Mindfulness equity and Western Buddhism: reaching people of low socioeconomic status and people of color
Author(s)Blum, Harrison A
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AbstractAbstract This study presents the findings of the first pilot series of the Mindfulness Allies Project (MAP), and focuses on the intersection of mindfulness, Western Buddhism, socioeconomic status (SES), and race. While much has been published about the efficacy of mindfulness meditation with various clinical and non-clinical populations, understudied populations still include people of low SES and people of color. Additionally, while care is often, and appropriately, taken to differentiate mindfulness from Buddhism, the fact remains that Buddhism directly influenced the creation of leading clinical uses of mindfulness, including Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. MAP proposes a model for Western Buddhist centers and teachers, as well as professional mindfulness providers, to offer annual secular mindfulness series in partnership with local organizations serving marginalized populations—those not benefitting from privileged identity factors—particularly in relation to race and class. MAP is founded on a vision of mindfulness equity—or equal access to mindfulness teachings. This MAP pilot series consisted of five weekly mindfulness classes. Classes were provided free of charge at a community center serving low-income residents, with childcare during and dinners after classes also provided free of charge. Participants largely consisted of people of color earning less than $15,000 per year. Quantitative and qualitative surveys administered at the conclusion of the final class revealed highly positive feedback, and suggest that the MAP model could benefit both marginalized communities as well as Buddhist centers’ and teachers’ desire to diversify those benefitting from their teachings in the West.