just be it It’s about the work involved in establishing a dedicated practice to feelings of a bigger belonging through practices aimed at increasing feelings of compassion, gratitude and forgiveness

Skillful Means in Communication

Published on 23/03/16
by randy


Science and life experience seem to validate that we continually look for ‘what works’. Most spiritual traditions are founded upon the Golden Rule. For centuries, the notion has been validated that we are healthier and happier when we do to others what we’d like them to do for us. Yet, our survival brain continues to draw us to our own selfish concerns. We use our rational minds to contradict the Gold Rule. We draw conclusions and claim our righteousness from our limited life experience. Yet, all spiritual traditions are based on the vast mystery of life. We’re to be filled with wonder and awe at the unfolding manifestations put before us. We’re to hold an open mind and heart in our movement to deeper understanding. Yet, this becomes increasingly more difficult when we’re under attack from another. Truly skillful means would have us hold our center for balance, open our hearts for understanding, and listen deeply for growth. It would have us compassionate in meeting the suffering of the person we’re communicating with. It would surrender the desire to persuade the other from a position of our ‘rightness’. It would recognize the illusion of our separateness and experience the truth that stewardship, seeking the best for all, is the most effective. It’s with this awareness that our actions line up. Jack Cornfield, in A Path With Heart has captured this in the following:

When we listen as if we were in a temple and give attention to another as if each person were our teacher, honoring his or her words as valuable and sacred, all kinds of great possibilities awaken. Even miracles can happen. To act in the world most effectively, our actions cannot come from our small sense of self, our limited identity, our hopes, and our fears. Rather, we must listen to a greater possibility and cultivate actions connected with our highest intentions from the patient and compassionate Divine within us. We must learn to be in touch with something greater than ourselves, whether we call it the Tao, God, the dharma, or the law of nature. There is a deep current of truth that we can hear. When we listen and act in accordance with this truth, no matter what happens, our actions will be right. p. 300
In these current times where so many preach so much fear it becomes more and more evident that our actions must come from a sincere desire to understand one another’s experience. Dr. Martin Luther King has said we lose our influence when those we’re trying to influence can smell our contempt. When I think I’m right and try to push you to think like me I generally find a push back on your position of difference. In Transactional Analysis we’d see the failure in this communication as the Parent speaking down to the Child, leading the child to more rebellion. Erik Berne has spoken to the “I’m OK, You’re Not OK model” and the violence it engenders. Yet, we see how skillful communication means I have to meet you in respect and open inquiry. It’s from an “I’m OK, You’re OK”, “Adult-Adult” communication model.

Today’s political climate clearly illustrates the lack of ‘skillful means’. Our candidates are punished for any attempts to understand one another. Aggressive, angry and hurtful comments are hurled at one another. The media available to us thrives on conflict, violence and controversy. The current debate programs have done very little at showing who has developed strong listening skills that would lead to effective actions and strong stewardship for the nation and planet. As diversity and change continue to speed up, the common reaction seems to be a desire to hold it back. People are nostalgic and want things to be the way they were. People are afraid of the unknown and hold a belief in holding onto a homogenous community free from rapidly approaching diversity in religion, language, culture, education, race, sexuality, etc. This fear is not just limited to America. Throughout the world there’s growing fear of the unknown and our “us vs them” survivalist thinking jeopardizes us all.

The common misconception is that ‘progressives’ are pushing this change. Yet, the reality is that ‘change happens’. Those who would attempt to stop change have done little but to obstruct our capacity to meet change. One political party has recently prided itself in being the ‘party of No.’ Yet, the Golden Rule instructs us to say “Yes” to a bigger belonging. The first steps in this stewardship process are developing skills in compassionate speech and deep listening.

Just as our cell phones and computers continually need updates, so too must we look at the need to update our business and government practices. If we’re to evolve, we need to expand our capitalism to include a moral conscience that seeks to examine harm caused from actions. Whether a bank, insurance company, energy company, pharmaceutical or weapons manufacturer, we have to demand that success is not limited to the next quarter’s profit. In respect to the Golden Rule and our interdependency, we have to include impact on employees, customers, community, state, nation, international, and planet and environment. Socialism without providing opportunity to participate corrupts well-intentioned welfare. Capitalism based on ‘us vs. them’ survival, greed, and the next corporate profit corrupts our well intentioned free enterprise system as wealth and power become limited to the very few who can never have enough.

We all want to breath healthy air. We all want to be happy. We all want our family to be happy. We all want our children and their children to be happy, to let go resentments and to live in peace. We all know that no one is going to do this for us. We are all asked to learn the skill and art in honoring life “in each encounter, moment by moment and person by person”. This is skilled communication that’s not an idealistic practice but an immediate one. Jack Kornfield quotes a beautiful phrase from William Blake:

If one is to do good, it must be done in the minute particulars. General go0d is the plea of the hypocrite, the scoundrel, and the flatterer.

Skillful means isn’t about lofty thoughts. It’s about practicing caring, kind attention to the gift of our next breath, to our children, the plants around us and the earth to which we’re so interconnected. This comes from openness, flexibility and a heart willing to practice deep listening.

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