By Judith E. Lipson, M.A., LPC
When I look at the world (locally and globally) I see an environment of conflict and separation, while I believe in oneness and unity. There is a great need for mending fences and finding connection, but the problem(s) feel way too big for me to make a significant impact.
When my clients have expressed similar sentiments to me, I point out that we do what we can. Sometimes that is donating money or time to an important cause, but when those are not manageable you can still add light and peace to our world by smiling and connecting with everyone (including complete strangers) that you encounter in lines, behind store registers, or even while passing them on the street.
This small act can brighten another’s day, lift their heart and put a smile on their face. A colleague recently shared that saying “Awwwww” in your mind (like you would when seeing a cute puppy), will allow for the opening and sharing of your heart space, without saying a word.
Me? I do what I can. I donate, I smile, I share my heart space, I pray, and I meditate. And like you, I question if it is enough. These actions, over time, have proven to be a bridge for an incredible experience.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by a couple of Muslim therapists, to meet with Jewish therapists, so we could discuss the importance of maintaining the therapeutic alliance in our work when we encounter clients of different faiths, nationalities, and beliefs particularly during these difficult times. (I’m writing this in November 2023.)
Due to our desire to initiate this quickly, and challenges of availability during the holiday season, we started small. Four of us sat for a nearly 2.5 hour conversation at our first meeting. It was impactful. We talked about our families to create connection and commonality, and then with intention we led with our hearts. We asked each other gentle questions and probing questions. We answered honestly and authentically. We looked at our common beliefs and core values as well as our seeming differences. We sought to understand where these differences came from and what holds us to them.
What was our secret? We approached everything with curiosity and the intention of holding a sacred space of radical acceptance — that same quality that we each regularly provide therapeutically to our clients (patients) who have differing viewpoints.
We cried, and we hugged, and we talked. We thanked each other for coming to the conversation and for holding the space for each other.
This experience filled my heart and gives me hope. We will be repeating it soon, and then we hope to add more people.
I found that as I have been discussing this conversation with others, each person has expressed delight. They hope it demonstrates that any of us can have peaceful conversations, and that connections really can occur. They feel hope, as I do. And they have also suggested that I write it down and share it with others. It’s amazing how one example might encourage others to do the same.
How can you participate in similar dialogues?
- Approach everything from an “isn’t this curious” mindset.
- Find your shared humanity.
- Look at your own potential biases – we all have them, and it is helpful when you allow yourself to see your own.
- Set an expectation for authenticity and honesty.
- Open your heart (“Awwwww”).
- Seek any and all commonalities between you and the one that you have previously seen as ‘the other.’
- Bring in humor where appropriate and LAUGH together.
- If you find that you are making an assumption in your mind, take a breath and consider asking permission to check it out. “I find myself thinking that you mean this….. Is this accurate?”
- Express gratitude for their participation in this (potentially) difficult conversation.
There are so many opportunities to cross divides. And there has never been a more important time. Might you find one small way to reach out, open your heart, and establish connection with another? I thank you in advance, and I would love to hear about it.
Sending each of you bright blessings. The spirit in me acknowledges the spirit in you.
Judy Lipson is a Licensed Professional Counselor and educational strategist in West Bloomfield, MI. She helps clients of all ages who have learning difficulties, work or school related anxiety, ADHD, Asperger’s Syndrome or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and those who wish to Remember and Become ‘Who You Really Are’. Contact Judy at 248.568.8665 and email@example.com, and visit www.JudyLipson.com for more information.
This article is for informational purposes and is not meant to replace medical care.