Embracing Diversity and Social Justice Work in Teaching MSC: Introduction to the Series

Co-authored by: Catherine Crisp, Meera Murthi, and Danielle Park

Allow us to introduce ourselves: we are Catherine, Meera, and Danielle, and are part of the MSC community. We are members of the CMSC Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging (DEIB) Task Force who expressed interest in contributing to a series of articles that would address DEIB issues in teaching MSC. This joint writing initiative that each of us committed to led to a series of introductory meetings, open and honest discussions, and intimate conversations about our own positionality and ongoing learning around DEIB issues. These conversations allowed us to begin learning about who the three of us are in the microcosm of our writer’s group and who we represent and how we are represented in the macrocosm. The unfolding content, process, and dynamics of our conversations helped us forge unexpected connections with each other and with ourselves and allowed us to bring honesty and clarity to DEIB issues as something that deeply reflects, influences, impacts, and implicates us and everyone around us. It has supported us to nurture a critical consciousness that we hope to dialogue and write from. 

Our dialogue led us to develop a vision for a series on DEIB issues that we hope to explore and share with you in the year ahead.

Our deepening intimacy through conversation provided us with fertile ground to unpack how the forces of oppression and privilege have impacted us in unique and shared ways. Specifically we hope to explore (a) our experiences with privilege and oppression, (b) an awareness of the ways we benefit from our privilege and have harmed others and/or been harmed by it, (c) awareness and reflection of oppression and the ways it impacts us and those around us, and (d) practices to assist us in our journey as we explore these challenging issues.

Our engagement with this material through conversations, writing, and reading each other’s works has often been charged, painful, and difficult. These experiences evoked a range of emotions and sometimes caused each of us to numb, freeze, and/or disconnect at different times and for different reasons.The MSC practices and our working group offered a powerful container as we continued to engage and supported us in turning towards emotions and realities that sometimes felt difficult to acknowledge and bear. Grounded in our relationships with each other, we noticed that this process continues to ripple outwards and impacts our teaching and lives more broadly. The process of engaging, writing, and sharing with the MSC teacher community has taken considerable “fierce self-compassion.” We look forward to sharing our process with you in our upcoming series and to reflecting on some initial practices we found helpful as we started this journey. 

To ground us in our shared MSC terminology, our discussions and experiences have tapped into the three components of self-compassion:

  • Mindfulness: our awareness of privileged and oppressed identities and experiences and how these intersect in diverse ways based on our unique identities;
  • Common humanity: our sense of connection to each other, to our unique communities and lineages, and to others on similar journeys;
  • Self-kindness: our use of MSC practices to respond to the many emotions and experiences that have arisen in the course of this journey. 
Plan for the Series
  • Introduce ourselves to you in the context of our experiences with privilege and oppression; 
  • Present definitions and a framework that guide our conversations with you, our fellow MSC teachers; 
  • Offer practical skills that MSC that teachers can use in their classes to become more inclusive and affirming of people with diverse identities; 
  • Share practices that can be applied to our work on DEIB issues.

These articles will be written in conjunction with other DEIB initiatives you will hear about from CMSC. In each of the above pieces, we hope to be reflexive and use a narrative method in order to speak from our direct and embodied experiences of privilege and oppression. We will write the articles in the context of our own experiences and our messy, ugly, beautiful, evolving, privileged, oppressed, and self-compassionate lives. As we have embarked on this journey, we have already had many feelings of anxiety, fear, and shame arise, thus reinforcing our belief that doing this work is neither easy nor clean. As you read our work, we invite you to notice how your own process and emotional journey evolves. 

We have experienced backdraft, resistance, anger, pain, shame, guilt, relief, just to name a few. If this occurs for you, please know that this is a shared experience and that it is part of the work (“We can’t heal it until we feel it”). We have each experienced a range of emotions as we engaged and immersed in this material in diverse ways. Our goal is to acknowledge this difficulty and provide tangible tools for navigating it in the service of increasing our cultural self-compassion and humility. In our role as teachers, our intention is to invite and create safe and inclusive spaces for all in our MSC classes.

Invitation to Read

Our MSC practices offer us tools and resources to respond to our struggles, and permission for us to close when we need to. We invite you to engage with our series of articles as an invitation for growth, practice, and to build community, just as we have with each other. We hope you will join us on this journey to deepen and broaden our sense of belonging, honoring the rich diversity of our global MSC teacher community while acknowledging the particularities that warrant tending to in our diverse identities and contexts.

We have found that applying the three components of self-compassion to our experience navigating these territories can be very helpful, including:

  • Mindfulness: being aware of our inner experience of suffering or difficulty related to our cultural identity without over-identifying with it; 
  • Common humanity: acknowledging that others who share our group and/or identity experience something similar to what we are experiencing;
  • Self-kindness: treating ourselves with love and compassion as we move through the painful emotions that arise. 

We are looking forward to writing this series of articles and to walking this journey with you. Thank you for your commitment to teaching MSC and to your openness to this work. 

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