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Mary Margaret
Professor of Women and Gender Studies
ASU School of Social Transformation

What is mindfulness to you?

Mindfulness is a state of being grounded in the awareness of the present moment.This awareness gives us the courage to face reality with detachment from our past memories and future expectations. As we create spaciousness from our preoccupations we expand our possibilities to act in the world with integrity, coherence, and compassion.

 How do you use mindfulness in your work, research, or practice? 

 I use a variety of mindfulness practices in everything I do - teaching, research, administration and in how I live my life. With Rich Goldsand, a Feldenkrais practitioner, I have developed and offered courses and workshops for students, faculty and administrators on transformational leadership. Transformational leadership involves the capacity to inspire action, motivate change, and envision what has not yet been brought into the word. The distinction between leader and follower is lessened, allowing for mutual influences that can convert followers to leaders and leaders to become followers. At its core is capacity to take into account the perspective of others with empathy and       respect. Our curriculum and teaching methods incorporate Feldenkais Awareness through Movement lessons, mindfulness practices, simulations and reflection. Our goal is to help individuals develop the capacity to be embodied transformational leaders. We believe this type of leadership is better suited for a diverse and rapidly changing world. Our research on the Feldenkrais method shows that the method can increase body awareness, mindfulness, empathetic leadership and reduce stress. Many of our students are first generation college students from communities of color and tribal nations who want to change the world. Our leadership course, Transformational Leadership and Embodied Activism draws students from a wide range of schools including; Social Transformation, Sustainability, Theater, Film and Dance, Social and Family Dynamics, and the Future of Innovation in Society. We taught an indigenous-focused version of the course to two cohorts of Native American doctoral students--Pueblo and Navajo. We learn as much form our students as they learn for m us and I have  tried to incorporate that learning in my own leadership roles as the founding director of the School of Social Transformation and as the Associate Director of Sociology in the School of Social and Family Dynamics.

How has the practice of mindfulness affected your life (personally and professionally)?

Mindfulness has made me a better person and a better leader. I have deepened my appreciation and acceptance of the rich diversity of people, places and experiences that are part of the fabric of the world we live in. As a leader I am more innovative, patience and also more persistent in the face of challenges. I can listen to a variety of divergent opinions and yet make decisions I can live with even in the face of opposition. I hope to inspire in others the belief that we are all leaders and that the courage to act can be cultivated through mindfulness practices.

How can mindfulness transform society?

Transforming society will take courage and the capacity to persist--to stay on course when things get tough. Mindfulness can help us cultivate the type of activism, relationships and coalitions we need to create a fair and inclusive society where belonging is the norm.and saving the planet is an imperative. Mindfulness helps us to start where we are before moving forward. Ending suffering, poverty, war, and discrimination will require a mindfulness that allows us to engage the world with radical awareness.

What does the future hold for the practice of mindfulness?

I think the future is bright for the practice of mindfulness but what we do now will determine if we have a future. According to Martin Luther King, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”  Mindfulness can help us to bend that arc.