(Originally posted on AboutMeditation.com)
I’ve had many clients come in my office and in speak on how the current political and social climate is affecting them either directly or indirectly.
Regardless of their individual beliefs, the seemingly endless and omnipresent conflict is wearing them down. Many clients want to retreat into their own worlds, and cut themselves off from everything.
That makes sense; it is a basic survival mechanism to avoid conflict and seek shelter.
This approach, however, does nothing to resolve the conflict.
As Within, So Without
“But who am I to resolve this national conflict? It’s so much bigger than I am!” is a common sentiment.
It can feel overwhelming to imagine trying to solve the country’s, or world’s, problems. For most of us, that’s beyond our sphere of influence.
However, that does not mean we are powerless to do anything.
“As above, so below, as within, so without, as the universe, so the soul…”
I advise you to look at where you are in conflict within yourself, and how you are handling that conflict. Is there a part of yourself that you just can’t stand? A part you don’t trust or despise? Where is that part of you, to borrow a phrase from A Few Good Men, “that you don’t like to talk about at parties?”
The way we can effect change outside of us is to embark on tackling change within us. As the quote which has been attributed to Gandhi goes, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Tackling Inner Conflict
This is where the practice of meditation can be of great benefit. Meditation invites us to notice what is arising without judgment. Inner conflict exists when we don’t do that.
Where you are conflicted internally you are at odds with yourself. Fighting yourself is a sure-fire way to deepen any existing divide.
Instead, invite all sides to the proverbial table. As you are able to witness what is going on, it becomes easier to navigate to a solution that is truly beneficial. So long as you are arguing with yourself, you will never win.
As you are able to understand where each side within you is coming from, you are able to understand and tend to your own deeper needs.
Treating the Root
When I was in my early 20s, I found myself at the height of a long-standing internal conflict. On one side, I wanted to be considered cool and accepted by my peers, and so I found myself acting in ways that really upset another aspect of me. This other side was the rule-following, do-as-you’re-told, be-a-good-boy side of me. One night in particular, I found myself pacing back and forth in my apartment, audibly arguing with myself. I’m glad no one else was around – I am sure I looked crazy.
After frustratingly arguing both sides for nearly half an hour, what came over me was an understanding that both sides were striving to be liked and feel safe. They had very different ways going about reaching that goal, and that’s what provoked their argument.
Focusing on peer acceptance was bound to get me in trouble, which I felt would make me feel alienated and alone, and the rule-follower was sure never to step across any lines into exploration, which would also leave me feeling alienated and alone.
When I understood the deeper intent of each side within me, I was able to provide understanding to the root of the problem. It was not about whether I followed the rules or not. It was about feeling part of a community and being true to myself.
How This Helps
As you resolve your inner conflict, you will not wake up suddenly to the news that world peace has been found. However, a few things will happen.
1. You will walk the world in a more peaceful way, and naturally radiate that peace outwards
2. As you are able to handle conflict within yourself, it becomes easier to handle conflict outside of you. It becomes easier to resolve conflict between you and someone else as you look for and draw out what the underlying issues are
3. As you are part of human consciousness, as you change your own state, you have a subtle but important impact on the entirety of all humans, which subconsciously helps push the needle more in the direction of communication and collaboration
Again, working on your own inner conflict will not suddenly rid the world of disagreement. It will, though, engender a space of collaboration and deep understanding, which will have a cumulative effect. Collaboration will help us all sit down with someone on the opposite end of the social or political spectrum as us and being to bridge that divide.