The Power of Peacemaking: Interrupting Aggression in Challenging Times

Published by Greg Heffron on

Mindful Communication workshop at Dechen Choling Retreat Center, Central France.

Mindful Communication training with staff at Dechen Chöling Retreat Center, Central France.

Many of us today are paying close attention to the aggression that’s arising in our world. Beyond US politics, we see similar fires breaking out in other nations. Scanning the news sets off alarm bells of anxiety. A return to various forms of fundamentalism and “tribalism” (in the negative sense) are gaining fuel and momentum. The Us vs. Them mentality leads us further into situations where conflict driven by hatred seems inevitable. Once we’ve created our “enemy,” winning by any means necessary is not only tolerable, but promoted. In the Mindful Communication work of Susan Chapman, we call this collapse “The Red Light,” and call a culture which promotes it a “Red Light Culture.”

In the midst of such a rise in aggression, we can come to feel demoralized and even depressed. What can a single individual do when faced with global situations that stretch beyond even one’s own nation?

The Four Stages of Heartlessness and their Interruptions

The Four Stages of Heartlessness and their Interruptions

The good news within the approach of Mindful Communication is that we are far from helpless. You. Yes you. You, sitting reading this article—along with everyone else—are a key actor in a web of interdependence that can actively dismantle hatred. Hatred builds itself “one conversation at a time.” Luckily, so does Peace. Think back in your own life to simple interactions that set your life moving in a more positive direction. Sometimes, those moments can come down to someone saying a single word, or a single sentence. We can’t overestimate the effects one person can have on the world — especially when that one person has the ability to help guide others in positive directions.

The more provocative news of Mindful Communication is that such Peacemaking must start with ourselves. Before we help the world, we must gain ‘expertise’ in exactly how the jagged moments of aggression comes jutting forth from our own mind and heart. Once we begin to master this—understanding how to interrupt the momentum of false logics and exaggerated emotionalism (the patterns of “Heartless Mind” and “Mindless Heart” which are akin to “Fake News”)—we’ll be well equipped to take on these same dynamics within our larger societies.

But What About the Enemy that Does Deserve Hatred?

Reality is complex, and of course there are highly destructive behaviors and ideologies in the world that need to be opposed, and at times actively suppressed. Occasionally—as with the Nazis, or with violent criminals—even suppressed with great force. But suppressing these forces does not require hatred. In fact, hatred shuts down our awareness, leading us to miss crucial cues and opportunities for positive intervention. It’s exactly this shut down of hatred that leads us to lash out at the wrong person, taking the situation “out of the flying pan and into the fire,” and eroding our credibility as a positive force.

I Already Feel Anxious — Can I Really Look at My Own Heart and Mind?

To do this deep work, most of us need support. We can’t become as aggressive with ourselves as the world around us. That would be counter-productive. Even destructive. Instead, the method of Mindful Communication is to create a Green Zone of kindness and friendliness, where we can become familiar with our most awkward and tender feelings, without collapsing into self-judgement or easy solutions. Together with others, we practice relaxing into The Natural Communication SystemBody (Sensations), Heart (Emotions) and Mind (Thoughts). Automatically, this simple, wakeful practice of mindfulness takes us out of the “catastrophic thinking” of hatred or terror, and into a deeper connection with ourselves and our world.

March 1-5th: 5-day Retreat at Shambhala Mountain Center

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center

The Great Stupa of Dharmakaya at Shambhala Mountain Center

Please join us at Colorado’s Shambhala Mountain Center, March 1-5th, 2017 to practice this in a powerful atmosphere of beauty and stillness: The Power of Peacemaking: Healing the Divide with Mindful Heart Communication.