Unity in a world of diversity
BRIAN JONES explores unity in a world full of challenges and diversity. Through different analogies and his own personal experience with meditation, he finds effective ways to achieve unity through the silence of the heart.
It was a long flight from Los Angeles to Singapore. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean I took another one of many walks from my seat to the back of the plane for a much-needed cup of coffee.
Three women stood there, all from different countries, each one holding a small baby. A lovely and nonsensical conversation was going on; each mother amusing the other’s baby with an assortment of gaga and coo-cooing baby sounds. It was apparent that none of the mothers spoke the languages of the others, and yet three babies were having quite a fun time, innocently laughing, not caring what language or which mother was entertaining them!
I was gleefully immersed in this special moment. I found the innocence, love and happiness that so effortlessly flowed a wonderful example of how we are all inextricably united. We come into this world with such purity, with a heart wide open, but quickly we begin to realize, “These are my hands, this is my foot, these are my toes.” Soon enough, I, me, and mine are here to stay.
“Unity” has many levels of meaning. We are united by love as well as by hate, we are united by country, by race, by culture, and even by the football team we support. But in these cases, our experience of unity is limited, accompanied by a feeling of exclusiveness – my team is better than yours, my political party is better than yours, my religion is better than yours, etc.
If we look back through time, there has hardly been a moment when there wasn’t a war, an uprising, or a tribal dispute. We may wonder: Is it possible that we live on a planet that is only united by divisiveness? Imagine, we’ve all come into this world with such purity, acceptance, and non-judgment. What happened?
By nature’s design, we are soul, spirit, essence, or something that manifests in an infinitude of ways through this complex, wondrous and beautiful vehicle of a body. But isn’t that the dilemma? We perceive everyone as different and forget that our soul, our essence, our HEART is the same. Our outer perception hides the truth within.
Though the world faces many challenges, occasionally we see glimpses of that “united heart.” We witness how hardship and tragedy bring us together. In difficult times we forget our differences, our hearts open and we extend a hand of help and friendship. Through hardship we are reminded that we all laugh the same and we cry the same, too. When we witness deep emotion in another person it stirs our hearts. We exclaim, “Oh! My heart really goes out to that person.” We feel them. What they are going through. We’ve been there ourselves. We resonate with them. In such moments, it’s the tenderness of the human heart, that feels our sameness.
By nature’s design, we are soul, spirit, essence,
or something that manifests in an infinitude of ways
through this complex, wondrous
and beautiful vehicle of a body.
Having been a musician for most of my life, I’ve experienced another type of unity when playing music with others. There have been a few rare occasions when I entered a room of musicians, plugged in my guitar, and with barely an introduction began playing with four or five other musicians who themselves had never played together.
Sometimes genuine magic happens – the playing spontaneously begins and for the next forty minutes the most authentic and extremely sophisticated music simply flows. Soft notes, intense rhythms, solos, mood changes, key changes, each musician having their chance to shine, spontaneously playing the music of their soul. It is like sitting on the very edge of creation as it emerges, pure, alive, with a wonderful adherence to unspoken principles.
Then, as the music winds down and reaches its natural finale, everyone is left speechless, perhaps with an incredulous smile, feeling, “Wow, what just happened?” In moments like this we bypass the mind, and the silent feelings of the heart flow out through our fingertips, genuine, unprocessed.
We are like the spokes of a bicycle wheel, each of us connected at the hub or center of the wheel. The spoke is the timeline of our existence, all of us coming from the same “center.” The farther we “spokes” have moved away from that center, the farther apart we’ve become from each other. Our sense of separateness has increased more and more.
This is apparent in daily life; we continually face diversity juggling work, family and friends. We engage in many relationships, we agree, we disagree, we try to please each other and ourselves, too. We spokes interact, we’re separate units, but we tend to forget we are all still connected at the center. We just don’t remember how to connect there.
Of course, we do create times of unity in our lives, sharing a movie or a hobby, taking a vacation and sharing a vocation. Sharing the same goal brings unity. How many times, when we are collaborating on a team project, do we hear the phrase, “We need to be on the same page”? It’s a reminder that when we understand our objective, our goal, we will connect with our shared goal and work efficiently to achieve it.
Soft notes, intense rhythms, solos, mood changes, key changes,
each musician having their chance to shine,
spontaneously playing the music of their soul.
It is like sitting on the very edge of creation as it emerges, pure, alive,
with a wonderful adherence to unspoken principles.
All of this is our external work. What about our internal work? Realizing unity within my own self, in a very tangible way, requires personal inner work. In this process we soon realize our inner goal is not merely about being on the same page, as that would be a very short story indeed!
Each of us is a chapter in the same book creating our unique storyline, sometimes lighthearted and other times sad or tragic, but all the while being bound by the same cover, a beautiful story in the book of “Life.”
We are many threads of many colors, woven through the fabric of time and space to complete the cosmic quilt, each essential to the whole.
Nature likely has a larger purpose in creating intelligent, thinking beings, and perhaps a hidden lesson as well, for each of us to learn to see the center and not the spokes.
So how do we connect to our Center?
I believe there is indeed a solution, a way to unite us, to overcome our differences and return to center, a way to point our world in a new direction. “We cannot solve our problems by the same thinking that created them,” is a famous saying often attributed to Albert Einstein. If this is indeed the case, can we achieve unity by changing our thinking? Hardly an easy task. Is there another, more effective way to reach unity?
When I was twelve years of age, I was introduced to something that would forever shape my life: meditation. I learned that it is possible to find relief from our incessant thinking and to experience daily deep states, where the mind returns to a simple state of purity. We can call this our original or pure mind. Let’s simply call it our center.
When I first experienced a deep meditation, it felt like I was at home in myself for the very first time. Soon my meditation time became the best time, the essential time of my day. It began to permeate, sort of exuding into everything I did. In the depth of meditation, there was an emptiness and yet that emptiness was full of potential! It was fresh, unconditioned.
After a bit of practice, I found it natural and easy to see our sameness more than our differences. It made me pause and take a moment to feel what is behind our actions. In the meditative state, the heart speaks, so there is no room for personal opinion or motive.
I have spent a few decades now meditating with others, both individually and in a group setting. I have witnessed and felt, again and again, how we “spokes” merge into this beautiful Oneness, the unity experienced by all.
I’ve always loved the Indian tradition of Namaste: I bow to the divine in you. It is a needed reminder to acknowledge that essence, that sameness that makes us one family. In meditation I experience that state of innocence and purity with which we enter this world, and sometimes I feel a sense of wonder – of simply existing!
Perhaps our quest for unity may only come when we connect without words, in the quiet of the heart. We let go, rise above, and share the unity of silence.
Article by BRIAN JONES
Illustrations by ANANYA PATEL
May 01, 2021
May 01, 2021
May 01, 2021