Finding The Middle Path: Healing Dualism in our Minds and in America
By: Lisa Templeton, Ph.D.
I just recently attended The Science and Non-duality (SAND) conference in San Jose, California and found myself really thinking about the duality of America. When I think of duality, I think of separation and extreme patterns of thinking that don’t take another side into account. Extremes seem so dissimilar and each side can villainize the other with judgment. What is important to notice about this separation is the parallel it has to our inner world. If we want more unity, let’s begin inside of our own minds.
The most problematic fake news is not so much the news we watch on the television, it is the news that happens in our minds. Let me ask you, are you listening to your inner channel to see what is being said? We might not be able to change anything on CNN or Fox News, but we can certainly change the report going on moment-by-moment in our minds. Still, we can’t change it until we name it.
In my work and in my own experience, our inner channel reports many extremes about ourselves – “I’m not good enough” or “I am a failure” or “I can’t do this” or even “I’m a terrible person for thinking this.” Often times, if we are not focused on ourselves, we are focused on others and what they are doing wrong. Thoughts such as “I hate republicans/democrats” or “He/she doesn’t care about me” or “How come that person has more than me?” or “I do everything around here” or “Why does this person think they are so great?” These thoughts create more separation and can lose the context of what is really true about ourselves and others.
Judgment and criticism of self or others only serve as a false protection – protection from fear. Fear that we are not good enough, fear that we will lose what we have and feel pain, fear that we won’t feel special, or even fear that we will feel different and alone. To separate for protection is a normal reaction to the society in which we live. No one is immune to this, especially as our society continues to play on our fears. The only way to address this within is to have the courage to notice our thoughts and challenge them with truth. The truth is that in these moments, we are scared and fearful. Fear underlies all negative emotions. When the context of fear is brought in, we can have more compassion and understanding for the extreme thoughts.
This article is a call for action to us all. If we can notice these thoughts with non-judgmental awareness, understanding that these thoughts on both sides are trying to protect us and to help us in a unique, though unhealthy way, we can begin to find the middle path. The truth is that these extremes are conditioned into our mind and without some mindfulness, our assumptions can easily fall into a box where our perception is limited and context is lost.
We, as humans, don’t fit into boxes, we are way more complex than that. We come in all shapes, sizes, and colors and we need to be able to see the grey areas amidst the black and white. The only place to start is with ourselves. Practice noticing the ways in which you are seeing things in an extreme way – from good/bad, constricted/free, right/wrong, right/left, and success/failure. Can you find a middle path in the ways that you are thinking about these concepts? Can you remember the context of what is going on around you and consider alternatives to your own initial assumptions? We are assumptive creatures and if we don’t have awareness of our assumptions to counter them with other perspectives, we fall into looped patterns of narrow-mindedness, missing the whole picture.
This is not an easy practice by any means, yet it is vital to find some sort of unity. Separation creates pain and unrest. If we are all separated from ourselves, how can we even begin to heal the dualism of America? Start within and take stock in ways that we each perpetuate this unhealthy pattern. With more awareness comes more love, compassion, connection, and unity in our minds and our world.