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Indigenous Scholar Dr. Michael Yellow Bird

Winnipeg Free Press: Social work dean promotes technique for positive impact, both individually and collectively

January 17, 2022 — 

As the Winnipeg Free Press reports:

Many people practise mindfulness with the hopes of becoming more present, more focused and less judgmental. Research shows that mindfulness practices give us greater control over our emotions, and help regulate emotional responses and reduce anxiety, which can increase our capacity to be empathetic, think clearly and act with purpose.

In essence, mindfulness is any exercise that encourages you to focus on your sensations and thoughts in the present moment. It was popularized and became more mainstream in the West in the 1970s and ’80s.

Studies show mindfulness and related practices can also help with raising awareness and even assist in minimizing bias. While research is ongoing, this all suggests mindfulness and compassion practices can serve as important resources in addressing systemic change.

Michael Yellow Bird, dean of the faculty of social work at the University of Manitoba, has worked extensively in mindfulness, introducing it to Indigenous programs and teaching it to Indigenous communities and organizations.

He has been practising mindfulness and meditation since the ’70s when he was an undergraduate student in North Dakota.

“I first started doing a more Western form of mindfulness meditation as an undergrad in school. One of the first benefits of mindfulness is to stop what you’re doing and let everything go for a few minutes, focus on how you’re feeling and check in with yourself,” he says. “Once you stop and begin to assess what’s going on, you get an idea of how you’re feeling.”

Now, Yellow Bird’s research focuses on the effects of colonization and methods of ancestral health, Indigenous mindfulness and decolonization. Decolonization, Yellow Bird says, involves “activities that weaken the effects of colonialism and create opportunities to promote traditional practices.” The approach is used to restore balance, harmony and resilience to the mind, with hopes of healthy outcomes.

Read the full Free Press story here.

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