Inequities exist in the provision of public services both nationally and internationally. Coordinated efforts aimed at scaling-up evidenced-based interventions for under-served populations may however struggle to engage the very communities that they seek to serve. Consequently, there is growing recognition that interventions can benefit from being adapted to accommodate the cultural beliefs and practices of particular populations. Emerging evidence suggests that these processes of adaptation can improve the acceptability and efficacy of interventions. However, tensions exist between the importance of acknowledging and embracing cultural diversity and the need for standardization in the delivery of interventions in secular public services.

Although reliable data relating to the demographic make-up of those who practice and/or teach mindfulness does not exist, there is growing concern that mindfulness is disproportionately the preserve of relatively privileged, white, older people. As the popularity of mindfulness continues to grow, this apparent lack of diversity is becoming an increasingly urgent problem. The claim that mindfulness is a universal human capacity is profoundly challenged if some groups neither recognise its potential value in their lives nor have access to its benefits. The way in which mindfulness has potentially been reified from its spiritual and philosophical origins to meet the lifestyle needs of majority populations in the West has also been problematized.

The aim of this session is to interrogate the reasons behind this apparent lack of diversity in mindfulness communities and to investigate what changes are needed to increase accessibility for all groups. We will explore what it means to teach and practice mindfulness in different social and cultural contexts and in ways which are inclusive. The session will draw on the experiences of a number of new projects, both in the UK and elsewhere, recently funded by the Oxford Mindfulness Centre accessibility initiative. These projects involve a wide range of different settings and contexts but share a common goal of experiencing the universality of mindfulness as a lived reality.

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