“One of the great cultural challenges of our time is to widen our circles and spiritual communities to become welcoming and affirming to diverse groups.” (p. 230, The Buddha’s Wife)
Fostering an open, compassionate awareness and engagement with diverse groups of people, especially those that are marginalized or oppressed, is necessary to embrace if we are to widen our circles of peace. When we continue the separation and “invisibility” of others who are different, then what emotional and spiritual seeds are we planting? Seeds of alienation, inequality, and conflict.
Widening our societies and communities, there needs to be a shared intention of compassionate and relational activism, where inclusivity and healing are supported. This is a particular challenge to religious and spiritual communities, who may take on a dogmatic belief system as a universal absolute. Intolerance, prejudice, and anger or violence can stem from this belief that “we” are not the same as “them,” and therefore, against us. This often becomes a dangerous and harmful belief, where life becomes an extreme of black and white, then there is no room for dialogue and understanding. There is no space for appreciating the other’s sacred interbeing.
There are practices and reflections that we can each cultivate to start taking compassionate and relational actions—to meet the other where he or she is at in order to build a bridge of dialogue. Here are a few steps inspired from The Buddha’s Wife:
- Notice which groups of people you most identify with, and those you identify the least. Observe how they are different and similar. Consider how these qualities reflect your life and beliefs.
- The groups you identify the least—whether due to race, religion, political belief, or lifestyle—is there one you are curious about? Or perhaps feel disconnected and uneasy about? Is there ways you can expand your understanding and compassion with this particular group? Try one idea out.
- Meditate on the appreciation of our diverse world. Perhaps focus on someone you may not know, who you feel is very different, and practice sending him/her an affirmation of gratitude.