The phrase These are my people has become a mantra of sorts for me. I suppose that it might sound odd, but I find it helps keep my heart open. I first found myself repeating these words during my work with seriously mentally ill individuals. I saw over and over again how the public showed disdain and disrespect for them. Comments and exaggerated looks to convey distance from them – to show that they are different and less than. In many cases this attitude extended to the professionals charged with their care. Somehow the power differential inherent in the treatment relationship can make it easy for some to slip into mocking and belittling behavior.
At some point I found myself saying These are my people – meaning that I felt a connection to them that extended beyond their symptoms and behaviors, relating to the shared humanity between us. I experience this as a form of metta (lovingkindness) practice, maybe a combination of metta and karuna (compassion) – both of which sustain my sense of being grounded in the real world. Without it, I may lean into the judgmental arena where I focus on the differences among us.
We are swimming in a challenging political atmosphere where the door is open to acting out one’s deepest fear and hatred of anyone deemed as “other” and where these actions are encouraged by the leader we would normally look to as an exemplar of moral decency. I’m suggesting that we take a step back to consider the bigger picture of who we are and what connects us. I’m sorry, but the thought of wanting a world where we are all the same color and think the same narrow thoughts is repulsive – not to mention boring. And from what I’ve seen in my life, preserving this sameness and exclusivity doesn’t mean that we live peacefully either. Actually it’s a position that inclines individuals to violence and countries to war, reinforcing a paranoid posture that is constantly fearful of what is designated as “other.”
These are my people is a reminder that what connects us is stronger than what separates us – while respecting and appreciating our different experiences, thoughts and emotions.
These are my people is a reminder to ground yourself not in your thinking mind or reptilian brain but in your open heart.