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The Urban Mindfulness Foundation CIC

Where we embrace our differences and connect with our common humanity

Founders and Facilitators
Dean and Aesha

We welcome you to the Urban Mindfulness Foundation Website and we hope your experience will be as joyful as we felt when passing our MSc’s in Mindfulness Studies. Below is a short video sharing that joy as we used our time to research the impact of our own mindfulness programme called Mindfulness Based Inclusion Training (MBIT) designed to highlight the challenges and facilitate the dismantling of racism and social inequality collectively, whilst also reducing the potential harm mindfulness teachers can do in the mindfulness classroom when they are not socially or culturally aware.

Founders Introduction

As the two initial founders of the Urban Mindfulness Foundation, it feels great to share that our friendship has formed since the age of 11. Coming from culturally diverse and mixed heritage backgrounds, the need to embrace difference and connect through common humanity has been essential.

Importantly, this commitment to embracing difference is also expressed in how we intend to build our team of Facilitators, Co Facilitators and Volunteers that include a wide variety of people from many different cultures, ethnicity’s, age groups, genders, religions and social sectors.

As such, we feel the Urban Mindfulness Foundation is built on the foundations of inclusive understanding that is demonstrated by our diverse team and teachings that embody the beauty of diversity itself.

Our Journey Summary

Our joint journey of understanding is led by deeply held wishes to find ways to fully connect with and utilise the love within and around us all.

This perspective has led us into deep explorations of various Religions, Philosophies, Cultures and Indigenous ideas that have come together to influence the acceptance, courage, hope and deep understanding that our testimonials indicate is evident in our teaching today.

We both grew up in some of the poorest boroughs of London, where the reality of relative poverty and social deprivation was starkly evident and compounded by the weight of racism and sexism on a sometimes daily basis. 

Consequently, from a young age, it was clear to us that the quality of our environment and subsequent perceptions of it (that were often conditioned) caused the lives of some of our loved ones to be destroyed through crime, extreme violence and substance abuse the often led to the tragedy of premature death. 

Needless to say, some of these painful social experiences also amounted to what some might describe as post-traumatic stress that led to fears and anxieties about the world and ones place in it. However, despite these challenges, a steely determination to never give up was always present. Importantly, it is this steely determination and aspiration to diefy the odds that continue to lead us to engage in academic attainment, career and business development, and then starting a family that itself added another dimension to our lives and lived experience.

However, it would also be honest to say that as younger people, the persistent paper cuts of racism, sexism, and identity-based harm often transferred into rebellious, angry and sometimes worthless habitual patterns of the mind that reflected our socially conditioned perspectives of who, what and how we should be that at times, made life seem unbearable, to such an extent it was sometimes easier to seek out distraction to numb the pain of what it is to be marginalised whilst living in what was perceived an unforgiving, judgemental and over commodified society.

“The gifts of loving attention”

However,we also believe that it was the gifts of loving attention that had been nurtured deep within us by those who came before, that suggested there was another way to deal with the challenges of living a UK marginalised life.

Consequently, our journey began in 2009 when looking for something to help a loved one who was suffering from a terminal illness that was linked to memory. When searching terms such as memory, illness and health etc, mindfulness repeatedly came up and so the journey began.

For this reason, we feel our initial contact with mindfulness was grounded in love and compassionate action for a sick family member, that unexpectedly has perhaps become one of the last major gifts from this dearly loved one, who we are sure would have encouraged us to learn how to love under any circumstances.

As part of this early explorative process, we introduced mindfulness for our loved one after trying it out on ourselves first. Interestingly, whilst the practice in its form back then wasn’t totally appropriate or suitable for our loved one, given the stage of illness and cultural deifferences. We were able to make immediate adaptations and adjustments that made it possible for them to engage with it and signal to us much approval and gratitude at the same time. 

Furthermore, through our own exploration of the practice, it also became clear that the practice was having a major impact on our own lives that was recognisably transformative.

Through loving connection and personal realisation of the impact of the practice,  our practice has became the fuel to go on to completing our Masters Degree’s in Mindfulness studies, that led us to explore the dismantling of racism and social inequality using our own specifically designed programme called Mindfulness Based Inclusion Training (MBIT) or My-BIT.

Our studies included researching the programmes impact on Mindfulness Teachers, teaching methodology and Organisational transformation. Interestingly, the results were just as expected, really difficult for some and a breath of fresh air and transformation for others.

The Recovery

Following a committed mindfulness practice, it now feels important to share how we have come to accept the struggles of our lives as part of our existence and something that can be utilised to fuel transformation. Through mindfulness training, we have come to understand at the bodily level ways to release tension and be with the very struggles that awaken us to staying curious, open compassionate, kind, and humbly determined to flow in ways that are in coherence with an ever changing world.

Consequently, it is now clear that by meeting our struggles compassionately, we are able to cultivate the resources needed to face up to City and Urban life and the pain of structural disparities in a way that is helpful to ourselves and others.

Importantly, there is also now a sense of gratitude, agency and purpose that gives an enriched value and experience to life, including its twists, turns and difficulties. Difficulties that almost always offer a doorway into a path of transformation, humanisation, and freedom when lived through a lens of inclusive social mindfulness, that is grounded in the principles of Justice, Equity, Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, that seeks to disentangles us from the many socially conditioned beliefs about ourselves and others that inhibit our most compassionate potential for connection.

Coined simply in the phrase by a cherished teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh as:

No Mud, No Lotus
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So the question is;

What is the mud in your life that will be the source of your own blossoming?
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Francis BA, MSc

She/ her/ Sister

Mindfulness Based Facilitator, Educator and Supervisor

Mindfulness Based EDI Branding and Design Consultant

Mindfulness Based EDI Consultant

Since 2015 I have been facilitating/ teaching Mindfulness courses, drop in sessions, retreats and workshops. I am trained to teach Mindfulness Based Living Course (MBLC) as undertaken with the Mindfulness Association as well as Supervision Training. In addition to teaching adults, I have also trained with the Mindfulness in Schools Project to teach the .b Children’s course. 

I have a postgraduate degree in Mindfulness having completed the Masters of Science, Studies in Mindfulness programme with the University of Aberdeen, where my final thesis and research focused on The Positionality of the Mindfulness Teacher, Learning to Walk the Talk of Racial Inclusion.

I am of mixed heritage, African-Caribbean and South-Asian descent each diverse in spiritual and cultural traditions that inform a huge part of my identity and positionality. Prosocial focus has been very significant to me having experienced the mindfulness world from a BPOC, cis-gendered female perspective.

I am married to my friend of a lifetime and partner Dean, who together with we have two awesome teenage daughters and share our home with our family dog. All of whom are significant to who I am, my values and what I do, as well as the fantastic adventures we take and, as the late John Lewis might say, the “good trouble” we make together.

Over the past 15 years I have enjoyed exploring the intersections of art and science in my role as operations manager within the environmental field.

As a trained artist and crafter with an undergraduate degree in design. Art became a big passion in my life that I now recognise as one of my first mindful activities significant to engaging in mindful processes, although unknowingly back then.  It offered a sense of exploration, liberation through expression, acceptance of uncertainty and imperfection as well as the possibility of limitless potential and social connection.

It now seems vital that connecting with something that brings a sense of curiosity, compassion and solidarity is necessary for individual and collective stability. For me the practice of Mindfulness enables an engaged way of living in symbiosis that could be described as a radical art of love for life by embracing all of it’s diverse forms.


 

 

Dean Francis BSc, MSc

He/ Him/ Brother/ We

Mindfulness Based Facilitator, Educator and Supervisor

Environmental Consultant, BAMBA Trustee and EDI Co Lead and EDI Consultant to the Sussex Mindfulness Centre

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I am a professionally trained specialist Environmental Consultant, a Mindfulness-Based EDI Consultant, Mindfulness Facilitator, Practitioner and Supervisor to mindfulness teachers registered with BAMBA who are interested in the intersection of mindfulness and social justice.

I have completed a Masters in Mindfulness Studies with the University of Aberdeen that included the creation and research of a new mindfulness-based approach, called Mindfulness Based Inclusion Training or (MBIT) that is focused on deconstructing racism and social inequality in a collective and non-adversarial way to build understanding, agency and purpose.

Over the past 17 years, I have also been the Founding Director of an Indpendent Environmental Consultancy Organisation, a recipient of an award of Global Engineering Excellence from Ford Motor Company and commanded in the Thames Gateway Businessperson of the year awards with Natwest Bank. I was also the youngest ever appointed member of management council for an important HSE/Government advisory group and I maintained that position for over 10 years. Currently, I am focusing on innovations in the design, delivery, and practice of mindfulness that is sensitive to the lived experience of marginalised communities and those impacted by identity-based harm, racism, discrimination, and systemic oppression specifically.

With a researched understanding of social and cultural conditioning and the challenges faced by both the African-Caribbean Diaspora and mindfulness teachers. I hope to facilitate the Urban Mindfulness Foundation, and the mindfulness field more generally in maintaining and upskilling emerging teachers with mindfulness based EDI awareness and educations that promotes sustainability, collaboration, solidarity, agency and collective relational health and wellbeing through the flourishing of practice.

Outside the mindfulness world, I am blessed to be in loving partnership with my amazing wife and life-long friend and two wonderful daughters and our family dog friend of many years. 

Our motto:

The Urban Mindfulness Foundation; Is a place where we embrace our differences with love, kindness and compassion so that we can connect through our common humanity amidst urban living and city life.

Regardless of your background, we welcome you to our inclusive organisation.