Introduction and Conflict Resolution


I am a Jesuit-trained, lay-ordained Zen Buddhist monk.  For me, the Perennial Tradition resonates intimately: at the height (or depth of complete silence and stillness) of spirituality, all of the world’s great religions realize the same ineffable Truth.  Perhaps one way of expressing that comes from Lao Tzu, the sage of Taoism, when he commented on the nature of the Tao: “He who says does not know; he who knows cannot say.”

As a boy, confronted with the Baltimore Catechism, I had problems with religion.  The question is asked: “What is the purpose of your life?”  The dogmatic answer: ”to know, love and serve God.”  If you visualize God as some bearded, muscular strongman who smites people when they don’t follow the Law, then… good enough?  It wasn’t for me.  “Where’s this God guy?”  I asked.  A priest smiled condescendingly and answered: “In heaven, of course.”  “Where’s that?” I pressed.  He frowned.  “You get there when you die,” he said.  I was unconvinced.  Finally, in 1964, I realized I had to find a new path.  I’d been raised by two women, and the Church’s idea of women as primarily baby factories was a shameful put-down on half the earth’s population.  But I did more harm before finally leaving the Church in the fall of 1968, and became, in the parlance of the twenty-first century, a “none”.

So this blog is meant to serve the spiritual seeker in an interesting time…



Conflict Resolution and the Shadow


So how do we deal with people who are so obnoxious that they drive us nuts?  Conflict resolution theory has an answer, but in order to understand it you have to go back to before you were confronted with the conflict.

That theory posits that before you were confronted, you were already in conflict but not conscious of it.  Your conflict stems from not wanting to face some unconscious loathing of certain characteristics in yourself.  Then when you meet someone who is acting out in the very way that you abhor, the conflict inside you becomes manifest.  Your first and continuing reaction is fight or flight: get me away from this person, I never want to see them again; or, I’ll take care of this with a solid punch to the nose!

But according to conflict resolution, conflict is Nature’s way of helping you see and then deal with your deepest Shadows, but you obviously cannot use the gift you’re given if instead you use fight or flight in response to the person acting out your nightmare.

In addition, you can usually assume that the person you’re in conflict with has no idea that you abhor their behavior, not them.  Of course, most people will react to dislike or hatred (from you) with more of the same, so conflict of some type becomes likely.  In one class I attended on this matter, an attendee would sit in a chair and recount the conflict they felt with another person.  As they did that, the instructor, standing behind their chair, would lower a mirror in front of them, so that they could see that it was their own internal conflict they were facing.

Going deeper, Aura Glaser, in a piece called “Into the Demon’s Mouth”, says this:

“Our capacity to turn toward whatever scares or repels us, and remain present with it, depends on our access to inner goodness. When we are able to connect with this ground of inner goodness, it brings a level of confidence and ease that can embrace our full humanity in all its complexity. Without that, we won’t be able to stay with whatever’s arising.”

“…Transitioning into this fourth stage requires a bone-deep commitment to honesty. We really have to be willing to look at ourselves, and this takes guts. We aren’t going to run away even if we see a demon staring back at us in the mirror. We are going to stick with ourselves no matter what, because we are more interested in what is true than in what is comfortable.”  (You can access the whole six-page essay at <>.)