Humanity is a single species, but we are diverse in terms of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, sexual orientation and gender identity. North America is rapidly becoming one of the world’s most diverse continents on the planet, and the challenge of how to include everyone as an equal stakeholder in society depends on the mindfulness of our citizens.
As societies become more pluralist, they can also create a much richer culture than societies that are relatively homogeneous. It certainly is interesting living in a community in which yoga devotees live side by side with hunters, conservatives with liberals, and religious with secular. When I imagine living in a cookie-cutter, homogenous and ideologically hidebound community, I start to feel claustrophobic and in need of air.
My wife and I are traveling to Asheville, North Carolina in the fall. Although it’s smack in the middle of a very conservative part of the Bible Belt, Asheville is a mecca for ex-hippies (and neo-hippies), artists and other bohemian types. Independent bookstores, drum circles, artist’s colonies…even an ashram or two. And lots of yoga students! It beckons.
We’re quite different in many ways, but we have to remember that we really are a single species; even if we sometimes find ourselves in groups that can only stare at each other across a chasm of stupefied incomprehension. If you’ve ever heard yourself say, “How can people think like that?!” know that there are no doubt other humans thinking the same about you. One of the best ways to build a bridge across Incomprehension Gulf is to choose not to ascribe the worst possible motives to the people on the other side.
If we become truly devoted to the Metta ideal– to sending out intentions for universal wholeness, wellness and fulfillment — we’re contributing to the dismantling of the walls humans erect between themselves along the dividing lines of religion, race, nationality and tribe. It’s worthwhile and deeply healing to the practitioner. There’s nothing magical or mystical going on when we engage in metta meditation. What’s happening is that we’re training ourselves to look on all sentient beings with deep compassion.
Even that incomprehensible tribe on the other side of the gulf.