One source, many roads.

Jerusalem, view over the old city.

It is often said how “traveling expands your perspective”, and this is one of the reasons we tell ourselves when we book a holiday and leave to experience another place in order to receive much needed relaxation and freedom from our routines. Frequently it is not only our physical fatigue that demand us to detach and go somewhere, but also the mental stress and contradictions resulting from the often inauthentic lives we live. Often our lives are filled with various roles and characters we embody, which are aimed to be a response to various expectations and demands from outside. These may be real or just perceived, yet they always do demand a great deal of energy. Often our lack of energy is actually an indicator that the way we live our lives may not sufficiently serve our authenticity, and so we acquire stress and anxiety through suppressing and denying our natural, most genuine expression of ourselves.

It is surely true that traveling has this expansive effect in us, not only in the sense that you can learn and see new things and meet other cultures and people, but also because relaxation and curiosity that often accompany us in our traveling literally expands our awareness and perspective. We become more aware, not only of our surroundings but of ourselves as well, and for this reason these new locations we visit offer us a genuine chance to meet and learn more about ourselves. We may have projected various attributes and judgments to our familiar surroundings, therefore becoming blind to see what part of our life-experience is only of our own making and what really is in the environment, what we can alter and change out there. When the environment changes into new, and we carry only ourselves there with us, our projections — as well as our authenticity — is more clearly seen in this otherwise clean slate of unfamiliar surroundings.

Reflections of the inner on the outer

I received a gift to arrive in Jerusalem to engage in university studies here. Through the past months I have gained a glimpse of understanding why this city is regarded as such a special and important place by and for so many. A full spectrum of what we are capable of as humans has been made visible to me through sensing and interacting here. The spiritual beauty of devotional and the intimate closeness between people, as well as the beast of violence and conflict which echoes in the shouts of the people and in the sounds of the semi-automatic weapons. To me therefore Jerusalem shows itself frequently as a microcosm of the whole of our shared ‘humanness’. Perhaps this is why it’s happenings also touch the lives of many everywhere. The broad array of opinions and emotions in my experience that this location has awakened during my stay tell the story of how this humanness is also very integral part of myself. Through these emotions and thoughts, I am watching the constructive as well as the destructive and repressed content and schemes developed by my psyche. Especially when they get projected and reflected into the canvas of this Holy city.

The work of Marshall Rosenberg suggests how conflict arises between us when our strategies to meet our needs clash. He frequently reminded how it is not our core needs that are in conflict with each other, but our interpretations and the strategies we use trying to meet them. For example, it is an instinctive reaction to try to eliminate fear and acquire a sense of safety through control, repression and denial as well as attack. Yet when we apply these strategies within us or between us, the resulting sense of safety is temporary and limited at its best. It is like a dam build to block and oppose a flowing river with a strong and constant current. Eventually it will burst through the barriers. It may happen sooner or at latest when we have exhausted our energy by trying to keep the dam without breaches constantly reinforcing it. Water pierces eventually through even the most solid of rocks, not to mention life through our mental structures.

I am part of a small, very privileged segment of people in this area. Through my Finnish passport, as well as the lack of identification tying me into the conflict of opposing views, nationalities or collective identifications, I am free to move around the city pretty much however I please. There is no fundamental physical blockages in my way as is the case with part of the people living in this area. Neither there are more subtle blocks — caused by fear, preconceptions, or suspicion that can block the way for majority. For me there are no ‘no go’ -zones nor any people who I would not be initially able to meet, to smile at, greet and get to know. I have no enemies here as I take no sides, and actually that gives a possibility to genuinely have the necessary impartiality that is the fertile ground for being able to really take everyone’s side in any conflict.

Is there really a difference?

When discussing with people from ‘both sides’ of the divided yet interconnected city, several needs have surfaced and reached my ears through the voices of some. Part of the people really value their sense of safety and security, and the peace which is seen by them to be a result of achieving these. Others have mentioned how much freedom and equality matters to them, and how these are the necessary steps to be acquired when walking towards the absence of all conflicts. Naturally these attributes voiced are also among those that often have not been available to the people emphasizing them, as the history can show.

Often something causes me to ponder where exactly the conflict lies here in Jerusalem and the broader area surrounding it? Whether I walk in a West Jerusalem neighborhood of Givat Shaul, City center or East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Al Joz, I can see the same tender softness and loving care in the eyes of the parents taking care of their children. The clothing and surface may differ, yet in the eyes the equality is visible for anyone to see. Realizing my privileged position when walking from the Shuk to the Old city, through the Damascus gate towards Sheikh Jarrah, I surprise myself by noticing how safe I actually feel. This freedom to move around facilitates that inner sense of safety, which again nurtures my inner sense of freedom. That inner sense of freedom comes with the awareness that holds me open and grounded - providing a sense of empowerment and of being secure. When finally sitting in a cafe and contemplating all of this, there is a realization how all of the different needs I have heard from the people are so fundamentally interrelated. Like various facets of the same diamond. It hits me how there won’t be safety without freedom, there won’t be security without a deep sense of empathic equality, and there won’t be empathic equality without the willingness to question one’s own experience and perceptions. Just as it is possible to see when traveling, majority of our vision can be clouded by the projections of something repressed and denied within us. The result of this glimpse of understanding reaching my awareness is that there is actually no conflict, quite like Marshall Rosenberg once suggested. And as I enjoy the next sip of my tea, there expands a deep abiding peace within me.

Shalom, Salaam, just the one that people in here and everywhere who lack it truly seem to be longing and striving for.

Like what you read? Give Risto Heikkinen a round of applause.

From a quick cheer to a standing ovation, clap to show how much you enjoyed this story.