If we are one, whom does “we” include, exactly?
This is the question I was pondering when I wrote here last month. It can’t mean everyone, can it? Even those _____?? (Fill in your own blank here.) When I think about the oneness of all things, I find it much easier to feel into my connection with nature, and the vast cosmos, than to experience my oneness with fellow humans, who think differently from me. As divisiveness intensifies, and as we in our country have come to the end of a protracted battle with clear winners and losers - when viewed through the lens of battle energy, that is - I am more motivated than ever to explore the mysteries of oneness.
Remember when you were growing up, hearing things like, “Celebrate diversity”?
”There is more that unites us than divides us” is another good one. “Easier said than done!” was my usual comeback. Even while I truly did celebrate some kinds of differences, others have been more of a challenge. On the whole, I’ve been a pretty tolerant person during my life, except for the things I just can’t tolerate!
If I’m completely honest, that level of acceptance of my fellow humans has been fine with me, until now. Now the stakes seem higher. Now the costs of indulging our tribal identities are crystal clear. It’s time to take a step or two back, and look at a much bigger picture.
Tribalism is nothing new.
It has been wreaking havoc among humans pretty much since we emerged from the primordial swamp. The good news is that the truth of our oneness with each other and with all beings is just as ancient. That means that, if I’m ready to step into that truth as my defining principle, it’s not as big a leap as I thought. I do not need to exert great effort to teach myself some radically new thing. I just take a step from one way of thinking, that is as old as humanity itself, into another that is just as old, and for which I am equally well designed.
The idea of oneness does not mean that there are no differences between us, or that if we are troubled by the ways in which others think or behave differently, that we are wrong to be troubled. Being one does not mean that we are identical, it means that we are connected. And that connection is more foundational to us as humans than any of our differences. We know this, but is this where we choose to focus our attention? That is the real question.
If humanity came into existence hard-wired to identify with our own kind, and fear or hate all others, we also came in as one being. Perceiving myself and others in this way is therefore as natural to me as my various tribal identities. The question is, where will I put my focus? Which innate way of being will I choose to inhabit?
Focusing on my oneness with others feels great!
Paying attention to how things feel in our bodies, when we’re faced with a challenge, or a difficult choice, is a good tool to have for finding the way forward. When I’m focused on things I find hard to tolerate in others, my body is clenched up, my jaws are tight, and my level of consciousness is probably somewhere back in the swamp. When I turn my attention to the truth that we are all one being, my whole body feels lighter, more expansive, and my level of consciousness soars upwards almost instantly.
I can celebrate others who are different from me, and find joy in the lavish variety that makes up our world. I can also let my heart break, when I see people causing harm to others, or to me, in the name of whatever tribe they belong to. But underneath all of that flows a deeper river, in which we all swim together, and which carries us forward as one being. Choosing to put my attention there, on the deep river, allows me to feel my connection with all beings - including all humans! - and empowers me to choose love over fear. Speaking of sayings from childhood, come on in, the water’s fine!
Robbie is the facilitator of the Shamanc Studies Program at the Boulder Center for Conscious Community. Click here to see the schedule of workshops.