When counting the many beautiful wonders of Sonoma County let us remember to count among them our county’s human diversity.  We stand out, even among California counties for our extremely diverse population.  No matter under what lens you examine us, our diversity will show up.  Look at us by our ethnic or racial identities, our religious or sexual orientations, or socio –economic positions.  However you look you will see quite a range, and many differences.  It is up to each of us to remember that this diversity is a tremendous asset, bringing color, richness, and flavor to our county and deepening our hearts and minds.  We can let our experiences of diversity be a valuable tool for keeping our hearts open and letting our minds grow flexible and open up too.

Diversity in humanity sometimes brings ruffled feathers, hurt feelings and misunderstandings due to communication barriers, and the widely divergent world views held by this world’s various cultures.  However, if we keep the perspective that diversity is valuable in mind, then with an open heart and mind we can transcend and resolve the various difficulties that arise when people from different places and different cultures come together by chance.

When groups of humans coalesce and grow there is often a force of homeostasis which seems to push most people toward the mainstream, while leaving some people out of the flow of this push and leaving them vulnerable and  disenfranchised from belonging and access to the resources of the group.  How can we  be careful to resist this tendency of the lower emotions of territorialism, greed and fear?

Its about flexibility.  Flexibility of the mind and the heart, which are the key to embracing diversity are not much different than flexibility in the body.  We have to use the flexibility we have or we will loose it in time, and conversely,  if we really want to we can expand the flexibility we have through practice.    What do we need to practice?

We need to practice curiousity and willingness which are known to be powerful energetic mental states which  enhance our subjective experience of “flow” and therefore increase experience of happiness.

We can practice remembering natures facts about diversity.  It really takes a lot of diversity to make any ecosystem work over time.  It takes all of the colors of the rainbow, and their mixes to make the colors of nature come alive.  Each color can be enhanced by the presence of other colors whether similar or complementary (opposite).

It may serve us all well to remember just how boring the world would be if we were all the same color, race, religion, orientation or gender.  We all need us to be as diverse as we are, and there is room for all of us here, if we are willing to make room for each other to be.

Appreciating diversity comes more naturally for some, and for others can be a learned set of skills and values.  When it is not coming naturally its important to assist ourselves by remembering that we are participating in something much much larger than our own minds and belief systems, and to remember to be curious and approach the world with wonder.  We must remember to ask:  What can we learn when we drop our preset mind and participate in the vastness of the beautiful world of human diversity?

And at times when we find our resistance more challenging, and old patterns of closing down seem to be closing in, its really important to remember that our county is growing more and more diverse with time, and that cultivating and developing our inner and outer flexibility is an important set of skills to insure our own peace of mind, let alone the peace of those in relationship with us.  Let us all remember to contribute to world peace in everyday ways, with the simple gift of appreciating diversity, approaching human differences with curiosity and willingness, and letting go of our preset ideas about how things “should be” in order to get on with the business of participating fully in the world as it is.

Vicki Van Winkle, MFT has been a psychotherapist and meditation teacher assisting the people of Sonoma County to recover from dealing with highly stressful life events, anxiety and depression for over 15 years.   If you have any questions regarding approaching life with curiosity and willingness please contact me at vickivanwinkle@gmail.com.  I would be happy to assist you or direct you to some resources to assist you.