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Healing the Divide

This time -- more than any other in recent memory -- is rife with division.

The pandemic made it more obvious as we struggle to mend the division both within ourselves, and outside of us. Internally, dualities exist -- the seeming opposition of heart and mind, for example, or the inconsistencies in the things that we say versus the things that we do. Externally, we experience separation from others, we deal with differences based on race, age, gender, social class, political affiliation, religion, and so on.

It's a good thing that the Buddha has taught us ways to manage conflict, both internal and external, and to find peace so that hatred may be extinguished. He taught us, for instance, that "Hatred never ends by hatred / By love alone does it end / This is the ancient truth." (The Buddha's Poem of Peace)

But how can we love someone who is so different from us? How can we love those parts of ourselves that cause us to feel shame or fear or pain? Thich Nhat Hanh proposes a solution: "No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand and you show that you understand, you can love and the situation will change." Indeed, understanding is the beginning of love.

To heal the divide, we may start by delving into the crucial inner work that can lead to self love and self acceptance. We need to recognize and understand our implicit biases and our destructive patterns, then work toward living a life of integrity and authenticity. We can ultimately learn to embrace impermanence and non-self -- impermanence of the body and, therefore, color, race, status, etc. These things are not us and we cannot hold on to them, and so we must let go of these limiting views and beliefs as these are the reasons why divisions exist.

Mindfulness is essential in creating that space wherein we can practice this form of letting go. The practice of mindfulness promotes openness, curiosity, wisdom and compassion. It allows us to be kinder to ourselves and to others and, ultimately, to be happier and more peaceful. Mindfulness can nip conflicts in the bud and heal divisions both internal and external.

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