Mindfulness of Cultural Differences and Balancing Relationships

It is an amazing gift that we have such easy access to so many different cultures and backgrounds in our world. The best part of it is that we could share each other's strengths and aspirations. Learn from each other's life styles, traditions, life strategies and wisdom. Here in this image, the artist skillfully relays the message of how relationships can be held together successfully. In fact, this could apply to any type of relationship. Keeping a balance between the doing (masculine) vs. the being (feminine).

At one of our groups, I helped students see what it means to have balance within oneself and with one's partner. Many women today, do, do and do some more. They have increased their hard, masculine, doing side so much that their soft, feminine, observing, caring, nurturing, creative and "being" side has suffered. In the US, the man doing, woman doing and neither "being" is causing lots of stress and unhappiness. Divorce rate is too high and the cause of it, lack of balance, is not obvious. To clarify you do not have to be a female to have a soft, creative, observing, kind, caring and giving side. In fact, man and woman alike would live a more fulfilling life by having a balance of both the hard and the soft characteristics of humanity. Specially in societies such as the US, which is highly individualistic and couple roles are not so well defined this balance has been lost. The good news is that the "doing" and "being" balance can be cultivated.

On my way to the airport, I had a lovely chat with the young Uber driver who was from Africa. So polite and kind. He opened his heart and shared that he has lived in the US for a few years and that he has been looking for a wife to settle down with. That it was difficult because girls in LA did not look at marriage the way he had seen it growing up. The only model of relationship he knows is a man being responsible to work outside and provide financial means and the woman take care of the home, children and the man. He felt a bit hopeless and confused because he felt his chances to play the "man" role as his father did and be cared for by a woman, as his mother did, seemed not possible in California. He was adamant that this was the right way for families to live by.

As I reflected back, I remembered how hard it was for myself as a young girl to assimilate into an individualistic culture and felt compassion for this young driver who like so many, tries to navigate life in a foreign land. He was bright, curious and wanted some answers. The trip was going to be short and his understandable bias was in the way. With that mindset he had already had a couple of bad experiences. So, I tried to shift his attention to the vast variety of life styles that he could explore and perhaps take the best of each culture and make up his own version.

That he is not stuck with living life the exact way as they do back home or the exact way it is lived in California. To look at the big picture, the globe and its different regions composed of colorful cultures, rich languages, deep belief systems and interesting styles of living. To see the reality and appropriateness to live life in different manners as people do, according to their geography, their political systems, economic make up, their religion, their traditions, etc. To reflect that everyone, no matter the way they manifest, is looking for happiness, for success, for peace, for good health, for love and respect. Everyone wants to matter the same way that he does.

Living in a foreign land, you are lucky, I said, for you have the advantage of knowing another language and way of life and the second language you know gives your brain a bigger capacity for understanding. You also understand what it feels like to be cared for, nurtured and what it means to be responsible. So think of it like this, no matter where one lives, daily tasks and finances must be taken care of regardless of who takes care of them. Then moved him towards a him to a higher level of happiness through balance within himself. Balance between achieving and nurturing, giving and receiving, doing and creating. With this balance he could feel more confident, worthy, happy and make another happy as well. That if he were to bring only half the part into a relationship and look for the other half in his partner, that may not work in an individualistic society. But if he cultivated both the soft and the hard characteristics of being and doing within himself and came into a relationship a whole person; then meeting another whole person or one he could teach how to be whole, would make a lasting and fulfilling relationship.

I stressed that in order to have a dependable happiness, harmony and success it is important to develop the skills to understand himself, his inner thoughts, perceptions, biases, emotions and the skill to see things as they are, without judgment. This would enable him to connect with others with greater respect and kindness, give and receive appropriately and make lasting and meaningful relationships.

As we approached the gate, I looked him in the eye and said, "Make sure you live your life well as you are the only person living your life." He smiled, shook my hand and we parted.

I would love to hear about your culture, traditions and or your experience of other cultures, specially with a life partner. Has any other style of life impacted yours in a positive way? What positive behaviors, rituals or view points have you adopted from others?

Life is a journey of learning, shifting and growing. May yours be filled with amazing ventures and paradigms.

Dr. Motaghy is a UCLA Authorized Mindfulness Teacher and Employee Trainer. For articles by this author on leadership and Mindfulness go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/manijeh-motaghy/

For Free guided Mindfulness Meditation and Mindfulness talks go to: http://www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/mindfulvalley