“The opening of the heart is an awesome personal politic, providing us with an internal strength greater than any worldly power. As we receive Divine love and impart it to others, we are given the power to repair the world.” – Marianne Williamson
Heather has had enough. Her white friends share posts in support of Black Lives Matter. Yet they don’t involve themselves beyond their digital messages. She wonders if they are doing this to gain online likes and attention or if they are sincere about their stated positions on race relations. Whenever they get together for group chats or coffee, no one talks about race relations.
Heather’s parents comment about the upcoming elections. Her mom talks about a neighbor who displays a huge sign promoting a candidate she despises. Mom says: “I don’t know if I can be friendly with our neighbor if he feels so strongly about that candidate. Doesn’t he understand that this candidate is the reason some of us believe this country is in shambles?”
Her father nods in agreement and responds. “Why can’t people keep their opinions to themselves? It is so hard to walk around town and see these huge signs on lawns and in windows. My stomach tenses up because I’m afraid what will happen if this candidate gets re-elected. I wish our political party would make a stronger effort to promote the right person.”
While Heather has her own thoughts about politics, she doesn’t bring them up at home. She believes her opinions will lead to arguments, and fears damaging the relationship with her parents. She instead distances herself and sticks to familiar topics like chores and work schedules.
Between shallow chatter about race and too much swirling political talk, Heather feels overwhelmed. She feels trapped in a strange place where superficial support for people of color is trendy and political divisiveness looms all around.
Clearing the air with spiritual awareness
Heather tires of drawing the same negative conclusions about her friends and being afraid to speak up to her parents. The dread in her head has reached its limits. Her voice wants to discuss race and politics. Her heart yearns to elevate its presence in these discussions.
Heather wants to navigate these uneasy times leading from the heart. She is ready to contribute her share of responsibility for the world by becoming more conscious of her own daily reactions and contributions.
In times where uncertainty immobilizes her mind and heart, Heather craves the freedom to step into her truth. More than anything she wants to stand for love. She chooses a 5-step plan that incorporates love into her ongoing interactions with others.
Step 1: Lean on mission.
Heather’s personal mission statement is to live and inspire others from the heart. Observing how the heart seems missing from current relationships, Heather promotes dialogue which focuses on love vs. conflict. By choosing love she feels safer and more comfortable participating in conversations about how we can help make the world a better place for all beings.
Heather intends that she can love and be there for the people in her life who have different points of view.
Step 2: Build connection.
Besides her friends and parents, Heather joins an online group which promotes open discourse around race relations. The group guidelines state there will be moments of discomfort and difficulty when talking about race and privilege. The ultimate goal is to create a forum from a place of tolerance, collaboration and real action. As she experiences deeper empathy around the disadvantages and lack of power experienced by people of color, Heather’s heart stretches in new directions.
Step 3: Seek strength.
Heather reaches out to co-workers about the elections. At lunchtime they engage in casual conversation about unemployment, the pandemic and other issues facing the country. They intellectually examine the candidates and their positions on these matters. Because they understand what is at stake for the next candidate who takes office, the informed conversations open doors instead of shut them down.
Emotions and messy logic are replaced by research and the vetting of information.
Step 4: Create understanding and trust.
Because Heather is practicing her mission and broadening her understanding about race and politics, she hopes to reopen political discussions with her parents. Together they write down subjects of interest on slips of paper and place them in a bowl. After dinner they each pick a topic and have five minutes to present remarks. Interruptions are not permitted. One person speaks at a time. Phones have been put away.
If their follow-up conversation becomes heated, each agrees to return to the topic the next day and approach it from a neutral place. Heather uses I-statements to tactfully describe a problem. She is mindful to maintain her boundaries when a thorny comment rises to the surface.
Before Heather shuts out friends or closes her heart to what she perceives as their half-hearted views, Heather remembers her personal goal is love. Through love she finds a way to move beyond the shock of others’ words. She focuses on gaining understanding of opposite viewpoints, and opens her mind to hearing what she’s not before considered or understood.
Listening with an open mind and heart and objectively processing what her friends believe helps to lessen Heather’s reactivity and default position of becoming emotionally agitated.
Step 5: Practice self-care.
Heather realizes that her past thoughts and defensive behaviors lead her down a path of loneliness and isolation from people she cares for. On the other hand, exposure to unhealthy thinking and narrow views of others wounds her heart.
From September to mid-November Heather adds more self-care activities, such as Wellness Coaching, breath work and cycling. She travels one weekend a month to visit cousins out of state. Heather dramatically cuts and limits her daily personal time on social media and TV to 30 minutes.
Once elections are over, Heather plans to review upcoming activities and decide which ones to pursue. She looks forward to looking back on this time period and the lessons it will reveal to her heart. She is curious to see if her personal mission statement to live and inspire others from the heart will sustain her through this season of change and growth.