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Mental Wellness

The Strong Hold of Our Self-Prejudices

“Connected to my body and to each other, aware of the distortions from my own self-prejudices, I can learn to discern the core unconditional worth of every human prior to labeling them as villain or hero.”

Peace is not going to be anything I will be asking for.

Peace is going to be something that I am going to give,

from the peace that now lives inside me.

—Hyppolite Ntigurirwa

Reconciliation and peace are more than words to aspire to. They are an energetic, bone-shaking shift needed in the systems and cultural views of our world. However, how can we widen our views to also include the need for radical revelation in the crevices of our own lives? Join me in embracing the courage to acknowledge that the inner state of restorative justice, of peace, is foundational for the shift toward wholeness and compassion in our world. And that this inner shift is a tectonic movement away from conditioned self-prejudices and reactivity, into the grounded energy of present moment responsiveness.

Living in responsiveness rather than conditioned patterns—embedded in the moment, tuned in—I discover I can unbind from limiting subconscious beliefs that who I am is determined by my past, by my skin color, sexuality, religion, political perspective, and socio-economic status. Grounded responsiveness opens access to engage with a deeper self-truth that lies beyond external trappings and personal judgments.

Connected to my body and to each other, aware of the distortions from my own self-prejudices, I can learn to discern the core unconditional worth of every human prior to labeling them as villain or hero. I stop comparing and contrasting the way I experience their identity through the lens of my own self-perceptions. From this connected place, I can hold others accountable for engaging in harmful behaviors while seeing them in their core essence. I can hold myself accountable while remaining connected to my core essence.

Hyppolite Ntigurirwa, survivor of the Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi, is a powerful teacher in this regard. I asked him about how he reconciled what happened to him and his family in Rwanda, and he quietly and deliberately replied, “Until I had forgiven the killers of my dad, the killers of my relatives, the rapers of young children, the killers of our beloved country Rwanda, I could not understand that instead of hating I had to love; that love can reconcile hate, and that hate kills generations after generations. I do not think there is anything I cannot forgive now ... because I have forgiven those who were not born bad. Peace is not going to be anything I will be asking for. Peace is going to be something that I am going to give from the peace that now lives inside me.”

From Hyppolite’s cultivated inner attitude, I sense a possible doorway into freeing myself from hidden internalized prejudices and their influence on my life. If I open to the journey of self-realization beyond the unique group identities I belong to, or how I have been judged or harmed by others, I can soften my attachment to conformities with my own preferences or learned behaviors. In this softening, I learn to relate to others with more clarity, independent of my personal filters of bias. I begin to recognize distinctions such as ethnic backgrounds, ancestry, and lineages as a celebration of my uniqueness instead of aspects I need to defend or cling to. When this awareness evolves into a shared view, our distinctions are honored, while we tap into our universal human commonalities.

The systems in which we swim are within us as much as they are without us. Every spiritual tradition reminds us of this, teaching the mirror quality of our thoughts and emotions. Simply by being in this world, we are influenced by it. We even run the danger of becoming products of it. Simultaneously, the lens we interpret the world through creates our experience of everything we consider as “out there,” demonstrating how our sense of difference, prejudice, and reactivity is too often rooted in our preconditions. These nuances play out in each unique interaction, often unconscious and unkind. Think about this in your own life.

It’s easy to point fingers at those I perceive as extremists, or to project my wounds onto those in positions of power as the source of all my division and pain. However, deep self-inquiry reveals a harsh truth capable of liberating—a reminded truth that I am a reflection of what I perceive. I too possess qualities that I demonize. I too am capable of mistrust and malicious actions. Left as subconscious tendencies, I perpetuate the inertia of a future trajectory that I claim to hate. When the media tempts me to imagine the world is falling apart “out there,” I buy the illusion so I can remain self-righteous in my view that the turmoil is everyone else’s fault. So where is the liberation?

When I assume accountability for exploring my own woundedness and conformities and learn how, when unattended, those wounds fester into outward projections and behaviors, a significant shift can occur to change both my inner and outer lives. The inner revelation is a returned knowing of self and worthiness; a powerful remembrance to facilitate the emergence of external shifts toward truth and unconditioned justice. Liberation arrives within the remembrance that one’s dignity cannot be touched by another’s pain, and my pain can be transformed without the need to project it onto anything or anyone. Freedom.

How does such a shift happen? Let’s start by acknowledging the deep care we have about the state of our world and the influence we can and do have on our collective healing. As we access that desire and possibility, I invite you to begin with something as simple as this invitation. When agitation, bias, judgment, projection arrives, rather than falling into habits of defensiveness and reactivity, try this—pause, allowing a sense of openness. Then engage in an embodied, somatic remembrance.

This is what it’s like for me: First, I look inward. I feel my heart beating. I notice my body and feel the loving feedback loop of my own potential compassion. I stop the inner chatter and listen until I realize I do not have to default to defensiveness, justification, or retreat. Instead, I can choose! That embodied realization softens everything, often opening into an emotional vulnerability breaking into newfound territory. I move outside the co-dependent victim/oppressor cycles that keep negative tension at play. I relax.

The pathway is not simply meditating into light. It involves a continual reckoning of accepting the parts of ourselves that we do not want to see, without falling into self-blame or judgment. It asks for radical self-forgiveness as a form of selfless service. Although not a simple path, it is a source of liberation many of us most seek.

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Self-Forgiveness Practice

Internal liberation fosters a quiet, expansive, joyful, and empathetic experience; into a state of presence where we can be with people in their struggle or extremities. Meeting people with understanding, rather than bucketing individuals into categorical assumptions, we arrive at a place where reconciliation is ensured because we have released the stronghold on ourselves.

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