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I Am Everyone (Or How To Live Together Peacefully)

by Vicki McKenna(more info)

listed in chinese oriental medicine, originally published in issue 222 - May 2015


When people see some things as beautiful,
Other things become ugly.
When people see some things as good,..
Other things become bad.

(Dao De Jing, Chapter 2)

Taking Sides

At the time of writing, the world had just witnessed the awful massacre of the editorial staff at the Charlie Hebdo magazine. News of the murders was greeted with shock and fear, but hard on the heels of those emotions came a spontaneous uprush of grief, anger and solidarity as people gathered in central Paris to proclaim “Je Suis Charlie”. This was an understandably emotional reaction to an attack on the values of liberty and freedom of speech - values held in high esteem in the west. By saying “I am Charlie” people were supporting not only the murdered staff of the magazine but also the right to free speech. The response in Paris was peaceful and measured, but none the less this was not the Daoist Way.

Vicki McKenna 222 How to Live Together


For most of us, once we take sides and attach ourselves to one cause or thing we are automatically taking a position that opposes another cause or thing. As in the quote above, if you see some things as beautiful then other things will appear ugly. In this way you become prejudiced and this will affect your flow of Chi and therefore how you respond to any given situation. To hold the view, as many who gathered in Paris did, to the terrible massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office, that all liberal thinking is entirely right entails believing that all extremists are totally wrong. Discriminating in this way, adhering firmly to one side, creates an ‘us and them’. This dualistic way of thinking means we are more likely to prejudge ‘them’ as being evil villains. Being prejudiced in this way, we feel angry and fearful; these emotions will block the flow of our vital Chi energy, distorting our perception and making us unable to resolve challenging situations peacefully. Daoism understands this process and teaches us instead to perceive situations through a lens that is non prejudicial, clear and sensitive so that we may find creative and peaceful ways to live with one another.

Of course we must condemn the violent murders of the Charlie Hebdo staff - no doubt about it, but we need to take a non-prejudicial, clear and sensitive  position towards challenging situations rather than finding ourselves caught up in an emotional whirlwind. As we cultivate non-discrimination, letting go of anger and fear, we are more likely to reach an outcome that is harmonious and healing. In order to do this we need to be sensitive and clear in ourselves; part of this involves examining and owning our own dark side. We need to be aware of our own personal submerged feelings and prejudices and also the collective feelings and prejudices in our society. There are many covert forms of extremism within our own western society - for example in the way we pollute our planet with digital technology or GM crops or in the way we push images of thin people as being role models for young women - the examples are numerous! And it is also extremist to lack sensitivity for someone’s religious viewpoint!  

Living in Harmony

Daoism suggests that to collectively heal and live together in harmony we need to consciously cultivate non prejudicial, clear and sensitive qualities in ourselves - qualities in short supply in the extremist cartoons of Charlie Hebdo. The Daoist does not participate in a culture of separation and prejudice - creating barriers between people is seen as a way of blocking and wasting energy - precious Chi must never be blocked or wasted! So rather than being extremist and taking sides, feeding anger and fear, Daoists cultivate non-discrimination and dispassion so that they may encourage a free flow of Chi and so create harmony and healing within. Furthermore as Daoists seek harmony in this way for themselves they are aware that, as part of the whole, they affect the entire web of life.  So by not taking sides, instead of saying "I am Charlie” Daoists might say "I am Everyone" and by practising non-discriminative thinking, peaceful solutions to challenging situations are more easily attained. 

Here is an exercise to encourage non discriminate thinking, openness and thus free flow of Chi. Decide to consciously spend one day per week fully listening when conversing. Rather than formulating opinions, stay fully open and hear the other person. Rather than judging and evaluating a conversation, allow yourself to stay in touch with how you feel during your conversations that day.

Use the following techniques

  1. In conversation stay open, do not interrupt but instead listen fully;
  2. Observe how you listen - are you absorbing what is actually being said or imposing what you would like to hear? Are you thinking ahead to your reply rather than staying present with what is being said? Are you judging the person you are conversing with?
  3. Observe how you feel during conversations. Are you feeling happy, angry, sad? Be aware where you are holding emotions in your body - is your chest tight, shoulders stooped? Are you clenching your hands, breathing from your upper chest? As you tune in allow yourself to let go and release tension, breathe gently from your belly;
  4. After interacting with someone reflect on how you feel and if you can, send that person the light of loving peacefulness from your heart.

These techniques will become habitual if practised enough and in this way we encourage non discriminative thinking, openness and free flow of Chi, bringing peaceful, harmonious resolutions to challenging situations.


  1. Simon Cole said..

    I like this article. I like the balance and I like its sentiment. Openness is key... and I would add non-attachment, because it is when we cling too firmly to ideas and opinions which we think MUST be right, that we lose the ability to listen and receive the other openly.

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About Vicki McKenna

Vicki McKenna BA Lic Ac trained at The College of Traditional Chinese Acupuncture in Leamington Spa with Professor Worsley from 1981 gaining her Lic Ac. in 1984 and has been practising acupuncture in Scotland since then. Her book A Balanced Way Of Living; Practical and Holistic Strategies for Coping with Post Polio Syndrome is available from 


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