A few years ago I ran a six-month training on managing stress through mindfulness for social-service workers.
These men and women were on the front lines of helping the homeless and people with serious mental-health problems. Suffice it to say, their work was more stressful and intense than most.
People often think mindfulness is about peace and relaxation. While these effects can show up, should you be so lucky, it’s also about effort, turning toward that which you’d rather avoid, and, of course, practice.
During our first meeting, I attempted to use some levity in describing the deep and rigorous work ahead of us. At one point I nodded to my two co-facilitators, telling the group, “These two are really sweet and accommodating. I’m the slave driver.”
The following week, one of the participants, who happened to be a black woman, asked if she could talk to me. Then, speaking softly but firmly, she revealed, “What you said really upset and hurt me, and I spent the last week processing it with my colleagues at work.” I was startled. “What did I say?” And then I froze. “I’m the slave driver.” The words came flooding back to me, chased by…