Keep an open mind and seek out a diverse group of friends. I have seen, and even experienced, loss of friendships due to differing political beliefs. This isn’t a phenomenon on one side of the political spectrum, but something that is, sadly, happening across the board. I’m not saying we need to actively cultivate friendships with people who are not civil, but many times friends agree on the outcomes they seek but differ on how to get there. If we have diverse friendships, we are more likely to hear the thought process and logic behind beliefs that differ from ours. It doesn’t mean we are “bad” or “mean” if we don’t agree with our friends. It does mean that we are part of the problem if we can’t even listen to a different opinion.
As part of our series about ‘5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country’, I had the pleasure of interviewing Michele Lefler.
Michele Lefler is a certified holistic healer, Gendai Reiki Master, and certified life coach. She is the owner of Living Moon Meditation, a spiritual lifestyle business where she helps women embrace all aspects of their self without denying their darker sides. Her experience in meditation, spiritual studies, and coping with grief anchor her work with clients in integrated mind-body healing and shadow integration.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you. Can you tell us a bit about how you grew up?
I grew up in a small Southern town in North Carolina. My parents were divorced, and my sisters and I were raised by our father. It definitely wasn’t common in the 1980s. We weren’t poor, but we weren’t wealthy by any stretch of the imagination. We had everything we needed and even some of our wants, although certainly not all. I wouldn’t say I had an idyllic childhood because of some of the struggles we experienced, but I definitely look back on my growing up years with fondness.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?
Ho’oponopono: The Hawaiian Forgiveness Ritual as the Key to Your Life’s Fulfillment by Ulrich Emil Dupree
This book taught me how to forgive myself as well as others. Being able to forgive has lessened my anxiety and allowed me to open my heart to others. I love how this makes forgiveness a ritual. It’s easy to say that you forgive, but Ho’oponopono makes forgiveness an action.
Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?
I’m going to go with a quote from The Alchemist on this one. “Because I don’t live in either my past or my future. I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man.” As a student of history, I do have a certain focus on the past. However, I can’t let the past consume who I am right now. I’ve also lived enough life to know that I’m not promised tomorrow and that what I worry about in the future rarely comes to pass. The only real time I have is right now, so I try to stay focused on now and live each moment to the fullest extent possible.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
Leadership is the ability to influence people with your actions and not through telling them what to do. The latter is authority. It’s the difference between do what I say as opposed to what I do. Leaders model the actions and behaviors they are influencing others to follow. For example, Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great leader (as were many others) because he didn’t just say what he thought. He went out in the trenches and fought for what he believed. He didn’t tell others what to believe. He did it himself and persuaded others to join him as a result of his actions.
Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. The United States is currently facing a series of unprecedented crises. So many of us see the news and ask how we can help. We’d love to talk about the steps that each of us can take to help heal our county, in our own way. Which particular crisis would you like to discuss with us today? Why does that resonate with you so much?
We are facing an unprecedented number of crises as a nation right now. I think, though, that most of them can ultimately be faced in a much better manner if we healed the fracture we have seen growing in civil discourse, particularly, the lack of civil discourse. We are seeing so much hatred among our citizenry towards “the other side”, and this is happening at all points on the political spectrum. The belief that it must be “my way or no way” is doing more damage to our nation than any one individual crisis. Yes, there are many crises happening right now, but if we could learn to listen and dialogue with one another we will be better able to come to consensus on how to heal the different crises we are facing. If nothing else, we can at least learn more about what our fellow Americans truly believe instead of relying on stereotypes to form an opinion.
This is likely a huge topic. But briefly, can you share your view on how this crisis inexorably evolved to the boiling point that it’s at now?
I think that a huge part of the problem is that our current two-party political system isn’t working. The constant back and forth between Republicans and Democrats has not led to a measurable amount of change. The United States is a young country, but we aren’t an infant country anymore. We are still fighting for the same basic human rights for certain groups of people that we were decades and centuries ago. We need to realize that our current system isn’t working. When we do that, we can open to something that may bring actual lasting change and reduce the amount of heated debate that we currently see.
Can you tell our readers a bit about your experience either working on this cause or your experience being impacted by it? Can you share a story with us?
I’ve had several years’ experience as a political activist for the Libertarian Party holding office in my local affiliate committee. I’ve also had the opportunity to participate in a community panel discussion on civil discourse. I was one of the people tasked with formulating the program. We sought out panelists from a broad range of backgrounds politically, ethnically, and economically. We carefully curated a set of questions to ask them regarding current events and had a moderator to ensure that the dialogue was civil. After panelists answered our questions, the floor was open to questions from the audience. It was an excellent evening of learning about the actual ideas and beliefs of “the other”, hearing directly from them and not listening to media stereotypes.
Ok. Here is the main question of our discussion. Can you please share your “5 Steps That Each Of Us Can Take To Proactively Help Heal Our Country”. Kindly share a story or example for each.
- Limit the amount of news you consume. News sources run 24/7 these days and are active on social media. We are constantly surrounded by news and it hampers our ability to think critically. When we are surrounded by nothing but news it’s easy to rely on what we hear without examining the source for bias. And, truthfully, all sources are biased.
- Speaking of biased sources, seek out the least possible sources of bias. Yes, every source has bias, but some are more biased than others. I tend to seek out news reports from BBC because they have, in my opinion, the least bias and government propaganda. You can easily do a web search to find sources with the least amount of bias.
- Actively seek out opportunities to listen to opinions from those who don’t agree with you. Because we tend to listen to biased news sources it’s easy to surround ourselves with opinions that agree with our own. That makes it more difficult to fairly listen to arguments from our opponents.
- Minimize stress. This sounds like it would be unrelated, but when we have large amounts of unending stress in our lives we tend to lash out more in frustration. When we are confronted with ideas and opinions that differ from our own we are more likely to respond in a less than civil manner. Keep your stress levels in check and you will find it easier to listen with compassion and kindness even when you disagree.
- Keep an open mind and seek out a diverse group of friends. I have seen, and even experienced, loss of friendships due to differing political beliefs. This isn’t a phenomenon on one side of the political spectrum, but something that is, sadly, happening across the board. I’m not saying we need to actively cultivate friendships with people who are not civil, but many times friends agree on the outcomes they seek but differ on how to get there. If we have diverse friendships, we are more likely to hear the thought process and logic behind beliefs that differ from ours. It doesn’t mean we are “bad” or “mean” if we don’t agree with our friends. It does mean that we are part of the problem if we can’t even listen to a different opinion.
It’s very nice to suggest ideas, but what can we do to make these ideas a reality? What specific steps can you suggest to make these ideas actually happen? Are there things that the community can do to help you promote these ideas?
We can make it a reality by doing it. As you say, it’s nice to suggest ideas, but until we take the steps ourselves we won’t see a change. We actually have to do the work and seek out differing opinions. We must be willing to share our opinions even when it may not be comfortable to do so. I’m not advocating putting yourself in danger to share your opinions, but I am suggesting that we not shy away from doing so. For years polite society has told us not to talk about politics and religion. Not doing so may have resulted in less disagreement, but we haven’t been taught how to talk about these subjects. We don’t live in a society that we are able to avoid these topics anymore. They are everywhere whether we want them to be or not. Refusing to talk about it doesn’t help. We need to talk about it, but we need to learn how to do so effectively and with civility. Ultimately, though, we just do it. Seek out opportunities in your community to participate in or be an audience member for a civil discourse panel discussion. If there isn’t such an event in your community, step up and organize one.
We are going through a rough period now. Are you optimistic that this issue can eventually be resolved? Can you explain?
I’m an optimist at heart, so yes, ultimately, I do think this issue can be resolved. However, it’s not going to be a quick fix, and it’s not going to be easy. It’s also not going to just happen. Collectively, as a nation, we all must make the effort to engage in civil dialogue. We can’t wait for others to do it. Every one of us must step up now and be the change we want to see. Lead by example. Do the work and inspire others to do as you do.
If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?
If you want to see change, you have to be change. Change doesn’t happen just because we will it to. If we want to experience positive change in our lifetime we have to be the ones to step up and make it happen.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
The Dalai Lama because it would be a fascinating experience! I would love to meet with him one on one to pick his brain and learn from him in a more intimate manner.
How can our readers follow you online?
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!