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Weekly Practice in Conscious Living

Week 656: Expanding the Tribe

Somewhere in my meanderings through Facebook, reading, and listening to talks, I ran across a statement that captured my attention. I believe it was Jon Stewart who talked about how the human species is fundamentally “tribal” and how we tend to care for members of the tribe, while we assign the label of “other” to people who are not in our tribe. We often aren’t so friendly to non-tribal people, with the extremes of “other-ing” resulting in oppression and mistreatment of those whom we feel don’t belong.

Somewhere along the way, Jon talked about expanding the tribe to include the whole nation and this got me to thinking about my experience of, and commitment to, oneness—that there is one life living all of us. For me, everyone everywhere is part of the same human tribe and, to expand on that, all life forms are part of our planetary tribe.

This got me to thinking about the importance of exploring how we each experience our tribe individually, within ourselves, as we look out on the world. For this week’s experiment, I invite you to be aware of how you automatically and spontaneously define your tribe—the people you feel moved to help, support, or otherwise consider part of who you are. Then, notice who you consider to be “other”, not of your tribe and how you hold them in your awareness. We usually have stereotyped, often uninformed, ideas about people we consider “other”, as well as a natural tendency to unconsciously project disowned aspects of ourselves onto people we consider “other”. These projections most often represent things about ourselves we really don’t want to experience or acknowledge.

As a next step in the experiment, notice what happens when you become curious about adding these “others” into your sense of tribe. What thoughts, feelings, physical responses, or urges do you experience as you engage this part of the experiment? What happens if you take time to get to know more about these people who have been “other” to you, either by exploring them and their culture on google, through books and documentaries, or through actual encounters with them?

Be sure to do two main things with this experiment. Having curiosity right at hand is very important, as curiosity opens us to new experiences, new awareness, and previously-unexplored parts of our reality. Then, be sure to allow mixed feelings—without judgments attached—so you can become more conscious of spontaneous responses that may arise because of what you learned about these “others” when you were growing up, or as a result of experiences you have had with them along the way. Mixed feelings are inevitable and they are a gift along the way. They point to areas where you may want to more deeply explore beliefs you hold about people you feel are not in your tribe.

As with all these experiments, there are no right answers nor right ways to engage the process. All are offered as ways to learn more about how you create the quality of your internal life and the choices you make as you move through your world.

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