On New Years Eve of 2016, I missed a connecting bus from Kampala to Bujumbura, coming by bus from Nairobi.
The situation was a bit stressful because we needed a place to sleep. Luckily we were offered a bed outside of Kampala in the rural area.
On the first of January this year, after breakfast, surrounded by tea fields, I took an outside shower.
Somebody was staring at me.
The curtain of the shower was moving. It was a parrot who tried to move the curtain of the shower. Probably he never saw a Muzungu, a white man, stranger, taking a shower there.
After the shower I took some pictures of him.
Taking a picture is capturing a moment. By taking a picture, you freeze time.
After taking the picture, you take time to look at that frozen moment in time. By looking at it you start to see..more..
You see what you didn’t see the moment you took the picture. You see beyond.
First there was a moment of stillness. The parrot was then fully in the cage. There was no sound.
That was the moment of observation.
After a while, I started to talk to him.
I gained his trust, after a few minutes of talking to him, he placed his head out of the cage to have a clearer look at me. His view was not clear by the cage surrounding him.
So he had to decide to leave his comfort zone.
He had to trust me, to place his head out of the cage. His head was not protected anymore by the cage.
But now his view was clear not so confused or not blocked anymore.
I love the symbolism behind this scene captured in the picture.
A parrot is the symbol of the unexpected since a bird is not expected to talk.
The mediator, as the parrot, need to open their minds to the unexpected.
They both need to listen deeply before they repeat what is said.
While a dove is the symbol of peace, I love this parrot to be the symbol of mediation and the mediator.
A mediator is in the cage (the dispute, the conflict) with the parties. Trust is the basis for the mediation to get out of that cage. Also the parrot had to trust me, to place his head out of the cage to see me clearly.
The same with the mediator and the parties. To come to peace, they will have to come to trust by leaving their insecurities behind and place their trust in the mediator and the mediation process. That hopefully, maybe will guide them to a mutual beneficial settlement or understanding that connects them again in a clear relationship.
The way the parrot looks,
he is not only looking more clearly now, because not limited or blocked anymore by the cage.
But also it allows him to see further. Through a clear ‘focus’.
The same with the mediator.
With his open mind he will see further than what he hears and what he sees.
He is the one that will guide the parties to more clarity and peace.
Only a clear mind can bring other confused minds to clarity.
So see with an open mind, see clearly!
Look beyond the cage 😉
There is PEACE!
Many people, politicians, lawyers, teachers consider themselves mediators because they want to contribute to peace. They are convinced that by their knowledge and expertise, to be in the best position to solve a conflict.
But mediation is not about knowledge and expertise only. Knowledge and expertise can limit you. Unless you are aware of the limitations of your own expertise and limitations…
The causes are that people who consider themselves well placed to be a mediator, often have to big EGO themselves. Or they behave as judges to the parties and the content of the conflict. Or they enforce ‘their solution’ to the conflict.
More important is to be courageous and prepared for the unknown.
To be fully in the moment with an open mind and open heart.
Only an open mind and an open heart can
‘listen deeply to what the parties say and don’t say’;
‘take distance of own thoughts, knowledge and experiences’
‘be aware of the limitations of expertise and knowledge’
‘be aware in the moment of the dynamics of everything,
‘be aware at any given moment that nothing (in a conflict or mediation) is static.’
‘be aware and feel beyond what he sees and hears to help the parties to find clarity.’
Deep Listening is the first step to clarity where maybe was not even a ‘real’ conflict just confusion.
Solutions in situations of lack of clarity can bring conflict where was no conflict and can bear new conflict. So don’t come to fast with solutions that most of the time are invented to comfort the EGO’s involved…
We are all interdependent!
My comment on to the following article of Dan Simon.
Why do I love this article? Why my mind was reacting to the title? The post is full of questions. Just asking all these questions from stillness inside. Taking distance from your own reactions (like you asked in a question), is already a path to peace. The most beautiful thing that I discovered on my path of studying conflict and peace, is that I learned that I don’t even have to find answers. Just being aware and asking those questions as you do in your post, even about yourself, bring positive energy to you. You open your heart and open your mind to bring positive to you. And when you feel you want to act, than you act from the positive and from there you don’t ask to many questions anymore. Why? Because you don’t know the answer to them. Just acting from the positive is ok. Have a great day.
Why I reacted to this post?
I loved the article because mostly people react with expressing their opinion while Dan is asking questions…
Even about himself. No opinion.
Do we really always have to react and to have an opinion?
Just read an interesting post about mediation and political religious issues.
Disputes that arise because one of the parents changed religion, what about the children?
Mediation would be a good way for parties to try and reach consensus, and the parties would be political religious and civil society actors who really need to explore, and I’m using her words here, “Explore alternative mechanisms for managing the tensions that exist.”
Now, apparently these court cases, these custody disputes, but also others, are very high profile, in the sense that they get a lot of publicity, they’re in the newspapers. The way things are going on, as she writes, it just deepens the tensions and further polarizes of the different religious groups and the ethnic groups within Malaysia. She sees mediation playing a potentially key role in domestic political dispute management.
I agree with this view. Mediation is not only about conflict but also and more important about interests. That is why mediation can be used even to avoid conflict.
Though not straight related to mediation I was positively surprised to see this interview of Oprah with Thich Nhat Hanh.
During this interview they talked about ‘deep’ listening.
I decided to write down the lessons of this interview because they are so important. They contribute to Peace and Happiness. The most important lesson to learn:
Listen deeply, Listen with compassion.
I am listening to help you to suffer less!
There are different tools a mediator can use during the mediation process.
Since many years I am convinced that mediation is the solution to solve conflicts. But I am also aware that as a mediator, you have to be a very good listener. Solving a conflict is not a bout talking or telling people what to do. It is all about listening and understanding.
I always felt that you can solve a conflict by just listening. Without almost saying nothing but asking questions.
By seeing this excerpt of interview I am even more convinced this is the way to solve conflicts.
Lessons from the interview.
Deep listening can relief the suffering of the other person. You can call it compassionate listening.
You listen with the only one purpose, help him or her to empty his heart.
If you remember that you are helping him or her to suffer less,
Even if s/he says things full of wrong perceptions, full of bitterness,
you are still capable to continue to listen with compassion.
Because you know that by listening with compassion you give him a chance to suffer less,
If you want to help him or her to correct his perception,
and then you wait for another time
but for the time being, you just listen with compassion and help him or her suffer less,
and one hour like that can bring transformation and healing.
You think and make the other feel, I have not understood enough of your difficulties and suffering
So please tell us about your suffering, your difficulties.
I am here to help you suffer less. I’m eager to learn, to understand.
IT HAS TO START LIKE THAT. LOVING SPEECH. If you are honest, if you are true
They will open their heart and tell us.
And then we practice compassionate, deep listening.
By that process of deep listening we can learn so much about our own perception
and their perceptions
And that is the best way, the only way, to remove terrorism.
The principle is the same no matter the conflict.
It is from suffering that we learn. We learn to listen with compassion.
The fear, the anger and the despair is born
We have wrong perceptions concerning ourselves and the other person
and that is the foundation for conflict and war and violence.
Anger is the energy which people use in order to act.
But when you are angry, you are not lucid.
That is why compassion is the better energy.
We can always learn from suffering.
The European Court of justice decided on copyright infringement by placing a hyperlink on a website to content on another website that was an infringement of copyright.
The Court decides: “when a posting of a hyperlink is carried out for a profit, the person who posted such a link should be expected to carry out the necessary checks to ensure that the work concerned is not illegally published on the website to which the hyperlinks lead.”
This is an illustration that Courts decide on positions of parties. That means that a judgement is rarely a real solution. Imagine the consequences of this decision for economic life on the internet… better to create internet mediation centers to help to come to practical solutions.
We have to have to guts to question the use of Courts in some matters if not all matters on long term. It takes years to come to this decision and the situation will be totally changed in between the moment of the facts and the moment of the decision. There is no solution to the conflict.
“To mediate conflicts a mediator stays open for the unknown, takes distance of own knowledge, emotions and desires. This pure state of Awareness can be best achieved through meditation. TheMediationMaster”
When I researched through Google, studying about mediation a few years ago, the first results that popped up on the search engine were about ‘meditation’.
Some people don’t know the meaning of both. They would have heard about meditation as a kind of praying. And they, like Google would correct the misspelling, would think that mediation is a misspelling of meditation.
Then you have the people that know the meaning of both but they don’t know what it really ‘is’. At first sight the two have nothing to do with each other.
Mediators-meditators, like me, smile when looking at both words. They are both energising. They both bear positivity. Both transcendent because connected to the universe. In their pure state not limited by the human mind.
They are both tools with the same ‘goal’ or ‘effect’. To get to a state of ‘peace’, ‘calmness’.
There must be a reason why they are so close to each other and why they look alike.
Meditation works inside a person and mediation outside between different people in conflict. But a good mediator works from the ‘inside’.
Awareness and consciousness of mediation and meditation, would already bring more peace to the world.
Mediation can change the mindset of people in general. Through mediation people can learn that achieving the solution of problems or conflicts, isn’t accomplished by holding on to positions, opinions or viewpoints.
They will discover that genuine interest and compassion for each other is the only way to go.
What does mediation do to people?
They can express what they think or feel, freely. They are protected by the confidentiality of the process. Confidentiality creates trust. Not only trust in the process but in the end it will also generate interest in the other party, by listening to the other person.
Also the principle that what is said is not binding, contributes to that. They cannot be taken advantage of when they say something. People feel free instead of feeling blocked.
They learn it is not about ‘me’ anymore but (again) about ‘us’.
Our Western society has developed into a ‘me’ society. This is the cause of a lot of conflicts. So if the mindsets of people can be changed from ‘me’ to ‘us’, the whole society will benefit from this. In Africa ‘me’ is the tribe or the ruling parting with exclusion of others. But also ‘EGO’-centered. To me, as long as a person doesn’t include all people there is EGO.
To achieve peace outside, people have to learn to come to peace inside. Meditation is the most important tool I know. In case of conflict, mediation is the only ‘tool’.
Personally I leave out religion, I leave out any structure that can confuses the ‘free’ mind. Love is the universal positive energy that binds us all. Conflict is confusing, conflict causes lack of clarity. Meditation brings you to silence. Through silence you come to clarity and you connect to Love.
To see love you go inside, connect to the universe and send it out again.
We are all one. There is only ‘we’ not ‘me’. There is only ‘The Universe’, there is only LIFE!
I found the same opinion as an answer to the next question concerning the mental state of the mediator.
So what mental state must the mediator possess and model for the parties so that
everyone, including the mediator, can learn from the mediation experience?
Wilfred Bion, a British psychoanalyst, talks about a state of mind that is openly receptive to the unknown. He refers to it as a state of reverie which he has described as a form of mental void, a formless infinite and the perfect blank. It has also been called zero thinking (Bion 1970). It is a space in which the practitioner is unmoved by their own memories and desires and where there is an overall attentiveness to the present moment.
These concepts also appear in Buddhist and Taoist’s doctrines. Zen calls it ‘don’t
know mind’ or ‘no mind’ (wu-shin). Bion’s concept of attention is comparable to
mindfulness, a major factor in Buddhist meditation. The common dominator
between Bion’s view and the Buddhist view of mental development is that in both
thought systems mental growth is synonymous with learning from experience
No wonder… Meditate to Mediate!
Wishing you all peace.
1 september 2016
Along with the skill of listening, persistence and patience are the core qualities of the mediator.
Be soft on the people, hard on the content.
Be open, friendly, responsive but confident.
Just read this passage in Eckhart Tolles book:
The playfulness and joy of a dog, its unconditional love and readiness to celebrate life at any moment often contrast sharply with the inner state of the dog’s owner — depressed, anxious, burdened by problems, lost in thought, not present in the only place and only time there is: Here and Now. One wonders: living with this person, how does the dog manage to remain so sane, so joyous?