While researching the article on breathing for this issue of HEN, I stumbled upon an innovative way of peacebuilding. Sri Ravi Shankar runs a non-profit meditation and yoga foundation called “The Art of Living” foundation (SITE). Shankar has been invited to various conflict areas around the world to work with those in conflict. He’s worked with Black activists in Baltimore and members of the Mujahideen terrorist group.
Shankar is not facilitating mediation – but meditation. Through teaching those in conflict meditation skills, he increases the social-emotional capacity of conflicting sides to engage in dialogue. He does this, not by talking about it, but by enabling people with mind-body tools to increase their capacity to hold and process complex emotions and see new possibilities. He also pairs spirituality with social justice, redirecting those who use violence to achieve social justice to see how using non-violence can be a more powerful means towards justice.
Starting to look at the path towards “conflict resolution” as a path of mindfulness, consciousness and, well, breathing – is something that many of my colleagues and I have been talking about in different ways for years. One of my dear mediation colleagues has been working on developing essential “qualities” as his path. Many of my mediation colleagues have mindfulness practices of various sorts and dive deeply into spirituality as foundational to who they show up as in conflict.
However, moving the focus from nurturing a mindful mediator, to nurturing a mindful disputant, is a direction that is exciting and innovative. Although it might not be a new concept to many of my colleagues in the field of conflict resolution, I think truly stepping boldly into that path hand in had with our clients, may be a new concept.
I look forward to an evolving field – and as always – your thoughts in dialogue!