Mediation & Spanda

April 9, 2018

I have long believed that mediation has the potential to heal--heal relationships, heal the Self, heal the Other.


Mediation is ultimately facilitated dialogue by a Neutral. The Neutral is only thus in the context of the Clients' issue because the mediator is typically very attached to the process of resolution, rather than the resolution itself. 


While every mediator I know delights in seeing issues resolved, it is the case for de-escalation of conflict, bridging, understanding, facilitating a model for dialogue that makes me the most happy.


I had a case recently where both parties were stuck in an old hamster wheel of "conversation." It was not conversation; it was parallel narratives that only overlapped because they shared a child in common. They narratives involved a lot of reasons why each on was "right," without listening to the underlying story of the narratives.


They did not have a way to bridge the narrative, even though on their own individual islands, they seemed to be discussing rational ideologies and values about the child. But it wasn't ultimately about the child; that is, the presenting issue was a new Parenting Plan, but the tension that needed to be resolved was about being acknowledged, respected, and thanked for each parent's role now that they were not together. They looked like:

  • Desire for recognition (for their efforts and commitment to their shared child and one another's other biological children).

  • Sadness and Regret that the romantic relationship did not work out, and a lack of time to properly grieve that.

  • Wanting help and mutual parenting support but feeling fear about being vulnerable to the Other in discussing the child's daily needs and routines.

  • Empathy for one another's position.


It played out as Power and Control. Each started their old conversation at the mediation table to "build a case" about their worthiness and their "rightness." They hauled out all their old stories, and a few new ones, but they were all old stories, even the one that happened just two days before.


Once they were able to acknowledge each of their places in the life of the child, and acknowledged the variety of circumstances to which they both held bigger duties, they were able to soften into the discussion around a parenting plan. Where previously both had felt that budging at all on the "absolutes" they had going into the process would weaken their position and be a loss that would make them both unhappy, they were able to acknowledge that honoring the dignity and humanity of one another helped them to stay present and look forward. They both left feeling like they had won something far beyond the scope of a residential schedule--they felt they had learned something fundamental about how to be in the world and how to be in conversation and how to be in relationship to one another even though their romantic relationship had ended.











In yoga, one must engage Muscular Energy (ME) to set up and be grounded in a pose, but staying engaged muscularly leaves no room for breath. Breath is life. Breath is softening. Breath is embodiment. And we need both--Breath and Muscular Energy--in yoga and in life. Certainly in conflict. The softening allows the space of expansion for true discourse. It's called spanda in Sanskrit. It means pulse. Contracting is muscle energy, tightening, making smaller, engaging muscle, "bringing the muscle." Expanding is breath. This is where mediation operates--in the liminal space between the conflict (contraction) and the understanding (expansion). Spanda is wisdom. Spanda is life. Spanda works everywhere, even in mediation.





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