Conflicts arise when communication is not clear and open. Having an open heart helps us tap into our inner truth and communicate with confidence and compassion. This mindful communication exercise can help you open yourself to deep levels of self-awareness. When you practice it, you develop a courageous and effective way to approach conflict from a place of personal power.
Do this exercise when you are alone or around people who can respect your need for focus and silence. Find a place to do this where there is enough space around you. Sit in a comfortable way. Your spine should be vertical and relaxed (either sitting on a pillow on the floor with legs crossed or sitting at the edge of a chair with feet flat on the floor); your breath relaxed, steady, and deep; your eyes closed or partially closed, looking down toward the ground; your shoulders and jaw relaxed; and your hands resting on your knees or in your lap.
Bring Attention to Your Center
Take a moment to imagine a spot that is about three finger-widths below your navel, somewhere in the center of your lower belly. Try to see this point with your mind’s eye and focus on it for a period of time.
Place All Your Attention on Your Breath
From your center become aware of your breath. This simple task helps you to come into alignment with yourself and into the present. There is no need to change your breath. Simply notice it.
Become Aware of Your Physical Body
What sensations are you aware of from your center? Exhaustion? Hunger? Tension? Pleasure? There’s no need to change anything. All sensations, even the unpleasant ones, are welcome.
Become Aware of Your Emotional Body
What emotions are you aware of? Excitement? Fear? Boredom? Joy? Anger? Sorrow? All feelings are welcome, even the ones that are often seen as unpleasant. There is no need to fix them.
Become Aware of Your Mental Body
From your center, what thoughts are most present right now? Are your thoughts open and expansive or tight and judgmental? Don’t try to control your thoughts, just let them flow by.
Become Aware of Your Surroundings
From your center, become aware of the space that you are in right now. Keep your eyes closed. Do you notice sounds? Air temperature? Smells? Can you feel furniture or movement? If you are outside, do you feel the trees, the wind? Place yourself in this space, in this context, at this moment. What is your relationship with this space? Let yourself be influenced by your surroundings.
Become Aware of Others
Now focus on your heart or the middle of your chest. From that place, notice how connected you feel to something larger than you, to the very essence that unites all beings and all phenomena. You may not feel much connection, or you may feel a lot. Don’t judge your connection, simply notice it.
Now see if you can sense how connected you feel right now to all beings on this planet. Understand that this connection changes from moment to moment. How connected are you to your loved ones and those you know and feel close to in life? How connected in your heart do you feel to strangers and possible adversaries? Now notice how all of these connections influence you at this moment.
If you are doing this exercise in a space with other people, try opening your awareness to the others in the room. Keep your eyes closed and see if it is possible to connect with the others who are present. Not with touch or sounds but simply with your awareness. How does that feel?
Draw This Feeling Into Your Heart
With a stronger connection to yourself, to your surroundings, and to others, take a couple of big, deep breaths, and give yourself permission to feel this experience. Feel it in your heart. Let yourself experience whatever comes up.
Open Your Eyes & Connect
Keep breathing, open your eyes, and continue to feel your connection with yourself, your surroundings, and with others. Whether you are doing this on your own or with a group, become aware of the reactions that arise. You may want to laugh. Good, do it. You may feel fear or excitement or sadness. Great. Let yourself feel it.
If you are doing this exercise with others around you, seek out eye contact for a moment. Really notice what happens if you make a heart connection with this person. Ask yourself, "How am I impacting this person at this moment and how are they impacting me?"
Notice that you may want to put up a mask or censor your feelings. Try to stay as openhearted as you were when your eyes were closed. If this makes you nervous or uncomfortable, or if you feel resistance, then give yourself the space to feel that reaction.
Shake Out & Stretch Your Legs
Stretch and shake out any tension you have acquired. You may not be doing a lot of movement, but this exercise requires a lot of exertion and energy.
Make Notes on What You Have Discovered
In order to see your progress and learn from this practice, make some notes. Don’t judge yourself, just evaluate. Write down how it went and what happened. Did you learn anything new? Did you come across a new challenge? Are you seeing yourself in a new way? Make a note about how you will approach the exercise next time.
Follow the Recommended Schedule
In the beginning you should give yourself 15 to 30 minutes for this exercise. Start with doing it at least 3 times a week. As you get more familiar with it, you will be able to do the whole exercise in 5 to 15 minutes. You have perfected this exercise when you find that you are always walking through life with an openhearted connection and full awareness of your whole self, your surroundings, those around you, and the planet.
Excerpted from Mastering Respectful Confrontation by Joe Weston. Copyright © 2012 by Joe Weston.