Seeking Harmony in Divided Times

Inspired by the trip I’m on, I woke up this morning wanting to explore how to get along with people of different backgrounds, beliefs, opinions, cultures, gender, etc. There are plenty of examples in our daily news feed and nightly news shows of how we don’t get along.  While some of this information is important, it certainly has the effect of pulling us further away from each other and our ability to understand each other.

While walking through Aberdeen yesterday, I discovered new information about my travel companions which revealed a major difference in how we view the world. I had already spent over a week with these two women and I had thoroughly enjoyed my time with them. This one bit of information could have, under different circumstances, polarized us to a place of not being about to communicate. Instead, I am left wanting to know more. These are two people who love just like me, have families just like me, have joys and sorrows just like me, want to be happy just like me. And yet, there is obviously something (maybe many things) that lead us to view the world quite differently.

Still lying in bed and thinking about this, my husband pipes up and says “The Daily Word is harmony: Today I blend differences into harmony.” Back home, reading the Daily Word from Unity is one of our morning routines but we had not been doing it until today during our trip. So, I found it quite odd that he would pick today to read it and that it reflected exactly what I had been thinking about. I love synchronicity.

You can read the whole blog here, but in essence it says “as I seek harmony in my life, I no longer insist that other people be just like me or see life the same way. Our differences can be harmonious if we are willing to attune to each other.” In fact, without differences, life could be pretty boring and we wouldn’t have nearly as much to enjoy.

On the other hand, I can hear myself (and probably some of you) saying there are some differences I refuse to honor.  Some ideas and opinions which hurt other people in significant ways. I am in no way saying that these types of actions are acceptable. But, this is where things can start to get tricky. We need to be very careful about throwing stones at others because we all live in glass houses. We have all hurt others—by making judgments, saying critical (even violent) things, by closing our hearts and taking unskillful actions.

Here are just a few ideas about how to bring greater harmony into our world. These are not easy suggestions, but, in my experience, they lead to the possibility of greater peace and happiness for all. Give them a try and see how they impact you. The conditioning to divide us is strong, but practicing skillful habits of language, thought, and action can begin to counteract it.

1. Practice skillful speech. Be careful not to use disparaging words against others. These are the types of words that you judge others for using against you. No side has the moral high ground to use language of division.

2. Send lovingkindness. Send phrases of lovingkindness to those who are difficult and different. As I mentioned before, these people love, laugh, cry, and hope just like you. Opening our hearts to others is the only way to heal our divides. As the Buddha said, ““In this world, hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate.” Words of lovingkindness include statements like “May you be safe. May you be happy. May you be healthy. May you live with joy and ease.” Sprinkle lovingkindness liberally wherever you go, but particularly to those you find difficult.

3. Agree to disagree. Finding harmony doesn’t mean that we have to agree with one another all of the time. It does mean that we agree to find harmony by understanding the ways we are the same and acceptance of the ways we are different.

4. Seek to understand. I hope I have the opportunity to have a conversation with my travel companions about their ideas this week. Having the opportunity to know them first has had the impact of opening my heart and mind to what they believe. I doubt that I will completely change my mind, but I’m willing and eager to see if I can understand better some of the issues that are important to them.

5. Balance your time. Balance the time you spend watching the news that has the impact of dividing us and the time you spend in conversation with others that are different than you, in opening your heart to all beings, and in doing work that helps to heal the world.

6. Get involved. If you have an issue that you are passionate about, by all means get involved in some way by giving money or time to further the activities that you believe will help our planet and the living beings who inhabit it. In the process, you will come in contact with those that feel differently that you do. It will give you the opportunity to work on harmony.

Our differences are great and the forces to divide us seem to grow stronger by the day. May our work toward harmony produce beautiful music for the world to hear.