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The Social Impact of Mindfulness

Updated: Jan 11, 2022

from Skoll

by Gretchen Steidle

‘Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.’ –Rumi

Those of us working towards a more just society must embody the same principles we envision for the world. This begins with mindfulness, which in turn drives compassion.

Mindfulness can be defined as paying attention to whatever is happening in the present moment, with curiosity and without judgment. This can be practiced in a number of ways, from sitting intentionally and paying attention to your breath, to bringing awareness to things happening around you.

Research is beginning to demonstrate the positive impact of mindfulness on the individual, including improved immune system functioning, decreased stress and worry, enhanced memory and concentration, increased positive emotions, and reduced conflict and anger.

When mindfulness is applied to social innovation, it transforms the way we diagnose issues and advance change. It allows us to understand ourselves and change from the inside out.

With greater presence, we can listen better, understand people more deeply, and build stronger relationships. With deeper self-awareness, we are more likely to respond wisely instead of reacting blindly, and step back to restore ourselves when we need greater balance.

Employing the curiosity inherent in mindfulness, we find more insight in our challenges, which helps us innovate, improve our effectiveness, and find meaning in our work. The same process of deep inquiry used for self-awareness can then be applied to understand others, diagnose issues, and design solutions that embrace compassion and ultimately lead to longer-term, sustainable transformation.

I call this approach “Conscious Social Change,” a design philosophy and methodology for creative, compassionate solutions-building, grounded in mindfulness and self-awareness. Following are five fundamental principles of Conscious Social Change, and ways that mindfulness is relevant to social change.”

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