practicing on myself

I gave a talk a couple of weeks ago on the topic of reconciliation.  I thought I’d plagiarize myself a bit here today. I guess it’s more in line with “reduce, reuse and recycle” then plagiarizing, isn’t it? Okay, I’ll reuse some stuff and be kind to the environment.

Anyway, Maggie, get back on topic. Okay, so basically to run through the set up really quickly – read this paragraph in a fast voice, okay? – we’re living in a state of extreme polarization. We’re constantly pumped things that feed our fear and anxiety, and that causes us to slip into binary thinking – aka black or white thinking. I’ve talked about this multiple times, here’s an example if you wanna go back.

Anyway again, I realized that one of the things we can do to help us heal from this polarization is to focus on our own work, our inner work, work on ourselves. And that’s the topic I want to play with today.

I know, at first hearing it sounds kinda self-indulgent to think that we can help heal the ills of society by working on ourselves. But I think it’s not self-indulgent. It’s necessary.

If we already knew how to reconcile this polarization, we would have done it, right? That means there’s something in the way; there are things we have to learn and things we have to practice.

What might be in the way? Stuff we can’t see…like our hidden limiting beliefs, our unconscious biases, our social conditioning, our inner conflicts. We know this, we know that we have to uncover these things if we want to change them, that’s not really new news.

Okay, then what else do we have to learn? I think the list might include things like how: how to stop being so judgmental, how to stop using guilt as leverage, how to be more kind, how to be better at forgiving, how to create peaceful discussions, and how to be more inclusive.

What I also think is that we don’t need to “practice” on other people. We can practice on ourselves, because then we’ll feel both sides. One of the best ways to learn is by experiencing things for ourselves.

For example, most of us are really hard and judgmental on ourselves. If we stop and listen to how we talk to ourselves, really listen, I think we’d be astounded by how critical, how judgmental and even mean we are to ourselves. And usually we are beating ourselves up about stuff that doesn’t even matter. We usually don’t feel guilty because we aren’t being good people. We feel guilty because we ate too much cake, and we use it as leverage to feel shame. We’re being judgmental about stupid stuff. If we practice being less judgmental on ourselves, we’ll get better at being less judgmental AND we’ll experience what it feels like not to be judged, to be accepted.

Same thing with kindness. And forgiveness.

And if we take all that ugly noise out of our OWN brains, we can create and experience some inner peacefulness. Which, by the way, creates some space to actually listen to others and have a peaceful discussion.

When we take out the trash we make space. When we take out the trash from our own minds, we have room to invite and include others.

So by practicing on ourselves it’s a double benefit. Do you see how that’s not self-indulgent. Oh yeah, we also don’t have to wait until we’ve done all our work and are perfect before we start working on the outer stuff. It’s just gonna be more effective if we do the practicing part on ourselves at the same time. Because progress, not perfection.

You know that we don’t actually have to agree to not be enemies, right? We don’t have to sacrifice our own values or moral codes to recognize that another person may have a different set of values… and that they can be a person who has different thought, not my enemy. Even if we fiercely disagree on a topic we don’t have to be enemies because we are still people and ultimately have more in common than not.

In the meantime, remember these things: You are loved. We are all loved. Let’s all be kind. And in all things – progress, not perfection!



p.s. Just imagine if both sides (of anything) started being less judgmental, kind, forgiving, inclusive and interested in peaceful conversations.

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