Ever been stuck in a conflict, unable to let go and unable to forgive others? Ever felt like conflict permeated everything?
In Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution, Diane Musho Hamilton, a Zen teacher and priest, helps us get through these problems. Hamilton explains the benefits of conflict — even when we see it as a bad thing. She also discusses her own experiences with Zen, which include meditation, awareness, shifting between perspectives, letting go, compassion, and forgiveness.
Hamilton writes that conflict can be helpful: It causes us to receive feedback, evaluate ourselves, become aware of different perspectives, and think of a solution that benefits both parties. And through Zen, she posits, not only can we see what we did not previously see in ourselves and others, but we can understand that disputes are tools, not weapons, and that conflict is an opportunity for creativity.
“The creative process necessarily involves encounters with the unknown, the chaotic, and the pain that seems to accompany the birth of something new,” Hamilton writes. We must be willing to step out of our comfort zone and experience whatever comes in our lives. We must be willing to “reshape the meaning of events, relationships, and circumstances in our lives” without judging. That way, she explains, we will be able to see things clearly and learn what we have not learned before.
This requires being willing to listen to constructive comments with an open mind, so that we will be able to see things clearly and get to know our strength and weaknesses.
No wonder there is a connection between psychology and Zen. Psychology focuses on human behavior and mental health, and Zen offers direct insight that can help us improve our behavior and attitude.
Hamilton also discusses egocentric, ethnocentric, world-centric, and cosmic-centric worldviews. She explains that religion, education, politics, peer pressure, socioeconomic status, and what we experience in life all influence us and our approach to conflict. Unfortunately, the book does not go further into detail here, nor does it go into enough detail about the history of Zen.
However, Hamilton does a good job of outlining ways to solve conflicts, whether they be on an individual, organizational, or societal level. She provides practice sections at the end of each chapter, exercises that seem helpful. Overall, her book can help us as readers become wiser to our surroundings — to find meaning in disputes, and to discover the hidden shadows at work in ourselves.
Everything Is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution
Shambhala Publications, Inc., December, 2013
Paperback, 256 pages