Can you believe that the 2010 holiday season is upon us? I’ve been making plans to go back to Nebraska and I’m very much looking forward to seeing my family. For quite a few of us the holiday season means spending more time with friends, family and those that we’re in close relationship with. Of course, love provides the foundation for these close relationships and there are many pleasant emotions that come up when we spend time with those we love. Still, the reality is that there are times when being close to others can stir up all sorts of intensely uncomfortable and internally conflicted feelings.
When it comes to conflict in relationship, it’s common for us to let our attention be drawn outside of ourselves. When we allow our attention to be drawn outside of ourselves we will most likely encounter the impulse to point the finger at the other person and make them responsible for our uncomfortable feelings. Focusing outside of ourselves, however, only keeps us stuck in the same level of consciousness from which the conflict was born, with no option but to repeat over and over again the same cycles of conflict without ever finding any lasting resolution between each other.
Relationships and conflict contain massive potential for profound personal growth and healing if we can manage to steer our attention inward. Allowing our attention to rest in ourselves, on the sensations within, will illuminate the real source of discord in relationship; the conflicting relationships within ourselves. For every conflicted relationship or troublesome situation in our external world, we’ll find an unacknowledged and unaccepted part inside of ourselves.
Whenever there’s a relationship or a situation in your world that’s creating some conflict for you, implement the Three A’s of Healing to draw your attention inward and activate the healing potential that’s stored within you:
- Awareness: Give yourself the opportunity to connect with your body-mind so you can bring your awareness of yourself into greater focus. If possible, find a quiet place. Notice your breath. Is it deep or shallow? Bring your attention to your body. What do you feel there? Is there tension or tightness somewhere; your head, your belly, your chest? Do you feel energy moving somewhere? Put your hands on some of the areas that draw your attention and gently breathe into them one at a time. You’re not trying to breathe into them to change them in any way. You’re simply connecting with those parts of you. The mindfulness created when you connect to yourself in this way will bring your body-mind into sharper focus.
- Acknowledge: Once you’ve connected with yourself in this way notice what you’re feeling. Keep is simple and avoid getting into why you’re feeling this or that.. Are you feeling sad, angry, hurt, lost, happy, afraid? Give it a voice. Say, “I feel angry.” You may be surprised to find out that there is more than one thing going on at a time. You may feel sad and afraid. You could put your hands on the sad place and say, “Some parts of me feel sad.” You could put your hands on the afraid place and say, “Some parts of me feel afraid.” Maybe you’re not sure what you’re feeling. Say “I feel unsure or confused.” Maybe you’re only aware of pain. You can acknowledge parts that hurt by saying, “This part hurts.” Simply acknowledging what’s there in the moment can create a big shift.
- Acceptance: See if you can extend some acceptance to the part of you that’s angry or sad or in pain, meaning just allow it to be there without any intention of changing it or fixing it. Just let it be as it is. See how present you can be with that part of yourself without trying to change it. See what happens. The original emotion you were working on might change to another one. Pain or tension might move or change in some way. Be present with whatever comes up without trying to change it. Being present with some part of yourself without trying to change it is the real definition of love and acceptance.
Go through this process enough and eventually it will become automatic on some level. Keep doing it and eventually you’ll be able to do it in the middle of a conflict. It will totally change the direction the conflict was going in. You’ll feel greater acceptance and love for yourself and for those that you’re in relationship with, as well. It’s hard to stay in conflict with yourself or with anyone else in the midst of love and acceptance.