One of my gifts from blogging is the joy of knowing Bhavana Nissima, a sentiment shared, I am certain, by all who have known her. All. I love her distinctive approach to things we see around us. Her posts question what we take for granted, yet in a very gentle, non-confrontational way.
When we announced a blogger's meet in Hyderabad in 2012, she caught a bus (after missing her train) and came to encourage us all the way from Chennai. Her posts blend social responsibility with her personal quest, with her commitment to reclaiming the feminine and with quiet moments of self disclosure. The result is a fine tapestry of thoughts and feelings (and a lot of facts) that reaches far beyond the individual and showcases what we as a people are truly capable of. This also comes through in photography illustrating her posts (as well as on her photography blog, Photobhavna).
Bhavana embodies the belief that concern by itself, unaccompanied by action, is of little value. In this guest post, she sheds light on the very essence of the journey from conflict to wholeness - Dialog. Before my introduction becomes longer than the post itself, over to Bhavana.
I began this piece the day after the Hyderabad bomb blasts, sitting in an office not far from Dilsukh Nagar—the site of the blasts. In some, there was anger, in some, helplessness, in some, a real physical pain, a loss, and for others life went on— “lite teesko” as they kept reminding me.
A stream of fresh air blew through the crack in the window reminding me to think afresh, anew and to think of dialog again. Yes, even now.
You see when folks think of the word dialog, they think of two people sitting together, in a polite, civil manner, talking soft sweet words to each other, listening and comprehending and that after sometime folks come to an understanding--a consensus.
What is the use of dialog when we are speaking in chorus? What is the use of dialog when we are already in agreement? When what is at stake is not important enough? When memories don’t hurt enough? When values are not deeply rooted enough?
Dialog when you believe that a dialog is impossible. And here is how. Not a full and a sure how. But a “thereabouts” how.
Dialog begins within yourself first. This is the toughest area of dialog.
1. Dialog is sometimes not even with a person or a community—it may happen with a book or an idea or a faith. It is not so much an “inter” process as it is an “intra” process.
2. If you are psychologically or materially invested in the issue, you have to develop an emotional distance from the topic, a process I call as “disidentification.” Identify ways in which the issues prick you and ponder on their roots. Then disidentify by mindfully observing the thoughts that course through your mind and work on being still.
3. Journal/talk aloud/paint/dance/sing or whatever till you are ready to sit for a dialog. It will not happen overnight, not even in a week or a month. Sometimes months, sometimes years. No quick fix. But you have to understand that if you want to contribute to a safer, healthier, more peaceful society—what you are doing is crucial for that to happen. True dialog happens between individuals and communities who have spent a long time dialoging with themselves.
4. Compassionately place the other in your shoes / chappal / bare feet. Think of their well-being. Think of the world as an interdependent network where everyone needs to evolve, where one person/community’s fall will impede the progress of others. But give up your sense of how the world needs to progress. It is beyond you and me. The universe has its own intelligence which we partake and participate in. Progress is communally defined and implemented.
5. If you are spiritual, hold the world and all beings as sacred—each having meaning and reason for existence. Even when it hurts to do so, respect that existence. You don’t need to rush to forgive. You do need to slowly pry yourself open for that to happen. You see, the site of conflict is not between two people or two communities. It is right in your heart.
During Dialog with Person/Community
1. If you enter a dialog with the assumption that the person must/needs to be as ready for the dialog as you are—you are not ready yet. Dialog doesn’t need all parties to be in a state of peace. Just one party is enough to bring down the defences. Unconditional respect for the sacredness of the other party is all you need.
2. Listen, listen with your heart. Communication emerges in dialog from deep listening. It ceases to be a reaction, it becomes a response.
3. When the other party engages you in what seems as debate, do not try to pulverize their point of view (PoV). Understand this-- most folks attach their identity and self-worth to their PoV and feel threatened when that is attacked. Ease them out. Affirm and validate their stand. Once they relax, they are more willing to listen to you. Sometimes the effect is instantaneous. Sometimes it takes time. Sometimes it will not happen for a long time, in which case you wait for the turnaround.
4. Avoid judging the person, judge the act or consequences or product. Every person is complete whether you realize it or not. At a certain point in time, it is possible a certain set of traits that may be discomforting or disgusting to you emerges, but in essence, you are reacting to the traits. Tell yourself-- even a weed has a place in the world. You have to unflinchingly search for goodness in the moment.
5. Instead of making definitive and absolute statements, try stating it as a logical or evidence based deduction that is open to revisions. If you have already decided your point of view is alone correct, then no point in wasting your time in a dialog--you are simply persuading your case. This post is not for you. If that is not the case, then learn the art of present your view in an open, friendly manner.
6. Some folks mistake dialog to be compromise or some kind of soft approach. It is not. It is the deepest possible communication that one soul can engage in with another that leads to discovery and growth. Relentlessly pursue that which is most compassionate for all concerned that gives maximum benefit to all concerned. Do not sacrifice your needs, your beliefs. You are sacred and important too.
Dialog oftentimes is not about solution. It is about acceptance and about being at peace, of being peace. No more.