Development of spiritual skills
through mindfulness in conflicts

These questions are intended to be useful for sensitizing yourself to the opportunities conflicts offer to develop spiritual skills.

1. The Head: Cognitive Skills

a) Openended listening
Have I become a captive of fixed images of my counterpart, his/her motives, his/her character and his/her strategies?
Am I still prepared to reevaluate my image of the situation? Can I permit new information to change my image of my counterpart or of the situation?

b) Differentiated perception
Am I still capable of perceiving the complexity of my counterpart, in particular his/her constructive aspects?

c) Integration of perspectives
Am I able to withstand a too strong identification with my own standpoints, in order to remain open to new solutions that might satisfy the key needs of both sides? Can I retain a distinct image of my own goals and values when I try to see the situation from the perspective of my counterpart or when I try to take account of the goals of others?

d) Roletaking
Can I see the world with the eyes of my counterpart, and understand what interests, needs and decisions are central for him/her, and to understand what he/she fears the most?

2. The Stomach: Emotional Skills

a) Tolerating tensions and ignorance
Can I tolerate not to know what my counterpart intends to do, that I have to deal with contradictory information, and that I have a lot of contradictory feelings myself?

b) Compassion
Can I feel compassion for the emotions my counterpart feels, even when I think that these emotions are unjustified?
Can I feel compassion for the pain of my counterpart, and still retain my commitment to values I find important?

c) Keeping feelings and evaluations apart
Is my disapproval of my counterpart caused by my commitment to certain values, or is it caused by a spontaneous feeling of dislike? Am I prepared to work to transcend my negative feelings if I realize that they result more from my own way of reacting than from "right" or "wrong," or do I withdraw and devalue my counterpart?

3. The Heart: Intentional skills

a) Mindfulness
Were there moments in the current conflict where I slipped into unreflected behavioural patterns, where I did not make conscious decisions on how to act?

b) Retaining identification with a holistic perspective
From where are my standpoints, interests and goals derived in the present conflict? Which are my most important motives?
Can I allow my counterpart to express his/her feelings and standpoints in a stressfull situation, without closing off myself, and without trying to manipulate him/her?

c) Acknowledging responsibility
Do I have a distinct image of the alternative courses of action that are open to me in the present situation, or do I feel like a victim of external circumstances?
Which circumstances do I choose to accept and adapt to, and which do I try to evade?

4. The Hands: Interactional Skills

a) Authenticity
Do I use tactical methods and tricks in difficult discussions?
Are there situations where I act out of tactical considerations, for example by saying things that don't agree with my real feelings and thoughts in order to secure a specific outcome?
Do I fear showing what I really think, feel and want?

b) Staying connected
Can I stay connected to my counterpart, both emotionally within myself and in action, or do I tend to withdraw through distanciation, evasion or ignoring?

c) Boddhisattva attitude
How can I, in the present situation, contribute to an atmosphere that makes it easier for my counterpart to let go of his/her defenses and orient him-/herself towards a constructive attitude?

Text: Thomas Jordan. See also 'Conflicts as yoga. Mindfulness in conflicts as a path of consciousness development'
Illustration: Katarina Kuhlmann.