Resources to support a socially engaged Mindfulness- Based Program pedagogy

Here are some extracts


The Explicit MBP Curriculum

See Table 3 in the linked paper for a summary of MBSR’s core themes and curriculum elements. The
Essential Resources for Mindfulness Teachers book offers more detailed general guidance on MBSR
curriculum elements and sessions.9 The suggestions below are intended to be integrated around these
and illustrate some ways to ‘tune’ the teaching towards diverse groups.
Good MBP teaching always involves tailoring and responding to this moment, this group, this context, and this aim or intention. See Loucks et al,10 Sanghvi et al.11 and Crane, Karunavira and Griffith for guidance considerations to hold in mind when adapting MBP curriculums. Critically, adaptation needs to be grounded in an understanding of the intention of each session, each curriculum element, and deep
sensitivity and attunement to the group and the context, so that when we are adapting, we know what
and where to place emphasis. The Steven Covey quote is helpful here: ‘The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing!’ The tension we need to be aware of when making adaptations to any MBP is that we can lose sight of the ‘main thing’, which broadly, is enabling participants to access new perspectives and the subsequent potential for psychological and emotional freedom from habitual patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving in the world. There is a risk that the introduction of curriculum elements that may be helpful to build group cohesion, connection and belonging, diverts the teacher and the participants from the core intentionality of the learning process.

Two more overarching points to bear in mind on the explicit curriculum:
Be aware throughout of the sourcing and authorship of poetry, quotes and references used
and the implicit messaging of what and who is most valued that is inherent in these choices.
It is important to stay cognizant of the times that we are trying to ‘make something happen’
in the session, and balance this with allowing and trusting the curriculum to simply unfold as
we stay alert to and present with the natural teaching opportunities that arise organically
within the class, participants, teacher, and curriculum.


See chapter 16 of Essential Resources for Mindfulness Teachers for an outline of themes related to
participant orientation and assessment prior to embarking on an MBP course. Here we highlight some
areas for consideration that could develop greater levels of belonging and inclusion. The sense of safety
and trust within the group setting is paramount and is earnt not a given.
Playing soft music in the background as participants arrive can be supportive

In the opening welcome:

  • Have an intention to meet participants where they are
  • Acknowledge and welcome the range of visible and invisible diversities and differences in the space (see example diversity welcome in Appendix 3)
  • Emphasize self-care: invite participants to take care of their own process by doing only what feels comfortable and slowly opening to challenging their comfort zone as the training/weeks proceed. Include normalizing conversation that supports recognition that most in the room, including the teachers, were not raised to prioritize self-care. Recognizing that learning to take care of oneself is a pivotal step in shifting one’s relationship with stress. Name that the struggles of life are likely to emerge during the program and invite a spirit of coming together to hold difficulties in the context of the solidarity of this community of practice.
  • Difficulties are an opportunity for personal and collective learning.
  • Offer a reflection on ‘how would you like to be treated so you feel safe, comfortable and have a sense of belonging?’ and ‘how would you like to treat others, so they feel safe, comfortable and have a sense of belonging?’ 
  • Acknowledge who’s in the room, who’s not in the room

-Give time and space for participants to warm up.
-When introducing oneself as a teacher, include something about one’s own positionality,
standpoint, and intersectionality. This can help to remove perceptions of expertise,
invites humility about one’s own limited perspective, and welcomes the value of others’
positionality. It also helps to set up a space of co-learning, co-creation of knowledge and
insight that can facilitate marginalized communities to step into an exploration grounded
in their own authenticity.
In a light touch way, it can be helpful to highlight how mindfulness is shaped by its purpose
and that there are many purposes to which it can be applied including raising awareness
of identity-based harm, and the cultivation of care for both self and others. As appropriate
to the context, participants can be invited to practice in a way that makes space for
themes such as addressing race or identity-based stress.
Interweave periods of dialogue with guided movement, dancing, shaking etc.

MBSR Class 1

Guided reflection and opening go around:
What brought you here?

BIPOC participants may not have vocabulary or emotional will to share. Give a
few examples during the reflection. At this early stage the invitation to share
needs to be creative and non-threatening. Ways into this can include imagery
(‘your internal weather’) and keeping it small and light (‘share two words that
express something of what is present for you now’).

Be aware of the assumption that group sharing with strangers is normative. For
BIPOC communities this is not necessarily a cultural norm. Sharing internal
emotions or actions outside of the family can and is often counter cultural.

Guided movement can disrupt awkwardness and charge in the room and can
introduce collective vulnerability without threat.

Potentially lightly point to collective stress (e.g., trauma, oppression, race,
pandemic, culture, etc.). Right from the outset we are thus building
understanding that we all experience painful emotions as internal to our personal
experience as individuals, and collectively through our shared experience of social
discrimination, oppression, systemic racism, and racialized trauma.

It can be helpful to invite participants to connect with their own intentions and
motivation for practice. Helping participants to link to both personal and wider
social intentions and motivations to practice early can help them connect the
individual benefits of mindfulness with wider social concerns or social
determinants of health.
Early awareness of paradoxes between intentions, motivations, expectations,
assumptions, and goals can invite participant curiosity in relation to experience.
Raisin practice
Reflection can include the theme of interconnection through wondering how it came to
be in our hands: the family who were grape pickers, what their lives were like, recognition
of labour practices, and inequity of access to food. Be aware that some may have
challenging and complex relationships with food. Therefore, handling food or eating may
be an issue. Alternatives should therefore be considered depending on the context. This
could include contemplating a glass of water, or an object and deconstructing it in the
same way as the raisin using the senses. Again we are reminded that any option can
trigger challenges for participants so deliver with trauma awareness. Inviting participants
to bring their own item to eat can also alleviate concerns for some participants.

Body Scan
It is important to create bridges into the meditative practices to support a gradual building
of internal resources towards fuller engagement with them as they appear in the standard
MBSR curriculum. This creates a sense of being in control and awareness of safety.
Invitational language and offering lots of choices is important. For example:

Offer that the body scan can be done lying down or sitting, eyes open or eyes
closed. Lying down with people whom they don’t know can be triggering
One can also do the body scan practice whilst walking!
It can be helpful to start the body scan by inviting participants to find / locate an
area in the body that represents safety, groundedness, stability, resilience etc.
that they can come back to if/when difficulties arise, before going into scanning
the whole body more deeply

Another adaptation of the body scan is to teach in the first classes a shorter body
scan seated practice, interspersed with gentle movement, i.e., lifting the right leg
pointing and flexing the right foot, making circles with the right foot in one
direction and the opposite direction, eyes open, with the opportunity for
participants to begin finding words for sensations thus creating a vocabulary of
sensations. Lifting the right arm..., rotating the shoulders in one direction and
then the other... By the time that the day of practice is offered, participants are
generally able to practice lying on their backs between 30-45 minutes without
difficulty as there is a sense of safety in the group and with the teacher.

It can also be useful to introduce the process as ‘befriending the body’ and its
component parts, exploring wonder and awe opposed to scanning it. Scanning
can incite judgements and trauma. Inviting awareness of the body as a unique
expression of nature that is a unique gift to the world can also encourage
participants to come to be more comfortable with exploring the body.

Explore inviting participants to focus on investigating and cultivating the attitudinal aspect
of mindfulness by checking in on the attitudes they are habitually bringing to their body,
with the aim of gradually cultivating the capacity to meet oneself with a sense of kindness
and healing energy
Depending on the context, when leading the body scan to marginalised racial groups, it
might be useful to acknowledge there are sometimes complex relationships people have
when living in a racialised body and society. It is also important that teachers therefore
know how mindfulness specifically might help or hinder such complexities. When the
context is right and the teacher has a clear understanding of how mindfulness helps with
living in a racialised body and society specifically. Only then can the teacher consider the
practice to be delivered sensitively to marginalised racialised groups. If the teacher is from
the marginalised community, and there is an affinity group for example, the body scan
can also be used to help participants start to positively frame the racialised body and the
things that have been negatively framed in western culture and society. For example, if
hair and or skin are brought into the process in such context, it is possible for the
experienced practitioner to positively frame them by including awareness of the mind
wondering off into stories. Instead of offering things such as the mind wondering off
thinking about food, walking the dog later or shopping etc as seen done in many
mainstream mindfulness classrooms. The practitioner can use other places the mind can
wonder that are specific to that group. It could be a native food dish, cultural delicacy or
thoughts about the gifts, skills and creativity that come with having Afro hair, and the
brilliant design and care that go into it, before bringing them back to direct sensations to
offer a very skilful way of bringing the practice to context in a culturally informed and
positive way.
Similarly, references to skin can also be positively framed by checking participants
attention and acknowledging the mind might go off into stories about the wonderful gift
of a melanated body that is built for the earth and naturally protected from the sun before
bringing them back to direct experience.
By contextualising the body scan in this way, the teacher is able to skilfully offer
something for the moment, time and context that can help to bring humour and joy into
the practice for particular groups whilst also widening participants perspectives to
positively frame the lived experience of a racialised bodies in a society where whiteness
tends to be idolised. This doesn’t mean we avoid the harsh realities of racism, but it does
mean the practice is culturally appropriate and seeks to balance out conditioned negative
biases marginalised groups are so often exposed to.
Nonetheless, it is important to always be aware that bringing awareness to skin, hair, size,
weight, condition, age, teeth, eyes, ears etc, can all be triggering and bring up challenging
emotions regardless of racial identity. As such, the only true way to do this work is to do
it with deep humility and sensitivity, knowing that the process is about learning from our
mistakes and being open to learn and adapt as we go. Importantly, this doesn’t
necessarily mean adapting the practice too much, rather adaptation here means more
about how as teachers, the practice is offered and delivered that would benefit from less
certainty and ever greater humility! This way, the important implicit teachings of the
practice become more apparent.
We should also assume this practice and perhaps all practices will be triggering for
someone in the room who has a trauma history, and therefore lead it with this awareness
and sensitivity in mind.
Home practice
The 9 Dots exercise: This exercise is often equated with corporate and oppressive working
practices. Consider bringing in alternative examples for some participant groups to
support the exploration of perception (e.g., exploration of media perception of leadership
images; coding bias in computer AI etc).
Exploring the wonder in the everyday, inviting participants to practice the raisin
meditation with things around the home to facilitate seeing things afresh with beginner’s
mind, wonder, and awe. This can be resourcing for people who are disadvantaged as it
helps access gratitude.

Class 2
Introduction to the meditation:

Begin with resting in awareness of sounds instead of automatically beginning with
awareness of breath. Most participants may be more familiar or at ease with focusing on
sounds rather than focusing on the breath. Focusing on the breath can be triggering and
intense for many. It can also be problematic especially for those with respiratory illnesses
or those who have experienced trauma linked to breath and breathing.
The role of perception:
This exploration can include inquiry into the way we place ourselves in boxes; the way
others place us in boxes; the way we live in default autopilot mode; the way we have
patterns of bringing stress to self; and perhaps begin to peel back layers to help
understand where and how these inner perceptions may have been learned and accepted
as our way of being. This can lead into discussion of macro and micro aggressions.
Themes that can be introduced within the exploration of perception include implicit bias,
how our unconscious beliefs, values, and culture affect the way we think, feel, act, and
our health and sense of belonging; having to pretend, imitate and adapt in order to fit the
mainstream culture; looking at other cultures from the lens of our own culture with
regards to morality, ethics, customs, etc.
One way of inviting awareness of self-perception is to invite participants to recall the
different roles we have in different aspects of our life - family, friends, work, public,
community etc. This can support bringing awareness to conditioned perceptions by
touching on stereotypes within default characters and media conditioning that can stifle
our ability to reframe, rethink and reimagine.
Highlight that awareness of the experience of ‘resistance’ or ‘aversion’ is often a gateway
into perception as it points to our relationship to what is showing up in awareness.
The theme of perception can be an opportunity to bring awareness of how our social
conditioning influences perception by introducing key concepts within the social sciences
including, Ontology - or what we perceive, Epistemology - or how we come to know it,
and Axiology - or why it matters ethically, morally, and culturally perhaps. All of which
unconsciously inform our expectations, assumptions, beliefs and goals that can lead to
biases that are often reinforced by automatic categorizations perpetuated by the
mainstream. When we invite awareness of epistemic justice to the conversation, we
invite participants to access their own ability to reimagine, reframe or rethink how what
they have been taught perhaps no longer serves them, e.g., ‘west is best’, ‘science is truth’
etc. Epistemic justice also allows indigenous knowledge and perspectives to be explored
28which helps with disengaging from conditioned beliefs that do not serve the individual or
wider society. Epistemic justice can be about reclaiming the body and identity. These
themes may emerge explicitly or may be part of the implicit knowledge base that informs
the way the teacher orients in the teaching space.

Week 2 home practice

Depending on the context, consider inviting the exploration of a positive experience around race for the
‘pleasant experiences’ calendar, if possible and available. Below are examples that we (NMH and MW)
use from our own lived experience. We walk through the Pleasant Experiences Calendar using one of
these examples, completing each column as we go.

I went to a gathering at my mother-in-law’s. I’ve been to these gatherings
before and normally the majority of people who are there are much older,
and I have a hard time finding things in common to talk about. Also, I’m
usually the only person of colour (and the only Japanese person). Because of
this, I was not particularly excited to go to the gathering. While driving there
with my husband, I was feeling a slight tightness around my neck and my
chest area as I was anxious. I also asked my husband if we can leave in an
hour. As we arrived and walked into the room, I spotted an Asian looking
woman. I felt a sense of relief and a joy. After greeting a few people near
the entrance, I walked up to her and introduced myself. As soon as she told
me her name with an accent, I knew we could converse in Japanese. It was
such a joy to have a conversation with her in our native language, and I had
a great time at the gathering.

When my mother passed away and I was named the executor of her will, I
needed to file documents with the county courthouse which is in a
predominantly white community that borders the Native American
Reservation she lived on. There is a long history of racism and oppression
between the communities of the Reservation and the surrounding white
community. Past interactions with the woman, who is white, handling her
case have been stressful and I frequently left them feeling dismissed and
disrespected. As I entered my final meeting with her, I was aware of the
discomfort and tension I felt in my body, feeling apprehensive and scared
and thoughts of just wanting to be done with this and her. I braced myself.
However, as we entered into dialogue her tone was friendly and kind. She
made eye contact and smiled. I was aware of tension being released in my
body and mind. My speech became less pressured, and my breath moved
with more ease. I felt my shoulder relax and a genuine smile come to my
face. I walk through this ‘Pleasant Experiences Calendar’, completing all the
columns, as an example of a pleasant cross-racial event. I then give the
invitation to the class to explore an event in the week that was ‘racially
flavoured’ that was pleasant.

Class 3
The dialogue around Body Scan and Perception may continue to unfold in large group dialogue
reflecting on cultural beliefs related to ‘what is desirable’ or approved in our own culture
regarding the body and suffering that arises from not meeting the ‘gold standard’ within our own
or the mainstream culture.
-Since this is a heavily practice centred class, emphasize trauma informed guidance.
-A walking meditation adaptation can be to start with fast walking in the room to meet participants
where they are if there is hyperactive energy present in the group and gradually decreasing the
speed to a stop, and then beginning with slow walking practice.
Standing mindful movement could be some of the regular MBSR and perhaps ending with dance,
free movement, shaking, etc.

Week 3 homework

Depending on the context, consider inviting the exploration of an unpleasant racial experience for the
‘unpleasant experiences calendar’. Below are examples that we (NMH and MW) use from our own lived
experience. We walk through the Unpleasant Experiences Calendar using one of these examples,
completing each column as we go.

I was driving back from Arizona (AZ) to California (CA) and had to go through the border
check point. I was getting nervous as I always did because I had heard many stories about
people getting questioned or getting into troubles even when they are permanent
residents. The border patrol officers were waving to let many of the cars go without
stopping them. Then it was my turn. The officer looked at me and asked me if I was a
Citizen and if I had my passport. I showed my green card (permanent resident card) and
told the officer that my passport was in my suitcase in the trunk. The officer said I should
always have my passport with me, and asked what I was doing in AZ, how long I stayed
there, where I worked in CA, etc. I was nervous, feeling tense in my shoulders and
stomach. As I recall the event, I wonder if they would have asked these questions me if I
looked white.

My colleague came to my office and said ‘You look like a person who would have soy
sauce. Do you have some?’ I was taken by surprise by what he had said to me, and I simply
responded to him that I did not have any soy sauce. His comment stayed with me for a
while. It was not clear how I was feeling at the time, but I was aware of an unsettled
emotion in my body. As I recall, it may have been an emotion of anger, sadness, and
shame. I wondered if he would have asked me if I was not an Asian.

There was a bakery in the predominantly white community that shares a border with the
Native American Reservation I was born on and return to for visits with my mom, who
lived there. Upon entering the bakery there was one white person before me and shortly
after a few white people who arrived after me. The employee, who was white, waited on
all the white customers before waiting on me. I was aware of tension in my body when
entering the bakery, and the tightness in my body growing as the employee continued to
call on white customers before me, feeling angry, scared, and dismayed, and a rush of
thoughts happening.

Class 4

Stress reactivity and the stress reaction cycle:
Include naming of external stressors such as oppression, racism, white supremacist
systems, homophobia, male supremacy, climate change etc.
Include naming of internal stressors such as internalized colonization and
intergenerational stress
Explore how maladaptive coping related to these kinds of stressors leads to higher rates
of illness among certain racial groups. Teachers can add information on the social
determinants of health that can offer a rationale for the importance of addressing both
the inner and outer aspects of suffering. This aids awareness that many aspects of good
or bad health are not totally a personal endeavour - there are many social, cultural,
systemic, and intergenerational determinants of health that we have no control over. This
offers a segue into the importance of self-compassion and compassionate action in wider
These themes also offer a great opportunity to introduce short breathing and grounding
practices that settle the nervous system.


Class 5

Mindfulness Meditation - Responding
The preceding weeks of body centred practices may have led to a recognition of racial
stressors and a recognition of new ways to respond to oppression and racism. Using
information from the body can support creating space between reaction or suppression
of feelings and an opportunity to see new empowered ways to respond and take care of
Bringing a circle of ancestors and benefactors to awareness can be supportive to
participants’ engagement with practice
In addition to leaning into ancestors for support, adding the plant world, animal
kingdoms, and oceanic sources as options can be helpful
Cultivating agency and purpose as a response to experience can be useful. The MBIT
program uses a Sankofa practice that first brings awareness to the idea that we can learn
from the past including those that have come before. We then invite a leaning into what
it might take to become a good ancestor ourselves: Ubele working for the future and
exploring what we might offer to future generations. We then come back to the present
moment bodily experience and recognize that our learning from the past can benefit the
future if we connect with the present momentary nature of life and its interconnected
reality and share with others from a place of Ubuntu. The movement practices and
interconnected nature of the whole lived experience built into this practice can help
awareness of fluidity or flow, impermanence or change and transformation.


Week 5 homework
Invite exploring a cross cultural/racially informed difficult communication when
completing the difficult communication calendar.

Class 6

Mindful Communication: “People Stress”
Exploring patterns around the way we communicate naturally brings us beyond the
personal into exploration of systemic patterns. The session theme invites awareness of
the dynamics of power discrepancies, race, gender, class, economic status, disability etc.
Space can be given to feeling these types of communication in the body and noticing
patterns such as going into to fight or flight or suppressing emotions. With mindfulness
we can see more options.
It is important to incorporate cultural differences about holding eye contact, posture,
non-verbal: tone of voice, gestures, etc. when doing pairs exercises.

Class 7
Typically, in this session we explore what we take in (consume) and what we leave out.
We encourage widening this out to investigation of how we live in the world in terms of
social and racial justice, and our carbon footprint. How might our mindfulness practice be
applied to the way we engage with our family, our community, our workplace, and society
more broadly?
The session can be an opportunity to name common cultural blindness that are hurtful to
BIPOC people: e.g. ‘I see no colour’

Class 8

The final ‘go-around’
One option is to invite participants to bring a precious or symbolic object from their home
or environment. Invite them to experience the object in meditation using the senses as
per the raisin exercise. Participants often have a connection with their object so being
invited to experience it differently through the senses is welcomed as it opens wonder
and awe of something already valued but seldom deeply reflected upon in an embodied
way. Weave in recognition of the constituent parts of the object that make it whole
including the indigenous wisdom of earth, wind, fire, and water involved in the object’s
33creation and its inherently interconnected nature. This practice finishes with reflecting on
the wonder and awe of our object and own existence by offering a short reflection on
what it has taken for us also to be part of this community.

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