The concept that we are all one people is pretty easy to accept, on an intellectual level.
Advaita Vedanta - the sub school of the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta, is based upon this premise of non-dualism and the idea that we are all one, interconnected form of consciousness and that everything else is all 'maya' or illusion.
When it comes to putting into practice this practice that we are all one, however, especially when we feel compromised i.e., threatened/hurt/cold/hungry/irritated by someone else, it can be hard to remember!
The book we're focusing on in next month's book club 'Why I'm No Longer Talking to White People About Race' highlights this. Racism, sexism, ableism - there are so many ways of creating the illusion of separation that we buy into either as a result of social/cultural conditioning or our own trance of unworthiness.
Travel (that not so long forgotten privilege- on a few levels) is a prime example of how we can begin to shatter this illusion of separation. It is a lot harder to demonize a group of people that we have met and had positive interactions with.
On a train ride in India a few years ago I sat opposite a pair of middle aged Indian men, one was a chemistry teacher, the other an office worker. Slotted between three people on my left, three on my right on a crowded bench they had kindly made space for me on, five people perched on the luggage rack overhead, they voiced I was brave to be traveling alone.
I asked them if they would enjoy exploring Europe, given the chance. 'Europe!' One exclaimed, eyes wide, 'But European men...they are so... so tall!'. I couldn't help but laugh. I reassured them that despite being taller than the average Indian man, European men were equally as kind.
Curious to find out more the pair went on to quiz me about all aspects of life in the UK, their facial expressions entertaining as they uttered responses to shared mundane aspects of life - 'You have cucumbers too!'. After a while one of them concluded - 'Maybe...maybe if we met people from these other countries like Pakistan, that we're at war with, we would realise that we're all the same and it would stop.'
It's easy to demonise that which we don't know, that with which we're not familiar - in all senses of the word (and the world). But as activist and scholar Audre Lorde reminds us, our differences are not to be feared but acknowledged and more than that, celebrated:
“It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
We are all different yet the thread of humanity and sharing this lived experience here on this planet at this time binds us. Let us celebrate and strengthen this invisible thread, lest we cut ourselves off and cause more harm.
A huge THANK YOU to every single person that contributed their time, love, energy and resources to create yesterday's event. It serves as a reminder that united we stand, together we are stronger, and the illusion of separation, even in times like these, is not always all prevailing.
This is by no means the end of our giving back, our unity, our collectivism but just a part along the way. May we continue to rise together, to unite and to share compassion freely - together, we are stronger.