Let’s be honest, when I found out that we had to meditate in this class my first response was “HUH?” (like I think most other students reacted). It definitely isn’t a “normal” expectation from a college class and call me skeptical all you want, but I truly believed that I would get nothing out of daily mindfulness meditation besides a nice nap. I think we can all agree that the act of mediating in class is quite weird or unexpected, but I was willing to try it out, who knows maybe I’d find my third eye.
So as our classes began and our meditation bell was rung every Tuesday afternoon, I found myself, finding myself. As ironic as that sounds, I began to find a different part of myself I hadn’t met before.
First thing first, I needed to figure out what a wicked problem was. I had never heard of the term “wicked problem” until enrolling into the class, so after a few Google searches I finally found my answer:
“A wicked problem is a problem with many factors deeming them to seem impossible to find a solution to”
My mind immediately started thinking of examples of wicked problems like pollution, climate change, and overall sustainability. On the surface, I knew these problems were and continue to be extreme issues in today’s world, but what was I supposed to do about them as a freshman college student? I learned that though I may not be able to fix the issue now, understanding it can help me and future generations change our world.
A goal for our course is to bring a “compassionate curiosity” to viewing and understanding a wicked problem. This requires us to think with more than just our mind, but our heart and body too.
MIND: Of course, engaging curiosity on a better view or understanding about a wicked problem with our mind seemed quite easy. Now that being in the class, I’ve learned that there’s much more to understand than it seemed. Our mind is probably one of the most important and powerful weapons we have as humans. Most commonly, we use our minds to form opinions on different situations like wicked problems (some a bit more stubborn than others). On the other hand, the biggest area of improvement that most people need to work on is viewing or understanding opposing opinions. So far throughout the course, I can definitely say that I’ve improved this skill. I’ve always been a pretty open minded person, so applying this to our class wasn’t difficult, however, this class has expanded my views. I’m able to take a wicked problem and view it from not only my opinion, but also from others opinions. I believe that intellectually I’ve grown as a person throughout this course so far as we are faced with opposing views every class. Not allowing myself to be sheltered by my own views and thoughts, I’ve gained a new sense of wicked problems. Mindfulness practice has really helped my intellectual understanding of wicked problems as well. With the many different views on today’s issues, it can be easy for us to just see only our own opinion and perspective. My mindfulness practice has allowed me to bring perspective to all views into my life and the rest of the world. The 10 minutes of pure quiet in just my thoughts is a time for me to see issues in not only my shoes, but someone else’s. I believe that my mindfulness practice has had a big impact on why my open minded skills have improved since beginning this course.
HEART: The next way to compassionately view wicked problems is through our emotions. Most wicked problems will appeal to our emotions. Whether they make us sad, stressed, or angry, they are easily some of the biggest issues that affect our emotions today. Throughout our course, I’ve felt both sad and angry emotions when learning about the many wicked problems we have in today’s society. I’m sad about learning that the ice caps are melting due to climate change. I’m angry that there are still so many people in society that are too stubborn to see the other sides of their opinions. I’m sad about learning that our extreme deforestation is causing multiple animals species to go extinct. I’m angry that humans put greed above a sustainable way of living. I’m not alone in feeling these emotions. There are many people like me that feel the exact same way when viewing our wicked problems. I believe that having this sense with our emotions allows for us to have a different approach to wicked problems. Again, our mindfulness practice has impacted my touch with my emotional side to difficult issues. Though the time I set aside is short, it’s allowed me to become stress free for just a few minutes. This stress free feeling has allowed me to become more in touch with my emotions and my feelings for not only wicked problems, but also just my everyday life. Some people view that bringing emotions into issues will only cause more issues to arise, but I believe that this can open us to many more possibilities and solutions to our never ending list of wicked problems.
BODY: The last way to better understand a wicked problem is through our body. Now this is an area that I don’t completely understand yet. How is my body supposed to feel or understand a wicked problem? Is my body supposed to feel pain when I read about pain? Is my body supposed to feel hotter when I read about climate change? Okay, I know that’s not what somatically is really supposed to mean, but I think that this is the one area I’ve struggled the most with when learning and expanding my understanding with wicked problems. However, I do think my mindfulness practice is starting to create an impact in this. During my mindfulness practice, I feel small. I feel like I’m a tiny ant living in a huge world filled with billions of more ants. I feel like my impact on the world reflects that small feeling. That I could never be able to have a say or a solution to our wicked problems because my impact on society is so small. Though right now I feel like my impact is small, I think that with continued mindfulness practice it could help me better understand wicked problems similar to how it has helped me intellectually. And hopefully, eventually, my impact will be more than just ant size.
Another goal for this class is to “develop humble and compassionate responses to wicked problems.” I feel as though I’ve made good progress towards this goal as this course has allowed me to change how I feel about the world around me, how I deal with issues, and how I want to see the future for society. I feel that as I am able to view a wicked problem in many ways, I’ve also been able to find compassion in everyone’s opinions. An example of this is when learning about the destruction of Easter Island society, everyone had a different view on what started the downfall of their society. Even though people had different answers than mine, I was able to see and understand their reasoning. And most importantly, not force that my ideas were right and theirs were wrong. I think having a more humble and compassionate outlook has allowed my perceptions to change. I’m able to realize that what I think may not be wrong, but it’s not always the only answer. Another example of this is when we discussed how Western Values have impacted sustainability. As I was on the “No” side, hearing the “Yes” sides argument allowed me to view the situation in a different perspective. As a class, we were able to have a civil discussion about each position of the article and form our own opinions. Overall, I think I’ve been able to become a more humble, compassionate person when dealing with wicked problems and hope I continue to improve throughout the course.
Though mindfulness practice may seem like an odd class requirement (and not to mention how skeptical I was about it), I believe it has grown me as a person these past few weeks. Though I may have not found my third eye just yet, I hope that I will continue to grow intellectually, emotionally, and somatically throughout the rest of the course and someday have an impact on the world’s most wicked problems.