You have exciting travel plans. You announce your plans to friends and family.
What’s the reaction?
Is your excitement reflected back to you? Or do you find yourself swamped by a barrage of fears and prejudices? Worse still, are you adversely influenced by this negativity?
We certainly can be, unless we take the opportunity to uncover what it is that’s at the root of those misconceptions.
When my husband and I were asked to accompany my brother-in-law and his Indonesian wife to stay with her Muslim family in east Java for a short holiday recently, it seemed like a great opportunity to experience another culture. However, there were reservations voiced from several directions, which included fears arising from racism and religious bigotry, as well as health concerns raised in relation to the environment.
Rather than slipping into seeing peoples and cultures as sinister or environments as unhealthy, it’s beneficial to recognise that we can resist the temptation to take on such fears and prejudices. We can rein in these thoughts in order to maintain a sense of safety at home or abroad, and in order to benefit us as well as those voicing such prejudices.
Why is that?
Because recent medical research thought-provokingly suggests that racial discrimination can actually make us sick, whether we are the person experiencing it, the perpetrator of it, or those witnessing it. Essentially the studies show that the damage caused by anger, fear and a sense of injustice can affect every part of the human body right down to our DNA.
These studies echo a lesson I’ve learned over many years of cultivating a spiritual practice, namely that injustices and fears are bad for our health. A thought-leader who explains the underlying mental causes of sickness and how to regain and sustain health on a deeper, divine basis, Mary Baker Eddy, writes, “Lurking error, lust, envy, revenge, malice, or hate will perpetuate or even create the belief in disease.”
But we can do something about the fearful nature of prejudice, anger and any negative feeling before it turns into sickness.
Like a mother’s consistent care for her child, even under sometimes fearful and insurmountable odds, so we, too, can prove the biblical truism that “perfect love casts out fear.” Mary Baker Eddy, grasped that it was “perfect (divine) love” that was instrumental to the amazing record of healing achieved by Jesus. He often urged individuals who asked him for healing “be not afraid” because he understood that divine Love was constantly with them and governing all.
My habit for many years has been daily meditation on the nature of divine Love’s creation and government. This prayerful watch includes an earnest desire for others to know and feel this divine care for people of every race and religion around the world. No one excluded!
On this spiritual basis, I had an abiding sense that all would be well on the trip to Indonesia, and genuinely felt that “we live, and move, and have our being” in divine Love, which is a very healthy environment! Memories of healings I’d had of insectophobia, of bites, stings and contagious disease, enabled me to feel a profound sense of safety.
Despite cancellation of flights the preceding day due to volcanic ash in the area, our flight went ahead as planned. And the juxtaposition between our days in Bali and on Java was fascinating. Individuals striving to achieve their best in third-world conditions were inspiring to us, and we found a real sense of acceptance and friendship everywhere we went. Even though some of the creature comforts we are used to were non-existent, this had little impact on our enjoyment.
My aversion to the all-pervading smell of cigarette smoke in public spaces, cars and private homes, and the enormous challenges to travelling any distance by road in the third world, threatened to unravel my equanimity for a time. However, I found that as I focused my thoughts and behaviour on being accepting and kind and radiating goodwill, I actually felt a whole lot better and the locals responded generously.
Fears about cultural or religious clashes were proved totally unfounded. In fact, warm hospitality and acceptance were evidenced in everyone I met, verifying to me that classifying individuals by a cultural or religious label makes no sense at all, especially if you’re acknowledging the underlying truth that there is one Creator of everyone.
This article was published across the APN Media network, including on the Northern Star website.