Once upon a time, new neighbors moved into our apartment complex. It was a nice younger couple with a child the same age as my child. I was kind of excited about it because I was really looking forward to making new friends, especially ones who live in the same building. How practical would that be if our kids could play together while we also had fun?! Little did I know, that other mother had no interest in making friends with me. Only until her mother guilted her into “giving me a chance”, did we become acquainted. Yes that’s right: she had to be convinced to even get to know me at all.
At this point you might be thinking, “What did you do to make her not even want to meet you?” Good question. I found out later why. Are you sitting down?
I was wearing high-heeled wedges and had nice hair.
Oh I’m sorry. You didn’t hear that correctly? Let me say that again:
I was wearing high-heeled wedges and had nice hair.
Yes, she didn’t like me from the get-go because of how I looked. I was being discriminated against because of my looks. Sound familiar? I am pretty sure many of you mindful readers know exactly what I’m talking about. How many of you have been discriminated against because of your appearance? Your skin color, your curly or straight hair, your eyes, your clothes, or whatever else you can think of? How many of you have been hated on because of the religion you were born into? How many of you have been disadvantaged because of what private parts you were born with?
By now I hope that all this discrimination is starting to sound ridiculous. Because, it is ridiculous. And it is widespread. Discrimination breeds hate and violence.
When you hate (or a milder version like my neighbor: dislike) someone because of superficial aspects, you close your heart to empathy. What you shut down empathy you stop connecting with people. When you judge someone by his or her appearance, you judge EVERYONE ELSE who looks like that person. This disconnection breeds resentment by those on the receiving end, which also breeds hate and violence (or dislike and subtle aggression).
You can see this total shutdown of interconnection across the entire world today. ISIS, Al-Qaida, Westboro Baptist Church, Donald Trump, and so many more examples. Everybody’s hating on each other--for really stupid nonsense.
What’s up with all hate going on lately? Seriously. Why are all these mass shootings happening? Why all the psycho terrorism? I’m sure many people could come up with a lot of valid reasons why. For example, perhaps the media is just reporting more about gun violence right now? Some of you could recall all the terrorist attacks that have happened in the far past, or even those which happen in so many other countries that do not have the stamp of Western value on them and therefore do not get reported about? Or, perhaps all the violence is about racism? Is it because of fanatical religions?
What is the source problem? I'll tell you what it is: we’ve stopped realizing that we are all connected. We are all one. We have forgotten that we are all one. My yoga teacher, the late Yogi Bhajan, said that one of the sutras for the Aquarian Age is
“Recognize that the other one is you.”
We need to remember that we are all made from the same energy. We are all from one single source. When you really meditate on that, it will be impossible to hate. Religion, whether it is Christianity, Islam, Judaism, shuts people out. Religions condemn people. It's actually very ironic, because in actuality, all of these religions are just tools for us to gain some kind of access to GOD. I don’t know about you, but I’m kind of starting to think religion isn’t really working anymore the way it was intended to.
I’m not saying you have to renounce your religion, but maybe add some techniques into your spiritual repertoire that will help you feel connected, not only to your source, but to everyone else in the world and to the earth itself.
The source of all this craziness and evil is quite simple: disconnectedness. Feeling disconnected to others breeds fear and hate. Fear gets translated into hate when hearts are closed. If your child is scared, what do you do? You help your child, of course! Why? Because you LOVE that child. If you don’t feel empathy for someone, you will not understand what that person is feeling or thinking, and therefore your heart will be closed to his or her feelings. You will no longer be able to help anyone if you are unable to empathize with him or her.
So how can you become more connected to others? How can you grow more heart-centered? Here are some religion-free techniques for you to try out:
Thought Meditation: Rudolf Steiner, found of the anthroposophic school of thought, created this meditation to connect you to the universe, to the world, to other people. Sit comfortably, and repeat this statement (or thought) in your head: I feel one with the flow of the world. Do it for 20 minutes. If you are a novice meditator, start with 5 minutes and work your way up each day.
Heart Center Meditation: There are many of these out there, but I chose one created by Deepak Chopra. I like how he creates relatively simple and “not-too-out-there” meditations. Start by sitting comfortably, close your eyes, and for a moment, let go of your thoughts and focus on your breath. Now, focus your attention on your spiritual heart center, which is located in the middle of your chest. The heart center has a subtle light, which often appears as white, gold, pale pink or blue. Don’t try too hard to find the light. Just feel whatever is there. Keep focusing on your breathing, while visualizing a pale, soft, pastel light or coolness in the chest area. While breathing, ask your heart what it needs to say. Just have a slight intention of wanting to know what your heart has to say. For the next 5-10 minutes, just sit and notice. You will notice a release of emotions, memories, fears, etc. and you may have a flash of strong emotion. It usually a positive or negative memory. You might feel the need to open your eyes if it is a negative emotion that comes up. Don’t. Keep on focusing on your heart center. If you do this meditation regularly, you will find that your heart center opens up, strengthens, which means you will develop your sense of empathy towards others.
Loving-Kindness Meditation: This is a Buddhist meditation. The process of this meditation is to break down barriers that we often feel toward ourselves, and thus breaking down barriers towards others. Sit comfortably, close your eyes and being to focus on your solar plexus (the area above your navel) and your heart center. Breathe in and out from that area as if all of your experience is happening from this area. While breathing, being to generate a kind feeling toward yourself. Notice any kind of mental blockage or numbness, or judgment. Now, bring your awareness below that to feel kindness toward yourself again, to the place where we want health, safety and strength for yourself. Continue breathing, and then say one of these phrases to yourself several times.
May I be free from inner and outer harm and danger.
May I be safe and protected.
May I be free of mental suffering or distress.
May I be happy.
May I be healthy and strong.
May I be able to live in this world happily, peacefully, joyfully, with ease.
You can make up your own if you want.
Next, move on to a person who you most likely and most always feel loving-kindness towards. Someone you love unconditionally. Repeat the SAME phrase for that person (except say “May YOU be…”). After you feel that unconditional love in your heart center, move on to a person you regard as a dear friend and continue repeating the same phrase for that person. Now move to a neutral person, repeating the process.
Last, move on to a person you have hostile or conflicted feelings towards. Repeat the SAME phrase for this person. If you have a hard time with this, start the same phrase with “To the best of my ability…” If you start having bad feelings again, return to the person you feel love for so you can return to the feeling of loving-kindness. Then go back to the person you have hostile feelings towards.
After all this, radiate loving-kindness towards all beings. Keep in touch with that warm, loving feeling radiating from your heart center. You think something like, “May all beings be safe, happy, healthy”. Stay with all beings until you feel a personal sense of true interconnectedness of all beings.
You can take this meditation to expand towards all human beings, the earth, and the universe. But start slowly, maybe begin by expanding your loving-kindness towards just one person you have negative feelings for. After some practice you can expand it.
So there you have it, folks! I’d love to hear if you try these and how it affects you. If you already do one of these meditations or something similar, I’d love to hear about how it helps you. Post comments! By offering your own experiences you can help other readers! Now I think I’m going to try the loving-kindness meditation for my old neighbor!