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Understanding Leads to Compassion

"Just walk a mile in his moccasins before you abuse, criticize and accuse. If just for one hour, you could find a way to see through his eyes, instead of your own muse."

In Mary Lathrap's 1895 poem entitled Judge Softly, she pens,

"Just walk a mile in his moccasins before you abuse, criticize and accuse. If just for one hour, you could find a way to see through his eyes, instead of your own muse."

What is this muse that hinders the transformation necessary to see my neighbor as myself?

We are born into family dynamics that instill in us our first understanding of the world. For some, this downloading process is soft and tender, while for others it can be brutally violent. Wouldn’t it be useful to know someone’s background to understand how they arrived at their decisions in life, rather than held hostage by our own preconceived ideas? The words we hear early on, charged with either positive or negative emotions, hold a strong grip on our perceptions.

Just like a computer, the mind uses words, sentences,and concepts to write the “programs”of the mind. It is,quite simply,our operating software.

There are similarities and differences between the mind and a computer. While a computer needs a programmer and is separate from the machine, we are both the programmer and the machine combined. There is a real obstacle in being both the programmer and the one being programmed. At what age did I take over as the programmer and was no longer being programmed, or is that still going on? Socrates wrote that the unexamined life is not worth living. Do we examine our beliefs and make it a practice to update them? Do we evaluate our beliefs with critical thinking, or do we float along on an emotional sea of public opinion, never quite identifying why we hold on to certain belief systems and patterns of behavior?

Our subconscious mind houses our belief systems that have undergone programming since birth. From the subconscious, our feedback loop to the conscious mind develops to protect our original software which dictates how we see the world, ourselves, and how we negotiate in our interactions with others. Our feedback loop is protected by a biological safety feature. The mind distorts, deletes, or omits pieces of all incoming information that do not align with our fundamental core beliefs.

This function, designed to protect us, has the potential to lead us into a great deal of suffering if our programming is working hard to uphold beliefs that divide and isolate us from others.We are raised with beliefs that have certain similarities that join us together, while harboring differences that can severely separate us to the point of war. While our similarities are discovered in our commonly shared experience of humanity, it is the ideological differences between our ears that can cause contention, strife, and the potential to view others as an enemy.

This is not to say that the world is without hostilities and that we will get along with everyone; however, the more we understand how our mental and emotional centers function,the better we can understand others.

This is the path to greater awareness of others by knowing thyself.

Is it possible that our computer-modeled mind needs an update–a new way of seeing ourselves and other people?It may be time to slip on a different pair of moccasins and take a walk in them;some will be very comfy, and others will be a little tight until they’re broken in.

Socrates and Mary Lathrap invited us to intentionally become uncomfortable at times. I like to view the uncomfortable feelings, whether physical, emotional,or mental, as my opportunity to grow and consider an in-depth examination of my core beliefs. We hear about thinking outside the box, but what do we do when our mind is the box?

We get outside of the box by engaging with others to challenge our understanding and gain a fresh perspective.

We can begin moving outside of our comfort zone by actively listening to those with whom we disagree. The intention wouldn’t be to win an argument, but rather to move closer together in a dialogue that unites us and brings a deeper understanding. This understanding can blossom into compassion.

By understanding the background of a person, we offer ourselves the opportunity to grow in ways yet to be imagined. As long as we persist in the belief, or unhealthy need, that others must come to our way of thinking in order to have peace,we may remain stuck in old programming and miss an opening for connection.

What do we have to lose by trying on a new pair of moccasins?

Mary Lathrap ends her poem:

“...Just for a moment, slip into his mind and traditions

And see the world through his spirit and eyes

Before you cast a stone or falsely judge his conditions.

Remember to walk a mile in his moccasins...

We will be known forever by the tracks we leave

In other people’s lives, our kindnesses and generosity.

Take the time to walk a mile in his moccasins." xo-a

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