There comes a time in one’s wisdom journey where healing personal wounds is outgrown and replaced by a concern for the collective “woundedness” of our planet and humanity at large. These shared, universal wounds — poverty, pollution, oppression/terrorism, disease, etc. — are stored in the deepest grooves of the human brain, which overtime negatively alter our DNA and pass from generation to generation in their groundswell of enmity. For me, one such collective wound is the guilt felt when I am in a good place and others are not.
Concretely speaking, guilt and even a sense of helplessness arise when I witness the mental and physical destitution of homeless people living on our urban streets. This humanitarian woe is not going away. The increase of homelessness and poverty over the last two decades is a testament to the generational nature of both human conditions. Of course, our outdated social and economic systems and solutions exacerbate rather than alleviate their presence reminding me of Einstein’s definition of insanity: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
On the other hand from a cup-half-full perspective, I believe we are currently awakening to the possibility of healing both the planet and our global society from these chronic pains. With spiritual practices such as yoga having become mainstream, we need only to look to ourselves and our neighbours to know that loving kindness and compassion are increasingly on the rise. Certainly, fear in the form of traditional solutions is evident around the world — Brexit’s move away from inclusion, Trump’s Republican Presidential candidacy, Canadian’s ambivalence about the Leap Manifesto, ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Sham) terrorists’ drive to create a Sunni state, etc.
The societal polarization I describe above is characteristic of a pendulum swinging between extremes. Whenever polarization occurs, strong public debate ensues attempting to garner more allies to one side or the other. The prevailing underlying assumption of either/or decision-making overshadows the possibility of a third option — both/and — which ensures greater inclusion and satisfaction. Because polarization is an indicator of being on the precipice of significant change, deep listening, not debate, is what brings us to the understanding and agreement required for truth to emerge.
Deep listening — mindfulness to others, ourselves, and life in general — necessitates being fully present to what is happening in the moment. Although control and judgment are a necessary part of debates, they are not present during deep listening. Letting go of our false need for control and judgment is a tremendous challenge for those people who fear uncertainty. Hence, why deep listening is not yet a mastered social skill. If it were, imagine what the world would look like.
Because deep listening, so needed for planet and social healing, has not reached its tipping point, many still fear returning their trust to nature’s alchemy and releasing their resistance to feeling vulnerable during uncertainty. However, by letting go of all our defenses, we effortlessly become invulnerable to irrational pain and suffering. Loving kindness, compassion and trust strengthen our invulnerability, dissolving defensiveness and helping us to break through rather than break down. My current deep-listening practice is outlined in the poem below.
Life is my mirror.
The trick is to see my reflection with clarity,
to notice immediately the old curse
of striving and driving beyond current capacity,
and instead, to gently embrace what is available.
Life is my mystery school.
Lusting after illusions,
existing only in my mind, diminished being.
Gratefully, those would-be soul shrinkers
bow to the light of truth.
So, I continue to ask,
“How can I effortlessly collaborate with life?”
And, Life replies, “To eradicate willful suffering,
relinquish attachment. Surrender everything
to finally know nothing is needed.”
What can you surrender today to bring greater happiness and less effort into your life?
For more on deep listening and effortless breaking through, click here.