September 9, 2012

A Democrat & Republican Walk into a Bar… ~ Shanan Harrell

My Friend, My Foe.

You know that awkward moment when you and a dear friend realize that you’re on completely opposite sides of an issue?

Sure you do.

You’re hanging out, and you’re laughing and talking and then…


You make a snarky joke and your giggles hit a wall of silence. Then, you witness your dear friend’s face go somber.


Somebody didn’t think that was funny.

At all.

And she replies with something that is completely, wholeheartedly, entirely in opposition to your world view.

At first you can’t believe your ears, surely you’ve misunderstood?

Your friend is smart and kind. She loves animals and long walks on the beach. How could she possibly hold such an ignorant point of view? And it goes without saying that the dialogue in your friend’s head is an echo of your own. She is staring at you with eyes of bewilderment and wondering how she could have forged such a deep and loving friendship with a misguided kook. And there you both sit, dazed and confused.

Now what?

I have had this experience several times.

Although in love with my friend, I discover that we are on opposing sides of an issue dear to my heart. Suddenly, my discursive mind identifies her as an adversary.

But, wait! I love her!

No, she’s my rival!

But I love her!

But she’s my foe!

And my brain spins from one viewpoint to the other, leaving my heart lying in the wake of confusion. I can’t mentally process the face of my friend as an enemy. It doesn’t compute.  And then I see how conditioned I am to think of anyone who holds a different opinion as an enemy.  How about if they’re just someone who holds a different opinion?

I mean, how am I supposed to demonize the other side if I recognize my friends in the ranks? How can I revile the opposition when I see so many familiar faces? I find it’s so much easier to dislike the other side when I don’t actually know any of them.  It’s much simpler when I can lump everyone together, without a thought to an individual’s circumstance.

We are all deeply attached to our world views and probably don’t see them changing anytime soon. But we can also have a deep and abiding respect for each other. We can practice the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable because friendship is more important than a political stance. At least for now.

I prefer getting to know someone before learning their world view. Then, I can hone in on the real truth of a person and get to know them without the veil of pre-conceived ideas getting in the way. I want to fall in love with you first, and then you can tell me your world view. As the fallout settles, we can either work towards commiserating our brilliant mindsets or end up in the ultimate cage match.

But then at least we can still shake hands and go out for tequila shots afterwards.

Shanan Harrell is a fusion of Iyengar-trained asana teacher blended with a powerful streak of Buddhist warrior and seriously devoted gong player. Shanan has been practicing yoga since 1996 and teaching since 1999. Through the years she has trained with many world class instructors and traveled to Pune, India to study with the Iyengar family in 2004. Her reverent and precise instruction coupled with an irreverent sense of humor make classes safe, fun and challenging. Shanan’s column, Yoga 101, is a regular feature of The Loop newspaper. She is also a recurring contributor to Tehachapi Lifestyle Magazine. Her book, Stumbling Towards Enlightenment: A Yoga 101 Collection is a compilation of her entertaining and thought-provoking columns. Her website can be found at www.tehachapiyoga.com. Buy it now. Buy it often.

Editor: James Carpenter

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