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Mindfulness, Social Justice & Returning to My Ancestral Roots

My name is Karim Mendoza Brown.

I am a daughter of two Puerto Rican parents, and I came to the mainland USA from Puerto Rico when I was just 7 years old. My first language is Spanish.

I am a wife, a mother, a friend, and a light of hope. I am a teen parent and have been married to my high school sweetheart for 32 years. My journey on this earth continues to be full of surprises, and I practice mindfulness as a way of dealing with all that life has to offer.

My Mindfulness Journey

I started incorporating self-care into my life over seven years ago, prompted by my transition to vegetarianism. Over the years, this self-care has taken the forms of therapy, mindfulness, and yoga, all of which enhance my daily life. By actively doing self-care, I feel energized, focused, and ready for what life brings—whether positive or negative.

For me, self-care means taking care of my mind and body and staying physically and spiritually fit. I know that I can only control my actions and reactions to the environment around me; this knowledge is something that I work on daily.

Upon waking up in the morning, I give thanks to the universe for giving me life, then start the day by walking in nature with my dog Rose—this is my daily time for meditation and positive affirmations. This routine provides me with renewal and a positive start to the day. Each day, I work on eating healthy, being physically active, quieting my mind when feeling overwhelmed, and doing the next right thing. It is a work in progress.

In 2020, I was introduced to Shanti Project, and along with two of my closest friends, we created a series of mindfulness, yoga and self-care videos for local Spanish-speaking families. Now, as a board member, I try to bring my daily mindfulness mindset to the organization.

Busting Mindfulness Misconceptions in our Brown and Black Communities

The Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) in our communities are craving different ways to work through their trauma, stress, relationships, and everyday life struggles—this is something I see firsthand.

As a young Latina, self-care, meditation, yoga, and mindfulness used to seem out of reach to me. In speaking with friends, family, and other people of color, I found that many agreed, telling me that mindfulness practice is only for affluent individuals—or saying that it seems too difficult and takes up too much valuable time.

But in my mid-30’s, as I started to read and research about these life-enhancing techniques, I began, slowly but surely, to incorporate mindful practices in my life.

In many cultures, our ancestors knew of these inner self-healing practices, but, over the years, innumerable BIPOC peoples have been kept from them. I am now incorporating what history once took from me: practices that help me to be more compassionate, empathetic, caring, reflective and patient.

While I make sure to share this knowledge with anyone who asks about my healing journey, I always express that they should do their own research and educate themselves, too, so they can share all they learn with their loved ones.

Applications for Social Change and Community Building

Why do Latinos, as well as other BIPOC communities, find it difficult to create time and space to practice mindfulness?

Our ancestors, whose mindful practices were built into their very nature and culture, fostered a sense of community, in which each responsible adult was accountable for looking after one another. They worked together to make it possible for everyone to thrive. They grew up learning to cope and deal with conflict in safe and appropriate ways.

Many of us abandoned these practices when outside influences interrupted our ways of life, and we tried to assimilate into the dominant culture. We were taught to value Western priorities, such as time and money. Governmental, political and financial systems systematically created social injustice, racial disparities, and financial burdens for BIPOC peoples.

We must look inward and heal the relationships with our ideas and thoughts to reclaim what self-care is and is not. We need to repair the imbalance, create space-time, and respect the practice without being overburdened to self or others. We must model the way our ancestors used to live, sharing our experience with family and friends.

The Crucial Intersection of Mindfulness and Social Justice

The lived experiences of individuals and communities recognizes that mindfulness is a group practice that aims not only for individual freedom, but collective freedom. Strengthening community health, creating collaborative partnerships, and expanding community capacity are ways to work through social injustices.

Understanding our problems as interconnected with other issues and individuals helps us clearly see the countless ways we’re all linked together. Collectively, we can change the way we live and treat each other. Decolonizing my mind and body from society’s ingrained perception of mindfulness is how I—and how all of us—can work toward social justice and self-liberation.

Above, you'll find one of the videos on mindfulness Karim helped create for Shanthi Project's Spanish-speaking families! Click here for the entire playlist.

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