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keeping cool into another year..

December 30, 2011

(How to have a challenging conversation)

I’m not in the habit of setting New Year’s resolutions. I do set various goals, intentions and prayers every day so perhaps I’m worse off and harder on myself as a result of the daily pressures I self-impose, rather than one big goal per year.

At the moment, I cannot help but consider that 2012 is upon us and I also anticipate a massive influx of yogis eager to flush and detox their systems in Vancouver’s studios next week. I believe a daily commitment to fitness is crucial for personal well-being. Above that, what really matters when it comes to contributing to society and to a loving existence for all is the health of the mind.

Thus, being that I live in a culture surrounded by others and wanting to co-exist happily, I resolve to be patient towards my reactions this New Year.

Yes, that sounds incredibly saintly and unselfish. Please don’t be fooled. This intention and all my efforts have only come about because intense dialogue has been spewing in all areas of my life and relationships. The open discourse with various people has revealed ample opportunities for me to focus on patience and calamity throughout potentially emotional conversations. I struggle when sharing my true feelings in a neutral tone and then I get scared of my vulnerability (if I can actually disclose how I feel) and sabotage potentially enlightening conversations. I’m ready to close that destructive chapter of my life and grow up.

If you have ever been one to offer too much or too little in a delicate chat with a loved one, I hope my personal practices may provide some relief to you.

Steps to participating in (or witnessing yourself in) a challenging conversation:

1 – Forget about having expectations.  Trying to get an answer you are hoping for is about as useful as something useless. Be open to the unexpected. Be open to having your mind blown by the possibilities of learning new things about the person you are discussing with – for better or worse.

2 – Never assume to know what someone is thinking. And why would you want to? If you could read minds, you wouldn’t need to have conversations and you probably wouldn’t have any friends.

3 – Watch your reactions and physical responses with breath. This is easier said than done especially when the emotions take over and the heart rate goes all wacky. What we can try to do is celebrate our wins. Ana Forrest, from her eye opening autobiography Fierce Medicine, encourages that you “reward yourself lavishly for catching the behavior”.

“Stop and take a few breaths to re-center yourself. The temptation is to beat yourself up when you catching yourself doing the same damn thing again I’m such an idiot! Why do I always do this to myself? Why can’t I learn? But that’ll just dig that well-worn groove even deeper and lead to shutdown and numbness, making you more dull and less effective. Do not punish yourself.  It takes some discipline not to go into that abrasive internal monologue because we think that if we self-mutilate, we’re being good disciplinarians, but it doesn’t work.
Reward yourself instead.
Feel that there’s something different that can arise when you break away from your own painful, habitual reactivity. What do you really feel under this surface feeling?
Avoid behavior that numbs you; you’re looking for a reward that moves you into feeling. Honestly tell yourself, That was really good! Congratulations! That was really skillful! Offer yourself acknowledgement of the tremendous step you took by catching yourself in a bad pattern but don’t qualify it with something like Why didn’t I do this ten years ago? You weren’t ready to do this ten years ago.” (A Forrest)

4 – Good questions to remember when the conversation turns into a fight. Or when emotions come up that seem uncontrollable. The topic at hand isn’t really what your emotions are about…

“Is this an old familiar battle? What does it go back to in your past? Are you holding on to a grievance from the past and now trying to prove the person in front of you as wrong? If you could prove to this person and have this person accept that he or she is wrong, what would you get from that?” (Perfect love, Imperfect Relationships, J Welwood)

5 – Be honest.  Be truthful. A wonderful teacher Adyashanti has stated in public talks that honesty is the only path to awakening and to a conscious life.

“To tell truth with any consistency, we not only have to meet every place in ourselves that is afraid of telling truth, we also have to see the belief structures we have that tells us, “I can’t do that.” Those belief structures are by their very nature based in unreality. To know this is not enough; you have to actually see it, to really perceive exactly what you believe. What are the exact belief structures that cause you to go into duality, that cause you to go into conflict and hiding? Only then can you tell truth in the way I’m discussing here.” (The End of Your World: Uncensored Straight Talk on the Nature of Enlightenment, Adyashanti)

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