Thursday, April 11, 2019
Here are the notes from tonight's session. I have attached a note that will help us continue to move in this direction of compassionate communication.
Let me thank you for showing up each night. It has been a heart-warming experience for me and I'm filled with hope that we can, with the Lord's help, move toward more fulfilling communications that are meaningful and hope-filled.
Let's think about ways that we can continue this dialogue so we can build a community of support as we improve our ways of relating to one another safely.
Blessings on your Holy Week.
When Difficulties Arise
In difficult situations, there are ways to reconcile and to create openings for more compassionate communications.
Communicating when you are Angry
One reason we have trouble communicating is that we often try to do it when we are angry. We suffer and we don’t want to be alone with all that suffering. We are angry because of something someone did or said and we want them to know it - right away.
We are not lucid when we are angry. We can hold our anger, but we can express it in a compassionate and healthy way. Doing violence to our anger means hurting ourselves.
Remember to breathe. It helps us treat our anger tenderly, and it does not diminish our anger’s energy. Once your anger has settled, you can look at it to see its source. Anger may come from a wrong perception or a habitual way of responding to events (that we develop within our family of origin) that does not reflect your deepest values. We repeat the cycles we were taught, and we seldom grow out of them, which becomes the source of family disputes.
You have to genuinely get in touch with your anger in order to heal. This is what it means to pick up our cross. Suppressing anger is dangerous. We have to educate ourselves and take care of our anger. We return to ourselves, our places of calm, and become present to it. (The first statement.) You can communicate to the person who angered you that you are suffering: I suffer. Please help. (The fourth statement.) Once you calmly tell the person that you are suffering and that you want help, you can let them know you are doing your best to take care of your suffering. When you ask for help when you are angry, it tells the other person that you are suffering and not just angry. They will see that suffering causes the anger, and then communication and healing can begin. (Sometimes, it is difficult to do when the person is far away or will not even answer a letter, phone call, or the door.)
Helping Each Other Suffer Less
When we have a rift or estrangement from another person, we both suffer. We still care about the person because the pain is deeper. Our greatest suffering comes from those we care about most deeply. We try to avoid it and cover it up because we are afraid of the suffering inside of us. We can pretend it is not there, but it is a big block.
Our suffering demands to be understood. Mindfulness helps us embrace suffering. We sometimes do not want to be in the same room with a person because we will suffer. With awareness, you can understand your own suffering and the other person’s suffering. Sometimes the other person doesn’t know how to handle their suffering and it comes out sideways, and you are the victim. Maybe the person doesn’t know any other way to act. He can’t understand and transform his suffering, and he makes people around him suffer too. He needs help, not punishment.
You can acknowledge the person’s difficulty in the relationship. Without acknowledgement, we cannot generate understanding and compassion, and we feel alienated. We can’t help.
Use the tools of compassionate communication (the deep listening and loving speech.) Say something like this:
“I know you are not feeling too happy right now.”
“In the past I did not understand your feelings, so I reacted in a way that made you suffer more, and that also made me suffer more. I wasn’t able to help you resolve the problems. I reacted angrily in a way that has made the situation worse.”
“It is not my intention to make you suffer. It is because I did not understand your suffering, and I did not understand my suffering either.”
“I understand my difficult feelings better now, and I also want to understand yours. Understanding your suffering, your difficulties will help me behave in a way that can be more helpful.”
“If you care for me, help me understand.”
“Tell me what is in your heart. I want to listen; I want to understand. Tell me about your suffering and your difficulties. If you don’t help me understand, who will?”
The words have to be your own. Ignatius tells people to pray for courage and energy. When you have the energy of compassion in your heart, your loving words will come to you naturally. When you are angry, it is nearly impossible to use loving speech. When understanding arises, compassion comes, and you can use loving speech without making much effort.
It takes courage to acknowledge difficulty in a relationship. You might think the other person will come to you eventually, but that may not happen. You can’t wait. Begin restoring communication by modeling open-hearted, compassionate dialogue.
The Suffering of Pride
A wrong perception can cause a lot of suffering. We live with some misperception and misunderstanding every day. We have to look into the nature of our perceptions. “Are you sure your perception is right?” Mindful communication has the potential to ease unnecessary suffering.
Reconciling in Families
Sometimes communication is hardest in our families because we share similar suffering and ways of responding to suffering. Our habit of dealing with our suffering is passed along to us by our parents and grandparents. Unless you understand your own suffering and reconcile with yourself, you will pass along your unhealthy ways of responding. You inherit the suffering of your parents. If your parent had a lot of suffering and was unable to handle and transform the suffering, it was most likely passed down to you. You are the continuation of your parents.
Mindfulness recognizes the energy that we put into our habitual responses (our immediate learned response to conflict) each time it arises, and you can embrace it with mindfulness, and then the habit energy is weakened. If we continue this, we can stop the cycle of transmission.
The suffering we received from our parents when we were children is probably our deepest suffering. We may even hate our parents, and whether they are still living or not, we will never reconcile with them. Mindfulness transforms and restores communication. The good news is reconciliation is possible.
Relationships with parents and siblings can be particularly difficult. Maybe there were deep wounds, and no one listened to them. Mindful communication can restore a relationship and allow one another to acknowledge one’s own and each other’s suffering.
A practice of breathing, walking, mindfulness in daily activities can help you return to yourself and learn how you feel. Listen to your own suffering and look deeply into its nature. This is crucial. Compassion arises and you can accept yourself. Then you have a chance to look at others. When you see the suffering in others, you begin to understand that there is a reason they suffer like that. You are no longer angry with them anymore because compassion arises. You become more peaceful, your mind is clearer, and you are motivated to say or do something to help others transform their difficulties. Reconciliation is possible.
Communicating in Long-term Relationships.
In long-term relationships, we think change is no longer possible. We think the other person should change and they won’t, and we give up hope. We have to stop judging. If we wait for the other to change, we will wait a long time. Therefore, it is better that we change.
Your partner’s behavior may irritate you, and you try to correct him, and he gets irritated and becomes unkind. You have to disentangle yourself from the unhappiness and go back to yourself, back to your peace, until you can handle the situation well.
Only when you are calm, invite your partner to speak. Apologize for not understanding her better, listen deeply even if what she says is complaining, reproachful, and unkind. You may learn that your partner has many wrong perceptions about you and the situation, but do not interrupt. Let her speak. Let her have a chance to speak out everything in her so she can feel listened and understood. When your partner speaks, breathe mindfully. Later on, you might have a chance to undo her misunderstanding. Little by little, in a skillful loving way, mutual understanding will grow.
Forget about truth. If your partner says something untrue, don’t interrupt and try to correct. He is trying to speak out his difficulty. Know that you have plenty of time. Perhaps you have been angry with one another for years and you have been stuck and you can’t change the situation. If you can understand your partner deeply, you can start to make peace. Loving, compassionate speech and deep listening are the powerful instruments for restoring communications.
Sometimes a negative environment doesn’t leave space for communication with ourselves. We have to feel safe and not vulnerable. Most times, people love each other and don’t try to intentionally hurt each other, and they don’t know how to communicate. If people need to divorce, they still suffer. You can’t take the other person out of you. The relationship still exists. The suffering continues.
The question is: can you focus on trying to understand each other using compassionate speech and deep listening, no matter what the outcome?
Mutual Understanding in Challenging Situations
Compassionate communication has the capacity to create mutual understanding and to make changes where people thought connection and communication impossible. It can transform situations where both parties are full of fear and anger.
One has to listen with deep compassion and not interrupt the person who is speaking about his or her suffering. If there are misperceptions, one is not to correct or interrupt. When one listens fully, the other can understand for the first time that the other person suffers, and it is much like their own. You can recognize the person as a human being just like them, who suffers similarly.
When you understand suffering, you feel compassion and suddenly you no longer fear or hate. They see acceptance in your eyes, and they suffer less. The fear that we both have is gone. When we are able to produce a compassionate thought, this thought begins to heal us, to heal the other, and to heal the world.
When opposing parties come together to negotiate, they should not do it right away. Each group has a lot of doubt, anger, and fear, and negotiating is too much of a challenge when these strong emotions are present. The first part of negotiating should be about breathing, walking, sitting and calming. Then the groups may be ready to listen to each other and the desire and capacity for mutual understanding will be there.
Keeping it going
Every human communicates. We write, we speak. We also use facial expressions, our tone of voice, our physical actions, and the expression of our thoughts. A beautiful human can produce beautiful thoughts, speech, and actions. Every time we communicate, we produce more compassion, love, and harmony, or we produce more suffering and violence. It is what we leave as our legacy – what we express with our bodies, words, thoughts and intentions, and actions. You are what you do.
Thinking is already an action; it is a powerful energy. Every thought, every attitude will bring a fruit. Our speech is the second action and our bodily action is the third.
We are responsible for our thoughts, speech, and bodily actions. If I did something yesterday that was not right, I have the ability to change it today. We are creating all the time, and its effect is the outcome of our being.
Communication isn’t static. If we can’t change the past because someone has died, we can find a mindful way of bringing them into the community, asking for forgiveness, and making new resolutions.
We can produce a new thought. Today’s new thought may neutralize yesterday’s bad thought. Right communication today can help us heal the past, enjoy the present, and prepare the ground for a good future.
Practices for Compassionate Communication.
The phone or watch alarm
With so much automation, we can set a bell to remind us to breathe deeply three times before returning to our work.
Drinking Tea or Coffee
Make the time just to sit down, relax, and drink your tea or coffee. It does not have to be in front of a computer, on a phone, or texting. It is just you and the cup of coffee or tea.
Listening to your Inner Child
Be a parent to the inner child who is wounded. Speak tenderly to the child. Don’t run away from your suffering, but if you can comfort and console a young child, you have to skills to care for your own self in the same way.
Writing a Love Letter
Practice writing a compassionate letter to someone you love but pain separates you from this person. It is never too late to bring peace and healing to a relationship, even if the person is far away or deceased. You risk nothing by writing the letter. Perhaps later on, you might even want to send it.
Peace Treaties and Peace Notes
These two tools can help to heal anger and hurt in relationships. The Peace Treaty is a preventative tool, while the Peace Note aids in healing. You set the stage for a discussion and give it a few days before you meet to discuss the plans.
The Peace Treaty
Writing a Peace Letter
I know you have suffered a lot over the past many years. I have not been able to help you – in fact, I have made the situation worse. It is not my intention to make you suffer. Maybe I’m not skillful enough. Maybe I tried to impose my ideas on you. In the past, I thought you made me suffer. Now I realize that I have been responsible for my own suffering.
I promise to do my best to refrain from saying things or doing things that make you suffer. Please tell me what is in your heart. You need to help me; otherwise it is not possible for me to do it. I can’t do it alone.
The Peace Treaty: The one who is angry
I, the one who is angry, agree to:
1. Refrain from saying or doing anything that might cause further damage or escalate the anger.
2. Not suppress my anger.
3. Practice breathing and taking refuge deep within myself.
4. Calmly, within twenty-four hours, tell the one who has made me angry about my anger and suffering, either verbally or by delivering a peace note.
5. Ask for an appointment later in the week (e.g, Friday evening) to discuss the matter more thoroughly, either verbally or by peace note.
6. Not say, “I am not angry. It is OK. I am not suffering. There is nothing to be angry about, at least not enough to make me angry.”
7. Practice breathing and looking deeply into my daily life – while sitting, lying down, standing, and walking – to see:
a. The ways I myself have been unskillful at times.
b. How I have hurt the person because of my unreflective habit energy.
c. How the strong seed of anger in me is the primary cause of my anger.
d. How the other person’s suffering, which waters the seed of my anger, is the secondary cause.
e. How the other person is only seeking relief from his or her own suffering.
f. That as long as the other person suffers, I cannot truly be happy.
8. Apologize immediately, without waiting until our appointment, as soon as I realize my unskillfulness and lack of mindfulness.
9. Postpone the meeting if I do not feel calm enough to meet with the other person.
A Peace Treaty: By the one who caused the anger
I, the one who has made the other angry, agree to:
1. Respect the other person’s feelings, not ridicule him or her, and allow enough time for him or her to calm down.
2. Not press for an immediate discussion.
3. Confirm the other person’s request for a meeting, either verbally or by note, and assure him or her that I will be there.
4. Practice breathing and taking refuge in the island of myself to see how:
a. I have seeds of unkindness and anger as well as unreflective habit energy to make the other person unhappy.
b. I have mistakenly thought that making the other person suffer would relieve my own suffering.
c. By making him or her suffer, I make myself suffer.
d. Apologize as soon as I realize my unskillfulness and lack of mindfulness, without making any attempt to justify myself and without waiting until the meeting.
A Peace Note
This morning/afternoon/yesterday, you said/did something that made me very angry. I suffered much. I want you to know this. You said/did: __________________________________
Please let us both look at what you said/did and examine the matter together in a calm and open manner this Friday evening.
Yours, not very happy right now,
Friday, April 5, 2019
Some Additional Comments
I would like us to examine our views on “sin.” In today’s world, many people think of sin in religious terms only or they don’t even know the word, but they do have a sense of right and wrong, good and bad. In our Catholic understanding, we have been taught that we are sinful people and God sent Jesus to redeem us. The Church taught us that we sin against God and others in many different ways, and we assembled lists that we bring into the confessional. We think of sin as something we did or did not do.
During the last century, we became aware of social sin or even national or international sin. These are enormous realities in which we feel we have little power to effect any change. For example, we may work for a corporation that invests in another company that has disreputable business practice that we consider wrong. How do we seek the sacrament of reconciliation? The complexity of our world has changed; our understanding of sinfulness is not that simple anymore.
Jesus says the sin comes from the attitudes that we hold. Sin comes from inside us, which is the reason we must always form and inform our consciences. Our understanding of sin has to mature. A contemporary way to define sin is to say that sin is a failure to even try to love another person. It is in the “not even bothering to care.” It is not about getting it right or wrong, missing the mark, not understanding enough; it is about not even bothering to care.
This definition can change the way we think and feel about ourselves. We have to see ourselves as people who are loved by God and as people who need to reconcile our relationship with God and others. God has already forgiven our sins – once and for all. It is time for us to live in the realm of the resurrection.
Video: Celebrating What’s Right with the World
Dewitt Jones, a former National Geographic Reporter, put together a film and TEDx talk called “Celebrating What’s Right with the World.” Sometimes we need to put on a fresh lens so we can see the beauty that is before us in the “here and now.” I recommend viewing at least one of these films because it mirrors a Jesuit, Catholic perspective on the world. The Spiritual Exercises help us to see and love the world the way God sees and loves the world.
Cardinal Walter Kasper writes in his book Mercy, “mercy is the best thing we can feel. It changes the world… it changes everything… makes the world feel less cold and more just.” Mercy means to enter into the suffering, the chaos, of another person. Pope Francis goes so far to say the Mercy is the name of God, and mercy is at the heart of all relationships.
Mercy is shown at the Incarnation (God chose to be with us) and at the Paschal Mystery (love is revealed in the depths of suffering.) The mission of Jesus was to reveal the mystery of God’s love in its fullness. God searches for us to give us mercy we do not deserve. Because of the Resurrection, the Holy Spirit allows us to face directly life’s problems and illnesses, our world’s wars and tragedies, and not to be overwhelmed by them, because nothing is outside the reach of the resurrection – even death itself.
Mercy is not just a response to human sin. It is, more generally, God’s tender and compassionate response to the human condition in all its complexity, brokenness, and beauty. Mercy is a love that creates, heals, reconciles, and makes all things whole.
The Church’s primary task is to introduce everyone to the great mystery of God’s mercy by contemplating the face of Christ. What we say and how we say it; our every word and gesture, out to express God’s compassion, tenderness, and forgiveness for all.
As we give mercy, we are transformed by it. The church can be transformed by it. Mercy is God’s way of changing the world, transforming us. Mercy is the kingdom of heaven. We are merciful when we just show up for another person. We don’t have to do anything. We don’t have to say anything. We just have to metaphorically hold the person in honor before us.
Friendship with God
Jesuits speak about our life with God as one of friendship. Our name means “The Company of Jesus,” that is, those who choose to be with him in friendship. This friendship develops in stages because we are not static and God is not static. We go through a period of infatuation, curiosity, discovery and play, further exploration, and then we come to a point of testing. We might have to reveal something to God that we fear God may not like. Once we reveal this fear to God, God typically responds with mercy and acceptance, and our bonds are strengthen. We learn to trust God more and more and we become more authentic in our interactions with God. We say what is on our minds more freely, we love God more freely, and we speak to one another as friends do.
God does not want us to suffer but to have the fullness of life. Our work as ‘friends in the Lord’ is to live more fully in that freedom and to receive and give mercy to ourselves so we can give it to others freely and generously. I invite you to begin to explore the nuances and depths of this relationship – for the salvation of your soul – and for your happiness today.
Thursday, April 4, 2019
Six Statements of Loving Speech.
When we have the impression that we are alone and without support, remember it is only a perception and it is not accurate. These six statements embody loving speech and let others know you see them, understand them, and care for them. Breathe in and out before you say the statement to yourself before you speak to the person in front of you. Our practice of deep listening is called upon: “Now is the time to listen only.”
Statement One: “I am here for you.”
This is the best gift you can give someone because your presence is important to the person. Jesuits say, “We are people with and for others.” To love someone means to be there for the person. Showing up is an art and a practice. Love is based on understanding, and your mind has to be in the “here and now” before you can love. You cannot love properly and deeply without being mindful of the other.
Statement Two: “I know you are there, and I am very happy.”
When you are truly in the “here and now,” you are in a position to recognize the other person. You are letting your loved one know that his or her presence is important to you. You really see the other person. To love means to be aware of the presence of your beloved one and to recognize that presence is something very precious to you. The statement reaffirms the presence of the other person as important to you. (The opposite is when someone ignores you. You don’t feel loved. If the person doesn’t pay attention to you or look at you, you don’t feel loved.)
Statement Three: “I know you suffer, and that is why I am here for you.”
This statement is used when a person is suffering, and it helps them suffer less immediately. You recognize that something is not going well with your friend or loved one, and your impulse is to do something to fix it. The trick is: you don’t need to do much. You just need to be there.
When you suffer and a loved one ignores your suffering, you suffer much more. If the person is aware of your suffering and offers presence in difficult moments, you suffer less right away.
Statement Four: “I suffer. Please help.”
Use this fourth statement when you suffer, and you believe the other person caused your suffering. When someone you love says something that feels critical or dismissive, you suffer deeply. If we don’t look deeply into our suffering and find compassion for ourselves and the other person, we want to punish the other person who hurt us. When we suffer, we think it is the other person’s fault for not appreciating us enough. Our actions are trying to say to the other person, “I don’t need you.”
When we suffer, we should tell others that we suffer and we need their help, but we do the opposite. It means we have to get over our pride.
If you don’t say the words, “I suffer. Please help,” you may sulk. We pretend not to suffer, and we deny the one who causes our suffering. We do not tell the truth because we don’t want them to know we suffer, but we are indeed suffering.
A longer version of the statement is, “I suffer. I want you to know about it. I don’t understand why you did or said what you did. So please explain. I need your help.” This is true love.
To break it down further, this statement has three parts:
1. I suffer and I want you to know.
2. I’m doing my best. (This might mean that I won’t say anything to damage myself or you. I’m looking into my suffering to examine its roots and I believe you have caused my suffering, but I know I should not be too sure about that. I’m looking to see if my suffering comes from a wrong perception on my part. Maybe you didn’t mean to say it or do it. I’m doing my best to look at my anger and to embrace it tenderly.)
(This second sentence invites the other person to practice looking deeply. Either person can apologize for being unskillful in communicating. It recognizes the other person is human and is doing his or her best and that we are doing our best as well.)
3. Please help. We can’t figure it out on our own. We need each other.
Statement Five: This is a Happy Moment.
If we are with someone we care about, this statement brings about happiness. We are lucky, and conditions of happiness are around us. We have each other. It is possible to be happy here and now.
Statement Six: You are partly right.
We can use this statement when someone praises or criticizes us. I have weaknesses; I have strengths. If you praise me, I should not get puffed up; if you criticize me, I should not get lost in it.
When you see beautiful things in another person, you overlook those things that are not beautiful. Love makes the other person more perfect. You don’t want to become a victim of prideful illusion because you know you are not perfect. You preserve your humility.
If someone criticizes you, you tell them they are only partly right. I have positive things in me as well. Without judgment, you can investigate so you can improve.
The sixth statement preserves the truth. You don’t lie. You don’t fall into false humility. We accept others when we accept ourselves. Acceptance of reality doesn’t stop you from trying to improve. We accept the failings and success of others. When we don’t judge ourselves, we accept. When we don’t judge others, we accept.
Bringing Compassionate Communications to your Relationships
These statements improve relationships. They help people feel welcome with you and with themselves. Once the person finds a home within you, you can help the other person. You inspire confidence that you honor and respect the other person.