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.