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Mindful : August 2015
“ our interactions with others.” Magee grounds her teachings about race and law in mindful- ness-based practices that help people develop “color insight.” The practice of mindfulness can open our hearts, says Magee. “The piece I have been practicing with is to infuse this all with deep compassion for ourselves and others.” Compassion for oneself and others is also on police officer Richard Goerling’s mind. Eight years ago, Goerling, a veteran cop ahead of the curve, began a personal mindfulness practice—to relieve stress, and get to know himself better. “ It really became this deep introspective journey,” says Goerling, a lieutenant with the Hillsboro Police Department in Oregon. “And the more I practiced, the more self-awareness I cultivated. “It’s natural to develop a coping mecha- nism that reinforces our biases and makes them worse,” says Goerling, who, like others in his profession, has seen public trust in the police plummet. Implicit bias, says Goerling, is “the dirty little secret” in police departments. “Mindfulness is the one skill I have come across in my 20 years of law enforcement that promises to improve the individual and radically change the performance of the police officer and radi- cally change the relationship of the police officer to the community,” he says. Goerling has set up the Pacific Institute in Oregon to train police officers, based on the eight-week Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction prog ram (MBSR) pioneered by Jon Kabat-Zinn at Massachusetts General. “All of the technolog y in the world—cameras on police officers, etc.— won’t help until we work with the police officers themselves, until we begin to offer prog rams that make them resilient, empathic, and compassion- ate—and still battle ready,” says Goerling, who now speaks to police departments around the globe. “ We need to understand our perceptions of the world and how we bring our biases into the judgments we make about other people.” If Goerling had his way, every police depart- ment every where would have such a program. “It’s about transforming the culture from the inside out,” he says. “On both sides of the badge there is deep suffering.” And there is mindfulness on both sides of that badge, and with that may come unseen possibili- ties, even when things seem dire. On a spring day in late April, when the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray while in police cus- tody caused angry residents in Baltimore to riot, the founders of the Holistic Life Foundation, Ali and Atman Smith and Andy Gonzalez, were not surprised. These three, who started work- ing with young people in the inner city in 2001, are a picture of unity within diversity. Their personalities diverge widely, and they argue and cajole reg ularly, yet they speak with one voice and work off the same page of the playbook. “ We know the trauma these folks have grown up with and the anger that can cause,” says Atman, “and that’s why we’ve been working here for so long, to get these young ones to find their own inner resilience through yoga and mindfulness,” he says, “so they can be part of making this city an environment you can thrive in.” Andy added that, “ You know what? The people who have trained with us have been out there cleaning up after the mess and raising the spirits of the community. They are sad about the destruction, but they are answering the wake-up call.” On the Saturday following the riots, the group sponsored “B-More Love: Group Meditation to Increase Peace and Unity in Baltimore City” in the heart of their neighborhood, which is right where the riots began. “ We need to boost up the love vibes,” Ali says, “and get some people together who don’t look like each other to solve the problem. Get them to be mindful together. Too much separation in Baltimore right now.” ● Richard Goerling, a police officer in Ore- gon, started practicing mindfulness eight years ago. He says mindfulness has the power to transform police culture in America, cultivating awareness, compas- sion, and resilience. Karin Evans is a longtime journalist and editor, and the author of The Lost Daughters of China: Adopted Girls, Their Journey to America, and the Search for a Missing Past (Tarcher/Penguin). She has written for Greater Good, More, and many other publications. All the technology in the world— cameras on police officers, etc.—won’t help until we work with police officers themselves.” Richard Goerling, lieutenant with the Hillsboro Police Department in Oregon 52 mindful August 2015 unconscious bias