Archives for Transformative

Conflict Transformation As A Spiritual Practice

Jesus had a remarkable gift for seeing through everything superficial, for peeling back the layers of the dusty, superficial robes of identity we wear,  to peer into a person’s inner soul.   Whether speaking to a Roman Centurian, to a Samaritan adulteress, or to a distinguished Rabbi,  Jesus always seemed to see beyond title or position and to respond to the deeper thoughts and real need of the individual he was relating to.

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Empowering Questions

Sometimes the question is more important than the answer.  How can we discern what questions to ask?

 

This is a companion post to my earlier article,  Compassion in Listening

In Compassion in Listening, I wrote about the basic idea that when we listen to others, we are not fully available to hear what they are trying to express unless we clear our minds of our preconceived notions and ideas about what they are going to say.   In other words, we must open our minds to hear what they truly want to express, rather than just listening for what we want to hear.

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Where Is The Love?

I was the only person in the bicycle shop.  I was at the counter, making a small purchase and chatting with the owner, when a young man pulled into the parking lot, driving a loud motorcycle.  He strode up to the counter and asked if the bike shop had some part he needed for his motorcycle.

The young fellow was tattooed and pierced.  He had on makeup and had spiked hair.  He was wearing all black Goth clothes.  He made his purchase and left.

This was in the early 1980’s in rural South Carolina.  Around these parts, we didn’t see much of that type of dress.  It brought to mind television images I had seen of neo-Nazis and hate groups.  Not saying a word, I just looked at the owner with an expression that said, “I can’t believe what I just saw!”

“Yeah,” he replied, smiling wryly at me.  “But I had long hair when I was a kid.  And because of the way people responded to me when I was a teenager, I swore that I’d never judge anybody by their appearance.”

His comment brought me back around to remembering my own teenage years, when I, too, didn’t always dress or act as my elders would have preferred.

Lesson learned.  What the bicycle shop owner did was to help me see that young man not as an “other,” but as an individual who might be like me, a person who had hopes and fears and motives for his dress.  A person like me, for whom I might have compassion.  That bike shop owner reminded me not to  prejudge, not to put people in separate categories of “otherness”, merely based on superficial appearances.

How often do we judge each other based on superficial things like appearance, associations, or first impressions?

I find I tend to judge many things by their appearance.  Rap music, for example.  I have a preconceived notion, not entirely unjustified, that much of it is about banal and exploitative of women.  I don’t normally listen to rap, but like that young man, some of it should not be judged solely by its appearance.  Check out these lyrics (below) of “Where Is the Love” by the Black Eyed Peas :

 

What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love
The love, the love
It just ain’t the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don’t belong
Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin’ really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin’ wrong
In this world that we livin’ in people keep on givin’
in
Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover
The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where’s the love, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the truth, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the love, y’all
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love, the love, the love?
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ down
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?
Sing wit me y’all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That’s all we got)
One world, one world
And something’s wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong wit the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That’s all we got
(One world, one world)

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What’s wrong with the world, mama
People livin’ like they ain’t got no mamas
I think the whole world addicted to the drama
Only attracted to things that’ll bring you trauma
Overseas, yeah, we try to stop terrorism
But we still got terrorists here livin’
In the USA, the big CIA
The Bloods and The Crips and the KKK
But if you only have love for your own race
Then you only leave space to discriminate
And to discriminate only generates hate
And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah
Madness is what you demonstrate
And that’s exactly how anger works and operates
Man, you gotta have love just to set it straight
Take control of your mind and meditate
Let your soul gravitate to the love, y’all, y’all
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love
The love, the love
It just ain’t the same, always unchanged
New days are strange, is the world insane
If love and peace is so strong
Why are there pieces of love that don’t belong
Nations droppin’ bombs
Chemical gasses fillin’ lungs of little ones
With ongoin’ sufferin’ as the youth die young
So ask yourself is the lovin’ really gone
So I could ask myself really what is goin’ wrong
In this world that we livin’ in people keep on givin’
in
Makin’ wrong decisions, only visions of them dividends
Not respectin’ each other, deny thy brother
A war is goin’ on but the reason’s undercover
The truth is kept secret, it’s swept under the rug
If you never know truth then you never know love
Where’s the love, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the truth, y’all, come on (I don’t know)
Where’s the love, y’all
People killin’, people dyin’
Children hurt and you hear them cryin’
Can you practice what you preach
And would you turn the other cheek
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love (Love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love (The love)
Where is the love, the love, the love?
I feel the weight of the world on my shoulder
As I’m gettin’ older, y’all, people gets colder
Most of us only care about money makin’
Selfishness got us followin’ our wrong direction
Wrong information always shown by the media
Negative images is the main criteria
Infecting the young minds faster than bacteria
Kids wanna act like what they see in the cinema
Yo’, whatever happened to the values of humanity
Whatever happened to the fairness in equality
Instead of spreading love we’re spreading animosity
Lack of understanding, leading lives away from unity
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
That’s the reason why sometimes I’m feelin’ down
There’s no wonder why sometimes I’m feelin’ under
Gotta keep my faith alive till love is found
Now ask yourself
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Where is the love?
Father, Father, Father help us
Send some guidance from above
‘Cause people got me, got me questionin’
Where is the love?
Sing wit me y’all:
One world, one world (We only got)
One world, one world (That’s all we got)
One world, one world
And something’s wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong wit it (Yeah)
Something’s wrong wit the wo-wo-world, yeah
We only got
(One world, one world)
That’s all we got
(One world, one world)

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Santa, the Nativity, and … What?

An Advent Message for 2010

Of course Christ is the center of Christmas.  But, in fact, the season holds something for everyone who seeks a better world.   This is because,  no matter what a person’s faith — Muslim, Jew, Christian, Buddhist, Hindu, Daoist, Atheist, or something else  — the Nativity gives each of us an opportunity to open our mind to the possibility of  miracles, including the  the miracle of peace.

By focusing our mind on the concrete reality of an historical, embodied fact, the Nativity of Christ invites us to imagine concrete ways an ordinary individual can seek the extraordinary —  even the miraculous – in the context of our ordinary lives.  

The spirit of the Advent and Christmas season even invites us to take action that could make that imagined, and better, world become a reality.

An example of how the ordinary can become extraordinary lies in the legend of St. Nick.  Was he really just an ordinary guy who gave some gifts to some kids at Christmas?  Is he a magical elf who wears a red suit and lives at the North Pole?  Or, is he something else altogether?

This season, we at Just Mediation, LLC, know of a young child, age ten, who has begun to confirm their suspicions that the person who puts presents under the Christmas tree during the middle of the night on Christmas eve is not a person who arrives with reindeer and a red suit.

But does this realization, that the presents arrived in a different way than previously thought,  make the miracle of Santa any less of a miracle?

This little person has always been told that “Santa is someone who loves you very much.”   Does the fact that Santa has a different permanent address than they previously imagined take away any at all from the joy and love of the Christmas spirit? 

For many children, it does take away.  Most of us can remember with some sadness the first year we found out that Santa “wasn’t real”.  But, what if there were some way to hold on to that magical feeling about Santa?

In a sense, no matter what the physical facts, it can be said that “he who believes, receives”.   It is possible for Santa to remain very real, immortal, and miraculous.  How?  Because we make it so.   As adults with a more refined understanding of Santa, we can choose to redefine the way we view him.   Santa endures because he symbolizes, for all of us,  a spirit of giving, the magical power of love, and a wish for a world where all of our best childhood dreams come true.

We hope the child will come to understand that even if Santa doesn’t squeeze down a chimney, there is still magic.  There are still secrets, there is still giving, and there is still joy in Christmas.    If the child can hold on to this sense of the reality of Santa, even while the child gains understanding of the “facts” of Santa, the child will have achieved a better understanding (indeed!) of the true magic of Christmas.  

A true transformation of understanding will have occurred, and the child will have acquired a deeper and richer understanding of the meaning of the Christmas season.

The child’s transformation of understanding then becomes a lesson concerning love.   A new wisdom concerning the magic of Christmas will then be carried forward and continue to shape the way the child relates to others during the Christmas season.

Transformation of one’s understanding of conflict, as applied through the style of conflict transformation employed by our mediators, works in a similar way. 

The goal of the conflict consultants at Just Mediation, LLC, is not just to “solve” a problem by settling a case, allowing each mediator to get a “settlement star” on our achievement chart.   Rather, our goal is to transform your experience of conflict, literally, in a way that perhaps can be explained by the example of the child’s transformed understanding at Christmas.

Our hope is that by assisting you in gaining insight to see your conflict in a new way, and in helping all parties to achieve a deeper understanding of the conflict itself, this insight may then open the door to new possibilities and new imaginings of how to resolve it.    It’s not always easy.  Old presumptions sometimes must be replaced with a new understanding.   There may be challenging issues, and old habits of  communication and distrust may need to be overcome.   Yet, with this new insight, sometimes the previously unimaginable becomes possible.

To characterize agreements reached through conflict transformation as the result of “compromise” is trite.   To call this “win win” is not always quite accurate.  But to call it a sound method for achieving a better result, that is quite accurate. 

And sometimes, though not always, the results can be almost miraculous, offering participants an opportunity to transcend the “what has been” and achieve a better future.

As you contemplate the miracle of Christmas, we invite you to be open to the possibility of miracles everywhere.  Including the possibility that miracles sometimes can happen even in the ordinary, mundane world we inhabit in our daily lives.

Behold!  A mere babe in a manger.  Yet on another level, this Christmas season, be open to the idea that what is truly “real” may be altogether different from what is readily seen.

Tissot, Journey of the Magi (courtesy Wikimedia Commons)

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