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Lions Roar : May 2015
“Research consistently shows that we can override our automatic associations through our behavior, and can even un- learn our automatic associations with enough practice,” writes UC Berkeley psy- chologist Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton. “Thus we’re not simply either egalitarian or preju- diced; egalitarianism is a learned skill.” Several studies—most recently by Adam Lueke and Brian Gibson of Central Michigan University—find that even very brief training for young white people in mindfulness seems to limit unconscious negative reactions to black faces. This is perhaps because awareness of one’s own impulses can help us to override them. Many police departments are now training officers to be aware of the im- plicit biases that influence split-second decision-making. To me, nothing better reveals the re- lationship between our inner lives and our social reality than the fight against implicit bias. Given the pervasive impact of racism—from the psychological inse- curity it creates in minority communities to the huge gaps in wealth between dif- ferent racial groups—I think we all have a responsibility to search inside ourselves for signs of bias. But it can’t stop at just recogniz- ing the problem. We also have to find the good in ourselves. We can start by recognizing that bias toward your own group isn’t a sign of your innate evil. It’s a sign that you are human. The next step is to forgive yourself, for these are feel- Practice: Three Good Things REMEMBER AND LIST three positive things that have happened in your day and consider what caused them. By giving you the space to focus on the positive, this practice teaches you to notice, remember, and savor the better things in life. Each day for at least a week, write down three things that went well for you that day, and provide an explanation for why they went well. The items can be relatively small in importance (“My co-worker made the coffee today”) or large (“I earned a big promotion”). As you write, follow these instructions: • Give the event a title (“Co-worker complimented my work on a project”). Write down exactly what happened in as much detail as possible, including what you did or said and, if others were involved, what they did or said. • Include how this event made you feel at the time and how it made you feel later (including now, as you remember it). • Explain what you think caused this positive event. • If you find yourself focusing on negative feelings, refocus your mind on the good event and the positive feelings that came with it. This gets easier with practice and can make a real difference in how you feel. • These practices are adapted from Greater Good in Action, a new website offering research-tested methods for a happier, more meaningful life. For many more such practices and scientific evidence of their effectiveness, go to ggia.berkeley.edu. ings that all human beings have at one time or another. In forgiving ourselves, we open the door to forgiving others, and in forgiveness, we create the possi- bility for widespread social change. The very idea of forgiveness always implies that change is possible. When we grow as individuals, we grow as a species. When we cultivate mindful- ness, compassion, and gratitude inside, we can strengthen our relationships— and potentially transform society. As we evolve together, let us count each act of love, empathy, and compassion. In our distant evolutionary past, our survival depended on attention to the negative. Today, it may depend on our awareness of the good. ♦ PHOTO©DOLGACHOV/DREAMSTIME.COM 8 PHOTOBYSEANLOCKE/STOCKSYUNITED 7 SHAMBHALA SUN MAY 2015 63