Healing the Great Divide

Lately it seems as if there is a dodgeball game happening on a grand scale and everyone is being pressured (especially by media) to pick a side. Families and friendships are being fractured. Facebook friendships are being severed and there is literal fighting in the streets.

There's a constant barrage of content telling us what to think. What we need to do is to learn how to think. We are so accustomed to sound bites and sweeping judgements that we have forfeited our own nuanced appraisal of things. Those who rely on You Tube and news media for their understanding of the world frequently succumb to a virulent form of historical amnesia. Everything that's happening has already happened and we would be wise to study what went down.

Conflict is a basic tenet of existence. There can be no growth without struggle. Without something to contend against, there can be no victory (in Self). Conflict is a form of friction. Friction creates fire. Fire can either destroy or illuminate. To be human is its own form of paradox, a contradiction in terms. After all, Spirit and matter both have their prerogatives. And if we can't get along with ourselves, is it surprising that we don't always see eye to eye with others?

When we break it down, a good portion of how we see the world and our place in it is in response to trauma. Everyone wants to be safe. Everyone is still reeling from old wounding. Everyone is trying to reclaim missing pieces of their soul. Everyone wants things to be okay. Everyone wants a say in the matter of how their life unfolds. Some look back with nostalgia at a golden time that never was and some look forward to a perfect world that can never be. As yogis we are not here to judge but to understand and accept and celebrate others.

What we often react to is not always about what people actually do, but how we feel about what their beliefs might make them do. Very often what divides us are our ideas or projections about what constitutes right or wrong, good or evil. It's easy to dehumanize people who don't seem to have the same belief system as us. Many people of both political persuasions strongly believe that the very soul of America is at stake.

The purpose of this article is not to excuse bad behavior or blithely explain away dangerous rhetoric with yet more yoga-speak. The intention here is to promote love and under-standing in spite of differences. As yogis, we need to understand that very often what people say is camouflage for something more fundamental, the need for love and validation. May we always look more deeply than what face value seems to indicate.

In many cases, when we are contentious with others it means we have a conflict inside us. We often don't even know the conflict is there. We feel justified in our self-righteousness to deconstruct a person down to a cardboard cutout of themselves. Unconscious conflict in us also manifests as tension, notably in the stomach, back, hips, and neck.

When we are confronted with moral or ethical dilemmas we feel unsettled. In these instances there is often a gulf between thinking and feeling. If one or the other is not being allowed expression we need to invoke it.

You may have noticed that many conflicts seem unsolvable. How do you reconcile things that are complete opposites. When life seems unsolvable it's because we're only thinking in terms of external solutions, which really never get to the heart of the matter. We can pass laws and make pronouncements until we're blue (or red) in the face but the only thing that's lasting is a change of heart. This can only happen when we allow ourselves a new perspective.

Neutral Mind is not some dry intellectual exercise in which we maintain a smug remove. In fact neutral mind is a function of the heart. It entails loving people enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. It's remembering that each of us has a soul and we're all trying to make our way through this gauntlet called life.

If we can recognize and abide the dynamic tension between our inner opposites we will often find that life will smooth out against all odds. This is true collectively as well. Energy previously co-opted by indecisiveness is released and suddenly we're able to be powerful and proactive.

Holding space for life's contradictions is an all-chakra endeavor. We require the collusion of our First (accepting reality as it is), Second (playfulness), Third (patience and will), Fourth (compassion for ourselves), Fifth (speaking our truth gracefully), Sixth (ability to abide paradox), And Seventh (overview).

When we are continually reacting to things, we tend to make decisions out of desperation and the conflict remains unsolved. It's analogous to treating symptoms rather than addressing the root cause. Again, conflicts with other people are often the externalization of unconscious conflicts within us. A prime realization for those who aspire to live in higher consciousness is: the other is us. Who knew? Of course, we all knew, we just don't always want to accept it.

Homework: talk to people who have a different world view than you. Try to see things from their perspective. Try to honor what they value. Even if you find their views abhorrent, remember, it's not about the person, it's about their basic desire to feel safe in this overwhelming world. If you can find a way to have them feel safe with you, it's the first step in breaking down walls.