When I first started really paying attention to how my mind worked, including the beliefs I held, I read “The Only Dance There Is” by the spiritual teacher Ram Dass. A funky little book that gathered together some transcripts from a number of talks he had given at the time. While I remember the overall feeling and gist of these teachings, what continues to stay with me was the passage where he spoke about being open to what life had to bring. He said what we want to aim for is allowing everything in. Without resisting anything. That the Truth would rise to the surface like cream rising to the top, and that everything else would naturally get spewed out.
He also said it would be a very scary thing to do. No kidding. It is. And yet, it is exactly what we need more of in the world today. An ability to be with things without closing down, denying, excommunicating, or mandating.
Interestingly enough, we have literally never had more access to enormous and seemingly endless amounts of information through the technologies we possess. Simultaneously, dare I say, we have never been so closed off to anything that does not fit with the existing buckets of information we have amassed and come to call our own. Deeply identifying who we are with the information we have accumulated, while becoming increasingly intolerant of anything outside of the boxes of our own making. That intolerance is alarmingly being verbalized in ever-aggressive ways. And it is not, what many of us feel assured in believing, outside of us. It is not someone else. It is not someone else’s doing. It is happening in and with each and every one of us.
Are our viewpoints so absolute and brittle in nature that they cannot tolerate a dissenting opinion? Do we have so little faith in our own beliefs that we have to legislate them in another? I know this place personally. The place where if someone felt differently than I did about me, what I was doing, or believing in, it felt emotionally and psychically dangerous. It felt like an attack on me. Or that, even if the other person was off base, that what they were saying or feeling had to be true. This left me exerting a lot of energy trying to get others to see things as I saw them.
More than anything else I have come to see it was a survival strategy. It was my attempt to keep from feeling annihilated by another and their opinions. As if my very existence depended on the viewpoint another held of me or what I valued. Instead of realizing what needed tending to was me and my own sense of self, I spent my energy focused on another’s beliefs. It was only when I began to recognize that my sense of self was separate from outside opinions that I was able to feel more tolerant of what others chose to think and believe.
And that is the key. Not only is your sense of self an inside job, it is by far the very best thing you will ever do to increase the level of tolerance and respectful discourse you are able to engage in, and therefore offer the world. We will always have it wrong when we believe it is about getting the other side to see it the way we do. The only real game here is, can you see yourself clearly enough to be able to hold space for how another shows up in front of you?
We are at so many crossroads right now. While it can feel daunting to know this, I think a large part of that overwhelm comes from believing we must get others to line up with our version for us to be OK. The Truth is, it is only you that you need to address. It is only your enduring sense of who you are. It is only your beliefs that say you cannot be safe or valued or included if others believe differently than you, that need looking at.
If we cannot begin to get a handle on this one, not only will we miss out on the Truth of who we are, we will most certainly be ineffectual in coming to a greater good for all of us; choosing instead to demand a kind of totalitarian allegiance to agendas not in keeping with the rich and necessary wrestling with dissenting, alternative, out-of-the-box ideas that are needed in this moment, and that have always been what has called us forward. By one another and for one another.