Merry Monday dear one,
I begin this week hoping it will be gentler and more balanced than last week.
While we are feeling the extreme polarization in our country I want to share a minor miracle: the experience in my heart of unity.
It feels like a gift. I don’t experience it all the time. I don’t bring it up in most conversations. But since you signed up to hear my reflections, here goes.
Something so healing is happening for my heart as I dwell in the large area where I share common ground with others, even people with whom I strongly disagree.
I just can’t vilify vast swaths of people who disagree with me. I have a few relatives in the wider circle of my family who vote differently than me. These same people are also significant sources of unconditional love to me and my family. We share so many values.
Moreover I believe we share an agreement that our current condition is not working. I look at our close election and I see how much our country agrees that we are suffering and that our identity and values are at stake. I see we are passionate. So while the election revealed many divisions, on another level, I feel like my heart has perceived a consensus. We are suffering all together. Just what to do with that suffering, how to bear it, how to respond, I feel many differences there.
When I see anything extreme in the news I am curious: what is the story of suffering that has created this moment? How am I sharing in that suffering? This outlook has helped me watch the headlines without getting too upset. I acknowledge that it’s also still a little theoretical. When in an actual moment of conflict it is harder.
For example: last week.
Last Thursday I was leading a group in a water blessing by the Mississippi River. As we got to the part where each person would speak a few words of their prayer for the water some noisy neighbors pulled up in the truck on the boat launch near us. They sounded drunk, were talking loudly, and were suspicious of us, at one point explicitly asking if we were devil worshipers or Christians.
My first reaction.
As I heard their loud persistent questions about us my first thought was I needed to be sure that their energy did not escalate to harm our group. There was some confusion in the group as we wondered how to relate to these neighbors. Honestly, I wished they would quiet down so we could focus better. I was quite relieved when they left, which was relatively soon even though it felt like an eternity.
My second reaction.
I spent all night pondering the interaction and what I could have done differently. It shifted the next morning. (I should probably mention that first thing that morning I had attended the 7 Day World Blessing led by my teacher Grand Master Chunyi Lin and the theme of the morning was healing our relationships. I had help with this shift!)
What I realized was that our noisy neighbors really were praying by the river with us. They had probably had a day that was marred by the profound challenges we are all facing. They were probably really suffering. They had some drinks to ease the pain. Then they drove right to the edge of the river in their truck because don’t we all go to the river to feel better? They were offering their own prayer of “please, make it better.” In his suspicion of us as devil worshipers, I see a shared concern that the things that are most sacred to us are being defiled and it is so very, very painful.
Looking back I see a missed opportunity to realize our shared prayers. There was no way that they were going to join us. But I might have added a few flowers to our center with with intention of including them. This is what I focus on when I look back at the night and in this way my heart feels open, not agitated.
I invite you into this territory of common ground and shared suffering. It has been so healing for me. I believe it is the healing way forward for all of us.
Places to give your heart a chance to reset:
Healing Waters Qigong, a Spring Forest Qigong practice group. Drop in any week.
The Wisdom Dances Circle, a practice grounded in Laura Shannon’s research of women’s traditional ritual dances as tools for healing and transformation. This class meets alternating weeks online and outside – drop in any week.