Sitting in the Denver International Airport last week, I had an experience of connection with all these strangers in the domain of my perception. Even though each person had their own different appearance, my experience was of the common humanity we all share and in that moment I was inspired and moved. Even though nothing externally changed, something in me shifted, my fears and feelings of ego separation lifted so I could briefly see beyond the appearance of our differences to our common humanity.
Seeing beyond our differences is possible in any situation. For example, in my young adult years I spent a summer in a Palestinian village in north Israel named Shefa Amer in Arabic (or Shafar Am in Hebrew). This town was about a 30 minute drive from Nazareth in northern Israel, and the people of this town and their ancestors have lived in this town for literally thousands of years. (The Arabic word for Palestinian is Philistine as in the biblical reference.) In the town lived communities of the Christian, Muslim and Druze religions. Each community had their own organization and leaders and they have and continue to live in peace for thousands of years next door to each other. In the Christian community they even had a story passed down from their ancestors that Jesus had visited their village when he was a child and had lost his hat in a game of dice in their town. Whether or not it was true, it makes a great story. While the cultural, religious and tribal differences in that part of the world have created difficult divisions, their lives show that reconciliation, collaboration and mutual respect is possible even in the most difficult of circumstances.
In this town, I lived at a community center for a peace project called “The House of Hope” which was founded by the Christian community in Shefa Amer and is affiliated with an international organization devoted to reconciliation called “The Community of the Cross of Nails” which was founded in Coventry, England after World War II. During the war, the Cathedral in Coventry, England was destroyed in the Nazi bombing and after the war volunteers who were cleaning up the wreckage took two large nails from the church and made a cross as a symbol of their community rising from the ashes of destruction just as Jesus rose again from death after the crucifixion. They founded this organization dedicated to reconciliation all over the world. This concept is of rising from the ashes in the cycle of death and rebirth is also found in some form in all religions as well as in psychology where releasing and ending the old patterns of dysfunction in your life and relationships makes way for the new healthier ways of relating to arise.
When we look around us, the labels we give to each other seem to divide us, and the dysfunctional patterns of conflict with others in our lives have us feel separate and alone. However, when we find the courage to end the current patterns of toxic dysfunction in our lives and in our thinking and make a personal human connection with anyone from our lives or from other social organizations, ethnic groups or religious or political affiliations what we find are people with the same hopes and dreams that we have.
As a counselor in years past, I have spent countless hours in counseling with gang members in a youth detention working with them on their personal issues and even spent time in an isolation cell with a particular young man. They were in the detention center due to illegal and often violent behavior, but even then what I found was simply another human being doing the best he could just like the rest of us. In talking with couples and families where there is abuse and trauma, still I find human beings struggling with their own fears and dysfunctions, but still people who just want to love and be loved and are doing the best they can with what they know. Just like everyone else, when they understand themselves and each other differently and when they are finally willing to end the patterns of toxic communication in their relationships and in their lives, then healing, reconciliation and mutual respect invariably happens even in the most difficult situations.
No matter the difficulties or challenges in your life, you can heal the divide in your personal relationships; you can overcome the challenges in your path and find a new level of success and personal fulfillment and greater emotional intimacy and connection with the people in your life. In any area of your life when you are willing to understand and unplug from your fears and center yourself and become fully present in the present moment you can find inner peace and emotional fulfillment.
My son, Matthew, is in college and is a yoga instructor. He recently posted a message in a quote from Henry Umoru that applies perfectly to this idea: “You are more than what is troubling you. A very real part of you exists beyond your worries, beyond your doubts, independent from the troubles and frustrations of the present moment. Step back and observe yourself as you experience each moment. Be present. Watch yourself think as you take action and as you experience emotions. Your body may experience pain, and yet the pain is not you. Your mind may encounter troubles and yet you are not those troubles. “
Find most genuine and authentic part of yourself and from this place you can stand on your truth and end the patterns of dysfunctional communication in your life from yourself and others and learn to look past the labels you have put on yourself and the people and the situations around you. Practice seeing through your judgments to the heart of the person in front of you. Learn to see past the limiting conditions to the solutions in your life situations. This practice begins to free your mind from the fears and the limiting conditions in your life and opens you to the ineffable joy of being alive. This state of mind puts you more into the flow where you can better understand and deal with the issues in your life.