Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Using martial arts to feel a conversation

Diane may have more to say about this, but I will give you brief synopsis of my experience of the time. Roger first gave us some brief instruction on the i ching. The thing to note here is that the Western mind is very different from the Eastern mind. We Westerners want to assign a fixed meaning to the Chinese elements of energy.  For example, we want Yin to be feminine and Yang to be masculine. But in the Eastern thinking, yin and yang only exist in relationship to one another. Like magnetic poles, you cannot find one by itself.

The mandala came about in the Chinese cosmology by beginning with nothing (a blank, white circle); going to a half white, half black circle to indicate "something and nothing"; then to the mandala to indicate motion of something and nothing.  Apparently the name i ching means the differentiation of manifold things.

Here is a good introduction to the i ching, written by Jung.

The four elements in the mandala are : greater yin (black), lesser yin (the small black dot on the white side); greater yang (white), lesser yang (white dot in the black). They represent the following energies:

Greater yang: interrupting
Lesser yang: redirection
Lesser yin: blending
Greater yin: reception

Roger took us through some martial arts activities in which we experienced all of these activities. We learned the visual analog of really NOT addressing someone. He illustrated what it looked like to feed information in the direction of the person one is talking to without actually really addressing them.

We also learned what it felt like to "interrupt," to "redirect", to "blend," and to "receive."  What was interesting was how some of these felt difficult.  For me, I found redirection quite hard.

Roger pointed out the "interruption" can have many forms.  It is not necessarily forceful.  It always has a RELATIONAL CONTEXT, meaning that it is different in the context of different relationships.  With me, all he needed to do is reach in his pocket to interrupt my feed. I stopped immediately.  With another person, the interrupt energy may need to be quite strong.

It will be interesting this week to see how this feels in the conversations that I am in.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Day of the Family

an entry submitted by Dianne.....

Our check in for today inspired Roger to relate to us how he has seen conflict work in small claims court. He has noticed how people will persist in their complaint long after the case has been settled. It's not the substance of the agreement that REALLY matters. The persistence is about the withheld conversation, which is more often than not, an apology. Roger pointed out that this is not like a family dispute that has many layers. It is a simple recognition from the other side that cannot be satisfied with a material settlement. If you can believe it, Roger says that we all engage in conflict as a way to relate to another other person in order to generate feedback from them. We have some need or desire to have a relationship with someone and if it can't be positive, negative will do. Case in point is the dynamic of ex-spouses, but extends to ties of lesser strength as well.

For example, Roger told the story of a couple where the man held his wife accountable for getting in the way of everything he wanted in life. Inexplicably, the dynamic remained long after the two were de-tangled. For him, everything was win or lose. For her, there was self doubt about being a loser. The woman eventually realized the dynamic, and took concrete steps to interrupt the cycle. He may have still thought he was winning, but now she wasn't being dragged into it. Sounds easy, but isn’t.

You sense reality cognitively, felt, or as emotionality. These sensing modes are interrelated, but you can make a distinction for yourself if you pay attention. For example, which of these might you be doing at a work related meeting? Adrienne can tell the difference, she has seen both. She recalls relating emotionally at one point, but communicated cognitively in another. Would that we all could differentiate our reality that well.

And thus we began the day of the family....

Jean Francois, Adrienne, Luanne and Roger all have family members they don't understand. Without much of a stretch we could add Dianne and Patricia to the list. These family members are inconsiderate, dominating, selfish or hypocritical, or all of the above. Family harmony is illusive, family members are annoying. Even where to hold the family Christmas gathering has conflict all over it. Roger asked us to examine if the conflict is cyclic. We might be engaging in it because it has strategic value to us if it remains. It’s a way of connecting, at the very least, and could have other valuable qualities as well. For example, it totally allows you to continually blame others for your problems. Isn’t that great? Oops.

Patricia brought up that the intent of our words is not the same as the impact of our words. You can apologize for the intent, but hey, what the heck do you do about the impact? There is a big difference between saying “I’m sorry” versus “Forgive me”. It’s the difference between regret and repentance.

Brittany demonstrated passive aggressive behavior she has seen. Don’t worry, you’ve seen it too. "It makes me feel .... when you say that" is passive in its structure (couched in an “I” statement) but aggressive in that they now know you don't like what they said. It’s a conflict veiled in a pleasantry.

I’m sorry that I forgot who said this, but in response to why some people annoy us and others don’t, here’s the best line ever:


For homework, try to identify yourself by what you're not, in other words, identify one of your inadequacies. Since Jean Francois didn't seem to have any, I can lend him some of mine, I have plenty to spare. For example "everyone is out to get me", "I'm stupid", "I never get it right", "no one likes me", “no one loves me”, "way too ugly", “I’m not strong enough”, “why can’t I just be…”, are all good options. Watch the tape loop that you play in your head and look for behaviors that manifest. Fast this for one hour. Caution, be gentle with yourself, it is possible that much of your identity is tied up in one of these inadequacies, which is absolutely true for me, and you’ll end up saying "who am I if I’m not this." Whoever is still standing should come to class on Friday for a debriefing. See you then, Dianne

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Half of Day 7: Without Roger

Liz here....Linda might do her own entry, but I missed blogging so......

I think we functioned well without Roger, although his presence was missed. I can say that we have learned much about how to be with each other, but we still have a lot to learn about love. Roger’s unconditional positive regard for others is something I think we have barely started. Maybe I am just talking about me.

The check-in was interesting because three or four people brought up possible “case studies” of conflict. I thought about this and am wondering about the prevalence of conflict and how we really do want some help dealing with it. For some reasons we began to discuss a case study where the member of the group (our friend and a faculty member) is in conflict with the teacher in the classroom right after her. Although we do have 10 minutes between classes to set up, the second teacher wants our friend to vacate the class right on the hour and is making a big deal of our friend's (perceived) slowness in leaving. We all began habitually offering suggestions as to how she could “fix” the problem. I am wondering why we do this, and Linda even asked about this during our workshop, but maybe there is comfort in it for us. Maybe our friend did want answers or at least encouragement. Someone else offered that we might inquire if "fixing" is what is desired by our friend before we jump in. This definitely would be a step in the right direction.

But there are at least two strains of inquiry we could have pursued (in my mind, there are probably many more) that might have allowed her to move closer to a point of being able to experiment with the situation. The first is one I began asking about (after I had exhausted my habitual fixing options). I asked her about the meaning to her in the conflict. I know this was a very clunky way of inquiry, I am sure Roger would have done it better, but I was trying to get a bit deeper. She did volunteer that there was something about the devaluing of her discipline that was within the conflict. She was crying (which she was ok with), but was visibly upset. As a side: Last week at a workshop I was able to have a conversation with the leader of the workshop about my own fear around leading. He is a master at inquiry and as we talked I began to see more clearly my fears and with it came tears. He said that the closer we get to the nub, the more it hurts. I feel like I was seeing this in her tears. But I/we were not able to stay with it. I have been thinking about why. Partly, I was not able to think of any questions because I was attentive to her pain. I also think it was uncomfortable for us and we let the moment dissipate. The second line of inquiry that I wish we had started was about the unwritten rules at Cal Poly, or really anywhere. I have always thought is strange that no one told me, but that I know it is my job to erase the board before I leave, and to leave the classroom pretty close to the top of the hour. Our friend did say there are actually “written” rules about vacating the classroom, but I have never seen them. What other unwritten (or written and hidden) rules do we function under? This is related to how do we habitually behave without inquiry.

Unfortunately, Linda and I had to leave for the airport at 11:00 as I am traveling and Linda drove me there. Maybe someone else can add notes about the second half of class.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Day 6: The Conflict of Incongruence

One of the things we often encounter in subtle ways is incongruence--when the behavior of a human system appears inherently misaligned with the espoused values of that same system. In this week's workshop, someone, we'll call her "Mary," brought an example of this dynamic of incongruence from her civic life.  She found herself and her family being asked to participate in a public fundraising event themed around violence. The violence was presented as playful entertainment, using euphemisms in the advertising, presumably to make it "family friendly," however, the violent subtext was present and disturbing to her.  Our U.S. tradition of Halloween may occur as having the same properties--using violence as the basis of "family-friendly" entertainment.  In short, Mary was experiencing internal conflict.

She described her process of deciding to "speak up," or as Roger has said, making public the background conversation she was having with herself.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Day 5: Violence, Survival and Our Relationship to it All

The check in was rather heavy. In it, we heard that people were dealing with issues of physical violence, life, death, tragedy, apparent collapse and major shifts in world views.

Note: In my re-presentation of our time together, I'm going to omit a lot of the initial conversation which was, in my view, dancing around the topics of "What is the nature of offense or conflict? What is our role in creating the conflict?    How do we work with offenses or conflicts that we experience cyclically (or frequently)?"  Click on the links to see the treatment of those questions. 

I should also say that I've tried to make sense of our conversation, so I've re-presented it in a way that makes sense to me, not in a way that it occurred. My apologies ahead of time for my distortions and deletions.

When presented with violence, what do we do?
The inquiry into violence began with the question, "What do we do when faced with a student who has sought us out and shared the trauma, violence or other personal conflict that they find themselves in?"

Friday, April 22, 2011

Day 4: Looking at the workshop

Liz Here again..... Remember, this is my take on the workshop. Please add comments when I get something wrong.

One of the traditions we have in these workshops is what we call "Check-in." The reason we do this goes something like: we desire to create a space for all of us to develop, and as part of that we want to be completely present. So we attempt to lay down those things that are on our minds so we can attend to each other. We always can pick them up at the end of class if we like. (this is my explanation - let me know if there is a better one) The unusual thing about today is that Roger did not announce that we can now check in, instead we all were silent for a while then people spontaneously began checking-in. It continued as a regular check-in until Roger asked us if it was different today than other days when he usually sets the context for check-in. We talked about it a bit and Roger explained further the purpose of check-in. He said that the listening during check-in shifts the space where we can pay attention to our internal process. Some of us want to respond to other's check-in, but when we don't, we can notice this habitual interaction.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Day 3: Observing the underlying structure of conflict

So here I (Liz) am again reporting on the class. I hope that Linda will be back soon as our faithful scribe, but until then.....

I want to be clear that the notes I record here are just my impressions, there are nearly 20 of us in the workshop and I am sure we each have our own impressions. I have a request, to which you all can say "yes," "no," or "maybe later." If you think I missed or misunderstood something that happened in the class, can you please leave a comment? I think if you are are willing to do this, we might end up with a very rich representation of the space we all occupied together for two hours each Friday.

Last week's Homework: The taxonomy of offense
Roger talked a bit about investigating the taxonomy of an offense. Everyone has their own unique structure of offense. We could actually figure out exactly what "pushes our buttons" and teach someone to do just that. We often marry people who can push our buttons exactly.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Day 2: Conflict, the Unsayable, Neutrality, and Love

I am not even pretending to be as insightful and funny as Linda, or as amusing and aware as Dianne. I will just report the facts (as I see them). Also please remember my check in – I was a complete wreck. So here it goes…..

Homework discussion
After check-in Roger ask about our homework. He had questions about the process of journaling (as this was part of the homework). Did we censor our journals for the person we imagine might one day read it (Roger said he had compassion for that person – reading the boring entries)? He encouraged us to not necessarily stop censoring (if we were), but to notice, put attention on the experience. This meta-cognition is a theme through today’s workshop (maybe all of Roger’s workshops).

Roger asked for reports on how the homework went. Someone reported that she had identified a project (conflict to work on) for the quarter, and then promptly resolved the conflict within a few days. She now is left without a project. Roger volunteered that she probably could very easily recreate the conflict if she liked.

Roger also said that this is not unusual, that even observing something (placing attention on it) is a kind of intervention. Things might change just by looking at them. This should be a warning (be careful what you look at).

Friday, April 1, 2011

Day 1: The Nature of Conflict (?)

This is a brief account of our time from a single point of view. I'm not meaning to be so narrow in my seeing, it is simply my natural condition. So I apologize ahead of time for the incomplete, distorted nature of this summary.  Respectfully, Linda Vanasupa

In the response to the question, "Why are you here?", several people reported that they have returned because of the personal and positive learning that takes place in their lives because of their participation.

Roger made clear that the workshop is not about he as an expert, passing onto us some kind of authorized viewpoint so that we then become authorized in our viewpoint.  It is more about us together holding a kind of reflective space in which our own unconscious models and strategies for dealing with conflict can surface.