Joy Tip Wednesday - Bridging the Divide

I’m writing this in silence this morning. It only feels appropriate after the collective news in the United States and the level of division in this country.  A large segment of the country, myself included, is grieving today.  Many of us are asking where do we go from here.  As I struggle with these questions personally, it feels only appropriate to explore those questions with all of you.

I’ve been struggling with the divide in this country the entire election season.  When Trump’s sexual assault comments became public I called a friend who I knew was voting for him and lost my cool.  “How can you be voting for him?!  Don’t you have women in your life you care about?!”  I was angry, upset, shocked.  I felt like I was carrying the weight of women everywhere who had been sexually assaulted, myself included on my shoulders.  And truth be told, I had created so much separation between myself and my friend that he was no longer “real” to me.  

In Tara Brach’s book Radical Acceptance, she reminds us that

when we create separation between ourselves and others they lose their “realness.”  

Their humanity starts to wash away.  And this can lead to a loss in mindfulness, a constriction in our being, and feelings like anger and despise to grow.  As a conflict expert who’s studied some of the most horrific violence in history, I know that “othering,” reducing someone’s level of “realness” is always the culprit.  

As I sat face to face with my friend in a park to discuss his choice, I found myself teetering between opening up and closing off.  Deep emotional wounds inside of me had been triggered from my personal experiences and witnessing the sea of emotions from others around me.  As he patiently listened to my anger and I struggled to listen to his response, in the end, as I looked him eye-to-eye I saw the depth of his realness behind the light reflecting on his eyes.  As if I had woken from a slumber, I realized the division I had created in my heart which was precisely what I feared from those on the other side of the political table.

Weeks later I was on retreat and had been meditating.  As I stepped outside for lunch I sat on a stone edge and felt the warmth of sun on my skin.  I was feeling hopeful about my country, people, this world.  Suddenly I felt someone next to me and as I turned to see who it was, I watched a spider come down off of a tree onto a leaf on the ground.  Strangely, I found myself excited to see it and turned to it with an open heart like I greet my own African Grey Parrot.  It turned towards me and then something remarkable happened.  For the next 30 minutes the spider and I played a game of “hi how are you, and I want to meet you.”  It went something like this.  I somehow felt it’s curiosity towards me.  Like a person meeting me for the first time and found it climbing up onto my jacket underneath me.  I stood up and crouched down facing it.  As it inched closer towards me we went between periods of time with staring contests and moments of it trying to get even closer to me.  I felt like I was playing a game with a small child, but it was a spider.  As I reflected on it later and my experience with my friend, I realized that the single factor impacting both experiences was how open my heart was.

All beings, all humans, Yoga teaches us, are in essence the same.  The same Divine Energy, Hand, Intelligence, Universe at work.  Our level of openness allows us to either recognize this, or be blocked from it.  When we allow ourselves to see the “realness” in others, in other beings, we recognize we all want the same thing.  

Human psychology says that is to be loved and know we are worthy of love.  Eastern philosophy teaches us that it is to be happy and free.  This is my life raft in the sea of grief right now.

I want to do something that feels like a stretch for me today as I feel into the constriction in my being.  I want to remember the realness of my friend.  I want to see the sameness underneath it all.  I want to be dedicated to love even more than I was when I cast my vote.  

For this Joy Tip Wednesday, this is what I’m practicing.  If it feels like a practice you want to join me in, I'd invite you to do so.  If you take it on, I’d love to hear about it:

A post-election loving kindness meditation

Send loving kindness to someone you love who voted differently than you.  This can be an intention.  A glowing light.  A prayer.  For a family member or friend.  Remember the smiles, laughs, and memories you have shared.  Feel the realness of their desire to be happy, freed, loved, just like you.  Understanding that the “how” in this pursuit is a different way than your own.

Send loving kindness to someone who is neutral that you know voted differently than you.  A neutral person is someone you don’t feel overly positive or negative feelings towards.  Perhaps a person you often see in your apartment building or at work.  A person at your local coffee shop.  Someone you saw at the polls.  Also, remember the smiles you may have exchanged.  Look for the realness in their desire to be happy, free, loved, just like you.

Send loving kindness to someone you find resistance towards, dislike, that you know voted differently than you.  This is tough.  Big time.  Maybe this isn’t a practice you take on today.  Maybe it’s one you feel opened to another day.  But I’d invite us to have an aspiration towards this step.  Because this step is how we start to bridge the divide.  Remember the realness in sharing a country.  In a shared desire for change.  In a shared hope for prosperity for your children.  For health.  For the suffering that may have motivated their vote.  Both sides come from deep wounds.

And if you are feeling expansive enough, sending loving kindness to the candidates you did not vote for.  I know.  This is hard.  Can you widen your circle of compassion enough to see into this person’s message of suffering?  That so many people got behind?  That millions followed?  Can you see that this person too has children?  That despite a different path underneath it all they want to be happy, free, loved, just like you.

Lastly, commit to doing one act of kindness for someone who voted differently than you this election.  Anything.  A hug.  A pledge in unity to work together to make this country beautiful.  An expression of your love and appreciation for them despite your differences.

I do have some opinions on whether certain actions, certain beliefs, certain policies are not in alignment with love.  Are against what is good in this Planet Earth.  My ability to see the realness in others across the aisle doesn’t discount that.  It does, however, allow me to be prepared for the great work ahead of us to bridge the divide.  To stand for what’s good.  And to do everything in my power to ensure that joy, love, freedom, peace, everything my life and work is built on does prevail.

In the meantime, give yourself permission to feel today.  To grieve.  To be angry.  Because this is part of the purification process to pave the way for a better life for all of us.  Don’t lose hope.  And let’s rise above, join hands, and come together more than ever before in our dedication to big, big, big, Love.

Much love,