I woke at my usual hour at 4 am, which is known in some mystical traditions as “Amrit vela,” the early morning hour for cultivating the purest thoughts for the day. I looked through the window out at the city of Sacramento, and observing the lights flicker, I imagined all the people as souls; energies of light, ready to make their shift, their leap of faith, and their climb towards a self-sustained state of consciousness. While offering these thoughts and good wishes for the humanity closest to me at that time, there were moments when I listened; listened to what was the real energy of thought floating among the people. There was quiet care, confusion, fear, anxiety, and an innate sense, that survival is inevitable.
California Vision 2020, organized by the Shift Network, was a gathering of leaders and citizens from various movements striving towards a better future for all. Ranging from racial and social justice, youth, health care, education, immigration to religion and faith, we came together to explore ways that we could contribute to a collective process of guiding America forward. While I found it quite comforting to be in a room of folks who truly shared some similar values and vision, I also wished there were representatives who did not. It is in the contrasts, that we can truly explore what we believe and why; and in the intersection of those contrasts that we observe the power in conversation and understanding the need of our personal sense of self to be valued.
People tend to feel nervous to talk about something they do not understand. Therefore, education on our common shared sense of self is a beginning point to end the insistent fuel of fear, superiority competition, and sense of division prevalent in our society. Very often in the media, current issues are portrayed with a message of dis-harmony, as if human beings wish to be in conflict with each other. Whereas the reality is that millions of people, through their truest feelings, wish to live a life of love, respect, and acceptance. Whether you are from the alt-right or alt-left, no one wishes to witness their children being disrespected, hated, or abused because of their religion, color, nationality, or gender. So, as I investigate methods for sharing about this state we have found ourselves in, I find that we must emerge solutions from a place of shared common interest. It must be a solution for all. People in America, and I mean every single person living in this country, need to feel empowered to talk about their needs, dreams, goals and concerns and not be judged.
At the conference, there was a tall, distinct woman. Her name was Ebony, a transgender male, who was one of the supporters of the conference. I have not been close nor have I had a deep conversation with a person identified as transgender. Apart from what I have heard in the news, I have no idea what they feel, think, or do in their personal lives. So, I approached Ebony and asked her to tell me more about herself. I believe a key component in bridging divides and dismantling stereotypes or conditions fed by the media, is to be so curious about others for whom we may typically draw a forgone conclusion. Through such honest curiosity, we often find that we are very much the same in what we want, and that our differences lie in our individual struggles and details about the way we get to understanding and acceptance.
A positive step in this direction has been through the practice of mind-care, where the focus on our thoughts and intentions behind those thoughts are emphasized. If we wish to heal America, we must first begin to heal ourselves and identify a process to embrace our own limitations of character. We are up against a wall of great pain, the pain of forgetfulness. Not knowing who we are, where we have come from and what we are here to do at this time in history brings much of our struggle. Our visions instead tend to be quite short-term without an emphasis on a daily commitment to change from a thought level.
Perhaps a national project for Americans is to collect personal stories of how changing one’s thoughts from unhealthy thinking into positive thinking helped in an encounter with someone or a challenging situation. And let us explore these stories not just when we are in a crisis, but also through our day-to-day relationships and how positive thoughts contributed to individuals’ success. Maybe it’s time we hear from government leaders about what they are doing to find ways to work together rather than strategizing how to get re-elected. The Brahma Kumaris led a global initiative, collecting one minute interviews for their Just-a-Minute project. Through it, many people, including politicians, youths, leaders, and average folks, shared how silence (reflection, prayer) helped them in their lives. It was very revealing. Perhaps if more of us engage in being curious, listen more to each other, and share our experiences, others may be encouraged to do the same. It is as if we need to give ourselves and others permission to share what is truly meaningful, instead of fueling way too many opportunities that arise to disagree and separate ourselves from another. Maybe this could be a new-style government, one of listening to the hearts of others.
I came away from the California Vision 2020 conference encouraged by the intent threaded by the organizers to create a deep sense of shared interest and resolve. I believe that each of us must have the same intent of being curious, and deeply listening to the stories that we share in common. It seems to be a means of surviving, perhaps even thriving, in the current climate of fear and anxiety. A deep commitment to this process might even transform the climate to one of hope and positivity. I leave you with these simple steps to ponder and practice:
1) Be curious to know someone who is different from you.
2) Listen with interest and sincerity.
3) Allow space to understand without judgement.
4) Imagine what it would feel like if that were you.
5) Wish that others always be well on their journey of love and truth.