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Mindfulness is a personal practice that sends ripples into the world around us. In other words, even though it is often considered an inner practice, the impact it has on our thoughts and feelings go on to impact our outward actions. What is internal becomes external, which is in essence how mindfulness can change the world.

In this comprehensive guide to the far reaching impact of mindfulness, we will explore:

  • How Mindfulness Can Change the World
  • Research on Mindfulness and Wellbeing
  • Beyond Personal Practice: Learn to Teach Mindfulness
  • 6 Mindfulness Exercises to Change the World
How Mindfulness Can Change the World

How Mindfulness Can Change the World

We often think that the primary way to change the world is to take action, and this isn’t untrue. However, what guides us to take helping, meaningful action? Is taking the ‘right’ external action enough if challenges of the internal world are not addressed? What if internal challenges are inhibiting us from taking meaningful action in the first place?

These questions can prompt further curiosity about how mindfulness creates external change. There is nothing wrong with working to change the world through immediate action because we need that as well. However, we often forget about how powerful and important it is to address inner tensions at the same time.

When inner tensions are left unaddressed, they tend to reflect themselves in the world around us. For example, if we are holding on too tightly to our emotions, these will work their way into our relationships, the way that we communicate, and other ways in which we go about our lives. If left in the shadows, our emotions and subconscious beliefs will shape the way we view and engage with the world.

To better understand how the personal practice of mindfulness can change the world, consider the following:

1. Mindfulness increases self-awareness.

First and foremost, mindfulness increases self-awareness. With practice, we get better at noticing the way we express ourselves, the way we listen (or don’t listen), the way we handle our emotions, and the limiting or judgmental beliefs that we hold. All of these things, when recognized, can help us to shift personal patterns or ways of being that do not contribute to peace, healing, and wholeness. For instance, we might become aware that chronic stress is impacting the way we communicate with others. This, if compassionately witnessed and held, can empower us to take responsibility for how we respond to stress and how we communicate, which positively impacts all of our relationships.

“Awareness is the greatest agent for change.”

- Eckhart Tolle -

2. Mindfulness can increase external awareness.

Another way that mindfulness can change the world is through its ability to increase our awareness of other people and perspectives along with global and local issues. This can modify our behavior and enhance our willingness to listen and to grow. Mindful listening, for example, can enhance our ability to be present when another person is speaking, which enhances our relationships with those around us. Mindful listening can also help us to engage with ideas that do not match our pre-existing beliefs. As we enhance our capacity to be present with others, we encourage others to do the same. This enhances collective healing and wellbeing.

3. Mindful compassion-based practices can enhance our sense of shared humanity.

Mindfulness is sometimes referred to as caring curiosity or loving awareness. Embedded in this is the element of care and compassion. Practices like the ‘Just Like Me’ meditation or metta meditation can help us to become more aware of our shared humanity. As this occurs, we might find ourselves becoming more patient or kinder towards others. This can help to bridge divides and remind us that we are in this together.

4. Mindfulness can inspire positive action.

Last but not least, even though mindfulness is typically considered to be a practice of non-doing, the insights we encounter during formal mindfulness practice can encourage us to take mindful action in the world. For instance, over the course of a committed mindfulness practice, we might become more aware of what our true values and passions are. We might also gain insight into any resistance or barriers we have to taking action. Though mindfulness is not about changing ourselves, personal growth is typically a side effect of increasing non-judgmental moment-to-moment awareness. As we develop internally, so too do our outer actions in the world.

Change due to mindfulness does not typically happen overnight; however, the changes that do occur through this personal work have deep roots, and therefore the shifts are long-lasting and sustainable. Even if seemingly subtle or invisible, the impact of mindfulness should not be underestimated.

Research on Mindfulness and Wellbeing

Research on Mindfulness and Wellbeing

What does the research say about the relationship between mindfulness and wellbeing? What about mindfulness and its impact on positive virtues such as compassion and morality? There is much research that shows the benefits of mindfulness practice on individuals and on the collective. Some of the findings highlight that:

  • Mindfulness can increase empathy and compassion.
  • Mindfulness can help therapists develop more effective counseling skills.
  • Mindfulness can support people struggling with addiction.
  • Mindfulness can reduce implicit race and age bias.
  • Mindfulness can increase collaboration.
  • Mindfulness can reduce conflict.
  • Mindfulness can improve romantic relationships by increasing positive problem solving, reducing withdrawal, and increasing closeness.
  • Mindfulness can enhance awareness of social injustice and help cultivate intrinsic moral values.

“Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them humanity cannot survive.”

- Dalai Lama -

Beyond Personal Practice: Learn to Teach Mindfulness

One does not need to teach mindfulness in order to help change the world with it. Our personal practice is enough to send a ripple of presence and care into the world. That being said, many people who develop a personal mindfulness practice discover a desire to share the practice with others. Educators, parents, yoga teachers, therapists, nurses, and countless other members of society go on to explore how they can share the foundational practices of mindfulness with their communities.

Learn more about how to certify to teach mindfulness.

 How to Cultivate Loving Kindness: A Loving Kindness Script

6 Mindfulness Exercises to Change the World

If you are looking for resources that foster healing, understanding, and awareness for collective wellbeing, consider the following six mindfulness exercises. These practices are just a few of the hundreds of exercises that can transform the inner world, and in doing so, shift the world around us for the better.

This meditation led by Sean Fargo is a wonderful practice for coming back to our shared humanity. In this modern world, it is easy to become caught up in tension and debate, but what happens when we take pause to remember that we are fundamentally the same?

To enhance your sense of connection to and love for this remarkable planet, consider this loving-kindness practice for the earth. Led by Wes Nisker, this meditation reminds us that we are here together, breathing together, on this beautiful blue-green planet.

This mindfulness worksheet offers us guidance to help shift your judgments to curiosities. To judge is part of being human, but what might happen if we were to recognize our judgments and start asking more questions instead?

For those that feel drawn to journaling, consider these ten thoughtful prompts to enhance self-awareness. Prompts such as, “What is one thing I have in common with someone who I have difficulties with?” and “My highest values in life are…” can help us to become more mindful about how we engage with others and the world at large.

One of twenty types of biases highlighted in the Reducing Workplace Bias Course, the empathy gap reflects an inability to identify emotions in oneself and others, and the impact such emotion plays in communication and decision-making. Enhancing awareness of this or any other bias we experience can help to enhance personal or group relationships.

Lastly, to enhance our capacity to listen mindfully, consider this practice of listening and speaking with a partner. The better we become at mindful listening, the easier it becomes to bring curiosity to all of our relationships – including the challenging ones. During times that are rife with tension and division, mindful listening is of utmost importance. 

Key Takeaways

  • Mindfulness can change the world by enhancing self-awareness, which helps us to shift any of our ways of being that do not contribute to personal or collective wellbeing.
  • Mindfulness can also increase our awareness of the external world, making us more aware of local and global issues. It can also help us to communicate better across divides.
  • Through compassion-based mindfulness practices, we increase our recognition of our shared humanity. This can also help to bridge gaps.
  • Mindfulness is an inner practice, and yet it can inspire meaningful outward action as well. As we get to know our inner world better, we become aware of any barriers we hold to taking action and we might hone in on our deepest values and passions.
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