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Overcoming Polarization

Adrian Landon Brooks' painting Twins (1)

Twins (1), Adrian Landon Brooks

We all have a tendency to divide things into categories: “us” and “them,” “right” and “wrong,” “worthy” and “unworthy.”

There are many ways to talk about the problems of this world, but one way or another, all of them have to do with polarization. We all have a tendency to divide people, things, and ideas into sharply contrasting categories. Consciously or unconsciously, we carry around concepts of “us” and “them,” “right” and “wrong,” “worthy” and “unworthy.” In this framework, there’s not much room for a middle ground; everything is at one pole or another. When groups of people or whole nations get together around these concepts, they can become hugely magnified, which may result in large-scale suffering: discrimination, oppression, war. These national and global problems have their roots in the subtle workings of our own individual minds. All of us, to our own degree, experience some feeling of opposition inside ourselves, with each other, and with the world around us. We’re never quite satisfied with ourselves as we are, other people as they are, things as they are. Often, we feel this as an aversion to whatever we’re experiencing. We don’t like what’s happening and we want to get rid of it. This can start out a …

Pema Chodron

Pema Chödrön is a leading exponent of teachings on meditation and how they apply to everyday life.

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