As meditation instructors and leaders in our centers, we might often find ourselves working with individuals with diverse personal qualities and motivations. Part of our practice as leaders is to develop genuine communication and connection with them, and their manifestations of basic goodness. To do this, we might want to consider how our own diverse qualities manifest skillfully in our interactions.
Often diversity is framed in terms of culture and cultural differences. However, we might first want to consider “what is culture?” Culture may be understood as integrated patterns of human behavior that include language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions of racial, ethnic, religious, social or work groups.
Culture has a dynamic, rather than static quality – it is constantly re-created and negotiated in specific social and historical contexts.
Culture is often realized from the “bottom up” in everyday interactions with our social world. Culture includes attributes and behaviors such as (but not exclusively) gender, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic and professional status, age, and geographic location. As people (and as MI’s), we and our students have multidimensional aspects of culture, and do not neatly “fit” into singular categories. In the face of such multiplicity, it is often useful to develop an attitude of sensitivity and listening as there are too many cultures to “know about everything.”
This attitude towards culture has been characterized as cultural humility as first written about by Tervalon and Garcia in 1998. Cultural humility does not require mastery of lists of different beliefs and behaviors pertaining to certain groups. Rather, cultural humility encourages respectful partnerships through inquiry, exploring similarities and differences between our priorities, goals, and capacities. A barrier to culturally appropriate behavior is not a lack of knowledge of the details of any given cultural orientation, but the failure to develop self-awareness and a respectful attitude toward diverse points of view.
An attitude of cultural humility becomes a lifelong process of self-reflection and self-critique that responds to diversity in a supportive manner. Humility sometimes has the connotation of being weak or submissive. Here, humility refers to the ability to listen to others – in their speech, appearance, and values – as well as to one’s own speech, appearance, and values. In listening to oneself, we recognize our own biases, limitations and unconscious stereotypes as well as our strengths and abilities. Within this recognition, we simultaneously become more authentically open to others. In practicing cultural humility, we deepen and develop our personal, interpersonal, and societal relationships in order to bring about enlightened society.
Reference: Tervalon M, Murray-Garcia J. (1998). J Health Care Poor Underserved 9(2):17-25.
August 10, 2014