With our political climate being as tense as it is, finding common ground with others—neighbors, friends, family—can prove a challenging task. The election may be behind us, but its polarizing aftermath is still an open wound. So how do we heal and move forward with loving kindness?

The answer, I believe, is with compassion. But, as we all know, demonstrating it can be easier said than done. As we come together to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. this month, his reverence for nonviolence feels especially relevant.

"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Compassion is one of the most powerful ways to bring love and light. I had the good fortune of listening to negotiating expert William Ury on a recent episode of NPR's TED Radio Hour. A Senior Fellow at the Harvard Negotiation Project, Ury is also a longtime mediator and negotiation adviser. For him, healing the divide is all about finding what he calls the third side of the conflict.

"What we don't often seeis that there's always a third side, and the third side of the conflict is us; it's the surrounding community, it's the friends, the allies, the family members, the neighbors, and we can play an incredibly constructive role," says Ury.

This third side, it turns out, depends on compassion. If we're capable of listening to what lies beneath opposing positions, we're then able to embrace the other person's concerns and proceed as one.

In other words, it's about taking an empathetic approach instead of a combative one, which can have a profound ripple effect within our communities. Research has already shown us that compassion is very well contagious. What's more, compassion meditation literally changes the brain for the better.

It all starts with you. Drop into an upcoming breathe bar meditation class and give compassion a try.  We're also working on a special peace & love meditation event on Friday, January 20, recognizing Inauguration Day and Martin Luther King Day.  Stay tuned!  We can't wait to spread compassion with you.
Marianne Hayes is thrilled to join the breathe bar team as a guest contributor. She's a longtime freelance writer with a passion for spiritual growth and inner life.

Sylvia Maldonado