Us and them is the most dangerous mistake we can make in life and we’re making it everywhere you look. Politics, social justice, spirituality. The idea that there are only two sides to anything is such a farce and yet our whole world is set up to draw us into the delusion of it: the Masters call it “duality.”
On the issues we feel most passionately about, it can easily appear as if there are only two sides. Gun control, abortion, human rights, social justice; how on earth can you claim there is a grey area?
It’s not that there is no dharma (right action), no truth, it’s just that whenever we find ourselves in conflict, there is more to the story than meets the eye. Truth is. There is nothing to prove. But when we are caught in the duality of an issue, we have missed the point. The purpose of all creation is to experience our oneness, our unity. That’s why the ancient Rishi’s of India called the solution to suffering “yoga” (union).
I am all for peaceful protest, don’t get me wrong here. It’s just about approaching these hot button issues from a calm center. As the Buddha is often quoted, “the middle path is the way.” The middle path is found through compassion, by listening more than talking, by approaching conflict as an opportunity to grow.
At Ananda, the spiritual community where I live, “us” and “them” can mark the beginning of the end. If I fall into the delusion that there is some “group” consensus, some mold, that I do not fit into and thus, I feel judged by or less than equal with, than I fall into the danger of doing that same judging of the people around me. I very quickly slip into the delusion that there is an “us” that I belong to and a “them” that I do not. From there, it’s all downhill. I can start to judge “them.” I can try to create a revolution among “us.” But, of course, there is no such thing.
I say that with such certainty that you may feel it dismissive, but I can sum it up simply: Swami Kriyananda was supremely human and supremely divine simultaneously. He enjoyed entertainment. He let his hair down. He even had a few failed relationships. Yet, when he walked into a room, you felt it in every fiber of your being; your consciousness went UP. If he can’t fit into the “mold” of the perfect outward human, why do I think there even is one? Rama Krishna, a great enlightened Master of Yogananda’s time, was seen smoking cigarettes to stay grounded. And who am I to judge anyway? Cutting someone else’s head off to rise above them is cruel. It can be, however, a useful reminder when we are caught in the delusion that we “ought” to act more enlightened than we are.
As one who is always seeking a better understanding of my Self, it has consistently panned out that anything I judge in others is in me. Thus, I am “them” as much as I am “us”. I read another blogger’s assertion that what I see in Trump, I should examine in myself. That was a hard pill to swallow and a shocking way to offer this concept in real terms, but it’s true.
Having seen the “us” and “them” problem a lot in my life (as I am certain you have too), I have found it to be one of the most important lessons to learn for success. If I can take responsibility for me, I’m in good shape. If I begin to imagine that I am part of some group and not part of some other group, I’m in trouble. It’s a lesson that has painful consequences. It severs the sense of oneness that we all seek; the highest purpose of yoga.
Approaching conflict like a yogi:
- Look first within to find its source. Test techniques for calming the inner conflict first. Meditation, hatha yoga, connecting with nature, pranayam, prayer are all techniques that work for many, but yours may be unique to you and is worth taking the time to find. Yogananda’s Peace and Harmony prayer has worked miracles for me.
- Once centered, approach conflict as an opportunity to expand your reality to include another. Ask questions. Listen. Unpack the layers around it until truth is revealed and the pathway forward is clear.
- Remain humble, open, but ever dedicated to dharma (right action).
- Lead with kindness and reserve judgement as best you can.
- Always choose love.