Collier and Lee Counties Edition

Cultivating a Deep Sense of Connection

Local Resources Offer Ways to Honor Diversity

Kelsang Chopag

Kelsang Chopag

If you are willing to look at another person’s behavior toward you as a reflection of the state of their relationship with themselves, rather than a statement about your value as a person, then you will, over a period of time, cease to react at all. ~Yogi Bhajan

According to Ai-jen Poo, founder and director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, “There are times we have to have conflict, and tension has to exist to bring something else into being. But they have to coexist with a deep sense of connection and shared destiny.”

In tumultuous times, it is the norm to wallow in divisiveness and to blame, bemoan, ridicule and vilify views that don’t align with our own. As fear and stress abound, a cycle of conflict leaves less opportunity for trust, empathy and compassion; the foundation of love.

Bringing disparate groups and individuals together to offer them ways to see their interdependence and interconnections as a source for change is happening throughout the U.S. in a growing movement among groups that are interested in building a shared destiny and a more collective sense of humanity, even in the face of opposition. The National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation and the World Café Community Foundation are bringing people together across divides to tackle tough challenges and achieve cooperative action.

Locally, Unity of Naples Reverend Diane Scribner Clevenger, Unity of Fort Myers Reverend Jim Rosemergy, Gottman Couples Therapist Peggy Walsh, and Kelsang Chopag, resident teacher at Samudrabadra Kadampa Buddhist Center, in Fort Myers, offer their thoughts about mindsets, practices and processes that can lead us in the direction of healing divides.

Using Quantum Truths to Prime the Well of Worldviews

“Our present environment calls us to recognize quantum truths—we are all interconnected, there is no degree of separation and we are responsible for our thoughts, words and actions. What we do has great rippling effects,” says Clevenger. She uses a metaphor of pumping an abandoned well for water to explain what can happen when opposing worldview concerns are first encountered and expressed, even in a safe environment. “Priming an old well brings up muddy undrinkable water. This represents our constricted thoughts of blame, shame, disbelief and doubt. This is no time to stop pumping and proclaim that the well isn’t working. Be curious, and notice the conditions clouding the water. Continue pumping, knowing that clean, clear, life-giving water will follow.

“We are all called to participate now in the process of spiritual chemicalization, a metaphysical term used by Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity. Our misperceived worldviews are the stuff in the dark contending to keep their place. Even though it’s an uncomfortable process, nonetheless, we invite all that is in the dark to come into light. We examine it and see it for what it is—worldviews that no longer serve us. Release them and create space for something new,” advises Clevenger.

Affinity Circles

Rosemergy advises, “In our two Affinity Circles that meet once a week, there are ground rules for conduct in creating a consciousness of compassion and affinity for one another. In these small groups of eight to 12 individuals that gather under a topic or activity that interests them, only ‘I’ statements and taking ownership of thoughts and feelings is allowed in conversations or when expressing concerns. There is no monopolizing the group’s time and attention, or interrupting when someone is speaking.”

According to Living in the Heart: The Affinity Process and the Path of Unconditional Love, by Paul Ferrini, at the outset of a meeting, people gather in a circle and hold hands, while a facilitator reminds them, “All of us are here to create a safe, loving, non-judgmental space where we can open our hearts and move through our fears. Let’s take a few moments now to silence and become emotionally present, connect with each other in our hearts and remember why we have gathered together.”

“Speaking from the heart, gratitude, compassion and compromise are foundational for building a collective consciousness in this type of dialogue, which is why we intervene with a heart check whenever language gets confrontational. We say out loud, ‘heart check’, and the group observes 30 seconds of silence,” says Rosemergy, who cites one incidence of a heart check. “An individual became aggressive and used too much rhetorical language. We had a heart check three times in a row until they realized what they were doing and stopped using the same language and behavior.”

Gottman-Rapoport Intervention Exercises

Walsh offers the example of the Gottman-Rapoport Intervention exercise in which she has couples engage. It was developed by John Gottman from the pioneering work of Anatol Rapport, an international peace negotiator with highly successful conflict resolution techniques. “Before engaging in any persuasion, both individuals are required to interview each other extensively about the partner’s position and to summarize and validate that position in a manner which lets them feel they were understood. The speaker is tasked with talking honestly about their feelings and beliefs. No blaming, criticism or ‘you’ statements are allowed. The listener is encouraged to take notes in order to summarize and reflect back what is heard,” says Walsh, who notes that validation and communicating understanding and empathy doesn’t mean that the parties agree. No judgment, debate or valuation. Just acceptance.”

The Wisdom of Buddha

Chopag, an ordained Buddhist monk, uses his light, humorous and practical delivery of the Buddha’s teachings to offer wisdom for experiencing a sense of connection and shared destiny. “World peace and happiness are grassroots movements that have to start within each person. We each have to learn how to be happy within,” he says.

There are two types of problems—inner problems that we can control and outer problems that we can’t always control. We don’t have to solve an outer problem to be happy. We simply accept it as is. Acceptance is the most fundamental way to move forward from place of being happy, rather than from a place of rejecting what is.

“We can solve our inner problems through the practice of equalizing self and others, which simply means believing that everyone’s happiness is just as important as our own. In time, this practice leads to a feeling of deep connection,” notes Chopag.

Now is the time to engage spiritual principles and remember that we are the light of the world. This light can shine through much brighter when we see ourselves in each other with an emerging worldview capable of transforming the world.

Local Resources

Samudrabadra Kadampa Buddhist Center, 6338 Presidential Ct., Ste.105, Fort Myers. 239-454-5572.

Peggy Walsh, Fort Myers. 718-208- 6986.

Unity of Fort Myers, 11120 Ranchette Rd., Fort Myers. 239-278-1511.

Unity of Naples, 2000 Unity Way, Naples. 239-775-3009.

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