Conflict in relationship begins when we forget our own presence, and therefore forget the living presence of the other. We reduce the aliveness of the loved one to a mental image – a judgement, category, label – and we end up confusing who they really are with who we THINK they are. The labels and judgements are so dead: “You are wrong. You are stupid. You are insensitive. You are crazy. You are unkind. Your heart is not open. You are so unenlightened”. They reduce the other to a thought-created ‘thing’, and we forget their immediate, living, vibrant presence. We engage in a war of images, and stop listening.
Conflict in relationship can end when we remember the presence of the other, their humanity, and therefore remember our own. We feel the other’s presence as our own intimate presence, making the other not an ‘other’ at all. We see them as a brother or sister on the path. We understand that they are not there to complete us, save us, fix us, make us happy, bring us inner peace or meet all our needs, nor are they a threat to our inner peace and alignment. We listen deeply, allowing them to have their experience, honouring what moves in their depths, feeling compassion, but never pity, for their pain and unmet frustrations. We do not try to fix, change or manipulate them, and we do not judge them as right or wrong, good or bad, ugly or beautiful. We don’t reward or punish, but listen more deeply than we’ve ever listened before. And if we listen very carefully, we may just hear ourselves, meet our own broken hearts, feel our own longings, see our face in their face, and lose all interest in violence of any kind.
~ Jeff Foster