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Gillian Sanger

How can mindfulness help to bridge our perceived divides?

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I appreciated everyone's thoughtful responses to this timely and complex question.  I think so much of living mindfully is rooted in effective and compassionate communication.  It is difficult, especially when issues that bring up such big emotions are at play or when communicating with others who are unlike you in experience, thought, word, or deed.

That said, I have learned recently about something that Dr. Rick Hanson calls Unilateral Virtue.  It basically means knowing how you personally want to show up in your life and in the world, and living by those wishes regardless of how others act or speak.  Not easy, but the idea is to know that you are staying true to yourself and your beliefs/systems.  For me, that means walking through the world with a kind heart.  It is something I try to stay in touch with as I navigate difficult conversations, situations, or experiences.  Having a kind heart might mean, like David said, saying no, or setting a boundary. It certainly doesn't mean being a pushover or denying our own feelings and needs.

Which leads me to the next piece- also references by another in this thread.  Which is to try and identify what might be underneath a particular strong reaction; I find for me it is usually a need or vulnerability that I have avoided addressing, which is in and of itself, something to give my attention and curiosity to.

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9 hours ago, Jo L said:

https://weshouldgettogether.com/blog/how-to-help-your-black-and-nonblack-friends-right-now

 

I thought this article might be helpful. Has a lot of practical advice and information. 

@Jo LThank you for such a great resource Kat is an inspiration and great ideas. I will be implementing in my work.  I never had such a great source.  

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Hello community,

I came across this topic while scanning the forum again and wanted to share an article that I wrote last year for The Gottman Institute. I have been reflecting a lot about the increasing polarization of our times, a challenge that I feel is exacerbated by increased time spent online and less in-person conversation. I often wonder, "How would a conversation shift if it was taken offline and brought into a phone conversation or face-to-face interaction?" In the latter, there is an increased chance to reconnect with our shared humanity.

For more thoughts about hard conversations, you might like the article:

https://www.gottman.com/blog/mindfulness-tips-for-hard-conversations/

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On 6/9/2021 at 2:40 PM, Leslie Simpson said:

The problem of communication is also that on the Internet, hiding our identity, we often show the worst traits of character, using anonymity and impunity. This does not apply to everyone, but to many.

The internet certainly makes compassionate communication more difficult. I have been reflecting on this a lot lately. When talking (typing) with someone online, it is not as natural or effortless to remember our shared humanity. Indeed, certain aspects of who we are are hidden, and at the same time, it is more difficult to see the fullness of someone else's humanity. 

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This theme of division keeps calling out to me. I worry that we are becoming more and more divided, failing to connect with the ways in which we're ALIKE and focusing only on our differences. I've been thinking a lot about ways of dealing with this. Communication is key, as we've talked about. But I also think we could cultivate more generosity towards one another - generosity in the assumptions we make. 

Has this theme of division been on anyone else's heart or mind recently?

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Oh - I also want to share a passage from a book I am reading called The Undefended Self by Susan Thesenga. This section really speaks to my heart, something I think we need more of these days:

"We constantly see ourselves and life as either this or that, rarely allowing the complexity and vastness that we are capable of experiencing. We define ourselves and others in terms of the dualities our minds are structured to recognize. Hence we label ourselves and other people as either good or bad, happy or unhappy, either sane or insane, either trustworthy or untrustworthy. … On the social level we need to challenge the either/or mentality that has produced wars and the mentality of war, in which our relationships with other people are reduced to the simplicity of seeing everyone as either an ally or an enemy.”

Reflections?

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I want to share an experience I had yesterday. My wife and I like and trust our single female neighbor. We do things like help each other with tasks, work our flower gardens which are adjoining and my wife has taken her for medical procedures. Yesterday, while she and I were both gardening a few feet apart we had a discussion of political ideas. She voted for Trump but did get vaccinated. Now, she is aghast of the unvaccinated saying "well Trump got vaccinated!".  I just shared that in my own opinion, much of what he has said is not true. I went on to see that I am a true blue liberal and follow that way of thinking. She replied "to each his own".  I agreed. A few minutes later she shared some negative thoughts about Latino immigrants. I calmly said "you don't sound very compassionate." She said "I call it as I see it." We both kept gardening. She asked me if the line of border stones she was putting in looked straight. I invited her further into my yard to get a better view (we don't have fences). She decided to redo her work a bit to make it straighter. I told her her work was turning out really well. She remarked that President Biden will be resigning soon because he is senile. She said she read that on the internet. I said to check her sources as I had not heard that and was pretty sure he would remain in office. We kept gardening. When I finished I wished her a good day and went to a side garden to weed and cut back flowers. She wished my wife a happy birthday. I told her I give my wife her greetings. This was the most honest exchange I have ever had with a person who has followed Trump in the past. We respect and like each other as neighbors. We never quit our joint task of gardening as we talked. She spoke her mind and I spoke mine. I was greatly relieved. She took it in stride and made her own points. For me in this longer relationship of neighbors and fellow gardeners this worked. Neither of us were angry but rather just truthful. This isn't a panacea. However, it was very real and being literally "grounded" in the earth while gardening which my neighbors and I all do, kept us very directly honest but did not hurt our relationship. For me, for us, this worked. Daniel

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Daniel,

Thank you so much for sharing this. As I read your words, I felt such respect for your storytelling. You just conveyed the conversation as it was, which is not so common. Often we might add things like, "And when she said that, I was just fuming... I can't believe.... etc." While there is nothing inherently wrong with telling stories that way either, it was really quite beautiful to read this the way you expressed it all.

I think this is a wonderful example of acceptance; it seems to me like an open acceptance you have of your neighbour, just as she is. As you said, this isn't a panacea, and we don't have to approach all situations like this, but I think it's a wonderful example of how we can respond rather than react rather than trying to change, convince, or resist something we disagree with. 

On another note, I did an internship on a farm in Costa Rica many years ago and I remember finding that conversations that took place in the gardens were much more grounded than they were in other settings. Your words reminded me of this.

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I want to share an experience I had yesterday. My wife and I like and trust our single female neighbor. We do things like help each other with tasks, work our flower gardens which are adjoining and my wife has taken her for medical procedures. Yesterday, while she and I were both gardening a few feet apart we had a discussion of political ideas. She voted for Trump but did get vaccinated. Now, she is aghast of the unvaccinated saying "well Trump got vaccinated!".  I just shared that in my own opinion, much of what he has said is not true. I went on to see that I am a true blue liberal and follow that way of thinking. She replied "to each his own".  I agreed. A few minutes later she shared some negative thoughts about Latino immigrants. I calmly said "you don't sound very compassionate." She said "I call it as I see it." We both kept gardening. She asked me if the line of border stones she was putting in looked straight. I invited her further into my yard to get a better view (we don't have fences). She decided to redo her work a bit to make it straighter. I told her her work was turning out really well. She remarked that President Biden will be resigning soon because he is senile. She said she read that on the internet. I said to check her sources as I had not heard that and was pretty sure he would remain in office. We kept gardening. When I finished I wished her a good day and went to a side garden to weed and cut back flowers. She wished my wife a happy birthday. I told her I give my wife her greetings. This was the most honest exchange I have ever had with a person who has followed Trump in the past. We respect and like each other as neighbors. We never quit our joint task of gardening as we talked. She spoke her mind and I spoke mine. I was greatly relieved. She took it in stride and made her own points. For me in this longer relationship of neighbors and fellow gardeners this worked. Neither of us were angry but rather just truthful. This isn't a panacea. However, it was very real and being literally "grounded" in the earth while gardening which my neighbors and I all do, kept us very directly honest but did not hurt our relationship. For me, for us, this worked. Daniel

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Hi Gillian, thank you for your kind response. It has been several days now since the conversation my neighbor and I had. We have talked every day.  There is no rupture of this overall good and meaningful relationship. We really did just express and move on. I liked your comment about conversations while you worked on the farm in Costa Rica. There is something bigger than opinions in working with the earth and its' plants or flowers. That helps the speakers to keep perspective. My encounter is nothing like what I am going to mention next but it does involve the earth. It is said that the night Buddha spent under the Bodhi tree before his enlightenment he was tormented with doubts by the god Mara. Finally, Buddha drove his hand into the earth and told Mara that he swore by the earth itself that he had found the truth about existence. It is said when he swore by the earth itself, Mara realized he could not conquer Buddha with doubts and disappeared. Buddha was enlightened. A conversation with my good neighbor is not on this order. However, the earth itself and the soil and rocks that we can feel offer us something greater than we usually consider. Something larger and more profound. Daniel

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18 hours ago, Daniel A. Detwiler said:

Hi Gillian, thank you for your kind response. It has been several days now since the conversation my neighbor and I had. We have talked every day.  There is no rupture of this overall good and meaningful relationship. We really did just express and move on. I liked your comment about conversations while you worked on the farm in Costa Rica. There is something bigger than opinions in working with the earth and its' plants or flowers. That helps the speakers to keep perspective. My encounter is nothing like what I am going to mention next but it does involve the earth. It is said that the night Buddha spent under the Bodhi tree before his enlightenment he was tormented with doubts by the god Mara. Finally, Buddha drove his hand into the earth and told Mara that he swore by the earth itself that he had found the truth about existence. It is said when he swore by the earth itself, Mara realized he could not conquer Buddha with doubts and disappeared. Buddha was enlightened. A conversation with my good neighbor is not on this order. However, the earth itself and the soil and rocks that we can feel offer us something greater than we usually consider. Something larger and more profound. Daniel

Beautiful. Wise. Thank you for this, Daniel. Indeed, the earth has much to offer us - and not just in terms of harvest or materials. Its energy is grounding, healing, and restorative. There are many times when I find myself longing to just rest my back on the earth or to touch the soil. I think my soul and/or spirit is attracted to this energy in a way that the rational mind can't understand.

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