Thanks to some wonderful students I am proud to say represent the University of Nottingham Ningbo China, I was asked to give a workshop for Diversity, the student association I rigorously support that aims to raise awareness on LGBTQ+ issues and debated, as well as others related to social equalities.
Of course, I said I’d be thrilled to, and gave my workshop a couple of weeks ago (it’s taken me far too long to post about it). The workshop presentation slides can be downloaded right here for your reference.
A Brief Summary
Mostly through personal experiences, I myself have been utterly frustrated and angry at gender and sexuality inequality. Despite begin raised in the UK, I am still amazed at how much division between gender lies in the daily discourse we have. A seemingly liberal country, yet certain views are still rife. View that men and women are different, and so should be treated differently for example. That women should want to marry a reliable man and “settle down” (I find that term very spiky indeed) and have children. That women are ungracious if “too assertive”, that men should “be men”, not to mention all the sexual stereotyping that goes on. And the list just goes on and on. You might find those examples to be stereotypical, exaggerated or old-fashioned, but those belief sets do still run deep in many of our minds and therefore they affect our treatment of others and of ourselves. As I said, I too still find modern trend-setters living in cosmopolitan cities to still hold such binary views about relationships, sexuality and gender, either consciously or unconsciously.
I talked of structure and agency: societal structures do inevitably dominate the norm, yet we as individuals do have some degree of agency (autonomy) to make changes.
Ultimately that is what meditation is about, habitual meditators have more agency for change because meditating pushes you to be totally aligned with the present and also totally aware the habits of your mind: the negative, neutral and positive mind. When you aware of the habits of your mind, you begin to see clearly a) the role you play in all the “problems” in the world b) the role you therefore play in all the “problems” in your own life c) the separation between your (true) self and the mind. All this in turn eventually allows you to, with more equanimity and less frustration and anger, be an agent of change in society.
I recommend two wonderful meditations for this:
1. Loving-Kindness (Metta Bhavana)
This beautiful meditation really pushes you to feel more love and compassion, even for people who have hurt you or people who hold views you detest. It can transform your relationship with others (and yourself).
As promised to those who attended my workshop (and everyone who reads this as well, why not?), you can download the meditation here absolutely free:
I must say a special thank you to dear friend Gracie Gao for providing her serene voice in the Chinese version (as well the translation).
This is by far the most profound form of meditation I’ve tried. Although all meditations are transformative to varying degrees. This one can stir and trouble you at first. So please be cautious and work with the least distressing thoughts first.
It is a way of getting you to question the thoughts and beliefs you hold the cause you distress. In my workshop, I gave a personal example of using the incredible approach of Byron Katie, The Work. All her materials, plenty of videos of The Work in action and a support line are available through her website, I couldn’t recommend it enough. I must write to Byron Katie and thank her soon too. It really is a gift.
In the workshop, I demonstrated how this might be used specifically with gender and sexuality inner conflicts, and really anything at all that causes us distress. The Work takes time, and cannot be rushed. We attempted to fill-out a ‘Judge Your Neighbour Worksheet’ and begin on ourselves, but really The Work is never done, so keep going back to it, sit in silence and work.
Actually, The Work can be used for anything and everything, that’s what I love about it, it’s the best form of self-inquiry I’ve ever worked with. Since I find that my recurrent inner conflicts are often related to gender and sexuality, myself in relation to others in the world, I have piles of stressful thoughts to work with!
When I read news stories of women being discriminated against in employment, I get upset, I do The Work.
When my friend’s mother on her wedding day nudges me and says “I bet you wish you could marry a doctor”, I get angry, I do The Work.
When a friend tells me of all the things she demands from her husband “because he’s a man, and he just should”, I feel irritated, I do The Work.
When I remember my ex-partner reminding me that the rules in relationships are different for men, I feel confused and frustrated, I do The Work.
The list of stressful thoughts that generate un-peaceful emotions that we have is endless. Even if our rational mind tells us “forget it”, “let it go”, “that’s just life”, “they’re just being old-fashioned”, “why listen to them?”, we only become free of limited unkind, stressful thoughts until we work with them on a much much deeper level.
In silence. Alone. With vigour. Over and over again.
And they release themselves from you, not the other way round. So we can begin to see reality as it actually is.
Anyway, apologies for the delay, it’s been a busy spell for me!
Please download and explore, more workshops on loving-kindness and self-inquiry coming soon. Please come along if this resonates with you at all. And contact me anytime too. Also, sign up to the mailing list to receive another free meditation gift: A 30-minute Meditation Bell Timer.