In days of high tension, fear and anxiety, I am prone to misunderstanding.
In every situation.
Even misunderstanding myself.
We see it everywhere. From small interactions with neighbors, friends, and family, to incorrect assumptions made in social media spheres, I am reading people incorrectly. I have little patience for myself, or anyone else.
Is that happening with you too?
When we are feeling afraid and isolated, how can we break this cycle of misunderstanding?
How can we stop action followed by reaction, over and over, with little pause for thought or reflection?
I have more questions than answers.
I don’t think it will be simple, but we are all on this planet together. We’ve got to share it, so we better figure out how to do that successfully.
What if we were more gentle with ourselves and each other?
I know that some people feel we cannot be gentle in these times. There are causes to stand for, people to protect. We have to be fierce.
I agree in a way, and I get it. To the point of tears and frustration, I get it.
At the same time, I wonder…
Can we be gentle with each other and fierce about our ideals?
I hear the answer, “Yes, we can.”
…Ugh, even typing this I can hear myself saying, “I’ve got no time or energy for people who think because someone has brown skin they should be attacked.” And “I will fight to my last breath to protect someone’s right to worship, or love in a way that suits them, as long as it is hurting no one else.”
The thing is, I can’t hear anyone else when I’m shouting.
Even when I’m just shouting in my head.
I see myself becoming the zealous, unreachable person I rail against.
When we are really connecting, which requires some gentleness internally and externally, we are more able to be radically empathetic. We can both disagree and progress. We open space for healing and to solve problems in ways we might not have imagined were possible pre-connection.
It takes immense self-control and belief in the greater good of connection to hold myself steady with people whom I disagree so fundamentally.
But I know I can, not perfectly, but I can.
And, when I have, positive transformation has occured.
What I do that helps me feel more ready to connect:
- Get a lot of exercise. I am more calm and reasonable when I’ve moved my body in a purposeful way. I’ve needed to amp up my physicality lately, to meet my internal tension. There are many reasons this is a good idea, but suffice it to say, I do better in all realms when I’ve worked out some frustration. I bet you do too.
- Spend time outside. Being in nature can offer powerful healing. Try to give yourself at least 5 minutes, uninterrupted, outside each day.
- Reflect on what matters, everyday. Take time each morning to slow my breath, connect with wonder, and the feeling of being connected to something greater than myself. I pray, practice yoga and meditate, but there are lots of ways to help yourself remember the big ideas that matter to you. Find one or more activities that feel connecting. Make it a habit to do them daily. It can be simple and brief, but its best if it’s consistent. If you are looking for something new to try, here’s a short and effective breath I do every day.
- Get inspired. Lastly, I read about, and listen to, people who are making the choices I’d like to be making.
Here’s an example.
There have been mostly peaceful protests in Austin since the election results were released. Last night a Muslim woman, wearing a hijab, put herself between several anti-Trump demonstrators and a trump supporter. It was an anti-Trump rally, so he was far outnumbered. She stepped in front of danger, and outside her opinions about an issue of vital importance to herself, to protect another human being. She, a citizen of the US born in Iraq, refused to allow anyone to hurt a man who could have easily been a person who wished her ill.
Here’s a quote from the Austin Statesman article linked above.
“’I do not stand for what he stands for,’ a shaking and tearful Amdeen, 19, said of Weidknecht minutes after the incident. ‘But I know his fears and concerns are valid. I love this country so much, and I don’t like what I see coming. We are not being civil to each other.’”
She could muster compassion and empathy in a deeply troubling moment. She understood.
This is how I want shift my part in the cycle of misunderstanding.
This idea of radical empathy.
I will make efforts to choose to listen with gentleness and compassion.
I’m doing my best to move from misunderstanding to “Miss Understanding”.
If we can get centered, connected, and compassionate we have a chance at hearing each other and at real progress.
Let’s keep asking questions, listening to responses and working on ways to boost our connection and disrupt our discord.
Looking forward to connecting,