Seventeen Theses for a Mindful City
PART TWO: CONNECTING MINDFULLY
7. Listening Across Painful Divisions
The city of the early 21. Century is a showplace of increasingly vocal divisions along ethnicity, race, class, religion, sexual orientation and national origin. On the other hand, empathetic listening and dialog about longstanding grievances, divisions of pain, injustice and suspicion are rare and virtually non-existent in public forums. Mindfulness practice can help us recognize that, in the words of Martin Luther King, “we are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality.” (1) We develop the capacity to listen deeply without reacting and to hold space in our hearts for the pain, anger or frustration of another. Then we may experience our common humanity in a direct way, not just as a concept or words on a page. This experience is very much needed in the contested, tension-filled urban communities of our time.
8. Choosing “A Thousand Conversations”
Mindfulness is not only helpful in healing longstanding grievances, pain or injustices but it can also help us deal more patiently with each other’s every-day concerns. If we regularly engage in the practice of sharing from our heart in small groups with our colleagues, clients and constituents, we will build trust and learn to resist the urge of jumping into action just to be seen as “doing something” or to cover up a painful feeling. Planning professor Leonie Sandercock writes that one dimension of spiritual planning practice is “an extraordinary openness, a willingness to engage in a thousand conversations, and an ability to be fully present in those conversations, a mindful awareness rather than the usual bureaucrats’ way of pretending to listen, going through the motions.” (2)
(1) Letter from a Birmingham Jail.
(2) Spirituality and the Urban Professions: The Paradox at the Heart of Planning. Planning Theory and Practice, March 2006.