Updated: Aug 17, 2021
By Sabine Grunwald
I am a Professor in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) at the University of Florida (UF), and a meditator with a daily meditation practice. I teach geographic information systems (GIS), and lead UF Mindfulness. I conduct research in quantitative soil science (pedometrics) & carbon/climate-land use change modeling, and like to learn about all kinds of things with curiosity. We all play multiple roles in life, e.g., as a scientist, teacher, mom, daughter, coach, learner, dad, son, activist, meditator, listener, coach, ….. Carl Gustav Jung, a famous Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist, acknowledged these roles in life and discerned the ‘persona’ and ‘shadow’ (Stein, 1998). Jung pioneered depth psychology which refers to an open exploration of the subtle, unconscious, and transpersonal aspects of human experience. Persona is the face or mask we wear to meet the social world around us, e.g., being a teacher in #STEM at a large, diverse university campus. This is the official and “public person” that forms the psycho-social identity of an individual. The persona is the person that we become as a result of education, growing up, and adaptation to our physical and social environments. Contemporary culture has embraced the term #persona, the person-as-presented to others, not the “person-as-real” with an inner felt sense. The #shadow is the hidden, reclusive, unconscious psychic factors of the ego of which we have no awareness. According to C.G. Jung, every ego has a shadow – it’s unavoidable, which are the parts of the personality that would ordinarily belong to the ego if they were integrated in our psyche, but have been suppressed because of cognitive or emotional dissonance, often traumatic experiences (e.g., an accident, being rejected and ridiculed by a group of people, or worse). Interestingly, often our shadow is “running the show in our life” without us even being aware of it. Meditation and mindfulness allow us to learn more about our shadow and inner life, our multiple roles/persona. As we sit in meditation and practice mindfulness, we become more conscious of what is really going on within us – our mind/thinking, visceral sensations/body tension, feelings/emotions and relationships to partners, family, friends, and particular not-really friends (enemies), people that upset or trigger us in one way or another (e.g., “that unbelievable arrogant, unkind, whatever stupid person in the meeting pushing his agenda ……”) – and so the narrative story of our ego unfolds. Here we go. When we sit in #meditation, slow down our chatter mind and create space that allows us to observe this “not-really friend” with fresh eyes we can gain clarity. We deliberately focus our awareness on the sensations in our body, perhaps we notice a knot in our throat or a visual image that shows us how WE pushed the agenda in another meeting. This brings us face-to-face with the recognition that we may all have moments when we are carried away and pushed our own agendas. “Seeing our own behavior in the other” helps us to see bluntly our judgments and blame, and this very seeing allows us to let go of the blame we put on the supposedly not-really friend – Oh, well – we suddenly soften, and gently the not-really friend is transformed to look more friendly, an ordinary human being, like all of us. In essence, we dive into our shadow and learn valuable insights of “what makes us tick”. Often this seeing clearly dissolves whatever makes us stuck, upsets us or evokes strong emotions, such as anger. Importantly, mindfulness practice not only benefits our own inner well-being, but also our relationships with others.
You possibly know that the Dalai Lama, Oprah Winfrey, Paul McCartney and Richard Gere are committed meditators. But did you know that Clint Eastwood, Jennifer Aniston, Sheryl Crow, Jeff Bridges, Cameron Diaz, Goldie Hawn, Lady Gaga, Rupert Murdoch (media), Bill George (former Medtronic CEO), Bill Ford (Ford Motor Company), Jerry Seinfeld, Phil Jackson (NBA coach), Bill Clinton, Tim Ryan, and many other famous people meditate regularly. A number of Fortune 500 companies, including Google, AOL, Apple and Aetna, offer meditation and mindfulness classes for employees. Scientists, like Richard J. Davidson (UW-Madison), John Hagelin (theoretical physicist), and Albert Einstein have embraced #meditation. Even the U.S. Army is now teaching mindfulness to soldiers. The British parliament has practiced mindfulness meditation with weekly sits as part of the mindfulness program of the U.K. government that offers extensive training. Meditation is practiced widely, irrespective of profession, social role, financial status, ethnic group or religious beliefs. Indeed, mindfulness has become mainstream in America. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health https://nccih.nih.gov/news/press/02102015mb survey nearly 18 million adults and 927,000 children in the U.S. practiced meditation (2012). And approximately 21 million adults (nearly double the number from 2002) and 1.7 million children practiced yoga. Are you one of them?
Stein, M. (1998). Jung’s map of the soul. Open Court Publ., Chicago, Illinois.