Thursday, March 11, 2010

Compassion and Mediation

I am taking a course this weekend from Zoketsu Norman Fisher - one of the authors of the book, Getting to Yes, who is now a Zen Buddhist priest, and a teacher of meditation.  In preparation, I read an article he wrote entitled, "Developing Compassion."  He writes, "to be narrowly self-interested and self-identified is simply a very dangerous and unhappy way to live - the wider your interest and larger your sense of identity, the happier and the stronger you will be."

And this reminds me of words of my mediation teachers, Jack Himmelstein and Gary Friedman, who say that when we mediate, we must be able to hold in our minds the full reality of what each person is saying.  That neutrality is not staying squarely in the middle, but in fully understanding each person, really understanding their perspective.  And being able to hold both realities in your mind at the same time. 

I don't try to find the truth when I mediate.  In a certain way, I don't care about it.  I am not trying to come to my own conclusion about what really happened.  I do, however, care deeply about each person's perspective and perception about what happened.  For that is what is real to them. 

When I practice this, I believe - I hope - I am practicing the development of compassion. 

2 comments:

GAJ said...

I believe in the concept of compassionate listening and understanding and it is not equivalent to neutrality as one can be neutral and not understand and not have compassion. Neutrality/impartiality as it pertains to mediation is composed of three prongs: Process, outcome, parties. Most mediators are impartial regarding parties (e.g., not taking sides). Less are impartial/neutral regarding outcomes(e.g. not favoring a particular outcome - fair, written agreement). Most mediators are not impartial/neutral regarding process (e.g. deciding where parties sit, caucusing, generating movement, allowing one person to talk at a time).

Joy Rosenthal - Let's talk! said...

Hi GAJ,
I would love to know who you are. Thank you for your comment - you bring up very interesting points about the difference between neutrality and compassion. I'm sure I am just beginning on the road of understanding compassion. I will say that as mediators, we are taught not to be neutral about process - I see it as my job to guide the process. I'd love to hear more from you! Thanks!