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Gillian Sanger

How can mindfulness help to bridge our perceived divides?

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For those interested in the capacity for mindfulness to help bridge divides, I just came across this really interesting article: https://theconversation.com/its-not-stress-thats-killing-us-its-hate-maybe-mindfulness-can-help-171335

It explores how theoretically, if we understand mindfulness to be about awareness AND acceptance, it should lead to less intolerance and divisiveness. However, in the research put forth by the writers of this piece, they note that awareness and acceptance are often treated as independent processes, and that: "people who reported greater awareness reported lower acceptance and vice versa." The studies also found that participants who reported greater acceptance were simultaneously reporting less engagement with difficult issues. It seems to me that it is crucial for us to engage in difficult issues if we are going to better understand and overcome them.

Another part of this article I connect with is this paragraph:

"Acceptance doesn’t mean that we have to passively accept whatever cards we are dealt. It means confronting our discomfort long enough to explore what needs to be changed and being malleable enough to consider vantage points we typically ignore. Reducing stress by avoiding difficult conversations is a short-term solution that only further polarizes perspectives."

Anyways, if you have a look at the article and want to share your thoughts, I'd love to hear them.

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Hi Gillian, I read the article by Grossman and Choi and your comments about some of their findings. Overcoming the current divides is a difficult task as you and all the contributors to this thread acknowledge. I want to add that it is difficult to know how and when to try to bridge the divide and with whom. My wife and I live amidst a community of about 250 condominiums. Lots of us walk or walk with our dogs. I know from trusted neighbors that several other neighbors with whom I interact while walking are Fox News believers. Since they have never uttered a word about their beliefs to me I was shocked. They seem to be hardworking, responsible and friendly. Thus the two identities are not mutually exclusive. My response is to say the Loving Kindness prayer for them mentally after I walk away from an encounter. Plus  I chat just a bit longer so as to show the good feelings I have about their basic worth. That is what I personally can do. I know that is not enough to overcome divisions but it is what is possible for me towards that end. Daniel

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16 hours ago, Daniel A. Detwiler said:

I want to add that it is difficult to know how and when to try to bridge the divide and with whom.

Thank you for your sentiments Daniel. I highlighted this line as I completely resonate with this statement. All of it makes me consider that perhaps bridging the divide is indeed just about unconditionally loving at times, rather than diving into the nitty gritty details of things. Indeed, there are times when we need to face things head on, but I think there are also times that we just need to let things be. Knowing the difference, as you mentioned, is the challenging part. I think we each need to follow our inner compass on this matter while remaining open to difficult conversations when they need to occur.

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Hi Gillian,  I like the idea you describe of following our own inner compass regarding divisions. I agree that sometimes direct engagement is needed. Then, using what the author Robert Wright calls “cognitive empathy” is really required. That means asking yourself to try to understand the way of thinking about things that another person uses. If successful, it gives the listener a way to understand how that person forms their beliefs; a way to greater understanding. We will need compassion and patience and strength for this process as our own different thinking will likely arise and perhaps  promote a desire to be defensive. If we can suffuse ourselves with love and show it in our own comments we might be able to share our own ideas. Not to “convert” anyone but to let others know we follow another path, our path, on these issues. It is my hope that this could possibly open their views to ours. Daniel

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Hi Judith, I read your message. I am very glad you felt relief at getting your thoughts out. I am glad you don’t think you will act on your ideation. I simply want to say that this relief you felt can lead to more relief if you would share more with someone you could talk to directly. I know that there are local and national hotlines to prevent suicide. You can call and talk to people who are well trained and caring who can help you. Perhaps talking by phone will allow you some privacy and still get you the assistance you want and need. There are counselors at local mental health centers who could help you as well. Personally I know that you can get the relief from depression and suicidal ideation that you are seeking. You could also consider talking to your doctor about how you are feeling. I hope any of these ideas are helpful to you. In my own experience in life, sharing how you feel with trained professionals has been really helpful. I hope you will do so. Daniel

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Hi @Judith

As Daniel said, I am glad that you found some relief in being able to express what you are going through. I am also glad to hear that you don't think you will act on this ideation. I would also prompt you to seek support from someone you can speak with directly - a doctor or therapist or a service that can connect you with the right person. Online forums are wonderful for providing a sense of community and belonging; however, when we are struggling with strong emotions and thoughts, we need more than this. Speaking with someone who is trained in such mental health concerns either via phone or in-person can be a wonderful way to further express and navigate what you are experiencing. Again, I am very glad that you found it helpful to share here; self-expression is so important - and hope that you seek out another service or trained professional to support you further. Sending you compassion!

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