November 16th is the International day of Tolerance and maybe it could be an opportunity for all of us to examine where we personally stand on this issue. Do we consider ourselves to be tolerant? Or are we often intolerant? If so, what are we intolerant about? Here, we also need to remind ourselves that there can be a tendency in some of us to be pots calling kettles black, that is, to be intolerant of those who possess faults similar to our own, as that enables us to shift the burden of responsibility away from ourselves, and onto them, which results, as it were, in getting ourselves ‘off the hook’!
But perhaps as this day of tolerance dawns, we need to look at this issue more from a global level and realize just how much intolerance there is in the world and what a dreadfully debilitating disease it is. At one level, I see it as being the consequence of a lack of heart, rendering us unable to experience the fact that all us human beings are connected together – linked up in one great ground of being. Because we don’t or cannot experience this, we have difficulty in being able to feel into the consciousness of those who are different to us, who subscribe to a different culture, have a different religion, skin colour and nationality. Often, we actually fear such people, and this makes us uncomfortable and suspicious around them, and so, in order to feel safer, we practice the politics of intolerance as this creates distance. The American Indians had a beautiful saying: ‘Never judge a man until you’ve walked ten kilometres in his moccasins’, which is something many of us are wholly unable to do, which is why we are so judgmental.
The problem can’t be solved at a mental level – tolerance can’t be ‘willed’ into expression – but it can be solved at a spiritual level. What is required is that we move from a mindset where human differences imply separation to one where we may experience our unity in diversity, where we can – quite literally – experience all people as our brothers and sisters, and where it makes no difference to us whether someone is ‘like us’ or not, whether they are Christian or Muslim, Black or White, rich or poor, educated or not.
However, to make this shift we need to have opened our hearts and this is not a ‘given.’ It requires some inner work. Only a new ‘Heart-set’ ( as opposed to mindset) can enable us to open to this ‘higher-order’ perception of our fellow human beings, and one reason why I wrote my recent book about how to awaken the universally hearted part of ourselves, is that it shows us how to do this. Once we have started connecting to the beauty inside our hearts, to the love and wisdom and compassion there, not only do we begin experiencing much deeper connections with our fellow human beings where we can begin celebrating our differences, but we can also come to see our intolerance for the evil it really is.
I invite you to come on either of the week-long retreats which I will be holding in February, one in Majorca, one in Jamaica, after which I promise you that your capacity for intolerance will have hugely diminished.