Conclusion: Belonging in Action
We can turn our attention to one version of our current reality: that our common bond is wearing away and that we must fear one another to survive. Or, we can pivot toward ever-present examples of hope and find that solidarity is the true healing modality that enables us to thrive. The threats we face today, from climate change to Covid-19, cannot be survived without collaboration and cooperation through bridging. A profound commitment to bridging is essential to counter the narrative of hard breaking that has captured the hearts and minds of millions through fear.
Stories and case studies of bridging, as illustrated in the previous pages, not only offer a critical salve in an increasingly fractured world, but also provide tangible frameworks and replicable strategies illustrating how to unify across difference, build coalitions, boost collective resilience, and support community revitalization. These stories teach us that oneness is not sameness, and that we can overcome the false illusion of separateness by acknowledging and honoring our differences to weave toward common purpose. We can transcend the notion that difference divides us, and instead see that diversity makes us stronger and more resilient.
As an institute dedicated to exploring both the intuitive and intricate nature of belonging, the concept of bridging helps us crystallize a collective understanding of this essential notion. As we continue to facilitate societal belonging, we are inspired by trailblazing research on compassion through the work of Dr. Tania Singer, who developed “heart-centered listening,” also known as “contemplative dyads,” where two people participate in meditative listening and connection.26 This interpersonal practice is proven to reduce cortisol stress in both participants by 50 percent.27 More tangibly, we have also explored the power of shared sacred sites as one of the most profound illustrations of peaceful coexistence across different backgrounds and beliefs—a potent example of bridging toward belonging.28
We look forward to expanding this collection of research and stories to channel this moment of radical transformation and help nurture a society that recognizes the humanity of all people, cares for the earth, and celebrates our inherent interconnectedness. This moment finds us on a precipice, and we can choose to either continue the well-worn path of exclusion, supremacy, and othering, fueled by narratives of fear and threats, or we can elevate existing stories and write new ones of mutuality and interdependence toward a more inclusive “we,” ripe with possibility.
- 26. Dr. Tania Singer, “Heart-Centered Listening Makes Us More Compassionate than Mindfulness Alone” Sidewalk Talk, December 2, 2019.
- 27. Dr. Tania Singer and Matthias Bolz, Compassion. Bridging Practice and Science, (Max Planck Society, 2013).
- 28. Karen Barkey, Contemporary Cases of Shared Sacred Sites: Forms of Othering or Belonging?, (Berkeley, CA: Othering & Belonging Institute, 2018). http://www.otheringandbelonging.org/sharedsacredsites/