Ten days ago I co-led a workshop called Dealing with Conflict. Participants raved about it. My co-leader, a wizard in the world of relationship coaching, and I had a blast.
Then today was living proof of why people say, "What you want to learn, teach."
Today the universe tested me: Do you practice what you preach? Are you living what you teach? I woke to make Earl Grey tea and found a mean spirited comment awaiting on a social media post I'd written about my next workshop, called Radical Love in Parenting. Profane name calling, insults, mean spirited aggression, it was all there.
For a moment I thought of deleting it. We get to choose what we expose ourselves to, as humans, and I very proactively choose and create a loving world. Why would I allow such hatefulness on my page?
Well, because hate can only project itself outwardly when it is felt inwardly, too. And it is my pledge of allegiance in this life, to love people -- even when they're mean -- not to add pain to pain by being mean back, or abandoning them.
Gut said: Keep it. This person is in pain. Deal with conflict. Be with conflict. See if you can help it dissipate in the presence of Love.
And so I replied, to the best of my ability staying in a place of grace and strength, not embodying any of the qualities I don't want more of in the world: harsh criticism, judgment, violence. It may not have been a perfect response but I was proud of it. I was facing conflict in a way that felt self-honoring: inviting this person to consider a way of communicating that was respectful (differences being perfectly OK, but not meanness) and yet being "my own big sister" in clearly stating meanness wouldn't be allowed in this Leaning into Light community. I drove to a cafe to work for the day, feeling vividly content with who, and how, I was being.
In the hours that followed, life showed me the glistening jewel within conflict. Why it can be so helpful to a warrior for Love, how it can stretch us to our next edge in living the life that we dream of: a richly fulfilled, courageous and dazzling-with-light, existence.
If you missed our Dealing with Conflict workshop... shucks! We'll offer more. Popular stuff. But here are a few simple tips to rise above the war zone, rather than sinking into its muck.
1) Pause. The ever-undervalued pause. Let yourself process first. If you're emotionally triggered, you can take space. You don't need to respond right away. Take a break. An hour, 10 minutes, a day, what do you need to find more neutral ground before responding? Responding defensively and immediately can be harmful and further aggravating.
2) Don't take it personally. Remember Don Miguel Ruiz's book, The Four Agreements? Slam dunk on that one, #2, Don't take anything personally. Master that one and you're on your way, Baby. Big stuff. Remember that what someone else says, says far more about them than it does about you. If someone is harshly critical, consider the wounds inside of them and have compassion. Or dig it up. (And if someone is openly loving, hmmm, that may be someone you want to spend more time around, eh?)
3) Respond with strength and grace. Honor yourself. Be your own big sister or big brother. Stand for your own values and vision; you are their best friend. Clarify what you intended, if you were misunderstood. Take responsibility for your role, if it is clear what your role is. Were your actions or words in alignment with who and how you want to be in this world? If not, own it. Acknowledge it. Put yourself in their shoes.
Using those guidelines to the best of my ability, I felt stretched in all the best ways, my emotional and spiritual capacity widened up to greet life more fully for the sake of my well being and everyone else's.
And then a post arrived, from my friend and collaborator Olivia. In one of my favorite ways love gets expressed: the written word. From someone I met while we served as President and Vice President on a Board of Directors together. We loved working together so much that we now co-lead The Sisters Series for Leaning into Light's workshops.
Since I am such a fan and practitioner of PDA (Public Displays of Affection) I will share it here, with an enormously grateful heart.
I drove home the other day, from a really fun time with sister, aunt, friend. I was thinking about you. And how, from the moment I met you, you have influenced me.
It wasn't always comfortable. Sometimes when someone's vocal way of being (you are very vocal), comes up against your edges, it can be painful, because she is actually shining so much light, that it challenges how you may speak, or think or act.
It challenged me, it inspired me. There were some very deliberate ways that you communicated (pausing to take in a situation, taking the time to articulate what you ACTUALLY wanted.... not just saying things to be agreeable), pointing things out, taking the time to address them, challenging a group to be better!!!!!! Let's be better, let's live this life as brings the most peace to the most people on earth as possible.
Any how. Your being, how you are, made me look at how I wanted to be. And explore those edges... inspired me to speak my truth, in a gentle, loving, respectful way... because then, more people win. I have also noticed that if I am feeling out of integrity in any particular area in my life -- maybe not a big deal thing, maybe a big deal thing -- that being with you can actually feel hard... and again, it's because I find you to consistently speak so much from a truthful heart, that, if I am not in a similar moment myself... it shines light on those areas of pain.
But, here's the thing... YOU LOVE. And are so good at it. That... it just invites more love, and light to get its groove on, and show up. That's rad.
The work you do with Leaning into Light, the workshops, the blog posts... they are you! And they are an invitation to anyone who wants to explore their edges, take time to reflect on what is important to them, and to be given really simple, strong support to make those small or big changes that actually shift things.
It's awesome. Thanks for the work you do.
Conflict gave me a big, bold invitation to become a stronger, more powerful and loving communicator. Conflict showed me what I've learned. Conflict showed me that I practice what I preach. Conflict need not be fed with our attention; it CAN dissipate with Love.
And with that, I exhale one giant breath of thanks for being on this fine planet, in such fine company, for one more day. Good night, friends.
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a lifelong letter writer, a mother, freelance consultant and eternal fan of Mr. Rogers and Sesame Street. This deeply personal blog and our recorded talks and workshops are devoted to one of her great passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.