5 Benefits of Mindfulness for Black, Indigenous, and Women of Colour
Coach Katara McCarty writes that, for Black, Indigenous, Women of Color, the mindful act of pausing and noticing trauma—as well as resilience—is key to the journey of healing and thriving.
Mindfulness is the act of being attentive to yourself. In the noise of the world, it’s taking a moment to tune everything around you out and tune in to yourself.
That’s not easy.
Though for some the pandemic provided a much-needed interruption, the “rise and grind” mentality and routine has continued to permeate our lives. “Hustle culture” pushes the narrative that being busy is a measurement of achievement and success, and anything that conflicts with our ability to work must be pushed to the side.
The kinds of thoughts, feelings, and emotions that conflict with work are increasingly prevalent due to the coronavirus. This can come in the form of worries about your personal and loved ones’ health and well-being, with COVID-19 being such a new virus that is disproportionately impacting Black and brown communities. It could be stress due to such a quick shift from a familiar daily rhythm to most of the world shutting down. Maybe it’s pressure from losing a job, working from home for the first time, or suddenly teaching your kids school. All of this created so much stress and worry—all of which is piled on top of our hustle lifestyle.
However, the very same thoughts, feelings, and emotions that this lifestyle makes us inclined to ignore are an important sign that it’s time to slow down and listen.
All of us in western capitalist cultures are conditioned to “go go go.” Black, Indigenous, and Women of Color (BIWOC), though—including trans, gender non-conforming, non-binary, genderqueer, and all those with gender identities oppressed by racism and misogyny—experience additional systems of oppression on top of hustle culture that compound negative thoughts. As all of us are conditioned to ignore our feelings, to not sit still, BIWOC are also experiencing racism, white supremacy, the patriarchy, and microaggressions—racial trauma—that cause harm to our bodies, souls, and minds daily.
The oppressive challenges BIWOC wake up to every morning are another blockade between Black women and mindfulness. These challenges make it even more arduous to push the pause button. Beyond this barrier, there can also be a great deal of trauma and hurt to unpack. Pausing and noticing our trauma—and ultimately healing from it—is not easy, but it is imperative for our health, our survival, and our ability to thrive.
It Only Takes a Moment
The idea of practising mindfulness can be overwhelming to some people because it sounds like a production. You may be thinking: “I don’t have four hours a day to spend with myself. I have kids. I’m navigating microaggressions from my white coworkers. There’s no time.” Practising mindfulness, the act of tuning in to oneself does not need to be a lengthy, scheduled task. It’s not four hours of meditation or even 45 minutes of yoga. Take 10 minutes to sit on a park bench and look inside. Be curious. What is your body telling you? Take five minutes while eating an apple. Put your phone down and check-in with yourself, your emotions, and your physical body. Sit in your car for a moment to close your eyes and breathe before going inside the house.
Mindfulness is not an event that needs to be blocked out on your calendar, but moments taken throughout the day to commit to yourself. As they begin to add up, these moments can result in five tangible benefits. You can keep these benefits in mind by thinking of the five Rs: Resilience, Relationships, Self-Regard, Rationale, and Robust.
Mindfulness practice is an opportunity to rest. Much like exercising, we have to give our muscles time to recover after a hard workout so we can grow stronger. Resting with mindfulness allows us to give ourselves the opportunity to grow and be more resilient. We create a safe haven within ourselves where microaggressions aren’t happening. Experiencing microaggressions is inevitable for Black women, so having the space to rest allows us to build stronger resilience when experiencing daily trauma out in the world.
When our mind is harmonious with our feelings, we’re paying attention to us, not what others think of us. Mindfulness allows us to get reacquainted with the truest, most authentic version of ourselves and know who we are today, in this season of life. As we know ourselves better, we can, in turn, develop healthier relationships with others. We are empowered to know what is and is not good for us in this stage of life, and we can recognize if and when a relationship is no longer healthy or if we need to set additional boundaries. By knowing ourselves, we are empowered to make ourselves a priority and build valuable relationships that pour into who we are instead of draining us.
Self-sabotaging behaviour is when we get in our own way. Language is a big part of this: talking down to ourselves and convincing ourselves that we are unworthy, not enough, or disappointing. This is what makes practising mindfulness difficult. When you sit with yourself, you must acknowledge the feelings and emotions that are arising—the hurt, the pain, the disappointment, how you may have disappointed yourself or others, pain inflicted on you by others or yourself. Mindfulness means sitting with all of that. When we do, we can correct the self-sabotaging language we may berate ourselves with during the day. Mindfulness is the chance to give ourselves respect, love, and compassion. Forgiving all those things we don’t like to see about ourselves allows us to regard ourselves in a higher light, and to radiate that light and confidence.
The hustle and bustle of grind culture can leave us untethered. When we pull away from the “busyness” of the world and sit with ourselves, we have the opportunity to become more centred and grounded. Picture an old oak tree that has stood for hundreds of years: It does not get uprooted in a storm. It may lose a branch or two, but it remains standing tall, rooted.
Practising mindfulness allows our roots to grow as we become surer of ourselves and of our needs. Getting in touch with those deep roots of who we are, what we want, and what we hope our future will look like makes us an unshakeable force. We can make rational decisions that we might have otherwise waffled on because we know what we need. Rationale gives us a firm foundation, a core purpose, and a sense of groundedness in who you are that you can make decisions from.
Mindfulness is physical and embodied. Just as racial trauma negatively impacts mental and emotional health for BIWOC, our physical health suffers as a byproduct. Capitalistic culture, too, encourages us to work hard and keep pushing. When we never stop to rest, we become sick. Grinding away, especially when it’s almost always in service of someone else’s goals, is stressful and hard on our emotions and body.
When we practice mindfulness, we grow to see how our emotional and physical well-being are tied together. As a whole person, you must take care of all of the parts of you. This means knowing ways we can move our bodies and eat nourishing foods that increase our strength. These are powerful acts of self-compassion! If we can fall in love with ourselves, we will make ourselves a priority, and that is good for our emotional and physical health.
The world demands we sacrifice and hustle, that we put everyone else first. To prioritize our own selves as BIWOC not only builds our confidence and health, it subverts and recalibrates society’s racist expectations of how we handle ourselves. Rest is resistance, and mindfulness is the key to thriving.
By Katara McCarthy (first published on August 19, 2020, https://www.mindful.org/)
Manager - Student Wellbeing Service