In your mind, create an imaginary scale or meter. At one end, there is a number 10 and the words, “I believe this completely.” At the other end, there is a number 1 and the words, “When I say this, I feel like a complete phony.”
Imagine that you’re a debating hall, and whether or not you win the debate depends on how completely you believe the following phrases. Which ones work for you, and which do not?
- We are all one, and I view everyone I see as part of me.
- We’re all connected, and I’m affected by everyone’s problems, feelings, and issues.
- I feel love for everyone in the world, and I have no one left to forgive.
Mentally make each of these statements and rate yourself. Do these seem phony, too idealistic, impractical, naive, or even intimidating? If you believe all of them, could you defend your position in a debate?
My First Experience of the Truth
When I first attended a Quaker Meeting in 1970, I was wearing hippy garb—torn jeans, a ragged tee shirt, and long hair—and I think I was a real challenge for the genteel middle-class Quakers that I was meeting for the first time. That meeting was the time when I first learned about partitioning—there was a huge partition between me and the Quakers. I could feel their judgment of me, which was mirrored by my judgment of them. There were emotional and psychic walls both inside of them and inside of me, so that we could not reach out and meet each other.
Quakers sit in silence for an hour for their meetings, and in the midst of the silence, people sometimes speak their truth. Halfway through this particular Quaker Meeting, a woman stood up and said, “Wells around the world are different. Some wells have electric motors that draw the water out of the ground, invisible, silent, and very convenient. Other wells are rustic holes in the ground, and if you want water, you have to bring your own bucket and rope. Then there are utilitarian community wells with a fancy hand crank to lower and raise the bucket. There are wells that you pump with a hand lever and wells that are propelled by an old windmill. And they all look very different.
“But no matter which well it is, if you go down deep enough, you get to the place where all that exists is the water that connects all of the wells. And aren’t we like that? We’re all connected by spirit, no matter how different we are on the surface where every one can see us. We just have to know where to focus our attention.”
Later, other people stood up in the silence and added to what she said—the topic was clearly on everyone’s minds. By the end of the meeting, I felt very accepted—at first, by this woman, and then by the rest of the group.
Some of my own partitions faded away, and I became more accepting of myself. Partitions are like that: what happens inside both reflects and creates the outer reality.
Yes, but It’s Just a Platitude
How many times have you heard people say or even teach that we are all one—that we’re connected on a quantum level? When you heard that, did you suddenly stop yelling at bad drivers or angrily blaming your roommate, mother, or boss? Were you suddenly a transformed person, just because you now know that we are all one?
It’s very easy to just live our lives from the habitual attitudes of separation that we were raised with. We’ve been trained to live separate, lonely lives. Furthermore, most of us are so wounded from our own pasts that it’s remarkable that any of us ever get close to anyone else ever.
These habits, attitudes, and wounds that keep us separate are a suit of armor that keeps us safe—or so we think. That armor truly does keep us safe, otherwise we wouldn’t use it, but it also keeps us partitioned from each other. When two suits of armor hug, only the metal shells touch each other. You can’t get a good hug if even only one person’s suited up.
None of this goes away because we hear some wise person talk about partitioning, about quantum relationships, about how we are all connected in spirit, or about how we can achieve cosmic consciousness where we love every being that exists. Even when you yourself feel love for every part of creation in meditation, that brilliant burst of insight doesn’t change your irritation and impatience when your kids or their friends do something that violates your values.
How can we make these insights real and not just feel-good platitudes? How can we stop feeling cynical about people that talk about universal love? How can we let go of the partitions that we have against feeling close to almost everyone in the world?
No one’s ever taught most of us the specific methods to achieve that rarefied level of consciousness? Instead, we’re taught that we are individuals, first and foremost, that you have to look after number one, and that the supreme value is self-reliance.
This blog describes several strategies to help you do just that.
Strategy #1: Use Inner Silence to Release Partitions
My first encounter with letting go of partitions was in a Quaker meeting. Quakers do not simple ask you to keep your mouth shut for sixty minutes to achieve enlightenment. Quaker teachings also promote inner silence as a means to reach the divine. It is very common for Quakers to feel like they’ve dropped all of their walls in an amazing experience called a “Gathered Meeting.”
Gathered meetings can be psychic experiences in which everyone’s separate silent meditation converges into one topic. You’ll be meditating on something in your life, and suddenly, halfway through the meeting, someone across the room stands up and shares insights that directly address the problems you’re struggling with. After some silent time, another person stands up and addresses your problem from a different point of view. This can happen several times, and yet, not a soul knows that you’re struggling with this problem. Everyone is just in sync. Gathered meetings are magic.
In a Quaker business meeting, if two people begin to argue, anyone in the group can and will say, “A moment of silence, Friends.” (Quakers are also called the Society of Friends.) Then everyone stills their minds and meditates on the problem until someone comes up with an alternate idea that unites the opposites or in some other way transcends the conflict. Because of this mechanism, Quakers have operated by consensus throughout their history. Here again, inner silence breaks down the partitions between people—and it does so in a very practical way.
Quakers are not the only meditators who have discovered higher levels of empathy and compassion after practicing inner silence. All meditation stills the mind, and from that stillness, most meditation systems are associated with prohibitions of violence and an understanding of the quantum connections between all of us. As a rule, inner silence is a state in which we set aside our thoughts and reactions and become sincerely open to hearing what others say. In doing so, we are also setting aside our partitions—the habitual attitudes that we use to hold others at arms length.
The Joyful Wisdom Community’s most important Joyful Wisdom Conversation is the Chrysalis Wisdom Council. We use inner silence throughout the Wisdom Council, so that when we each speak, we are communicating from a deeper level, and when we listen, we hear what’s really true at the center of the situation. By the end of every Wisdom Council, most of the time, we all want a group hug, because by that time, all the partitions are gone.
Strategy #2: Listen Actively to Hear What’s Behind the Partitions
Any psychologist worth seeing for therapy must be skillful at active listening, which is the art of reflecting what you mean back to you in such a way that you see yourself as you actually are. The therapist will reflect what you’re saying on the surface, hidden emotions and attitudes that are invisible to you, patterns that have emerged over time, your body language, and many other things as well. All of this is active listening.
The purpose of active listening is to demonstrate to the other person that you understand and accept them at a deep, profound level. The best listeners will ask, “Did I get it right?” and will gracefully accept any corrections the other person makes. If you’re a great listener, you might thank the other person for correcting the misunderstanding right away.
Learning the skill of active listening is a major antidote to partitioning. When you empathize deeply, you see the world through the other person’s eyes. It’s the closest thing to a “mind meld” that the science of psychology currently knows how to achieve.
Active listening is sometimes called “reflective listening” because when you’re doing it perfectly, you’re a mirror that introduces NO distortions into the reflections. For example, if you don’t trust the other person, your “mirror” will distort what you hear, and you will communicate your mistrust nonverbally and against your own will. Eliminating distortions from your reflective listening is a difficult skill that therapists sometimes must work on for years.
In this situation, your distrust is a psychic or emotional action which erects a wall between you. No matter how accurately you reflect the other person’s words, the partition between you may be impossible to circumvent. You must remove the inner partition before you’ll make any real headway with building rapport with the other person. Fortunately, the best antidote to the inner partition is the action of sincerely attempting active listening.
Active listening is a core requirement for effective coaching, counseling, or psychotherapy. In many university therapy training programs, one of the first skills you will learn is active listening, no matter which school of psychology you’re training in. In fact, many therapists are trained to fall back on active listening if nothing else is working.
In the Joyful Wisdom Community, the second most important Joyful Wisdom Conversation is the Talking Stick, Talking Mirror technique, a method that is based on the skill of active listening. However, unlike therapy, in the Talking Stick, Talking Mirror method, all participants engage in active listening throughout the conversation.
When two or more people are actively engaged in removing their partitions to one another, the conversation quickly moves to a new depth that you can’t experience in any other way.
Strategy #3: Exercise Your Heart Chakra to Melt Partitions
A well known and widely practiced Buddhist meditation is the Tonglen Compassion meditation. What’s great about it is that you can use it to heal your own negative emotional states. In fact, that’s where you start.
Suppose you’re feeling depressed. This might mean that you feel isolated and alone (i.e., partitioned). You might also feel hopeless, powerless, and doomed. So how do you deal with something like that using the Tonglen?
Here’s what you do:
- In your mind, reach out psychically to other depressed people. Tell them psychically that they’re not alone, that they’re part of your community. The moment you do this, you have begun to break down your own inner partitions, which will work for your benefit, whether or not your psychic message reaches them on any level. If your psychic message does reach anyone else, you’ve at least pointed the way for them to feel less isolated in their misery.
- Next embrace all of their pain psychically and pull it into your heart chakra where it mixes with your own pain. Don’t worry about increasing your own depression—this exercise works to relieve it. You’re not going to hurt yourself by doing this.
- Next, breathe in energy, and visualize light from the universe entering your heart to replace negative energy of depression with light. In this way, you heal the pain that’s now stored in your heart chakra, both your own pain and theirs. Visualize this as replacing a dark cloud with bright light.
- As you continue breathing deeply, send the healed energy from your heart chakra to the other depressed people you connected with at the beginning of the meditation.
One of the important reasons the Tonglen meditation works is that you’re exercising your heart chakra and sending energy from your heart to others. This activity automatically breaks through partitions that are in your own mind. In addition, psychically seeking out other people who share your pain breaks down a feeling of being partitioned, and that temporary change causes more lasting change in both your ongoing attitudes and on a psychic level.
In the Joyful Wisdom Community, we begin many of our meetings with a heart chakra meditation. Although it is not the Tonglen, it also exercises the heart chakra and produces similar results.
What about You?
At the beginning of this blog, I invited you to test yourself on a scale of 1 to 10. If you’re not a complete 10, what will you do to reduce and overcome your own inner partitions?
Do you currently meditate as much as you would like? Do you practice active listening, and do you regularly send energy to others from your heart chakra? Do you have a plan for healing yourself to prepare yourself for expanding the reach of your heart?
This blog is just a blog. It doesn’t matter if you agree with it or not.
What does matter is whether you’ve taken an objective, realistic look at where you are at. What does matter is whether you’ve made concrete decisions, based on that evaluation. What does matter is whether you follow through.
A decision is more than a wish. What are you actually willing to do to overcome your inner partitions so that you can love more fully and more widely?
You have the power to transform yourself today. How are you going to do it?
This blog was inspired by our “Partitioning and the Roots of Violence” group. To participate, see our Calendar page.