Diversity Awareness: introduction

Hello ! When I speak in public, I often ask permission to work on myself for a minute or so before presenting. This work on myself is a kind of diversity awareness process in itself as I get to at least briefly acknowledge inner, and potentially outer resources, critics, experts, doubters, and the fearful part of me.

I noticed that I was dragging my feet in posting my first blog and now want to work on myself. Working on myself in this context is simply bringing attention to whatever I notice in the moment as I start this blogging process.

First, I notice the Stevie Wonder song "All Day Sucker" playing in my kitchen. And then I notice a slightly congested breath, and some soft or sad feeling in my eyes. I notice the tightness in my chest again. And when I feel it, I become more internal and feel more peaceful.

Next, I start to become aware of you. Who might be reading this? Are you already losing interest? Am I already another self- involved blogger? Maybe I need to quickly say something important or interesting. I feel some pressure. I assume that you won’t give me much of your time unless I give you a good reason.

But are you just reading/listening and am I just writing/speaking? How open am I to hearing from you? I have my own ideas, experience, and philosophy regarding diversity. I think I have some openness to learning from you. But frankly I’m a bit scared to be too open to change. Or maybe I’m a bit scared to find how rigid I am in my beliefs.

I should say a little of what I do believe.

Diversity awareness is intimately tied to sustainability of self, relationships, health, community, and world. A simple example that demonstrates this is the awareness an individual has of his or her own fatigue. Chronically ignoring awareness of this tiredness will make health unsustainable. Of course this presumes life conditions where one has the option to notice such things and then be able to exercise options such as resting.

Diversity awareness, or DA, is inextricably linked to a deeper democracy, where all people, perspectives (except the purely harmful ones), genders, races, religions, sexual orientations, abilities, mind states, and feelings have a place. I extend this democratic inclusion to the natural elements of air, water, earth and all the living creatures with which we share our world. To create deep democracy we need to first start to become aware of the people, perspectives, elements, etc., that are involved.

Speaking of deep democracy, I think of the author of this term and want to acknowledge one of my teachers of many years, Arnold Mindell (www.aamindell.net). Mindell founded Process Work and his seminal work with diversity has moved me greatly. One of the things I love about Process Work is that it follows naturally occurring processes in people and therefore its interventions tend to be sustainable. Another thing I like is that the same principles of following nature, respecting diversity, and working with what is marginal yield good results whether working with an individual’s physical symptom, a couple’s marital problems, an organization’s dilemmas, or conflicting groups in disparate parts of the world.

I link DA to health and wholeness. What we marginalize, ignore, repress, or kill off will eventually harm us. Inclusion is the key to wholeness. An example of this is clearly shown in the studies that link gender equality, women’s rights, population control, and biodiversity (State of the World 2003. 2003). Marginalizing women and their rights will also limit their say in reproduction and therefore population growth. Because population growth in the biodiversity "hotspots" of the planet is a crucial issue, women’s rights is also crucial. I say this with self-consciousness as a male. And I name this linkage because I know, in my own version, that marginalization harms my health and well-being. As a Korean/Japanese American, having experienced racism and marginalization, I struggle with my own health issues. Some of these apparently stem from exclusion. In the U.S. we say "you make me sick" as a way to indicate displeasure in someone’s company. You undoubtedly know people that enhance your feelings of well-being and others who do "make you sick." Well, marginalization makes people sick whether it is sexism, racism, or other biases.

Marginalization is pushing away. It’s forgetting, repressing, ignoring or pushing something or someone off to the margins. For me, marginalization is an essential key to DA work. It’s natural for people to marginalize certain elements of life, even vitally important ones. Marginalization is a potentially helpful key as it is a reliable indicator of what needs to be included for collective and individual well being.

Of course, marginalization is also a big problem. For example, in the U.S., as in other parts of the world, gender, skin color, and sexual orientation, to name a few human factors, affect health and well-being. These human factors also influence the availability and quality of health care.

D A is diversity awareness because awareness, or the process of noticing is crucial to it working as a tool for individual, relational, and collective life. But if what is important to notice is in the shadows, in the margins of life and in the mind, this awareness must be willing to go into the unknown. This takes attitude. We can be more willing to cultivate the attitude that wants to know. We can become curious about our bodily symptoms rather than merely trying to alleviate or rid ourselves of them. We can become interested in the disturbing points of view that our spouses, friends, co-workers, or enemies possess rather than simply making them wrong.

Of course this is easier said than done. In future blogs I‘ll explore how this can be done in ways that make friends with the problematic parts of life.