Being mindful of my breathing, mindful of my thoughts, mindful of my speech, and mindful of my actions is so much easier when everyone around me is feeling open and relaxed.
However, one of the real tests of my practice has been to be with others when they are experiencing intense emotion and default into flight, flight, or freeze reactions. It has been hardest of all to remain connected to my values of deep listening and loving speech when I am in conflict with someone who believes I am the source of his or her suffering.
How do you respond to conflict? Do you find yourself pulling away or remain silent, certain that someone else could handle the situation with greater skill?
In the Fourth of the Five Mindfulness Trainings Thich Nhat Hanh urges us to “speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to release the suffering and see the way out of difficult situations.”
At some time in our lives we’ve probably all been confronted by conflict and responded in ways that not only did not release suffering, our words or actions may even have made the way out of the situation more difficult.
It is possible to stay present and, in many cases, turn toward those in conflict. Our mindfulness practice builds a foundation from which to stop, breathe, and reconnect with our capacity to be present to all of life, the challenging as well as the effortless. The Fourth Mindfulness training concludes, “I will make daily efforts in my speaking and listening to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.”
How has this been working for you? What specific ways have you found to nourish your capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness in your speaking and listening? What have been the pitfalls and what have been the breakthroughs along this path for you?
This Thursday, after our usual sitting and walking meditations, we will read the Five Mindfulness Trainings and then focus on the Fourth Mindfulness Training (see the full text below). I hope you will join us in sharing your experiences and insights about deep listening and loving speech.
Follow Mitchell’s blog as he travels to Scotland and Plum Village here.
The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Loving Speech and Deep Listening
(Adapted by Still Water Mindfulness Practice Center, January 2012)
Aware of the suffering caused by unmindful speech and the inability to listen to others, I am committed to cultivating loving speech and compassionate listening in order to relieve suffering and to promote reconciliation and peace in myself and among other people, ethnic and religious groups, and nations. Knowing that words can create happiness or suffering, I am committed to speaking truthfully using words that inspire confidence, joy, and hope. When anger is manifesting in me, I am determined not to speak. I will practice mindful breathing and walking in order to recognize and to look deeply into its roots, especially in my wrong perceptions and lack of understanding of the suffering in myself and in the other person. I will speak and listen in a way that can help myself and the other person to release the suffering and see the way out of difficult situations. I am determined not to spread news that I do not know to be certain and not to utter words that can cause division or discord. I will make daily efforts in my speaking and listening to nourish my capacity for understanding, love, joy, and inclusiveness, and gradually transform anger, violence, and fear that lie deep in my consciousness.