I have been thinking about conflicts among us and how sometimes we get stuck and get discouraged. Maybe it is good to keep in mind Harvey’s observation that there is always at least one elegant solution to every problem. And the Dalai Lama’s urging us to "Never give up." The problem is always in our distresses. Which are the result of early material that hangs out in us unresolved. And we know how to deal with that.
Why do we keep forgetting that? Why do we give up and give in to our distress? Because the distress has blocked our thinking, clouds and confuses it and makes us forget we always have at least one elegant solution that will show up when we discharge. We think we are thinking because our brain is functioning, and we are creating arguments and critiques and justifications and denials and judgments. But they are all tainted with distress, and we cannot realize that at the moment.
We need a circle to sort it all out ("None of us is as smart as all of us"). But sometimes the re-stimulation has hit everyone, discourages the whole circle, and it dissolves without that elegant solution. Nothing left but confusion and (sigh) disappointment. I am thinking it could be very useful for our circles to utilize the suggestion of Christina Baldwin and Ann Linnea in their book The Circle Way (!) to have one person in the role of what they call the Guardian. Someone who keeps an ear and eye on the process and when things get sticky and confusing this person rings a little bell and interrupts the process.
Then there is a minute of silence while everyone gets a chance to step back from the mounting entanglement. The Guardian will then tell why she rang the bell. For us it is probably a good point to call for mini sessions to clear the feelings, think of a better way to go for that elegant solution. And anyone in the circle can ask the Guardian to ring the bell at any time to give everyone a chance to quiet the internal ruckus and maybe ask for a mini and discharge. We used to do this in our Mettanokit Community business meetings, and oh, what a difference it always made!
I can understand how we can all get lost in our old stuff sometimes. There are times when even now I lose it, not quite so often as I grow older thankfully, but sometimes I get suddenly conflicted, say exactly the wrong thing out of my re-stimulation and make it all worse. Luckily I usually have an aware observer near – my own Guardian: my partner and best friend Ellika, who without my distress can see through what’s happening and support me to remember what my heart knows but my brain forgot.
Ellika always warns me that perhaps I give too rosy a picture of conflicts, so I hasten to add that they require the best of us, they require our time and energy and attention. It’s work. But when we are listening to the wisdom of our hearts it is not painful it is uplifting. Or as my old friend Wavy Gravy says in one of his songs: “Thank goodness for something to do!”
Harvey’s elegant solution appears to rely on clarity of thought, a matter of brain function, reason logic. I’m not sure that way of characterizing it is helpful. Even when our thinking is tainted with emotional distress we think we are thinking well. What is more helpful for me is to just by-pass the mess in my head, my tangled and tortured reasoning, and go deeper, go straight to the wisdom of the heart. That is the reminder that my guardian Ellika is usually able to give me.
That wisdom is what we all have in common. That is the deepest place in all of us, in every human being. I see it in myself most of the time, I see it in Ellika almost all the time, I feel it in every observation I hear or read from Tim Jackins –whose voice in my head often serves as a Guardian for me, and I see that in every one of us when we are in true counselor mode, the mode of a Supportive Listener. We are all there when we are being ourselves, our caring, concerned, loving selves, listening with our hearts to the confusions and hurts, the fears and angers and re-stimulations, the awakening of old wounds in our beloved fellow human beings.
Wisdom and compassion taught the Buddha. The wisdom of the mind, of study and research, of reason and logic, can show us how the problems arose and prescribe solutions, but it is the deeper wisdom of the heart that heals.
When a child does something that triggers a distress in us, we can make the mistake of yelling or lecturing, being sharp and demanding, even punishing, but none of those achieve what we want. Only by listening, by kindness and understanding can we connect with gentleness and firmness and love to guide the child back on the path of the heart where we all want to be. If it is true for how we treat children, it must be true for how we treat each other, how we treat adults who have stumbled in the re-stimulation of unresolved childhood hurts.
The land mines of old distress can get stepped on inadvertently in all relationships – in our Circle Way circles, in RC communities, in the sanghas and congregations of any group no matter from what font of wisdom or spirituality they drink.
When a bomb explodes please do not panic. Take refuge in our goodness, in our love, the wisdom of the heart. When conflict arises in your circle, rejoice, embrace it – it is an AFGO – "Another F….g Growth Opportunity." Relax. Discharge. Listen. Laugh.
The wisdom of our hearts, our love, comes naturally. It’s our essence. We need to ask ourselves "what is the most loving thing I can do or say at this moment?" The elegant solution is there.
What happens when we get past that stuff that confused us? We hug. We cry, we laugh. We celebrate. What a relief!