The Self-Connection Process and “Taking the 3rd Chair” in Difficult Conversations

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In our Mediate Your Life training, we offer what is called a Self-Connection Process. This process integrates mindfulness with language components of Compassionate Communication (Nonviolent Communication/NVC), and a 3-chair mediation framework that provides different processes we call “maps” to navigate life’s challenges and difficult conversations.

The Self-Connection Process map enables you to find the inner “3rd chair” of awareness. From this place, you can observe the “opposing chairs” of thoughts and feelings, and effectively navigate the storminess and rough terrains of conflict to find connection on the other side where new possibilities emerge for solving problems and experiencing well being.

The Steps of the Self-Connection Process: Breath, Body, Need

Breath. Observe your breath. Follow it in and out. As you observe the breath, observe the conversation of thoughts in your mind — the consciously talking to yourself thoughts, words, beliefs, and the automatic, habitual thoughts that pass through: perceptions, images, stories, evaluations, judgments of others and yourself. With the breath as your anchor, over and over stepping back into the inner 3rd chair, observing the flow of thoughts and beliefs. Past, future, “self” and “other” come and go, arising and dissolving like shadowy, misty phantoms, pure potential, not actual. You are the space of awareness in which this coming and going happens. Sense perceptions come alive — sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste!

Body. Feel your body. Feel the conversation of sensations and emotions, especially the difficult ones: the fear, anger, hurt, suffering. Slow and deepen your breath, activating the parasympathetic nervous system, relaxing with each out breath. When thoughts come, such as who or what’s to blame, return to feeling rather than thinking, allowing your body to process and let go. From the inner 3rd chair, you are the presence that feels, not the feelings and thoughts that pass through. Positive and negative fade. There is just feeling the energy, aliveness, life force animating and flowing through your body.

Need. At the source of thoughts and feelings are needs — human and universal — a language of life, of connection and commonality: safety, love, freedom. From the 3rd chair you see the conversation between thoughts and feelings, self and other. Need is the space “between the chairs” that connects everything, that surrounds and binds all we perceive into one whole. And need is a word that points to Life, what humanistic psychology pioneer Carl Rogers called the “actualizing tendency” in the Universe, the source of new creation, synthesis, and emergent possibilities. Bring attention to the space between all you perceive in awareness, and see with compassion everything, everything dancing the dance of need meeting needs.

“Do it only if it’s play,” my mentor Marshall Rosenberg would say. “Follow your bliss,” mythologist Joseph Campbell famously encouraged. Taking action becomes play and bliss when we’re in the service of meeting needs, following our heart, giving and receiving, when we’re using our enormous power to enrich life and make life better for others and ourselves. It is acting from an authentic place, and not from the demands of fear or anger. Can you sense the choice that quietly arises in you as request, the truth that wants to be chosen? Can you find the courage to let this choice choose you and the solution find you? We are the dance. Life is the Dancer. What new thoughts and actions flow in you from needs: inspiration, kindness, service, giving, gratitude, joy, beauty, love?

From this place, the light of empathy shines on self and other, and you see with compassion the underlying commonality and connection that transforms and liberates. Action arises as choice, no demand, have to, or should, just kindness in service of well being.

For information on public training see mediateyourlife.com. For more information on organizational training and support for difficult conversations see johnkinyon.com.

Self-Connection in the Midst of Difficulty: Mindfulness, The Power of Conflict, and The Hero/Heroine’s Journey

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Mindfulness & Conflict

Mindfulness is a hot topic these days. Research tells us that it’s linked to all kinds of psychological and physical measures of health, happiness, and optimal functioning in personal and work life. An increasing percentage of people are learning and practicing mindfulness in a wide range of settings, including organizations and institutions.

Mindfulness is also relevant in responding to difficulty and conflict. There are the difficulties of our daily lives, and there is the incredible suffering, heartbreaking violence, and political divisions that are becoming increasingly more visible and disturbing. Do we respond in ways that create the world we want, or do we end up creating more of what we don’t want?

A phrase that has a lot of meaning to me is, the power of conflict. I believe that within conflict is the potential for reaching new and greater possibilities, if we have the ability to successfully navigate it. I have found that integrating mindfulness, particularly nondual mindfulness, with communication and a framework that supports empathy, compassion, and collaboration, makes responding to the suffering and challenges in our own lives, and in the larger society and world, not only more effective, but can turn it into a mythic journey of discovery and an alchemy of transformation!

Self-Connection

In our Mediate Your Life training, we offer what is called a Self-Connection Process. This process integrates mindfulness with language components of Compassionate Communication (Nonviolent Communication/NVC), and a 3-chair mediation framework to navigate life’s challenges and difficult conversations.

Self-Connection enables you to find the inner “3rd chair” of awareness. From this place, you can observe the “opposing chairs” of thoughts and feelings, and effectively navigate the storminess and rough terrains of conflict to find connection on the other side where new possibilities emerge for solving problems and experiencing well being.

The Hero/Heroine’s Journey: Evolving Our Brain to Respond to the Challenges We Face

Neuroscience research shows that dedicated meditation practice changes the brain in positive ways. We have the power to evolve our brains by how we consistently use attention and language. I highly recommend daily meditation as self-connection practice. Research on the benefits is clear and compelling.

For me, however, mindfulness and self-connection is to continually return to the inner 3rd chair of awareness, presence, and choice. It is the journey of navigating through the challenges of everyday life and the tremendous hardships of this world with empathic connection and compassion between self and others. I still often fall back into identifying with thoughts, beliefs, and emotional reactions, but it is in remembering to return to the inner seat of awareness through breath, body, need that I can then be and act from a different place. This place is the mythological hero/heroine’s journey of transcendence. It is tapping into the creative power within conflict in constructive ways, giving poetry, purpose, and deep meaning and possibility to daily living. If you’re not already, will you join me in this adventure?

In this way, we build new habits, new neural pathways in our brain to create connection in the midst of difficulty, and respond in harmony with what we value. Together we human beings can respond to the challenges we face, and create a peaceful, healthy, and sustainable world.

For information on public training see mediateyourlife.com. For more information on organizational training and support for difficult conversations see johnkinyon.com

3 Steps to Make Your New Year’s Resolution Stick

NYResIt’s April and I feel crummy because a voice in my head is beating me up. On January 1st, I joined a new gym 3 blocks from my house with the resolution that I would work out diligently. After the initial flush of enthusiasm, I haven’t been going to the gym regularly. Instead, I’ve fallen back into my old habits of looking for something to binge on like Netflix in order to unwind from my days. Just over three months after my New Year’s Resolution, I’m telling myself I’ve failed:  I’ve wasted my membership and moreover, this is a pattern that speaks to my whole life.

If this scenario sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. The research shows that most of us don’t keep the New Year’s resolutions we make. Each year, many of us set ourselves up to fail and then criticize ourselves mercilessly when we do fail.  So, what can we do to increase the likelihood that we will have a different story to tell come April?

So how do we formulate a plan?

The First Step is to create what I call the “Main Agreement.” The Main Agreement is what we are committing to do.gym-panorama-28914735  In this case, it is our New Year’s Resolution. My Present Self is, in effect, committing my Future Self to do something. And the “me” who shows up in the future, will likely be different than my Present self. And here lies the rub. I am, in this moment, committing a future version of myself to do something that the future version of myself did not agree to do. So what I’m committed to do now, and what I’ve imagined will make my life better, may not be what my Future Self will agree makes his life better.

To increase the likelihood that these Selves will agree, I suggest that the Main Agreement be very specific and doable.  So, instead of resolving “ join the gym and get in great shape,”  I would instead resolve to “join the gym and do least 15 minutes of cardio at least 3 times a week.” The specificity of this second resolution  helps me to be accountable to myself and others that I’ve told about my resolution.  

Often, after we’ve made the Main Agreement, we celebrate and that is the end. Instead, I suggest that as soon as you make the Main agreement, ask yourself “What can I do, what agreements can I put in place with myself and others that will increase the likelihood that I will follow through with my Main Agreement?” I call these “Supporting Agreements.” An example is to agree with myself to put specific times and dates into my calendar for each of my three weekly visits to the gym. And I agree with myself that I will not cancel one of these dates without rescheduling it for the day before or the day after.  I can also enlist someone else to be a partner to go to the gym with me at least some of these times. Another Supporting Agreement would be to hire a personal trainer. You get the idea.

TreadmillLastly, and paradoxically, one of the ways we can increase the likelihood of success is to plan for failure.  When you make your New Year’s Resolution, at the same time plan for how you’ll treat yourself if you do not fulfill the commitment. This is not to give ourselves an out. This is not to assume we are going to “fail.” Instead, this is a strategy to short circuit the inevitable internal critical voice that comes with perceived failure, and replace it with a plan of action, one that focuses our attention on what we’ve agreed to do in advance. By having this focus on what we’ve already planned, we’re less likely to get caught up in self-critical thinking, which has the contrary effect of reducing the likelihood that I will succeed in my commitments.

Creating a new habit of behavior is often one of the hardest things to do, it’s likely that I won’t get it right the first time. Just acknowledging that to myself begins to inoculate me against that inner critical voice, and the impulse to give up at the first instance of not fulfilling my Main Agreement.

Therefore, when I make my resolution I also create a “Restoring Agreement.” This is the agreement with myself about how I’m going to “get back on the horse” if I don;t fulfill my Main Agreement. One of the most common Restoring Agreements I have is to agree to have a conversation with myself (with or without the support of another person) about what have I lost and what detriment I have  experienced by not doing as I agreed. AND, very importantly, what needs did I meet by not doing as I agreed? This last part is really important because I want to appreciate that there was a reason why I didn’t do as I agreed. After appreciating both what I lost and what I gained by not fulfilling my commitment, I then can revisit my Main Agreement and decide whether I want to renew it as is or in some modified form, including additional or modified Supporting Agreements. I would turn to this Restoring Agreement the first week I did not fulfill my Main Agreement, and therefore would not be finding myself in despair come April.

By having these three steps in place, we can ensure not only that we will succeed in fulfilling our New Year’s Resolution , but also do so in a way that has more self compassion.

 

Focus First on Connection

In our workshops, we focus on developing the skills and capacity to create connection. With connection we can create trust. With trust, we can hear and be heard. When we can hear and be heard, we can the resolve disputes that arise as the inevitable consequence of being human. And with trust and the capacity to resolve disputes, we can collaborate to create the world we want to live in and that we want our children, and all subsequent generations, to live in. –Ike

To participate in the upcoming
Choosing Peace Immersion Training
in New Haven, CT January 15-18,
click HERE.

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To see a listing of All Mediate Your Life trainings led by Ike Lasater and John Kinyon across the country, please see our SCHEDULE PAGE.

Changing the Attack Culture of Public Opinion

Ike Lasater is a former high-stakes trial lawyer, co-founder of Mediate Your Life (www.mediateyourlife.com) and co-author of the newly-released book: From Conflict to Connection: Transforming Difficult Conversations into Peaceful ResolutionsHe co-founded the Yoga Journal, and is a resident of New Haven, Connecticut.

 

Meryl Streep wears a T-shirt bearing the words, “I’d rather be a Rebel 2D20E99400000578-0-image-a-51_1444106367778than a Slave” at a Time Out London photo shoot. Matt Damon interrupts a colleague of color during a panel discussion to explain diversity to her. On The View, Joy Behar questions why Miss America contestant and nurse, Kelley Johnson, wears “a doctor’s stethoscope.”

These incidents quickly gather a receptive audience of people eager to share their frustration and anger in social, digital and print media. The resulting criticisms take the form of opinion pieces, tweets and posts that erupt, spiral and go viral.

1430640970001380647The consequences of contemporary discourse are distressing to me. My distress has grown more acute in the last 20 years as a result of the nature of the work I do, which is to act as a mediator for people who are in conflict, and to offer trainings based upon the insights I have learned in these mediations.

This discourse is successful in part and dysfunctional in part. It is successful because it brings awareness to topics and it affirms people’s needs for community and shared reality. It is dysfunctional (and counter productive) because it is predicated upon creating an “other” that the writer attacks and criticizes. This process results in disconnection between the critic and their ad hoc community, and the “other” that has been created by the author’s judging and blaming critique.

It is particularly worrying to me when I see writers critiquing those that seem to be their potential allies. In other words, TwitterLogo_#55acee
Twitter_logo_whitewhere there could be connection and collaboration, the opinion piece, tweet or blog post seems likely to generate the opposite- disconnection and conflict.

For example, in response to Meryl Streep’s t-shirt bearing the words “I’d rather be a Rebel than a Slave,” The Root.com’s Facebook page introduced a blog post by Kirsten West Savali with the words “Streep and her co-stars were more than willing to minimize the complex and brutal history of black women in order to celebrate themselves and their heroes.”

These words “sell” and engage readers.   They make for good theatre.

And, at the same time, I cannot imagine that if the author of this Facebook post were to express this directly to Streep’s face, that it would be the beginning of a conversation that could advance the social agendas of both parties.

I see a missed opportunity.

There is an alternative that I have experienced in numerous conflict conversations in my own life and in my work.  I propose that there is a way for people to give full throated expression to their opinions, and do so in a way that reaches across the divide: to communicate in a way that has the underlying intention of connection.

To recast the critique of Streep’s actions (and for that matter, other public debates) I suggest three elements to include in the critic’s side of the conversation (Yes, it is a conversation).

First, the one offering the critique empathizes by making a genuine effort to understand what the person they are criticizing was attempting to communicate. This is a difficult step for almost everyone. When you are still in the midst your own reaction to something that has triggered you, most of us are resistant to seeing it from the other person’s perspective. It is therefore helpful to discuss your perspective with a friend or colleague until you feel you feel understand. This will make it easier for you to empathize with the one you are criticizing. Next, the critic expresses how they received the message and the impact of this, including their feelings and their needs that were not met. Finally, the last of these elements is that the critic requests what they would like the person they are critiquing to do. This last step can also be difficult.

This is what the expression of this process could look for a critic in this case:

“My guess is that Streep and her team were seeking to interest people in their film project, which had a lot of meaning for them, by wearing t-shirts with a quote from the leader of the suffragette movement. This was their way of calling attention to this time in history and their film. In doing this, they seemingly did not intend to demean or diminish anyone. And, at the same time, I want them to understand how frustrated and angry I became when I saw those words because they invoked in me the idea that they did not appreciate the struggle of black slaves in 19th century America- particularly the plight and struggle of black women. I ask that when Streep and her colleagues make similar marketing decisions in the future, that they ask themselves the question: “Is what we are proposing taking into account the perspective of black women in the United States? And who might we consult in order to expand our own awareness?”

The inclusion of these three elements in the critic’s communication still provides a means of gathering a constituency, as well as an increased likelihood that the writer will reach across the divide to the one whose conduct is upsetting to them.

Why should all of this matter? Why should we care about collaborating? How does connecting with the one you are criticizing advance your own agenda?

At the core of the work that I do is the premise that by really listening to and understanding the other person’s needs, you are more likely to be heard yourself, and more likely to create connection- and out of that connection, create collaboration that results in mutually satisfying outcomes.

To take this approach is to change a deeply embedded cultural template.  One that is predicated on determining who is wrong and therefore should be punished.  The constant search for who to blame divides us and is a barrier to the kind of cross cultural responses that we need in order to deal with issues like climate change, human rights and religious fundamentalism.

I have offered trainings in 16 countries including post 9-11 Pakistan and I have seen the power of this approach to bridge divides, where none seemed possible. I hope that we as a species can evolve and change our habitual reaction of blaming, judging and striking out against the other. Each of us can contribute our part to this evolution one conversation at a time.