Stunned. Angry. Confused. Stuck. Sound familiar? It can be challenging to have meaningful conversations with those whose views strongly contradict our own. So how can we make space for a variety of experiences and viewpoints while standing up for what we believe is right? How can we balance the responsibility to practice empathy toward others with the need to protect ourselves from harm? 

administrators laughing and raising their hands

These difficult questions and others are at the core of NYU Global Spiritual Life’s new Belonging Zone training, which is part of a broader effort to reclaim the value of "love" in education and action as the university furthers its ongoing commitment to advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion.

With upcoming sessions—open to all students, faculty, and staff—held April 3 and May 1, NYU News asked Global Spritual Life’s Yael Shy and Melissa Carter for a quick primer on what participants can expect from the training, which incorporates mindfulness, resilient and reflective listening, restorative practices, storytelling, and other techniques for navigating conflict and complexity.

two women raising their hands, viewed from behind

What does "belonging" mean? How does the concept apply to life here at NYU?
two women posing for the camera with their arms around each other

Melissa Carter and Yael Shy

We use two conceptions of belonging in our framework. The first we pull from Brené Brown’s work. She describes belonging as the yearning to connect to something larger than ourselves, without conforming or needing to change who we authentically are. Belonging, in Brown’s work, is about connecting with others while being true to ourselves. 

The second is the definition of belonging offered by NYU’s Office of Global Inclusion, Diversity, and Strategic Innovation: “Belonging is operationalized when individuals are considered part of the constitutional foundation of an organization or institution. Belonging is achieved when individuals have the ability to critique and hold an institution responsible for advancing equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

administrators sitting in chairs and smiling

notebook with handwritten text reading "humility, caring"

Who is Belonging Zone for, and what can participants expect to learn? 

Global Spiritual Life’s Belonging Zone training looks at belonging through a mindfulness lens. It is divided into “I Belong,” which offers tools for self reflection, regulation, and care; “You Belong,” which offers tools for active listening, calling in, and receiving feedback with grace; and “We Belong,” which is the work we do in the community.  

Belonging Zone is for everyone who dreams of a liberated world of belonging, while still holding that there are real and deep barriers to that belonging. It is for those looking to cultivate compassionate practices of belonging through a mindfulness lens and to begin or continue the self-reflection work needed to nurture internal and external belonging for oneself and others. 

people sitting in a classroom and smiling

three people sitting in chairs and meditating with eyes closed

Many of us tend to freeze up when we encounter conflict. What are the benefits of staying present and engaged? Are there risks? 

The benefits could be a deeper understanding of yourself and someone else. However, you have to be able to discern your red light and green light in these moments, which is why mindfulness is key.  You do not always have to agree with someone to empathize with them. If, however, harm is being committed, and you are aware of your emotional and physical response to what you are experiencing, you are better able to discern the best next step for you. This might include continuing the connection or removing yourself and asking for support.