The complexity of this moment in our history can be overwhelming.
If you didn’t know anything about the ongoing pandemic, Afghan crisis, climate change, border disputes, income disparity, or the alarming rise in crime and mental illness, you may think things are just fine.
Beauty, kindness, and love exist right alongside ugliness, hostility, and fear. I am realizing that what appears to be my lovely “community” may actually be stressed-out people tearing at the seams of their own connection.
Last night, my mom told me that her faith circle abruptly disbanded. She was saddened that this long-standing group of women, who had been a helpful spiritual support system, started to fight with each other because one member wouldn’t get vaccinated and they couldn’t agree on what to do.
“Didn’t you try to find an alternative way to resolve it?” I asked. “Like going back to Zoom?”
“Angry and fearful emails have taken over the communication,” she said. “Nobody will discuss it, so they decided to not meet at all.”
Sunday Morning on CBS did a story about the growing phenomenon of estrangement in families. According to research by Cornell Professor of Sociology, Karl Pillemer, there are currently 70 million people in the US estranged from family members. “And that number is growing.”
Fragmentation of our closest groups may be the result of the increased overwhelm and stress people are experiencing, particularly since stress and fear shut down the prefrontal cortex and limits our capacity to listen, empathically, to another side of a story.
We become so distraught trying to meet our own needs we don’t realize we are making things worse.
As the late Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., founder of The Center for Nonviolent Communication wrote, “Criticism, analysis, and insults are tragic expressions of unmet needs”.
It isn’t easy to stay open when engaging in conflict, but it is possible.
Since it’s not possible to change others, the wisest decision may be to temporarily create space in an unhealthy relationship or group. The key is to learn to cultivate our own capacity to have hard conversations with others from a state of love instead of fear.
In this way, the relationship can continue to be as full of love and potential as is possible. Often it isn’t what we say but the way it is communicated that makes the difference between an enemy and a noble comrade with whom we disagree.
Mindfulness and meditation practice softens the egoic need to fix other people so we can access empathy, even when triggered. We can learn to become comfortable staying open to engaging in nonviolent communication.
The blog is written by Kimberly Ruggiero.
Kimberly Ruggiero is a long-time meditator. She also works as a transformational coach and artist. She has a BS in Chemistry, MA in Consciousness Studies and studied at the Lyme Academy College of Fine Art. Kim has training in MBSR and is certified through the Engaged Mindfulness Institute.
If you like this blog learn more about Kim and her teachings by attending our Mindfulness Meditation group every Tuesday. This friendly, open-hearted group is for anyone interested in meditation and exploring awareness training. Newcomers are always welcome. The basic structure is guided meditation, conscious sharing, and topic discussion. We go about 90 minutes, sometimes more or less but you are welcome to arrive and depart as your schedule allows.
Mindfulness Meditation Class with Kim
@ 6:30 PM – 8:00 PM EDT