I write this on my way back from a conference in Washington, DC for the Project for Integrating Spirituality, Law and Politics (PISLAP) entitled, “Fostering Human Connection in an Era of Alienation.” One workshop I attended there, led by John Spiegel and Judith M. Glasser — and based upon the work of Nancy Kline — was called “Souls in Action: Using ‘Generative Attention’ to Resolve Conflicts.”
Their assertion is that attention is a creative act, and that we can help others think for themselves with our very presence. John led the exercise and spoke about how he has applied this in his mediation practice, while Judith explained the neuroscience of it.
The exercise was disarmingly simple. We broke into pairs. Our instructions were just to listen to each other for five minutes. Look into the eyes of the speaker. Be interested in what they are saying and will say. Do not comment, interrupt or finish the speaker’s sentence. Do not take notes.
This was a new experience!
When we talk with friends, we are both listening to what they are saying and formulating our own response. Thus, our attention is always split. When I listen as a mediator, I might listen more closely, but I am still trying to make sure I understand, and I’m still thinking about how I will re-frame to move the conversation. In both instances, I feel pressure to respond appropriately, to say the right thing, to present myself in a certain light.
When I was the listener, I felt no such pressure. I was present without judgment, without response, without action. As I felt more at ease, my partner seemed to relax more.
When I was the speaker, I felt heard in a profound way. I felt that my partner and I had made a profound connection, even though we had just met. I felt safe.
The experience felt like meditation. It is there, available for us all of the time, if we would only do it.
I marvel sometimes at how the very simplest of things, like breath, like water, like attention, can have the most profound effects.
Joy S. Rosenthal, Esq.
Rosenthal Law & Mediation
225 Broadway, Suite 2605
New York, New York 10007
Phone : 212.532.4704