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Mindful : August 2015
“ walls came down, says Ferraro. “If we all got real, basically we would all fall in love with each other. I have seen that time and time again,” he says softly, emotion rising in his voice. “If you get real with kids, they get real right back.” Fer- raro has worked with more than 100,000 young people, including incarcerated youth. Today he is a meditation teacher with Against the Stream in San Francisco and a senior trainer at Mind- ful Schools, a nonprofit where instruction in mindfulness extends not just to at-risk youth, but to the adults who work with them—teachers, correction officers, social workers, parents. “ We should all be educating ourselves and waking up to the places we’ve gone to sleep so that the weight of our conditioning doesn’t land on the people it has always landed on,” says Fer- raro. “One guy who experienced bias said it was like a thousand little paper cuts, all the time. As a straight white man, I can do what I can to reflect on this. The problem with waking up the world is that people don’t know they are sleep- ing! Mindfulness makes it possible to wake up.” And after that? “Just see if you can approach every moment with kindness. Know what that does? It allows you to live in a kind world!” “Compassion to ourselves, to everyone around us, that’s a core part of mindfulness training,” says Janice Marturano, a former Vice President and deputy general counsel for General Mills. Long known for the manufacture of Cheerios and other quintessential American products, the company is now known for introducing yoga mats and mindfulness to its Minneapo- lis headquarters. That began after Marturano discovered the connection between mindfulness meditation and leadership development for her- self and benefitted so much that she decided to share the discovery with her coworkers. Today, General Mills has a meditation room as do a growing number of other US companies. Nearly five years ago, Marturano left General Mills and moved home to New Jersey to found the Institute for Mindful Leadership, wrote a book called Finding the Space to Lead, and now brings mindfulness to organizations all over the world. Working with implicit bias is one focus of Big City Pause, a one-day workshop the institute inaugurated in May in New York City. “We all need to be able to work with people of differ- ent experiences,” says Marturano. In her early days as a young lawyer in a New York law firm, she recalls, “ I encountered male partners who simply refused to work with women associates.” Today her aim goes beyond ideas of gender and racial equality. “ What we need for our world → WE DO NOT KNOW Breaking through bias is possible when we truly open ourselves to someone else’s experience, says Vinny Ferraro, who runs mindfulness programs for youth and adults. Ferraro, who looks you in the eye, talks straight, and radi- ates compassion, grew up on the streets selling drugs. His father was incarcerated, his mother died young, and he himself was locked up and suffered from addiction before reversing his trajectory with the help of meditation. Now both a practitioner and highly respected teacher of mindfulness, Ferraro says, “The beginning of the conversation is if we can imagine at least for a minute that we do not know what is going on for other people, to suspend our belief that our truth is the only/whole truth, and to realize that all beings see through a lens of their own con- ditioning. Or, as the saying goes, ‘The only way illusion works is if we mistake it for reality.’” In 2001, Ferraro started working with a groundbreaking program called Challenge Day in Oakland, California, public schools. The event gathered high school students together and had them form small groups, with kids they didn’t usually hang out with. In an exercise called “If You Really Knew Me,” all were encouraged to share one true thing about themselves with the group. Once kids opened up and began to really see each other, feel each other’s experiences, the If we all got real, basically we would all fall in love with each other. I have seen that time and time again.” Vinny Ferraro, longtime meditator and senior trainer with Mindful Schools 48 mindful August 2015 unconscious bias