Bismi’Llāhi ir-Raḥmān ir-Raḥīm
In the Name of God, the Universally Merciful, the Singularly Compassionate


2021 has already been quite a year, and we still have four months to go! It’s no secret that humanity is ideologically polarized and socially fractured. Even families have been split apart. While differences of opinion are normal, the severe erosion of civility has especially marked these last five years. Can respect, kindness, and unity be restored? Is the damage too deep? Are we on a spin cycle, repeating the same mistakes made over thousands of years. The German philosopher Friedrich Hegel said, “The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history.” I wish this was not true. I do agree with Edwin Starr, who sang, “War, huh, yeah! What is it good for? Absolutely nothing, uhuh.” I believe that “war” includes all acts of aggression, whether verbal, emotional, physical, social, political, or national. I pray that we transcend divisive ways of relating that breed aggression and violence.

Many advocating for valid concerns and with good intentions fall into the unfortunate trap of approaching our challenges as a confrontation—engorged with frustration, anger, or rage. The objective of resolving a problem is undermined by the very approach taken. For example, if you invite people to a good idea but use blame and shame in your presentation, you have already poisoned the space you are working to build. The community will be further divided.

A fundamental criteria in evaluating the soundness and integrity of any message is listening and feeling to see whether the energy of the message unites or divides. The mindset of confrontation typically scapegoats a segment of society to motivate people (negatively), effectively creating an “enemy” for people to direct their angst and ire towards. But we only dehumanize others at the expense of our own humanity. Unity, however, includes and embraces everyone. No one is left behind. Every voice matters. No fear or concern is too insignificant to be heard and honored. The collective spirit of unity is constructive, not destructive.

We must not give up hope. When we stop caring, we cease to truly live. We should strive to be ambassadors of goodness. Especially in a time of aggression, it is a revolutionary act to practice kindness. This is where the skill of non-violent, heart-centered communication powerfully comes to bear. This work, however, begins within our own selves. Cultivate the skill of exploring your experiences in order to process your emotions, find clarity, recover your inner space, and realize the deeper wisdom. While I can’t force people to be any particular way, I can at least invite my own heart to a deep abiding peace and kindness, so that I might be an instrument of goodness in the world. The timeless prayer of St. Francis of Assisi often comes to mind as a particularly deep medicine:

O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal -Life.

Here are a few guidelines I employ to stay in unity consciousness while engaged with people (especially in the impersonal, disembodied mental cyberspace of social media that can easily get quite argumentative and confrontational):

  • Be respectful and kind, everywhere and always.
  • Safeguard an unwavering commitment to truth (note: information is not “truth”). You might also realize deep humility as a result, as it’s extremely difficult to assert any point with absolute certainty. Beware of falling into the trap of repeating information you have heard as if it is truth (It doesn’t really matter who said it, though we like to think it does. If you don’t have direct knowledge, you technically don’t “know”).
  • Be guided by the Divine ﷻ, and not by ego. Avoid argument, and watch carefully any desire to be “right.” Speak only when necessary, sparingly, and what serves the greater good.

One of the essential practices I engage at the end of each year is an annual review. I can already sense that my 2021 review will be especially important to bring closure to what has been a tenuous year.

The Reset.Remember.Revive. retreat we have scheduled for late December in Costa Rica is intentionally held at the transition into the new year—a critical time of closure and integration. We will spend time releasing the negative residue of the past year so as to understand its lessons and harvest and integrate its blessings. This is followed by listening for the Divine Invitation ﷻ in the new year, so that we can articulate clear intentions that will ‘seed’ the time ahead and allow us to fully receive the grace that Allāh ﷻ is offering us. The entire experience is powerfully facilitated by the paradisal setting of Costa Rica and the sacred space held by the Pura Vida family. If your heart feels called, consider joining us. More details can be found here.


© Ḥakīm Ilyās Kāshānī