Learning how to negotiate conflict demands that we become more present, more fearless. We may need to relinquish the hopeful image of ourselves as remaining serene under all circumstances, like sitting buddhas carved from wood or stone. We have to expect our composure to be compromised as we learn about the possibilities and creative solutions of working directly with the conflict in our relationships. Even, and maybe especially, when things don’t turn out as we want, our engagement with discord refines and teaches us something, altering our life’s very course.

Whether the results are invigorating or devitalizing depends on how consciously we work with ourselves and our circumstances. Simply retreating, smoothing things over, or trying to win out won’t take us to anyplace new. Developing our skills creates a sense of freedom; a confidence in ourselves; and an ability to be real, intimate, and ultimately loving with others.

Remember, if we had no disagreements with the world, we would have little reason to grow and less opportunity to become more compassionate, wakeful human beings. Like the Buddha or the Dalai Lama, we can develop the skills to work with conflicts and reliable methods as a human community to transform them.

From Everything is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution by Diane Musho Hamilton © 2013. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications.

Illustration by Roberto La Forgia

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