Friday, April 13, 2012

Communication Styles ~

Dialogue. It’s not something we tend to think about much. We just do it, and fortunately it comes naturally to most of us. But are we really that good at it? Do we think about how we go about conversing with others and whether or not our typical style of communication is actually constructive? Dialogue is important for many reasons, to a large extent because we build relationships through it.

When communicating with someone, do you have to win them over, do you prefer coming to a consensus, or do you often just agree to disagree? Are you an antagonist, pacifist, or reside somewhere in the middle? Do you bounce back and forth, pinging to the edge and then back again? Or do you allow for synthesis to unfold, a third possibility coming to the surface when conversing with someone else? What about your internal dialogue? Are you aware of how it brings even more people into the discussion, how important perspective is, and how multiple perspectives can exist in any given conversation?

Yeah, there’s a lot there when you hold it up to the light.

Personally, I think my style depends not only on with whom I’m talking, but also what we’re discussing. Is there passion in the opinion from the get-go or a conflict already in existence? Are we aware of what the issue is and how we’re feeling about it? Are we on the same page and communicating on the same level? It’s not always easy to tell, and can in fact make relating seem like a science.

Communication with particular people can be highly delicate at times, vacillating between harmonious and volatile. With others, however, conversations may feel downright effortless. So what’s the magic equation for relating? There might be a whole slew of theories and equations, ranging from simple addition and subtraction to complex calculus-like brainteasers.

Most of us would rather communicate clearly and easily – and let’s be honest – not have to think so much about it. But not always seeing eye to eye isn’t necessarily a bad thing and doesn’t have to mean that we’re disagreeing. We each simply view things from our own perspective. Sometimes the exchange ends in agreement, while at other times we’re left with open-ended questions.

“There just isn’t always going to be a resolution,” Stephen says. “Some things aren’t going to work out.” Besides, he adds, “I’m always suspicious when things are too tidy. When I think I have it all figured out, I know I’m getting close to disaster.” He chuckles.

Seated in our cushy chairs, we both look out the window at McKinley Park just across the way. Sometimes I think we’re speaking different languages, but the intention for communion is there, and so that’s usually what we get. Engaging in the act of communication means we have relationships – and that’s a great thing – but as we all know, relationships can be challenging. Dialogue-ing is a process, just like most everything else in life. It requires awareness, practice and patience, repeatedly.

“I always prefer the peripatetic style of dialogue,” Stephen continues, as I give him a perplexed look he’s probably used to by now. “This is when you walk and talk, rather than flying around or being stuck.” I know the style; just hadn’t heard the word before. “You’re not so fixated on body or mind, and the rhythm from the movement helps relax and open you up.” Makes perfect sense to me. “You don’t feel confronted by another or confined by the walls or the room. Walking helps you balance internally because you’re literally going back and forth on two feet.”

“Ah, yes - Aristotle style,” I say. “That’s my favorite too.” Maybe we should try it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

What is 'Spirit'? ~

When I think of ‘Spirit’, I think of an effervescent energy that emanates from all living things. It hovers within and around the physical form while extending infinitely beyond it, and is in fact not dependent on it. It can appear that some people have Great Spirit, presence or lust for life, and they may in fact be more in touch with the energies they possess and their own positive manifestations. Thus the more they pay attention to the beauty and potential goodness of the world, the more their spirit is fed.

When I think of spirit I think of many things, including the contagious energies of determination, enthusiasm and resilience, people who’ve passed away and their higher selves that seem to remain, and just about anything that is growing or evolving. As an animal lover, for instance, I’ve watched my pets come to life over the years, to the extent that they seem to become nearly as human as the rest of us. I assume it is their evolution or awakening of spirit. The more I pay attention to them in a kind, caring way, the more they connect with me and others, and the more they come to life in subtle but significant ways. I think it’s the same from person to person. The spirit is always there, but we often have to dig to uncover and fully discover it.

Stephen defines spirit as “The sense of panoramic awareness and spaciousness.” Panoramic awareness is a knowing that is energetic; it has its own life to it. Spaciousness is openness, formlessness, a sense of unobstructed space and the ability to move through it. Being intangible, however, both awareness and spaciousness can be hard to pin down, making it easy for us to go to the” shadow side”, in which we may act as a perfectionist, doubter, seeker or wanderer.

Seekers and wanderers are always looking for things outside of themselves, and yet they have a lot of doubt about themselves and the journey. Since they also have perfectionist tendencies, nothing is ever good enough, causing self-confidence issues and endless searching. (See the cycle?). Always having two poles or opposites, shadows can pull at each other and leave us feeling trapped within.

The healthy balance of Spirit, on the other hand, comes from embodying the forms of guide and student rather than doubter and seeker. We can do this by being open to the lessons at hand, accepting and utilizing wisdom that shows itself, and knowing that life is not a monkey wrench-free ride. Since none of us is completely lacking of the shadow sides, we must be willing to be a student and we need a good guide when it comes to residing in the “spirit world” (which is not as bewitching or otherworldly as we think; we often do this without necessarily realizing it). While the space has no form or color and can be hard to see, moving through it is not as predictable or linear as we expect. Like walking through a mansion’s rooms without seeing the blueprint of the whole structure, the exploration can be scary without the awareness of the larger picture and some guidance along the way.

So how do we go about getting this? Considering what the big picture really is and what it means to us; Being open to spiritual or spirit-driven teachers or mentors who help us make sense of things; Making our mental and emotional well-being as important as anything else in our lives; And encouraging others to do the same. Because by including spirit in our healing – integrating with a higher spirit and allowing our spirits to heal – we are engaging the full healing model and all aspects of ourselves.

“When you get the warm, familiar feeling of being home,” Stephen says, “you’ll know you’re not wandering and doubting anymore.” Being in spirit is being in the center of the labyrinth of life: You are operating from a more stable place, you have a healthier perspective and outlook, and you as well become the guide.