Transformative mindfulness: the role of mind-body practices in community-based activism

Benedikt Schmid, Gerald Taylor Aiken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article emerges from the simple observation that community-based social and environmental activists often engage with practices of mindfulness, either personally or collectively. It draws on two case studies, a UK-based Transition initiative and a community of social entrepreneurs in Germany. On the surface, social and environmental activists, committed to change in the ‘real world’, outward facing and public, jar with practices of ‘mindfulness’: personal and interior actions –‘private’. We argue that post-foundationalist understandings of community, particularly Nancy’s being-in-common – popularised within geography as ‘community economies’ – and the philosophical and spiritual roots of mindfulness are two lines of thought that provide clues to this co-occurrence. Going beyond understandings of collectivity that build on the coming together of preformed individuals or presuppose a common substance, we set the (Westernised) Buddhist influences on mindfulness, specifically the notion of interbeing, side by side with Nancy’s being-incommon. This article argues that both the political and spiritual aspects of activism are integral parts of social change. It concludes that post-foundational and Buddhist-inspired lines of thought cross-fertilise and chart a course towards transformative mindfulness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-17
Number of pages15
JournalCultural Geographies
Issue number1
Early online dateMay 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Buddhism
  • community
  • mindfulness
  • politics
  • social change
  • togetherness
  • transition

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