“All of your anxiety is because of your desire for harmony. Seek disharmony and you will gain peace”. Rumi
Waiting at the Lion’s Club, I would stand with my mother as the line wound around until it was her turn to vote. I remember the curtain that hid us from the rest of the voters and the very nifty lever she pulled that signaled she had voted. Voting was so much fun, and I looked forward to the day I could vote. I was pretty young, of course, and I had no idea what voting meant outside of that booth. I grew up, and voting became a much more serious subject.
My husband laughs when I write an opinion on my Facebook page. “You could say the sky is blue, and you’d get arguments on your post.” His point is a good one. I have a diverse group of friends who are from pretty much every walk of life. Some of my friends are financially well-off, some are struggling with money, some are liberal, some are conservative, some are paleo, some are vegan, some are old, some are young. You get the picture. I have a variety of friends, and with a variety like that, opinions will differ greatly.
I love trying to learn from my friends, and I welcome differing viewpoints. I’m kind of a mix of all of the groups, and I appreciate what each has to offer. There’s just one problem: I don’t do well with conflict, and my nice mix of friends means conflicts arise. I don’t have to seek disharmony, Rumi; it seems to find me. Dealing with my friends’ opinions is kind of like listening to the comments people have made about the election returns. It’s uncomfortable for me, but I’m finding my path in the discord.
I really like watching election returns, and I find myself frustrated when people choose not to vote. I am so glad for the opportunity to have a small voice, though I do wish we had great levers in curtained booths. Some voted Yes, some voted No, and I’m glad they voted. Of course, when people are passionate about their reason for voting a particular way or for a particular person or party, it creates conflict with the people who see it differently. There’s that little problem that I don’t like, that I avoid. Conflict is everywhere, though, and since it’s not easy to hide from, perhaps we should embrace it, as Rumi suggests.
When I first saw Rumi’s quote, I thought it was kind of silly–why would anyone want to embrace disharmony? Isn’t it more fun to just look for the things that bring sunshine than to seek clouds? The more I thought about it, though, the more I knew that this Persian poet who lived long before Republicans and Democrats were arguing really understood the quandry in which I often find myself.
Do I want to try to live a quiet ‘no conflict’ life, or do I want to embrace the conflict around me so that I might find peace for myself?
Some days I would sure settle for the quiet no-conflict life, I can tell you! You see, avoiding conflict was once my go-to response for life, but I’ve been trying to bravely explore the world with new ears and eyes.
Sometimes, though, the problem, the conflict, isn’t about trying to see things from another’s view, it’s about allowing ourselves to find a voice. I had a strange dream a few weeks ago and was screaming for someone to stop what they were doing. There was another person sleeping in the room with me, and I couldn’t understand why they weren’t making the person stop what was happening. I was screaming “NO!” Why didn’t they hear me? When morning came, I was a little put out with the lack of care on the person’s part, and they assured me that they never heard me yell. In fact, there was a dog sleeping on the bed with me, and he never seemed to hear me either. I finally was convinced that it was a bad dream, but I often feel like my voice isn’t heard in my waking hours either. Some of us find it difficult to have a voice, and often it is fear that keeps us quiet. We’ve been shut down before by people with louder voices so many times that we are afraid to speak up.
If you have students, employees, friends, or a spouse who seem afraid to share their opinions, give them a gift: Offer them space to speak. Listen to them. Maybe it’s time to allow yourself to be a little uncomfortable with what they might say so that you can allow them to have a voice. Most of us don’t like conflict, and we might flee when we sense its presence, but without a little conflict, you might never have one of the greatest gifts: communication. My sweet cousin shared a beautiful poem that addresses those fears. Here are a few lines from “Unconditional” by Jennifer Welwood:
Each condition I flee from pursues me,
Each condition I welcome transforms me
And becomes itself transformed
Into its radiant jewel-like essence.
Both Rumi and Welwood seem to be saying that if we welcome the discord instead of fleeing from it, we will work through it to find our peace. I don’t know about you, but peace sounds good to me. If Rumi wrote it in the 1200’s, chances are I’m not the only one who needs to allow disharmony in my life in hopes of finding what I’m seeking. So, why not take a chance and hear why someone else is voting as they are, eating as they are, worshiping as they are, or living as they are? Why not allow your discomfort with someone else’s choices to be transformed, as you are transformed, into a radiant jewel-like essence.