As previously stated, we believe that it is very helpful to sensitize oneself first, before working with other person’s problems, conflicts, and dilemmas. Therefore, we kindly ask you to take a rest and to meditate on the following statement. Describe what this content means to you, your environment and the human race in general. “Every human being can affirm his or her personality by releasing the constituent virtual faculties that animate them from all prejudice, concept, doctrine or other intellectual or moral weight that is alien to their comprehension and conscience.” \"Exactly,\" said Master Ryutan. \"You are like this cup; you are full of ideas. You come and ask for teaching, but your cup is full; I can\'t put anything in. Before I can teach you, you\'ll have to empty your cup.\" Empty your cup\" often is attributed to a famous conversation between the scholar Tokusan (also called Te-shan Hsuan-chien, 782-865) and Zen Master Ryutan (Lung-t\'an Ch\'ung-hsin or Longtan Chongxin, 760-840)., We cannot come to mediation with a cup full [ that is a mind full of thoughts, prejudices and assumptions, our doctrines and our intellectual capacities. being truly in the moment allows us to escape from adversity and conserve our inner energy. Living in the moment doesn’t mean we don’t care about the future. It means that when we make a choice to do something, we focus on solely doing it, rather than letting our mind wander into the future (or the past). As mediators, we routinely enter the conflicts of others, but do not always understand that, as a consequence, their conflicts also enter us. As Friedrich Nietzsche wrote, “When you look into the abyss, the abyss looks into you.” Meditation is a way of looking into the abyss of conflict and allowing it to enter us without overwhelming our equilibrium, but instead, pointing us in the direction we need to go -- not only to assist others in stopping, settling, resolving, and transforming their conflicts, but to finally and completely transcend them within themselves. How can meditation assist mediators in achieving these outcomes While there are dozens of personal benefits that flow from meditation, experienced mediators may find, as I have, that Buddhist awareness, contemplation, and insight practices can enhance our professional skills as well. It is not uncommon, for example, for mediators who meditate regularly to experience the following benefits: • Improved ability to remain calm and balanced in the presence of conflict and intense emotions • Greater willingness to move beyond superficiality in conversation and move into the heart of whatever is not working effectively • Expanded sensitivity to the subtle clues given off by the parties, indicating a shift in their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes • Deeper insight into the nature of suffering and what might be done to release it • Greater awareness of what apparent opponents have in common, though they emphatically disagree and even dislike each other • Improved creative problem solving skills, and ability to invent or discover imaginative solutions • Expanded capacity to calibrate and fine-tune insights and intuition • Greater sensitivity to the natural timing of the conflict • Increased willingness to engage in “dangerous” or risky conversations and raise sensitive issues without losing empathy • Decreased investment in judgments, attachments, expectations, and outcomes • Increased ability to be completely present, open, and focused • Reduced stress and burnout Of course, this does not mean that meditators always make superior mediators. Buddhists have not always been the best role models in conflict, and Buddhism has, in my experience, fallen short in developing the social practice of what I call “inter-mindfulness,” or what meditation teacher Shinzen Young calls “the monastery of relationships,” which is an essential part of many conflict resolution practices. Nonetheless, it is clear that within Buddhism, as within mediation, lie a clear set of instructions on how each of us can improve our skills in handling conflict and untangling the knots they create inside us. What are these instructions, and how exactly do we develop these skills? While meditation is traditionally oriented to internal sensations, awareness is a generic source of skillful techniques and insights – not only into ourselves, but into others and our relationship with them, and as a result, into the nature and sources of conflict. Buddhism and conflict resolution can therefore both be said to operate by improving awareness, which can easily be applied to a wide range of difficult conversations, interactions, and relationships. Whereas Buddhist meditation focuses attention primarily internally, for example on the breath, noticing thoughts, emotions, and internal bodily sensations, then letting them go; mediation focuses attention primarily externally, for example on communications and interactions between conflicted parties, noticing and discussing what is not working in their relationship, then asking what might be done to improve or let go of it. By combining these approaches creatively, we are able to produce new combinations. We can say, for example, that “mediative meditation” consists of using awareness to expose the false expectations, self-judgments, and suffering that lie hidden beneath the surface of our conflicts. These keep us attached to our opponents and issues, and create the sensation of a solid, separate “Self” that congeals quickly around unresolved antagonism. They encourage us not simply to imagine or verbalize loving-kindness, but to act and make it real. “Meditative mediation,” on the other hand, can be said to consist of being keenly aware of what is taking place inside us in the midst of conflict, using empathy and compassion to increase our awareness of what is happening internally within ourselves and the parties, and helping to bridge the gap between them so they can discover a way out of their antagonism, attachment, and suffering. These combined practices enable us to move beyond merely settling, or even resolving disputes to discover insightful ways of transforming and transcending them. We can do so, for example, using mediation techniques such as empathetic storytelling and private reflection; by creatively reframing differences to reflect underlying unities; by asking conflicted parties to empathetically imagine what it might have been like to have experienced what the other person experienced; by ask them to speak directly to each other from their hearts; and by drawing their awareness to what they are experiencing right now, or the way they are talking to each other, and asking each what the other could do that would help them listen or speak more openly, then doing that, and using feedback to reinforce awareness and on-going practice. It is one thing, of course, to use these techniques in mediation with complete strangers, and quite another to avoid losing our balance when we are the ones in conflict. How do we use these skills in such a way as to remain authentically ourselves, and become unconditionally openhearted and aware in the presence of our opponents? Even a strong intention to practice compassion and loving-kindness may not suffice to achieve this goal, so it is useful to ask ourselves some difficult questions that will help us draw our attention to what really matters. Here are a few to start with: • What do I really know about my opponent? • What would make me decide to act or speak like that? • What is true for him/her? • What questions could I ask to find out? • What am I doing that is helping to fuel the conflict? • What am I not doing that is helping to fuel the conflict? • What is the crossroads I am standing at right now in this conflict? • What is the deeper “third path” or “middle way” in this conflict? • How might changing my attitude, behavior, or response help me resolve, transform, or transcend it? • What would it take for me to do so? • What is preventing me from moving forward or letting go? • Can I maintain awareness of my breath and what is happening in my body, mind and emotions while I am in the midst of conflict? • What price have I paid for this conflict? What has it cost me? • How much longer am I prepared to continue paying that price? • What is the most difficult aspect of this conflict for me? What makes that difficult? • What would it take for me to let it go completely and open my heart to the person I am fighting with? • What is one thing the other person could do that would change my entire attitude toward the conflict? What is one thing I could do? • Is there anything I would be willing to apologize for, or offer without any expectation of return? • On a scale of 1 to ten, how sincere and deep was the apology I gave or the gesture I made? • What would it take to make it a 10? • What does my heart tell me to do? The opportunities for integrating Buddhist awareness, insight, and contemplation practices into dispute resolution, both personally and professionally, are limitless. Yet the modern world makes it much more difficult to sustain these attitudes and practices. The highly respected Zen scholar and practitioner D. T. Suzuki, who was invited to speak in London in 1936, noticed the contrast between traditional contemplative practices and the demands of modern life: “How can I construct my humble hut right here in the midst of Oxford Circus? How can I do that in the confusion of cars and buses? How can I listen to the singing of birds and also to the leaping of fish? How can one turn all the showings of the shop window displays into the freshness of green leaves swayed by the morning breeze? How am I to find the naturalness, artlessness, utter self-abandonment of nature in the utmost artificiality of human works? This is the great problem set before us these days.” The problem today is even greater, as it includes an additional difficulty: How we do so not just in the midst of our own internal conflicts, or even the deeply upsetting interpersonal conflicts that transpire in our families, workplaces, and neighborhoods; but in response to wars, bombings, genocides, ethnic prejudices, religious intolerances, mistreatment of women and children, and seemingly endless international conflicts over environmental choices, economic policies, and political beliefs that affect us all deeply, no matter how far we may imagine we are from the turmoil and terror. These larger conflicts reinforce the Zen saying that: “The believing mind believes in itself,” thereby turning belief in a circle so that it becomes a source of conflict. Sometimes, as May Sarton wrote, “One must think like a hero to behave like a merely decent human being.” But sometimes one must also think like an ordinary human being, merely chopping wood and carrying water, in order to be heroic enough to find ways of transcending the conflicts that separate us. In order to escape the downward gravitational tug of antagonisms on any level, and resolve, transform, or transcend them, we require a combination of inner and outer skills. If we do not transform ourselves, we will find it much more difficult to transform the world; and if we do not transform the world, we will find it far more arduous to transform ourselves. In meditation as in mediation, inner and outer increasingly merge and reveal themselves as one.