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Transcending Charlottesville

It's time for a collective soul search and to return to home base...

The events in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend have provoked feelings of outrage and disbelief for many who insist that there is no place for hatred and what we label bigotry in this country. We are struggling to make sense of what seems like blatant hate and disregard for other human beings sharing the United States as their home. Feelings of powerlessness and being a victim of circumstances beyond our control surface in our collective psyches, and we begin to be filled with fear, despair, and sorrow.

While I avoid political commentaries in these posts, I do talk about maximizing our impact and about our development as humans. I wanted to take the occasion of this unfortunate event to talk about our collective need for transcendence.

As part of our human condition, we enter the world as most other living creatures do—vulnerable and seeking to survive. The survival instinct is wired in our brains, and our awareness of ourselves as a separate being, or what some psychologists refer to as our ego, serves as our main filter and personal navigator.

We spend years building that sense of separateness to enable us to be strong enough to survive and thrive in the big, uncertain and unknown terrain of the world around us. We filter information through the small lens of our own senses, which makes up our personal awareness.

And through that tiny, tiny lens, we make up stories about everything around us. Stories that serve to explain our existence, our surroundings, and help us feel protected and in control. These same stories serve to paint us as unique, different, and significant—and to feed our need to understand and make sense of ourselves and our environment.

Our families, the cultures we were born in, and yes, even our religions reinforce our separateness and fill in the behavioral norms of the storyline. What is good or bad, acceptable or not acceptable, how to act and how not to act—all of these things become defined as a collective group of behaviors. This serves to unite us with select others by nature of the common behaviors –but separates us from those who are not “like us”.

Thus, the phenomenon of being “separate” becomes populated by a collection of egos and is not only reinforced by our own egos, but segregated by our cultures, religions, and countries.

“I am different.”

“I have the right answer.”

“I am separate.”

These are the mantras we learn and hold dear in a tribal fashion as we navigate through the scary terrain of our human existence on this planet. Our separateness somehow provides us with some sort of strange safety, as being separate allows us to see and know “the answer”. That “answer” we all seek that defines our existence and guarantees our survival.

While becoming separate is a necessary part of our human development, the paradox is that what eventually can save us is giving up the separateness we spend years creating and coming back to a collective home base.

There is a place beyond our egos and conscious awareness where a collective consciousness lies. It is a place that acknowledges our uniqueness but affirms our “sameness”. A space where every human transcends the made-up stories we have created to protect ourselves and feel like we are in control on this scary planet. It is a space where we see the beauty and miracle of life and bear witness to the same vulnerable yet beautiful being that lies within each of us. It is void of outer image and bravado, but full of admiration and love.

Collectively we all know this space, but perhaps have abandoned or have lost sight of it through the layers and layers of separateness we have so adeptly created.

This is space of the soul. The space we all inhabit and are part of.

Given the display of hatred we just witnessed in Charlottesville, I believe we are in dire need of a collective soul search. Charlottesville is yet another wake-up call to all of us. It is time to tear down the lies we live by and transcend beyond the walls of separation we have spent lifetimes creating.

It is time to find and identify with the space where we are not separate at all.

Perhaps that is where the real safety we are searching for lies?

I’ll leave you with the words of John Lennon—who was calling for this transcendence in the words of his iconic song: Imagine.

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people living for today

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people sharing all the world, you

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope some day you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Songwriters: John Lennon / Yoko Ono

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People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.

- MARCUS AURELIUS

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