Agency: What Are the Inner Conditions for Intentional Action?

Jamie Bristow and Rosie Bell from The Mindfulness Initiative, Ronan Harrington and Anna Katharina Schaffner discuss the social significance of mindfulness.

10 March 2021 event recording of "The Inner Dimensions of Agency: A Dialogue with Jamie Bristow and Rosie Bell." Hosted by Emerge.

Jamie Bristow and Rosie Bell have recently published a hugely significant paper on the continued relevance of mindfulness in our times. Their paper has been met with an overwhelmingly positive response, and been described as “seminal,” “ground-breaking,” “full of gold insights,” and a “tour de force.” In Mindfulness: Developing Agency in Urgent Times, they reflect on how mindfulness can help us address the complex challenges of the twenty-first century by fostering our capacity both for individual and collective wise action-taking. They present a powerfully urgent case for how mindfulness can hone our psychological capacity for intentional agency. In our discussion, they talk about how mindfulness can help us cultivate essential qualities such as dealing with complexity, dwelling in uncertainty, attention regulation and our ability to be discerning, and with perspective taking.

Rosie’s and Jamie’s paper is a compelling plaidoyer for the value of mindfulness in the sphere of human agency and social change. It is an attempt to find a new language in which to talk about mindfulness – one that emphasizes its link with doing. It pulls to the surface and sharply articulates what many of us have felt intuitively for a long time -- the relevance of mindfulness in the system changer sphere. It presents sharp, evidence-based answers to the critics of “McMindfulness,” who have done much to contribute to the cliché of mindfulness as an a-political, self-centred and quietist “capitalist spirituality.”

Many of the key questions Jamie, Rosie and Ronan address – namely, how inner and outer change are connected, how we can respond to the meta-crisis in a meaningful way, and how psycho-technologies such as mindfulness can help us to collaborate more smartly and support collective system change endeavours – are at the very heart of the Emerge project.