As we move into this new cultural era, many of us are still trying to find our way. I’ve heard our recent electoral shock compared to the collective trauma of 9/11. Another friend said: ‘This is the Pearl Harbor of our generation.’ Whatever we compare it to, it’s easy for many of us to become frightened and feel overwhelmed. It’s also easy to go numb and pretend nothing has happened. But how do we avoid the extremes and find some middle way?
We human beings are naturally inclined to either/or thinking. Should we reconcile or should we resist? Should we be worried or should we be hopeful? Is he good or is he bad? The mind simply wants to settle the matter. But the answer to all these questions is YES!…or as one ancient Zen teacher famously said: ‘NO!*’
When we frame a problem from two opposing views, there is always truth in both sides. This is not to fall into the quagmire of complete paralyzing moral relativism, but rather to acknowledge the reality that we all see the world from different points of view. We might even say that we all live in different universes.
Part of our life as human beings is learning to acknowledge and even appreciate this fact. Arny Mindell**, author, thinker and founder of Process Work, has spent his life considering and exploring how we can work together with others who do not share our beliefs and world views—even those we radically disagree with. He calls this endeavor: World Work and one of the foundational teachings in the process is the concepts of Deep Democracy.
Deep Democracy asserts that each person in a situation speaks not just for themselves, but for the situation itself. Each person deserves to be heard, not just because they have a right to be heard, but because they see and experience some unique aspect of what is occurring.
Mindell teaches that there is wisdom inherent in every situation – even situations of violence and chaos. Our job as participants is not to control and impose our will on a situation, but to learn from what is emerging. Our work is to trust that something of value is trying to be known. We work to join with what is happening rather to learn and support that which we do not yet know. We uncover what is already happening that may lead to new resolutions of ancient problems.
Curiosity and courage are the two essential skills here. We have to be willing to step beyond right-and-wrong thinking and to set aside, even briefly, some of our cherished certainty. This requires an intentional practice of flexibility and growing capacity to deal with the many inner opinions and feelings that may arise. This is not a trivial matter, but it is critical work.
So, this day before Thanksgiving, can we practice curiosity with whatever and whoever we encounter? What if everyone (excluding no one) is speaking some important truth? What if these difficult times are part of an important transition into a better way for human beings to live together? What if our job is to not to sort and filter everything to confirm our position, but to be open to the new and unexpected that is trying to be born?
*for a wonderful collection of essays on this ‘No!’ see THE BOOK OF MU edited by my colleagues James Ford and Melissa Blacker https://www.amazon.com/Book-Mu-Essential-Writings-Important/dp/0861716434/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1479900211&sr=8-1&keywords=the+book+of+mu
**http://www.aamindell.net/ Mindell has written many books, but my favorite is still LEADER AS MARTIAL ARTIST