The human ailment of not being able to accept the ‘other’ spans countries and ideologies alike. To categorize differences under labels such as religion and culture with the assumption that we will all leave each other well alone only seems to exacerbate them, for we will always come up against those who deeply uproot, even threaten our beliefs and attachments to them.
So surely a more healing way then, is to focus on ways to deal with other’s fear and ultimately begin to work on the fear within ourselves. As every traveler will know, these differences inevitably come up when arriving and spending time in a foreign country, and expose just how deep those roots really delve, particularly when those differences are worlds away from our own perceptions. This applies to every country, and can often be called nationalism, or prejudice, but the one thing we can always rely on is that one will always come across it and probably be the target of a fair few assumptions and harmful stereotypes that the people throw our way.
It is a tough but fantastic lesson in confronting the ego within oneself, but also the conditioning that helped shape it. It’s not an accident that they say traveling will make you wiser. For one thing, living in or visiting a foreign country shines a light on other’s conditioning perfectly. When others are acting on what they have learnt from an outside source rather than from their inner voice, you can spot it a mile off.
Just witnessing the unraveling of this painful truth in others can be enlightening for oneself. You become blessed with an eye for locating the moments you are acting from your own conditioning, and are able to work towards becoming a more genuine and authentic person.
The first essential step, as with any energy vampirism, is to block their negativity towards you. Before you can begin to understand it you must get that bad stuff out of you and study any personal wounds it touched. Many are able to do this seamlessly, but for others it will trigger old feelings of inferiority, and there’s nothing like feeling inferior as being a guest on another person’s patch of this earth.
With extremely different cultures to our own we need to educate ourselves about them. We need to understand the roots. For example, in certain religions, particular things are central that, though linked to general good manners and polite conduct, are worth knowing about in order to see things from other’s perspective and can explain how others are seeing you. Cleanliness, mindfully not wasting food and water, not raising your voice in public and dressing modestly are but to mention a few.
It doesn’t help anyone to compromise your own beliefs – for example eating meat when you are against it – for the sake of ‘respecting’ another’s culture… which incidentally IS a big part of many cultures across the globe. But being aware of the important factors can avoid making unnecessary waves. Understanding that others believe in these things out of good intentions as well as their upbringing. They want to be good people and believe that this is the way to do it.
One way to help build bridges and loving kindness is being an example for other travelers and ‘visitors’. An example in Turkey, where I currently live, is that it is good to share any food when eating in public with people (especially children) around you. Knowing that this is important to the people, and it being a nice thing to do anyway can help shatter other’s stereotype of ‘your’ people.
In seeing you do this will add to their positive experiences. If they see a foreigner doing something ‘bad’ they will never forget it and use it to fuel their fear, probably spreading it to others, whereas if they see them doing something good it will cause them to change their perceptions, possibly forever.
Getting deeper into the murky territory of when others simply believe that ‘my religion or culture is right, and yours is wrong’ can become more challenging. This usually reverts us back to our primal fears on a subconscious level; of our own ‘sins’ and being held accountable for them. Disgust at human behaviour reflects our disgust at ourselves and in many people’s religion or upbringing, this intense aversion has been put in place to keep them from temptation.
One such example is the eastern European and Middle Eastern belief in the ‘evil eye’ and is a feared form of energy vampirism. Understand that certain cultures have this belief in such bad energy, and that they are doing it coupled with a greeting because they are defending themselves against the unknown.
The stranger in many cultures is constantly feared – both amongst their own people and when confronted with a foreigner. It is also employed readily to protect family members; particularly younger ones and is taught from an early age so that one may be able to deflect other’s ‘evil eye’, which can encompass anything from being upset when left out of an exchange, to the non-verbal communication to stay away – this person is not one of us and is to be feared.
Having compassion for that person’s belief and an understanding of the good intentions behind it is the next layer after not taking it personally. Mirroring, not what another is doing in response to your presence in fear of the unknown, but doing the opposite to them in order to draw attention to the negativity within their actions is the next. This is difficult because like attracts like, and this can be a rebellious act. However, as long as the anger and personal feelings within oneself are fully dissolved and dealt with, it will always work.
Speaking the language of love and raising oneself above their negative vibrations will drown out their negativity. It’s almost like a trap we set one another; falling into other people’s projections onto you helps no-one, and it is the ego that wants to pull you in to prove itself right.
Blocking this effectively and reacting to it with light is what most religious prophets as well as leaders such as Gandhi are said to have done, and is actually a very high calling when mastered properly. It is a rare gift of those who have mastered true interaction. It is the only way to melt another’s darkness on the spot.
This can be especially effective when working out who is a true ‘believer’ in their own fear, and who is not. Children or those who have yet to be fully tarnished with the conditioning of a society or culture can also help the older ones in recognizing their own prejudices. In very closed societies the sad thing is the influence over younger generations, and speaking openly and directly to those who are being dominated and taught other’s fear makes an unbreakable connection with those who – though outwardly may play the part – may inwardly have yet to make up their mind. They will be influenced by and remember you. In this way you are not influencing them to ‘think’ one way or another (the temptation that might lead them astray) but speaking directly to their own free will and offering a more open minded, and loving approach to the unknown.