The Labels That Stoke Conflict – Zen Leadership
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the labels that stoke conflict

Jen Ayres wonders if the labels we give ourselves help – or hurt – dialogue. February 2021

In lots of different ways and with different levels of heat, society, family, friendship and business relationships all seem to be writhing with or talking about conflict right now. With Ginny’s (probably paraphrased) words in my head “when you’re triggered, get curious”, I’ve been watching carefully as I see and am involved in the differences of viewpoint that swirl around me. Getting curious about where negotiation and debate twist into conflict.

Since my last blog post, where I stated, ‘I’m not a morning person’ I’ve been trying to let go of the labels I’ve gathered and glued firmly to myself over the years. It’s taken me time to realise how unhelpful they are and this new blog post was supposed to focus on this very topic. But then I realised that identity labels provide a fertile breeding ground for conflict. If I tell myself I am one thing, then I can’t be the opposite. If I have strong beliefs about a subject, can I truly be open to an opposing argument?

I’d been thinking that we’ve lost the art of true debate but then in Gordon’s webinar ‘Facing the Hungry Ghost’, he highlights that debate is perhaps not an inherent part of some deep cultures. In my own extended family, a debate on nutrition has been going on for the last week between the fitness professional, the scientist, the doctor and those of us who are just trying to be as healthy as possible. We all have the same goal – to be as healthy as we can – and the discussion is supposed to be a friendly exchange of information and opinion. However, there are times when someone has to take a step back from WhatsApp to cool down – in our household at least! It’s been fascinating to watch the exchange play out and it has taken a concerted effort to stay open to information we disagree with.

When we slap a label on ourselves or others, we can become polarised and what should be a helpful debate to collaborate and make progress can turn into a tussle to defend our position and prove we are right.

So, how to find freedom from our diverse collection of identity badges? With this question in mind, I turned to Andy for some help:

Again, it all goes back to the mat.

Happy sitting, everyone.

(If you’re interested, after a bit of prodding, 🙂 he did recommend “No self, No Problem – How Neuropsychology is catching up to Buddhism” by Chris Niebauer, Ph.D. It was a really useful read!)

Jen Ayres first attended a Zen Leadership program in 2018, which had an immediate and major impact on her life during a very difficult time. She’s (slowly) breathing into Zen practice, gradually understanding just how beneficial this practice is and sharing her journey with all of us.

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The tsunami of Covid crashes into the wave of poverty and racism, with a wave of mass protests crashing across the land, waves of polarized politics crashing into one another, dysfunctional systems crashing under their own weight, waves of species obliterated by a heating-up planet, and here we are trying to run a business, serve our communities, and make the world a better place. Trying to navigate these waters as so much chop can feel overwhelming. There is another way, and that is to work with the principle underlying all these waves, creating and destroying all forms. That principle is resonance.

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From the cushion 2020

Please enjoy this compilation of thoughtful writings and other creations from 2020, compiled by our sister organization, Chosei Zen.

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