The Great Divide
It was a hot and lazy afternoon when I drove through the iron gates of the property where my husband and I live in East Texas. We are told we live in the “belt buckle” of the Bible Belt, in a beautiful town where half the population is Baptists and…Oh Yes…most of the population is registered Republican.
The owners of the property, Charlie and Jackie live in a gracious brick manor house shaded by magnificent trees that spread their branches wide to filter the rays of the summer sun. In front of their house is a pond with a fountain that was home to three ducks Mandrake, Matilda and Marmaduke. They were perfectly matched with lotus white bodies and long swan-like necks. They were inseparable from the moment they met.
Whenever I would see their little forms snuggling under the trees, majestically waddling on the green grass, or gliding together on the placid waters of the pond, I would take a deep breath knowing that all was right with the world.
One day, as I entered the property, a giant hawk swooped down so low it almost hit the roof of the car. Two days later, the female duck, Matilda was missing with only a trail of feathers left in her wake. We all mourned her disappearance and wondered how she met her demise.
Charlie is now raising ducks hatched from eggs and caring for them like a parent with a child. There was one duck who had grown to full size. Charlie introduced him to the two remaining ducks. There was only one little problem. This new duck had a pompadour of feathers perched on the top of his head like a crown. He looked quite regal and very different from the other two ducks.
Over the days, the two resident ducks became increasingly vicious, biting the new duck’s neck and head and leaving him wounded and bleeding. What had once been a peaceful “Garden of Paradise” now became a battleground of differences. The new duck looked so different that he became a target and was bullied and isolated by the other ducks.
I began to see parallels with the drama of the ducks to what is happening in our world today. Could it be that the world stage is being enacted right here in this Garden of Eden? Were these little ducks a reflection of what is happening in a country and world that is more divided than ever before?
Could it be that the human species like other species in nature, when given the opportunity, reverts to the familiar comfort zones of those who look like, act like, speak like, worship like and, yes, here it is, vote like they do.
Everywhere I travel and teach, I hear similar stories of the separation in families due to the recent political election. A Republican strategist from a long time Republican family could not bring herself to vote for Mr. Trump. So, as she said, she cast her vote for the candidate she felt would be a steadier, more predictable and experienced choice for president. She crossed the aisle of the “great divide,” voted for Clinton, and was alienated by family and friends. Even her favorite uncle refused to speak to her at a family function, while other family members publicly criticized her and Republicans like her on social media. They even questioned her faith as a Christian.
On the other side of “the aisle,” Clinton supporters were horrified when good friends voted for Trump causing one to say, “I didn’t think intelligent people would vote for Trump.” So many were shocked by “the lack of discrimination” in people they had known and worked with for many years.
A yoga teacher in Oregon was faced with a temporary dilemma. After the election one student in her class didn’t think she could return because there was a Trump supporter sitting next to her. In turn, the Trump voter felt discriminated against and didn’t think she would return.
A woman in Texas lost life-long friends of 40 years when she posted her political leanings on social media.
Yoga teachers throughout this land have shared stories of unhealed wounds of separation in families, friends and marriages. They thought after the election people would come back together and life would go on as usual, but this is something different. It appears there is a growing chasm of separation that has not yet healed.
As events unfold every day…every hour, more and more people are feeling uncertain and insecure about their future as individuals and our future as a nation. They are fearful of the economy, an impending nuclear war, and a leader they feel is not in touch with reality. As one politician said, “It’s not about policy, but pathology.”
In yoga, it is interesting that in asana, when one part of the body is limited in its range of motion such as stiffness in a knee, hip, or hamstring muscle etc., the entire body becomes limited in its range of motion. It automatically holds itself back from moving ahead into its fullest potential expression of the pose. For some, it feels that as a nation, we are hamstrung by the weakest part, which they see as our leadership.
Our body is a hologram of consciousness. When an injured or stiff part becomes more flexible, the other parts can then move more freely, guiding the body deeper into the full expression of a pose.
The question now is are we holding ourselves back as a nation waiting for our leader to “catch up?” Or are we witnessing a leader that is less conscious than the people he represents? Is he like that rigid part of the social body that prevents convergence, integration, progressive ideas and a future that embraces all brothers and sisters of the One Humanity?
Are we held back because of the lack of progressive vision of our leader or are we holding ourselves back by enabling this weakest part to dictate to the whole?
Through the window of the ducks, I wondered if I was witnessing the nature of human beings who are not able to cross the great divide and embrace something or someone different from them.
Are we witnessing the inability of those who cannot reach across the aisle, not just of the political divide but the aisles of division in all aspects of our post-election lives? The effects of anger and sometimes hatred can be seen on those insecure with the new leadership.
A nun went to confession asking for forgiveness of her hatred toward our new president. She said the priest was not very helpful because he too, was struggling with his own prejudice and frustration, of what he saw as the darkest time in American history.
For its safety, Charlie moved the young unusual looking duck to the back of the property where he happily strutted around with its tuft of head feathers fluttering in the breeze, like a thousand-petaled lotus. Life went on as usual until the aggressive and most violent duck disappeared with a heap of feathers as the only imprint of his short life. We speculated it could have been a hawk, raccoon or even coyote.
The one remaining duck of the original three, sat unmoving on top of the fountainhead in the center of the pond. He looked forlorn and fearful. I marveled at his instinct of preservation in positioning himself so that wild animals and hawks could not reach him. But I was sad that he had lost the innocence of trust.
Charlie then reintroduced the duck with the pompom and brought in another duck with dark tan markings over half of her body. After a few days of eyeing one another from a distance, they came closer and closer. Now in trust, they are inseparable. It is amazing how different they look from one another. Yet, with all their differences, they waddle together under the great trees, nestle together in the shade of the flowering plants and swim together in the still waters of the pond.
Is this prophetic of our future as we cross the great divide of consciousness to appreciate and even rejoice in our differences as well as commonalities? Wouldn’t this be a demonstration of the true union and “Oneness” of yoga?
Now each day, first thing I do as I enter the garden gate is to look for the ducks to make sure they are all there and safe. To me, they have become a barometer of our society. After a time of struggle and separation, they now seem to be masters of crossing the great divide to demonstrate the convergence of differences and uniting life’s polarities. They are my teachers of yoga.