When doing a general browse of articles written these days, most acknowledge the difficulties we are all facing because of Covid-19. Amidst this wave of a topic, we can all see the great divides that are being formed.
How masks have become political.
Religious expression is becoming regulated.
Choices for how to run your own business are systematized and penalized when not adhered to specific mandates.
On top of this pandemic, we are coming closer towards a Presidential Election. All of the restoration over the past four years in red and blue families, friendships, and workplaces, is being tested, tried, and (hopefully) found true.
With division and disagreement running rampant in our world, how do we bridge the gaps? Do we need more acceptance and tolerance, or is more rigid boundaries and laws, really what we need? Is there a way for us to heal the breaks between two sides to create stronger bonds, like a restored broken bone?
Let me propose for you a third way. It starts with us.
In our brain, neuroscience has discovered that neural-pathways are formed through behaviors that generate results that either encourage us towards or away from something. These neural-pathways form efficient and effective roads of communication between our nervous system (what we sense) to our brain (what we think/believe) and to act with our body (what we do).
Disagreement is uncomfortable (to say the least). For most of us, it's an experience we tend to avoid. When our brains have been constantly programmed through all our experiences in life to inform us how to navigate these tension filled moments of disagreement, we will follow our formed neural-pathway. This is why we may feel like we cycle, or keep doing what we don’t want to do. Why, when there is disagreement, we lose control or react in a way we aren't pleased with. Why connecting with someone who doesn’t believe exactly what we believe, is so hard. Those chasms of divide within and around us, continue being divided because of how much is required for us to do something different. How difficult it is to retrain our brain. Our way of reacting, and those cycles we go through when we disagree with someone, are due to our neural-pathways. They literally become highways of process and behavior that are not easily broken.
How do we create new ways to respond? What does it take for new neural-pathways to be made and used, so that we can break out of those cycles that don’t help us make connection in disagreement? There is a way, but it isn’t easy. In fact, it’s tremendously easier to live with those gaps in your life but it unfortunately generates more cracks, divides, and complexities in life.
Let us pursue a life of simplicity through hardship, rather than an easy life full of complexities.
There is a natural cycle of life here (to fully explain that will require another article I’ll write someday). It’s just like the different seasons and life cycles of plants. There are moments of transformation in plants and animals, and this is available for us too. However, it requires us to live. The opposite of life isn’t death (because death is a part of the cycle) but it’s inexistence. We have to present with all of life’s realities, the successes, joys, and victories, as well as the failures, hardships, and sufferings.
To be present and respond the way we want, it begins with validating our own experience.
This is why so many articles suggest taking a deep breath when stressed. It’s about centering yourself to create connection with what you're feeling and identify why. It slows you down so you can be present with what’s going on within you so you can validate what you’re experiencing. There are many ways to become present but coming to a place of befriending your feelings, emotions, and sensations is necessary.
When we are present, our choice comes from a place of peace and authentic gratitude, and we create opportunities for connection. We bridge the gaps.
This is the next part of that life cycle I mentioned, where we naturally move into a more thankful place. Through being present with ourselves and all we feel, we experience peace. This helps us see people for who they are, regardless of what we hear them say. We experience our environment more fully, rather than numbly or with fear. We gain more perspective about our circumstance and become curios to learn more of the story. We also receive safety to pursue relationship over being “right”.
This is the necessary foundation for a life of gratitude and from it more opportunities can be discovered because new neural-pathways are formed.
When our bodies experience the emotion of thankfulness, chemicals are released, vibrations happen in our body, and electrical currents are sent through us. We experience what our brain needs to breakdown old neural-pathways and generate new ones.
Systematically, the first part of the natural cycle of life looks like this: 1. Feel it and identify it. 2. Validate it to be fully present. 3. Move through it with authentic gratitude and peace. 4. This breaks down old neural-pathways to create opportunities for new ones to be grown. 5. We receive clarity to respond with self control and gain more perspective.
Again, this isn’t easy. It rarely happens as straight-forward and systematically (because we aren’t robots). Just like the transformation from a seed to a flower, it will take time for you to mature and you may not see the growth until it’s already happened. This isn't a mental exercise to change your beliefs and body. This is a holistic approach towards increasing your self-control and being empowered.
I propose for you to join me in this approach to bridging the gaps in disagreement. To feel the weight of the discomfort and slow ourselves down to be present with it. For when we know our pain, we can face it, and through validating our own thoughts and feelings we can move through those tough experiences. As we form new ways of responding with thankfulness, we will develop more opportunities for connection in and around our lives. We will then bridge the gaps with clarity in our brain and intention in our actions.