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Mindful : October 2019
In her debut book, Jenny Odell puts forward an uncom- monly rich, poetic ode to the here-and-now, and a call to find belonging in it. While she critiques both “productivity- obsessed culture” and addic- tive tech—Odell grew up in Silicon Valley—her argument surpasses a mere list of rea- sons to turn off your phone. She looks to (for example) literature, art, working-class and Native American his- tories, experimental music, and her own experience (as an ar tist, ar t educator, and birdwatcher in the Bay Area) to illustrate the true vibrancy and potency of human atten- tion. Naming attention as our primary resource to combat looming social and ecologi- cal catastrophe, she paints a compelling picture of why it’s urgent that we return to a sense of public, embodied space and time. “A simple refusal motivates my argu- ment: refusal to believe that the present time and place, and the people who are here with us, are somehow not enough,” writes Odell. It’s hard not to see the inherent mindfulness of that refusal. HOW TO DO NOTHING Resisting the Attention Economy Jenny Odell • Melville House Early in this book, Rhonda Magee tells a little story that both breaks your heart and potently illustrates why she has devoted her life’s work to getting to the heart of bias and helping undo its deleterious effects. She recounts the first time she came to see fully how other people could view her in a completely different light than she and her family viewed her. She saw that there was a wall dividing people—a wall that could be nearly invisible until you bumped up against it. Magee has brought together experience as a law professor and a longtime practitioner of mindfulness—and training as a mindfulness teacher—to host classroom conversations about race, privilege, and bias that few of us ever take part in, particularly in a mixed-race context. She’s learned a lot from years of this kind of hands-on work. For one thing, it has taught Magee that color blindness is an unhelpful con- cept for promoting equity and justice. Despite the fact that race is “socially constructed” and ultimately a “fiction,” our perception of signifi- cant differences is unmistakable, so we cannot be “blind” to color. That’s simply a prescription for being blind to our biases. Instead, Magee teaches and practices what she calls ColorInsight, using contemplative practices to peer into and beyond our biases. It starts from a view that we are deeply interconnected, but need to “take a long (lifelong), loving (heartful and compassionate) look at racism,” where “stay- ing in our discomfort” can be “an important part of healing and transforma- tion.” Through instruction, stories, history (both legal and otherwise), and insight, Magee takes us on a very rewarding, vital, and timely journey. THE INNER WORK OF RACIAL JUSTICE Healing Ourselves and Transforming Our Communities through Mindfulness Rhonda V. Magee • Tarcher Perigree “Leaning in” is a phrase often used by meditation teachers to describe staying with and exploring our discomfort, rather than warding it off with a mental 10-foot pole. In this “poetic dispensary,” Sieghar t presents a similarly time- tested way to lean in: through poetry. To find that someone far away has already written a poem that expresses the intensity of our own experi- ence, he says, “is to discover a powerful sense of complicity, and that precious realization: I’m not the only one who feels like this.” The table of contents is a list of difficulties such as Anxi- ety, Letting Go, Stagnation, or Rocky Relationships. Under each is a poem that speaks to it, as well as Sieghart’s gentle, perspective-giving commen- tary. Of course, not everyone who feels X emotion will find comfort in the same words. Still, even if you don’t usually fancy poems, you might lean in to these ones and be sur- prised by the balm they offer. THE POETRY REMEDY Prescriptions for the Heart, Mind, and Soul William Sieghart • Viking Press ONLINE Q&A with Rhonda Magee Dive deeper into The Inner Work of Racial Justice. Sign up at mindful.org/ rhonda m 74 mindful October 2019 read, listen, stream