Thursday, March 2, 2017

Holding the Tension ... on Social Media

There's never been a better time to practice mindfulness. In fact, lately, I'm getting lots of opportunities. I don't even have to leave the comfort of my home — or even sit in meditation. Every time I go on Facebook, there's a new chance to hold the tension with those who have differing opinions to my own.

Some people might just defriend those who don't agree with their politics. Others might just hide or stop following social media trolls and toads. But I'm finding it a great practice to sit with the comments, memes, videos and headlines that push my buttons. What better way to practice awareness of dualistic thoughts than while scrolling through the daily news feed?

It's interesting to sit with the feelings that arise when I read a post or statement that I find offensive, ignorant or hateful and try to define exactly what the emotion is. Fear? Indignation? Righteousness? Anger? Loathing? Hatred?

Often my first reaction is to reply with a pithy argument or roll my eyes as I hide their feed. Then, I start to make up a story about how backward and ignorant the person is. I want to place as much space between me and them as I can.

But this is Facebook! And I've know a lot of these friends for a long time. They are well-educated, successful, and smart. They are good mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers. I've "loved" the posts of their dogs, cats and grandchildren. I've "wowed" their vacation photos and "LOL'd"at their jokes. Just because they have a different idea of who should be the Secretary of Education than I do, they aren't insane or evil. They may hold different political and social values, but they are still my friends.

I am grateful that I have friends who hold differing opinions than my own. If not for them, I wouldn't know the truth depth and meaning of my convictions. Left unchallenged by a tightly knit cohort of like-minded Facebook pals, I would be lulled into thinking that everyone in the whole, wide world agrees with me and my politics. In fact, I would be practicing the very same exclusion and segregation that I abhor in others.

Holding a space for opposing views is really difficult right now, but that's the point. If I can't hold the tension between myself and a friend who has a differing opinion to my own, what kind of world can I hope to live in?

In that space of tension lies something great. In that space of not responding in anger and fear lies a tremendous opportunity to cultivate compassion. How can I help create a more peaceful, loving world if I am so completely undone by an insensitive meme?

If I really want to practice loving kindness and compassion, I need to friend those who do not share my point of view. If I really want to follow the teachings of Jesus or the Buddha, I have to open my heart to those who think/look/act different than me. I don't have to "like" everything they post. All I have to do is follow the greatest commandment: Love your neighbor as you love your selfie.

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