Tag Archives: Embracing Diversity

AWAKENING TO OUR FREEDOM

“You will never be free until you free yourself from the prison of your own false thoughts.” Phillip Arnold

Are there thoughts that restrict your life? Why do you think this way? What has happened in your life that helped you let go of these thoughts?

What we think and the ideas we believe form who we are.  If the source of the information beneath our ideas is reliable, it can allow us to make reasonable choices and take sensible action.  If the information is flawed, we may make decisions that lead us down the wrong path.

During this pandemic, getting the correct information about the virus has been a challenge because  of conflicting viewpoints.  Who is more likely to understand a disease than a medical doctor or researcher despite what some politicians tell us?

If we want to eat healthy food, who is most likely to give us the most accurate information about the best vegetables and fruits to buy?  The producer who grows organic products or the farmer who uses banned pesticides on his crop?  When we understand the source, we can make the wisest choice.

Why Do We Ignore Facts?

But, what if our conclusions about a subject are based on something other than facts? At times, we ignore facts because we have already developed prejudicial attitudes.  For example, if we have grown up in a cult or a strict religious environment that taught us that only our way is right, we may reject others whose beliefs are different and consider them “unholy.”

We may also have political or racial biases because of the way we were raised.  In my family, I grew up with a mother who taught me that all people were created equal and deserved respect.  Her attitude came from her Christian upbringing.  My father, on the other hand, often made racist remarks.  Fortunately, I chose to think like my mother.

My parents were both Democrats and I’ve always been politically liberal partly as a result of being at college in the 1960’s when I became further aware of the nation’s inequities. But again, how I was raised without luxury contributed to my thinking.  My family never went without food, clothing, or shelter but we never experienced material abundance.

However, if I had grown up surrounded by luxury, attended a prestigious school, had a new car to drive to college across town, I might not have noticed those who did not share my wealth.  If my parents had taught me that poor people were just lazy, I might have closed my mind to their actual situations.

Releasing Our False Thoughts

So how do we release thoughts that are not based on reality—thoughts that limit our thinking and create an inaccurate picture of the world around us?

To free ourselves, we have to accept the possibility that there is another viable way to see a person or situation.  While some people care about others because they are Christian and have been taught to do that as a core part of their belief, there are others who care about other people because they have chosen to place love at the center of their lives.

Learning From Diversity

One reason for being boxed in by limited ideas is that we simply haven’t been exposed to sufficient diversity.  In a country that is rapidly becoming more diverse, it is very helpful to join a group in which we interact with people who have different views.  It is easier to understand another point of view when we get to know the person who holds it.  By learning how and why they think differently, we learn to respect them and their differences.

By freeing our thinking, we free ourselves to love and respect all human beings, for it is love that heals all wounds, personal and societal.  Love to you all!

© 2020 Georganne Spruce

AWAKENING TO NEW THOUGHTS

AWAKENING TO OUR PRECONCEIVED NOTIONS

AWAKENING TO RACIAL EQUALITY

AWAKENING TO LOVE THE WORLD Part 2, DIVERSITY

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”  Nelson Mandela

St. Louis, Senegal

What do you feel when you’re around people who are different from you?  Do you like meeting new people, especially people who offer new ideas or are from a culture different from yours?  Or does it make you uncomfortable to be exposed to new situations?

Diversity Is the Spice of Life

Last night, a group to which I belong met at the home of two lovely young people.  One was from India and the other from Germany.  The home was decorated with an eastern flair and reminded me of the 1970s, except this was authentic, not an imitation.  One art piece in particular attracted me. By asking about it, I learned that it represented aspects of both our host and hostess.

While the evening was a beautiful evening of meditation, reflection, and sharing, I was reminded of how rich my life has been because I have been exposed to so much diversity.  I have lived in every part of this country.  I’ve lived in New Orleans, a unique city, influenced by African, French, and Spanish cultures.  I’ve taught Hispanic and Native American teenagers in New Mexico.  I grew up in the South and lived in our nation’s capital for many years.  I taught in a university in the middle of the plains, an area mainly settled by Scandinavians and Germans.  Now, I live in western North Carolina where the Appalachian Mountains still preserve the culture of my Irish ancestors.

My life feels like a good gumbo or rich Irish stew.  Lots of interesting ingredients thrown together and simmered until the real juice of the experience rises to the top.  But it wasn’t always easy to be among people who are different from me.  I made mistakes like insisting that my Native American students look at me when I talked to them.  I didn’t know at first that they considered that disrespectful.  In New Orleans, my missteps at pronouncing unusual names were often entertaining.  Being a southerner, I was used to touching people when I talked to them. That definitely left the wrong impression at the first faculty party I attended in Nebraska.  But I learned and was often, though not always, able to adapt.

We Are All One

In 1994, I was chosen to study with a group of teachers on a Fulbright-Hays Travel Abroad Grant in Senegal and Ghana.  I was teaching multicultural literature at a private school in New Orleans.  In the fall, I hoped to be teaching gifted classes in the public schools, and this trip was the perfect preparation for that.  But it was more than that.  It was my dream to travel to Africa.  As a child, I had admired Albert Schweitzer’s work with the lepers in Africa and dreamed of going there.

We arrived in Senegal with the sun, and as I stepped onto African soil for the first time, I was flooded with the overwhelming sense that I was a citizen of the world, that all the boundaries we humans created were meaningless.  I did not feel like a foreigner in a foreign land as I had expected.  While much was different, much was similar.  People were generally very friendly.  They valued their families, loved to celebrate, and struggled like we all do.  Most of all, I was interested in the way their art and spiritual beliefs were integrated into their daily lives because I was working on that in my own life.  There, it was a way of life. The Africans became my teachers.

The Power of Being In Spiritual Alignment

I have often wondered why so many people are afraid of those who are different, and why we can’t break out of our polarity thinking.  Similarity creates a feeling of security, but it is only an illusion.  When we are in alignment with ourselves, differences in others don’t unbalance us.  If we are centered, we don’t allow fear to take hold of us.  When we encounter someone different we can choose to use it as an opportunity to learn about the other person.  The tragedy is that if we fear this different person, we destroy the opportunity to learn new ideas that may enrich our lives or lead us down a new and better path.

What You See Is What You Choose to See

Two weeks ago when I wrote “Awakening to Love the World, Part 1,” I quoted Wayne Dyer who said, “Loving people live in a loving world.  Hostile people live in a hostile world.  Same world.”  I know people who are afraid of Muslims.  When I think of Muslims, I don’t think about 9/11.  I think about praying, with tears streaming down my face, for world peace at the Holy City of Touba with African Muslims who were dedicated to living peacefully.  I think about the village of women and children who cheerfully tried to dig our truck out of a sand dune where it was trapped.  I remember the priestess of a water goddess who blessed our return journey.  What we look at determines what we see.

We are all more alike than we are different.  If we want peace in our lives and world, we have to let go of our need to be right, and appreciate that diversity adds some spice to life.  Being open to new ideas and people who are different expands our awareness of what it means to be human.  And that’s all good.

What do you love about other people who are different from you?  Please comment.

© 2012 Georganne Spruce

Related Articles: Prayers for World Peace, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3