Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 29 – Understanding Racial Conditioning with Ruth King

understanding racial conditioning

Dharma teacher and author Ruth King joins Ethan Nichtern for a conversation around diversity in spiritual communities, white privilege and guilt, and understanding racial conditioning.

Ruth King is an international teacher in the Insight Meditation tradition, and an emotional wisdom author and life coach. She is on the Teacher’s Council at Insight Meditation Community of Washington and Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and is the founder of Mindful Members Insight Meditation Community in Charlotte, NC. Her latest book is called Mindful of Race: Transforming Racism from the Inside Out. You can learn more about her at

Sangha and Diversity

Ethan welcomes Ruth to the show and asks about what inspired her book. They discuss how spiritual communities in the West are often predominantly white, and how important it is to have teachers who are conscious of race and not afraid to unpack how they work with it.

“The racial piece that most people of color I know are in need of is a real sense of feeling connected and belonging. So it makes sense to me that there would be separation in these [spiritual] communities, because that Third Jewel of Sangha, in terms of diversity within the West here, hasn’t really been cultivated. It’s not really reflected oftentimes in our spiritual communities.” – Ruth King

White Privilege, Guilt, and Shame (15:00)

Ruth and Ethan touch on individual versus collective consciousness when it comes to matters of race. They talk about white privilege in spiritual communities, and how guilt and shame are fruitful territories for investigating and understanding racial conditioning.

“I think guilt and shame are pointers to investigate how whiteness is experienced inside the body, heart, and mind.” – Ruth King

Francesca Maximé explores roots deeper than whiteness on ReRooted Ep. 14
Mindful of Race (28:39)

What is the place of anger in this discussion around race? Ethan and Ruth reflect on how anger is a sacred resource that shouldn’t be wasted. Ruth talks about the Mindful of Race training program that she runs and how she works with individuals around their racial conditioning.

“I’m not so much working with people around the stories they’re having as much as I’m working with people around the experiences they’re having in dealing with those stories.” – Ruth King

understanding racial conditioning


Images via Ruth King and Tricycle Magazine