Seeking Unity Within Disagreement

By Drew

Stories From Meditators

Drew is a young adult living outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In this interview with the BMCM Team, Drew reflects on how his spiritual practice helps him live out his spiritual principles and find unity with those around him.

BMCM Team:

Hi Drew, thanks for chatting with us. Could you share how you think about your principles or ideals, and how your spiritual practice is related to them?


For me, a principle is a value. It’s an ideal that I hold close to my heart, and that I want to try and bring into my daily life. Not coincidently, a lot of these principles are ones that I drive deep into my mind through meditation, or try to draw upon through meditation.

What the passages allow me to do is to hone my spiritual principles. Through my practice of the eight points I can figure out how to translate them into my daily life, and then apply them to different situations.

In an ideal world, my principles would be driving everything in my daily life. Everything from a small decision like how to spend five extra minutes, to bigger decisions like how to deal with a conflict with somebody else.

I say “ideally” because that’s not always the case. A lot of times, speed, or stress, or negative emotions, kind of make me fall out of touch with my principles in my day to day life, but I would love to have them be the guiding force in my life, and to be the things that I consult when I’m making my day-to-day life decisions.

Drew and his wife.

BMCM Team:

When you notice that you’re sped up, or stressed, and not taking full advantage of those principles, what are strategies to get you back to your best?


Generally, what will happen is that I will notice that I am sped up,  which makes my mind more susceptible to negative emotions like anger, or just feeling sad and hurt. One of my first steps when I notice that all these things are happening is to use the mantram to slow down, to be able to get more control. 

After that, I really try to utilize one-pointed attention to see more behind what’s agitating me – to get to the heart and the motivations of things.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how to live up to my principles in interactions with others – especially when I’m faced with people who have different ideals than myself. In these situations, my goal is to think about why people have approached things the way they’ve approached them, what motivates them, what’s driving the way that they’ve approached a situation that maybe I disagree with.

I find that if I can put my one-pointed attention on the good parts in general of that person, then using my mantram and being one pointed allows me to find within myself some compassion and common ground. This influences how I relate to them and usually results in more collaboration rather than friction and clashing.

BMCM Team:

Those are great strategies – especially that idea of focusing on unity. Do you have an example of where you’ve used them with a person whose principles are different than yours?


Interestingly enough, the story that comes to mind isn’t one where I was able to be successful, but saw success in someone else.

There’s a situation at my job where we collaborate with other service organizations that work to provide healthcare for clients. On one occasion we were working with an organization with a very different philosophy than ours.

Both teams were all in a meeting and I found my mind was very agitated. I didn’t like or agree with the way this other organization went about things and found my mind continually ruminating on those thoughts – I had completely forgotten my strategies! I could tell a lot of other people from my team were also having a difficult time.

But, in the midst of all this, I noticed that the person who was running the meeting was not agitated. In fact, she was very calmly and respectfully talking with them about the services they offer and really building this great connection – which I found very admirable. I wanted to find out how she did that.

I spoke with her afterwards. What she said was something along the lines of, “these people have come here, and it’s clear their motivations and intentions are very good, even if they were approaching service in a way that we didn’t agree with, or thought was the right way to do it.”

I really appreciated that. Where I had gotten stuck on these differences in principles and philosophy, she had been able to see to the core of what was going on for them, seeing the good motivations and good things they were trying to do. She was relating to them on that level, not on the surface level of things.

Seeing this in action really resonated with me.

Drew and a friend at a BMCM event in Northern California.

BMCM Team:

How cool to see this strategy of unity building in real life! Did her actions change the situation?


I’m not sure whether or not that it did, but it definitely changed my outlook on the situation. Maybe that means it did.

I think that compassion really does come from understanding where people come from and what’s driving them. This makes it easy, in some ways, to not be as agitated when differences in principle come up.

What I really found helpful in Easwaran’s writings, especially about Gandhi, is this idea that Gandhi would speak out and work to change situations that he viewed as unjust or as harmful to all, but he also always stressed the value of coming from a place of love and respect.

BMCM Team:

You mentioned at the beginning that you use passages to drive your ideals deep. Are there any passages that come to mind on this topic?


One of my favorite passages is “The Sermon on the Mount” with the ideal of loving your enemies as yourself. The loftiness of that ideal, if I can bring that into my life – I mean, we talk about having an impact – that would have such a profound impact to be able to do that.

Another one that’s often in my rotation is “United in Heart.” Again it’s this idea that we are united in these differences. It says to me that there are all these different levels where we can be united, and it’s an ideal to strive for.

BMCM Team:

What do you think is the broader impact when someone lives out their spiritual principles?


It’s an interesting question. I whole-heartedly believe Easwaran’s message that one person practicing their spiritual principles can change the world. So practicing the eight points is really a huge contribution not only to our families, but our communities, and the broader world.

But I also think there’s an impact I can have on social issues. I recognize that as one person there’s a limited amount that I can do, but if I continue to work with others who are like minded, and I’m persistent with it, and I keep trying new things, then I think there could be an impact.

BMCM Team:

Interesting. Are there ways you’re using your spiritual practice to engage with people who have different principles then you?


As it happens, one place where I regularly work on how to engage on differences of principle is with my own wife.

While we do have similar values, we sometimes differ in our opinion of their execution. In the past, these differences often led to stormy disagreements and tended to involve not a lot of listening on my part and a fair bit of digging in my heels.  But, in recent years, I've made a concerted effort to listen better, to understand and indicate understanding of her perspective and feelings. 

This often involves repeating the mantram to manage the fluctuations in my mind, and while I can't say I've always consciously used them, slowing down, one pointed attention, and sense training have also played a role.

Drew and his wife.

The times when I've been most effective in listening to my wife, and working towards understanding and common ground, have been the times I could slow my racing mind down, and keep myself focused on her and her perspective, no matter how much my mind was yelling at me and no matter how much my senses protested that they did not like the opinion or the fact we had to have the conversation at all.

I have also sometimes used one-pointed attention to shift my focus to all the nice things my wife does for me, and that has also helped in listening and coming to some understanding in matters of difference in principle.

On a broader scale though, it’s definitely a work in progress. I’ve only recently been working on actively engaging with others apart from close family who have differing principles, like in the political realm. But, the one thing I’m convinced of is that there has to be that love and respect, even in the face of somebody who has a different view from you. That doesn’t mean you have to be a doormat, but I think that unless you come from a place of love and respect things aren’t going to change. That’s where I go back to passages like the "Sermon on the Mount." I’m still figuring out how to fully live out “loving my enemies” in my daily life.

BMCM Team:

These are wonderful observations Drew. What an amazing shift to think about actively engaging with folks who differ from us – to really be looking for what unites us, even in disagreement.


I agree. It really gets me thinking!

One last thing I’ll share is that I have faith that if I’m using the eight points I will eventually have the level of detachment that I need to be able to have these difficult conversations and interactions. 

I have faith that I’ll be able to do these things with the eight points because all the tools are there.  I just have to keep practicing and experimenting with them.