my breath. And that’s not enough. Mindfulness without accountability is not enough.

Inspired by my friend and the incredible poet Shira Erlichman, who shared a post of “I statements” recently, here is what I will hold myself accountable to:

I will tend to my own heart, so I can commit to the difficult conversations.

I will listen to what People of Color have to say, without trying to interject my own experience.

I will educate myself on the history of racial violence in this country. I will not use my own discomfort as an excuse.

I will learn from my inevitable mistakes. I will apologize, and I will commit to doing better.

I will not hold my learning up as a trophy. I will not use my ignorance as an excuse.

I will examine the ways I am ready to turn away, and the privilege implicit in that.

I will not pretend to understand.

I will remember that it is a human right to protest injustice on our own bodies.

I will remember that it is a human obligation to protest injustices committed on the bodies of others.

I will question my assumptions.

I will not allow myself to turn away from what is happening under the guise of a spiritual practice.

I will hold myself accountable. Accountability is a form of love.

The poet Danez Smith recently wrote an open letter to white poets urging us to “create work that refuses to leave this world the same as when we entered.” He ends it “by not begging you ‘please’ but by telling you, ‘you must.'”

I must.

We must.



Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Author: Abigail Rose Clarke

Editor: Travis May

Leave a Thoughtful Comment

Read 0 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Abigail Rose Clarke