The starting point for mindful communication is noticing how communication opens and closes. To do this, we offer the metaphor of three traffic lights. Like all mindfulness practices, this method is deceptively simple. The lights symbolize not only the changes in our conversation patterns but also three very different states of mind and heart.
mindfulness: the green light
Tuning into the “Natural Communication System”
Open communication is naturally we-first. To become more open, first we reconnect with ourselves by practicing mindfulness and self-compassion. Then we discover how our natural communication system connects us to each other.
…first we reconnect with ourselves by practicing mindfulness and self-compassion. Then we discover how our natural communication system connects us to each other.
This natural communication system has three faculties:
- Awake Body: we perceive our world through our senses and physically feel emotional energy in our body.
- Tender Heart: vulnerable feelings related to empathy are ways of knowing that can teach us how to respond with sensitivity and accuracy to the subtle messages that come from our own experience and from each other.
- Open Mind: the gift of curiosity is being open to new information, letting go of outdated beliefs.
Being open to our natural communication system is symbolized as “ green light.”
toxic certainty: the red light
Abandoning our mindfulness, we cut the connection to our intelligence and compassion
The red light symbolizes what happens when communication shuts down. We find ourselves in a “me first” mindset, believing our personal safety and happiness can be found at the expense of our relationships. Mindlessness disconnects us from the feedback of the present moment. We take refuge in “toxic certainty”, opinions and justifications that support our barriers, blocking empathy. Instead of feeling compassion for pain, we convince ourselves that we can harm, ignore or manipulate others to get what we need. Closed communication patterns harm our relationships cutting our natural communication system to both ourselves and each other.
anxiety: the flashing yellow light
SUSAN CHAPMAN from the Online Class “Yellow Light Reactions: A Case Of Mistaken Identity”
Loss of attunement
Mindfulness illuminates the crisis that occurs when human beings disconnect from each other. This is symbolized by the flashing yellow light. This is the sense of groundlessness and fear that happens when things unexpectedly change. The most important feature of mindful communication training is to learn how to bring this crisis into a ‘green zone’, a protected environment where emotional vulnerability is greeted with insight and kindness. If we can find the right kind of support during times like these, the intense feelings of disappointment, shock, grief and loss don’t have to drive us into the red zone.
Green Zone Institute is one response to the challenges our global society is currently facing. Green zones are safety nets we can build for each other. Therapy is unaffordable for most people at times like this but there are alternative ways we can heal and transform each other. This is a time when profound change can take place if we can shift our focus from me to we.