praxis and mindfulness

to oppress:

keep (someone) in subservience and hardship,

esp. by the unjust exercise of authority

I’ve been slowly reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed for a second time by Paulo Freire and the renewed insights are amazing! With all this inquiry into mindfulness, yoga, and community development – these lines really stood out for me…

“As individuals or as peoples, by fighting for the restoration of their humanity they will be attempting the restoration of true generosity.  Who are better prepared than the oppressed to understand the terrible significance of an oppressive society?  Who suffer the effects of oppression more than the oppressed?  Who can better understand the necessity of liberation?  They will not gain this liberation by chance but through the praxis of their quest for it, through their recognition of the necessity to fight for it.  And this fight, because the purpose given it by the oppressed, will actually constitute an act of love opposing the lovelessness which lies at the heart of the oppressors’ violence, lovelessness even when clothed in false generosity” (Freire, 2000, p. 45).

For true liberation to occur, this paragraph (and the premise behind the book) speaks to the strength and wisdom being accessed within those who are oppressed.  The deeply imbedded understanding of lived oppression serves as a motivator to support the volition and participation necessary to create change.  Many individuals, collectives, communities, and populations exist in an oppressive reality.  To quote Tiwari, “life has growth in it…existence has no growth”.  Existing within an oppressive reality undermines any human or earthly potential–having the capacity to become or develop into something in the future.

So how do those who are oppressed shift into a conscious place and transition into an experience of growth that includes action, participation, engagement, and momentum?

As anything – I would say it begins with a conversation with one’s self or others.  This is where I believe mindfulness can creep in and serve the cause of liberation.  As people step onto a path of transformation, liberation from oppression, Freire cautions people to not repeat the patterns that have been role modeled by and learned from the oppressor.  There is no identification or consciousness that has been fostered within the oppressed, therefore there is an emphasis placed on ensuring the struggle for liberation takes place with a deep sense of self-awareness.  Freire places value in the need to re-evaluate and mindfully reassess what the model for humanity is and what people want it to be…

Consider these questions to return to…

~ what was the experience in the past

~ what is the situation in the present

~ what is the ideal vision to create for the future

How do people sustain the clarity in vision and return to the questions through a duration of uncertainty, of struggle, challenge, and conflict?

How do people identify who they are in the struggle for liberation after being told who they are by oppressors?

This is where I believe spirit plays a large role.  For example, Al Gore (1992) within Earth in the Balance, refers to the environmental crisis as a “spiritual crisis” because knowing and connecting to spirit challenges us to explore what we hold to be of ultimate importance and value.  Mindfulness supports one to focus on the present moment, the experience of who am I now, what am I now…it supports reflection and the expansion of understanding oneself in their reality.  Freire speaks often of praxis and the need to continually be engaged with this notion: reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it.

If liberation is the destination, then perhaps transformation is the journey that demands a process of mindful reflection of inner and external experience in order to not repeat learned patterns, to shift habits yet maintain clarity of what remains part of ones central values and core being…

Freire also speaks of accessing liberation through love opposing the lovelessness of the oppressors–parallel to the yama ahimsa; living with non-violence and compassion, Ghandi; be the change you want to see in the world…be love!

And as always – easier said than done…but isn’t that just an excuse?  Through commitment to a mindful practice that supports returning to our true nature, is it not possible to transform?  It definitely takes discipline and consciousness to consistently return to one’s will and check in with honesty and love…

…and the urgency to pay attention to now is increasing!

Often when speaking of oppression, the mind thinks of different human individuals, communities or groups–rightly so–however, the greatest system being oppressed is the earth…and because we are creatures imbedded in the habit of verbal communication and language, many cannot hear the cries from the consciousness of the earth!

So what does a mindfulness practice look like if supporting a transformation of consciousness for human beings in order to support the liberation of the earth?

How can we be ally’s in the struggle against oppression of the earth and not repeat the same patterns and habits of the past?

What will motivate us to remain engage in praxis to rise up with love?

“If humankind produced [our] social reality,

then transforming that reality is a historical task,

a task for humanity”

Paulo Freire


1 thought on “praxis and mindfulness

  1. I am a great fan of Paulo Freire, and an even greater fan of Freire’s #1 fan, bell hooks. I highly recommend hook’s (1994) Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom and (2003) Teaching Community: A Pedagogy of Hope. You may already know them. She is also a Buddhist and student of Thich Nhat Hanh, so has a wonderfully rich understanding of the interrelationship between oppression, anti-oppressive pedagogy, praxis, mindfulness and so much more. Here’s a little taste of what she says:

    Early on it was Freire’s insistence that education could be the practice of freedom that encouraged me to create strategies for what he called ‘conscientization’ in the classroom. Translating that term to critical awareness and engagement, I entered the classrooms with the conviction that it was crucial for me and every other student to be an active participant, not a passive consumer. Education as the practice of freedom was continually undermined by professors who were actively hostile to the notion of student participation. Freire’s work confirmed that education can only be liberatory when everyone claims knowledge as a field in which we labor. That notion of mutual labor was affirmed by Thich Nhat Hanh’s philosophy of engaged Buddhism, the focus on practice in conjunction with contemplation. His philosophy was similar to Freire’s emphasis on ‘praxis’ – action and reflection upon the world in order to change it. (hooks, 1993, p. 14)

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