Pema Chodron, a well known Buddhist teacher, is one of my favourite teachers on facilitation practice. She has enhanced my understanding of dealing with tricky situations and scary places with practices, advice and stories which are beautifully rendered.
In this article, “The Answer to Anger and Agression is Patience” she writes about her own struggle to cultivate a practice of patience as the antidote to anger and aggression:
Patience has a quality of enormous honesty in it, but it also has a quality of not escalating things, allowing a lot of space for the other person to speak, for the other person to express themselves, while you don’t react, even though inside you are reacting. You let the words go and just be there.
This suggests the fearlessness that goes with patience. If you practice the kind of patience that leads to the de-escalation of aggression and the cessation of suffering, you will be cultivating enormous courage. You will really get to know anger and how it breeds violent words and actions. You will see the whole thing without acting it out. When you practice patience, you’re not repressing anger, you’re just sitting there with it–going cold turkey with the aggression. As a result, you really get to know the energy of anger and you also get to know where it leads, even without going there. You’ve expressed your anger so many times, you know where it will lead. The desire to say something mean, to gossip or slander, to complain–to just somehow get rid of that aggression–is like a tidal wave. But you realize that such actions don’t get rid of the aggression; they escalate it. So instead you’re patient, patient with yourself.
In situations where groups are in conflict, it is pointless to pretend that there isn’t anger and aggression in the room. The presence of this anger and aggression calls for this radical honesty and trust in what is real, and it means being very grounded as you approach what is there and give it your attention. There are few things scarier for a facilitator than leading a group towards the honest appreciation of the true anger and emotions in the room. If you are unable to stand in the fire, exhibiting patience to be there fully yourself, you will not be able to invite others to join you there. The shakier you are, the more afraid everyone else will be.
The challenge is to remain of service to a group of people for whom an honest relationship with what is real is important. Remaining of service means being able to address the anger and aggression honestly, without judging it, which only adds to it. If you think anger is wrong, you won’t be able to be a peacemaker. If you think anger is true, you can go there.
This is a fundamental skill needed in the world right now, on all levels. Think about how you deal with confrontations in your work environment, in your family or in your community. Do you shy away from the anger, or do you let it overwhelm you and do you take a position?
Imagine you were called to facilitate a ceasefire in the Israel – Lebanon conflict. Could you do that? Who do you know in the world that has the capacity to do this? If the answer is no one, what do you think it would take for you to become that person? Trust me, if you are that person, the world needs you right now.
Cultivating patience cultivates peacemaking.
Thanks to my blogless life partner Caitlin Frost for the link.
[tags]pema chodron, patience, peacemaking, peace[/tags]