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The Great Debate: Let's Take a Seat, Drink, Breathe, Debate, Relax


The Great Debate: Let's Take a Seat, Drink, Breathe, Debate, Relax

The Great Debate: Let's Take a Seat, Drink, Breathe, Debate, Relax
Guest blog by Kary Schumpert

It's hot. Heat and uncertainty seem to breed crankiness.

Each news headline brings on debate. Pro-this, pro-that, anti-this, anti-that. Passion and discussion and debate occasionally lead to rancor and nastiness. All of a sudden, folks that one disagrees with are evil and wrong. What's up?

There are lots of positives, though. I admire the passion and the fact that people are so dedicated to their issues and causes. They put up yard signs, sign petitions, send things in e-mail, post messages to their social media outlets, attend meetings, and reach out to others. And then there are the opposite actions when the opposing side is brought to attention. Folks are urged to support or boycott a company or organization for this reason or that. All of this action and discourse is welcome. People are actively shaping our democracy, our republic.

I grew up loving the idea of debate and discussion.

I have friends nearby and close friends from afar whom I keep in touch with in person and by e-mail, phone, and social media. A lot of those friends have opinions and political beliefs that span the spectrum, but I respect them even when I disagree with their messages and opinions. Far too often, we don't seem to get to have those discussions about what we think and why. For fear of setting off a rage of anger, we avoid the controversial topics or only converse about our deepest opinions with those who agree.

For my own sake, I try to read a variety of articles and get my news from lots of different sources, so that I can know and understand what people are hearing and learning. I miss, though, the ability to discuss politics and issues without it becoming mean-spirited. It helps me to hear opposing viewpoints. I need to be exposed to them. It helps me to better understand another perspective and it helps me to articulate my own stance. I can begin to see where there are misunderstandings and misperceptions and misinformation. It also shows me where the holes are in my own arguments. I enjoy finding where sides converge, or to learn that the means and ends are not necessarily that far apart.

In thinking of conversations on controversial topics, I am having a fit of nostalgia for my senior year in high school, particularly for the last semester and the following summer. Several of us were moving closer together, knowing that in a few months we would be moving farther away. A small group of us would discuss our beliefs and debate current events.

Today, many of those current issues are still very much the questions of the day. We examined religion and politics and money and how we thought things should get done. We talked about abortion and the death penalty and the environment. We weren't always well-informed, but the vanity of being 17 and 18 is that we already knew everything. We helped each other, though, and because of our common childhoods, we pushed each other into adulthood. We supported each other and listened and questioned. We didn't hate because we disagreed. It was an important first lesson that our politics and beliefs shaped us, but civility and friendship formed us as much, if not more. We lived the idea that respect for the person comes from engagement, even when you disagree. Agreeing to disagree can be one of the best feelings in the world, particularly after a hearty and heated exchange.

I would love to get my old tribe back together in the same room, and recall our side conversations in the back of the classroom and lingering next to lockers. If anything, we have all grown up and moved into our own lives. I know we still disagree on a lot of these issues, but I would like to think that we could still have those same passionate, yet respectful conversations. One of us is gone now, but I do know that the years and the memories and the miles melt into oblivion.

If you are craving some passionate and respectful discussion, here are some ways to go about it.

Whether they are old friends or new ones, find someone with whom you know you have a political or philosophical difference. If they're nearby, invite them over, or if they're far away, grab the phone. Let them know you want to catch up and that you want to discuss a controversial issue. Get a cold drink and make sure your friend has one as well--lemonade, iced tea, wine, beer, water--whatever will help to float the talk. Listen as they describe the issue as they see it and as they understand it. Ask what shaped their view. What would they do to solve the problem or issue? Ask your friend to give you the chance to do the same. It's not a Presidential debate, so you don't have to have all the facts or answers. Really listen. Contrast with each other how different your views are. Is the end result the same, but are the means very different?

Just when you feel your blood pressure rise, take a deep breath. Don't interrupt. Don't let your volume levels rise. Take a sip of your drink. Listen some more. Now take a pause. Get up and stretch. Take another sip of your drink. Hug or shake hands or give a verbal hug on the phone. I bet the opinions haven't changed. You probably still disagree. However, you may have a new perspective about why someone thinks the way they do. You may have made your argument stronger. You have new things to learn. Maybe it made you realize you are that much firmer with your position. You have a friend, you have a drink. It's a beautiful summer day. It's really not so bad.

Kary Schumpert
Guest Blogger
New Leaf Meditation Project

Kary Schumpert is an environmental educator and writer living in New Mexico. She loves running, hiking, camping, reading, teaching, writing, and exploring spirituality. Her writing has been published in Elephant Journal, New Leaf Meditation, Green Teacher, and Community Works Journal. She keeps a blog at



Healing in Orlando

In the numbness that follows a tragedy we are often heard to repeat cliches that help us wrap our heads around the inconceivable. Whether it’s the misfortune or loss of a loved one, or something on a grander and uglier scale, we will be heard to say “everything happens for a reason” clutching to the belief that an invisible future explanation will present itself and ease the current pain.

I never subscribed to that Pollyanna-ish interpretation. Long before I read the Hermetica, Gnostic texts, Rudolph Steiner, or Neville, I felt instinctively, even though I didn’t like the feeling, that something was backward. It’s not some future revelation that we must look to. It’s the past and the present that hold the answer; the reason.

And the reason is us.

None of us want to hear it or look at it. But that doesn’t change the fact that each of us, however remotely, is fractionally culpable. Let me explain: If one human can become so completely out of alignment with the human family, then it can happen to any one of us. We are all equally capable, if not all likely, to become a beast or a saint. Until we recognize this, we’re not spiritually or emotionally mature. We have to ask, daily, “What’s going on inside of me? What’s happening on an energetic level? Where and how am I contributing to love or hate?” For however small or insignificant we think our intention, it contributes none the less. And one contribution (of energy) builds upon another, and so on. Looking at this squarely is how we heal.

The world’s spiritual leaders & guides have all known this. They’ve all faced conditions of adversity,  or of doubt, sometimes even atrocity. They overcame not just with the tools of prayer and meditation, but through Practice. They were able to carry on because they constantly and consistently put into action what they realized through meditation and contemplation. This is Practice. We overcome, heal, and change through Practice.

Meditation is not for escape or just to feel better at the end of your day. Of what use is contemplation and meditation if the result is only Nihilism or narcissism? The value is not in retreat, disengagement, or disconnection. The value is that it gives us the strength to engage fully, humanly, and spiritually while keeping centered, keeping ‘in love’ by remaining in the field of true knowing and compassion with detachment. That is the Practice. In this way we can say “yes, I will participate in the debate, but I do so from love, from recognition of myself in the other.”

We have to come from a place of oneness – even, and perhaps most critically, when in pain, in opposition, and when engaging in activism. If we’re not coming from a grounded centered place, we’re only contributing to the problem even with the best of (mental) intention. But it’s the intention and purity of our hearts, not our minds, that the Universe hears. The intention of our heart has to come from recognizing the shadow, from identifying with the beast in each of us and embracing it, understanding it, no matter how repulsive. Only then can we intend, not just what we want, but what is truly for the highest good, trusting that the intelligence that surrounds us will work in concert with that intention. For it will. Whether it’s noble or base, the Universe will only say ‘yes’ to our pure intention.

In the wake of tragedy, when we are in pain, this can be a very daunting task. But it is precisely at this time that we should turn not to magical thinking, but to practical tools (the difference between New Age and New Thought). Tools that we may not completely understand (like electricity or gravity) but that we know from experience will sustain us. What use is being able to still our minds for 10 breaths unless it teaches us how to be love in the world? Can you argue for your point of view impersonally and without anger? Can you argue from your heart center without hating the person opposing you? Can we forgive the most heinous of acts?

That is the Practice. The practice of meditation or other contemplative exercise is to prepare us to go into the world as lovers and fighters; as those who realize our connection with all that is. We can go into the world and fight from the heart center for what we believe is the highest good without hating the person who is opposing our view when we Practice. To remain connected to one another in the most trying, the most frightening of times is our test. And times will continue to be trying for as long as we provide a reason, for as long as we indulge in thoughts unguarded.

So in my own small part – which turns out is not small at all – I will strive to be ever so diligent in my every thought and deed. I will strive to keep my intentions kind. I will not add the energy of hate or separation in any degree to the world. Not in reaction to daily trivial upsets or to the most grandly horrific of events. I will not always succeed. In fact, I flub it several times a day. But I do, and will continue to, constantly practice. This is my response to this tragedy. This is my commitment to my human family.

Dawn Murphy is the author of "Physical Stuff & Mental Junk: A Minimalist Path to True Abundance." Her work has been been endorsed by Dr. Will Tuttle, author of "The World Peace Diet,"  Phil Borges, Ph.D of Bridges to Understanding, and Dr. Howard Zinn. She’s currently working on her fourth book, "So Vegan Easy" available in 2017. Visit her Blog/Website: