The Zen of You and Me takes on conflict mediation through zen philosophy. I learned a lot about managing conflict but more about myself and why, perhaps, I tend to avoid it. Hamilton is never preachy, but gently guides the reader through the dark woods of differences into the clear fields of appreciation and inclusion.
“It is a very freeing experience to suddenly realize that a difference between us is not only OK- it is stimulating and worthwhile. This realization heights our confidence to bring them out directly and openly.” loc 180. Hamilton talks about leading classes through difficult discussions about race and privilege. The group only manages to make their way through it when one of the members expresses his desire to be heard and the others in the group allow themselves to listen.
But it isn’t easy to listen. You might be angry or otherwise triggered by what you’re listening to. Hamilton addresses that: “Threat provokes such intense sensations in our body and mind that sitting still seems wildly counter intuitive and impossible. But the first step is to learn to sit still and simply pay attention.” loc 310. Mindfulness provides the way out.
I also learned that I’m not as good a listener as I could potentially be. Hamilton provides some excellent advice for improving your skills: “Listening has a lot in common with meditation. Both involve a clear intention of bringing attention to this moment, receiving input, and letting go of the preoccupations of the self. … My first impulse was to tell her it was OK; everything would be all right. Then it occurred to me that she didn’t want to hear that. … I distinctly remember the warm sensation of letting go move through me.” loc 377. I’ve started practicing not listening to answer but listening to listen. I surprised myself with how often my mind was racing away somewhere else as soon as another person opened her mouth. But, now that I know I do that, I can focus on changing that behavior. Thanks Diane Musho Hamilton!
I expect that now I’ll experience my loved ones in wholly new ways. “Anytime we express our real thoughts and feelings, it creates more truth and reveals a bigger perspective. And anytime someone else shares their truth with us, we should be grateful that we are given the opportunity to see and feel more than we did before. It is a privilege to feel.” loc 511. It is a privilege, isn’t it.
Hamilton talks about one of her students who set an intention to not lose her temper but was then hijacked by her emotions: “Her conditioned patterns are her suffering, like mine are mine, and yours are yours. I invited her to include them, to love them, because this practice is love.” loc 1331. So, it’s not about banging yourself into shape or forcing yourself to become something you’re not. It is more like becoming who you naturally are- which is freedom, joy, love and boundlessness.
Recommended for those who struggle with conflict within themselves or between themselves and others. The Zen of You and Me is helpful, succinct, beautiful and very zen.
Thank you to NetGalley and Shambhala Publishing for a free digital copy of this book. And thank you for reading!