One of the first spiritual books I read as a young adult and yoga enthusiast was The Teachings of Yogi Bhajan, a collection of sayings by an Indian man who brought Kundalini yoga to the United States in the late 1960s. I can’t remember much of it anymore, but a single line from that book has stuck with me for decades: Recognize that the other person is you.
It was simple enough that I remembered it and chewed on it. It would disappear from my mind for long periods of time and then pop up again. And it popped up today.
Never before in my life have I felt such a palpable division in my country. I’ve never witnessed presidential campaigns so fraught with corruption, so lacking in integrity. And I’ve never seen a populace so fiercely divided.
If you’re an American, regardless of whether or not your candidate won, we all have the job of healing this division in our community. And that lesson from Yogi Bhajan is a good start: Recognize that the other person is you. I actually didn’t “get it” when I first encountered it. I asked myself, “What other person?” Then I realized . . . this person I’m talking to right now, who is pissing me off. This person, whom I am jealous of. And this person, whom I love. In all of them, I’m seeing qualities of myself reflected. We aren’t nearly as separate as we believe.
Here’s a similar piece of wisdom from a former teacher of mine named Matt Garrigan: There is nothing within you that I do not share. It’s too easy to create distance between ourselves and our compatriots by saying, “I’m not like him.” When we write off our countrymen for having qualities we reject, they are inevitably the qualities we reject in ourselves and which are part of what Carl Jung called our “shadow” aspect. But when we instead recognize that the capacity for all of these qualities is within us, we can begin to heal this division.
In our book, The Well Life, we treat community as an essential resource. Here’s an excerpt in which we offer some tips for building community. I encourage you to try one or more of them today:
How to Mindfully Build Your Community
- Ask people for help — whether it be in your garden, with your taxes, or finding a great preschool. Learn what gifts and wisdom those around you have and give them opportunities to share.
- Be involved. Go to local meetings. Participate. Know your community’s plans for the future — and how you fit into them.
- Know the names of people you see often — the grocery cashier, the gas station attendant, the school principal, the guy who takes the same bus as you every day. Allow them to be real people in your life.
- Make eye contact with the humans you pass on the street. Be the one who says “Hi!” first.
- Protect the green spaces.
- Fix something that’s broken — a neighbor’s fence, your niece’s bike, the librarian’s flat tire.
- Support local businesses — even if it costs a little more.
- Learn about others’ traditions and celebrate together.
- Look for local festivals to attend, even if they’re for an event you wouldn’t normally observe.
- Stick up for someone — a disadvantaged person or population, someone being mistreated or disrespected, or someone who’s unable to stand up for themselves.
- Be curious. Attend lectures at the library, senior center, or local university, check out a high school science fair, and — foremost — learn what cool stuff people are up to in your town. What are people building? What are they learning? Who can tell you about the history of this place?
Let’s all come together.
Dr. Peter Borten