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Wisdom

Dealing With Opinionated People? This Poem Can Help You Find Common Ground

US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo's end-of-class prayer can help you befriend your enemies.

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This Morning I Pray for My Enemies

by Joy Harjo

And whom do I call my enemy?
An enemy must be worthy of engagement.
I turn in the direction of the sun and keep walking.
It’s the heart that asks the question, not my furious mind.
The heart is the smaller cousin of the sun.
It sees and knows everything.
It hears the gnashing even as it hears the blessing.
The door to the mind should only open from the heart.
An enemy who gets in, risks the danger of becoming a friend.

Joy Harjo, now in her third term as poet laureate of the United States, has been a beacon of spiritual growth and direction, especially during some of the toughest moments of 2020. I visited with this poem in particular last fall during the divisive presidential election.

Harjo’s poem reminds me that when we feel threatened, we are hardwired to seek difference. But when we move our nervous systems from a fight-or-flight response to a rest-and-restore one, which yoga helps us do, we seek commonality and even kinship with those whose opinions are different from our own. When we are in a more relaxed and open state, we are more receptive to ourselves and others.

In moving from the sun outside to the sun inside, from enemy to friend, gnashing to blessing, mind to heart, Harjo reminds us that when we pray for an enemy we actually are befriending them.

Lisa Weinert is a New York City–based therapeutic and trauma-informed yoga teacher, writer, and founder of Narrative Healing.