Never let anyone come to you without coming away better and happier. Everyone should see goodness in your face, in your eyes, in your smile - Mother Teresa

Conflict and Spirituality
BY: J Patrick Ware MD

I was recently asked to share some reflections on the nature of conflict and spirituality. The following are some of those thoughts.

If the absence of conflict is peace then one could reasonably imagine that any entity which encourages or enhances peace may reduce or eliminate conflict. In any argument, if common ground can be developed between the opposing parties, the original investment in the issues of contention usually fade – the clear basis of negotiation/arbitration. This is especially true if the development of each party's interest and/or investment in the area of commonality is rewarding as much as or perhaps even more than the parties original expectation concerning their initial areas of conflicted interest(s). Moreover, what if the experience of peace or contentment derived from the discovered areas of commonality are significantly beyond any level of "pleasure" from the pursuit of and/or acquisition of satisfaction previously contemplated.

Whether it is a parent attempting to dissuade two three year olds intent on possessing the same toy or an Ivy League mediator facilitating a high level corporate dispute, the issue presented would appear to be frighteningly similar. To have (or get) that which we seek beyond ourselves is thought to bring "success" (i.e. joy, contentment, pleasure). We would appear however to contradict ourselves if we take a closer look at what we know and how we live. If you ask a parent of a teenager or perhaps even a teenager older sibling about whether generally giving in to the demands of a person much younger than themselves would as a general rule be helpful or harmful, most will usually respond "of course not!" Yet if we explore what families with means frequently do with their children's demands for specific objects from the newest fad toy to a $60,000 SUV, we find often what we do and what we know do NOT go hand in hand. As a humble lay student of the human spirit currently and over history, I am led to conclude two basic things.

The first, and most embarrassing is when I compare the sophistication and rapid changes we see in the technology today along side of what appears to be little or no change in the manner of how we define societal success (we still kill each other over property). There would appear to be little change in the later for thousands of years. The second and perhaps most important is that we as a species appear to have generated our own dilemma by establishing a kind of subliminal definition of human success as the absence of pain and/or the presence of pleasure.

If one asks any average person whether it is possible to live one's life without unpleasantness (sadness, sorrow, fear, apprehension, jealousy, uncertainty, and/or anger), the response is usually "of course not!" and the rationale follows: "because….. these feelings are just a part of life!" Yet when we are presented with these experiences daily, we so mindlessly label them as "bad" and spend incalculable sums on the pursuit of "why" with the subliminal expectation that elimination of the offending experience will follow. When go beyond the pursuit of why and the experiences do not seem to ebb over long periods of time – we then label them as symptoms of weakness and/or disease (**) e.g. a "sad" person is just unhappy but a "depressed" person can be "treated" (i.e. therapeutic removal of the disease of depression is visualized). Most people I have known agree that one of the most constant elements in the universe is how one "feels" about a particular subject and how resilient this "truth" appears to be. When the feeling is pleasurable, it is seen as strength. When painful, it is seen as problematic and unacceptable. Many when aware clearly of the question concur that they have never been able to forcibly change a feeling "good" (pleasant) or "bad" (unpleasant). Assuming you do not like mustard on your pumpkin pie, try some next time and see how successful you are at "making" yourself like it. What if this "pain" is actually a gold mine undiscovered. What if, those "bad" feelings that we spend so much energy, time, and resources upon attempting to deny, ignore, avoid, and/or replace with (usually generated) pleasure, are actually elements of some of our most precious and important aspects.

We have a world of fast moving individuals who fill their day with activities designed to increase their own possessions, give other what they want, expand their areas of influence upon others or perhaps even become sought after by others. It is a world where it is all too common that by the mid to late 30's the individual is reporting a sense of discontent, emptiness, and often futility – in search of (still) the right (marital) partner, job, income, vehicle, home and/or profession that will ultimately bring peace/contentment. The hope is that gaining these "right" things will end the emptiness, the restlessness, and perhaps the experience of having "missed" the last hour, day, week, month, year or decade.

What if the gift of life is just as our pensive youthful older teenage sibling previously acknowledged (before we examined how he was actually living). What if "The Gift" is simply our in the moment consciousness of all 6 senses (the classic 5 plus our emotions) and that is all... or as some would say "the all?" When I ask the average person to consider rendering every thought and feeling they have ever had in their life onto an imaginary binary frame and subsequently invite them to assess what percentage of their life has to date been unpleasant in some fashion or manner, I get strong emphatic statements acknowledging major magnitudes frequently if not commonly in the above 50-60% range. When the individual then explores how they have historically responded to their "bad" feeling with responses other than acceptance, honoring and/or embracing – they become aware that they have to usually a major extent failed to provide themselves with the same quiet nurturing presence that is commonly seen as a critical foundation for the loving and effective parent and/or friend.

Why do we seek the understanding ear and/or heart of our dearest friend(s) when in times of great pain and upon finding this discover some experience or form of peace and yet fail to recognize as we live that it is only from the development of our own moment by moment capacity to honor, embrace and even cherish all of the elements of the Gift of Life – The Gift of Consciousness will we be able to allow simple contentedness and peace to be at the center of our lives.

To date all who are on the journey report natural redefinitions of what is important, what is of value in their lives. While continuing to pursue the parallel world of laundry, kids, work and taxes… they report that taking their full essence with them each moment when practiced and developed their priorities are naturally revised and prior sources of conflict with others are drastically reduced if not eliminated.

We have explored for centuries the "positive" aspects of conflict and perhaps the best thing this writer can say about it is that for those who have not discovered the full richness of their own in the moment consciousness, it is a way to define oneself and spend life-time although I have not yet met anyone to recommend this as a way of life who has experienced the alternative. What if a "good" day is NOT a day you feel good, but a "good" day is a day you simply feel…. All of Life! What if doing that which we have been so conditioned to pursue as a mindless definition of success is indeed the author of our distress. What if the alternative way of living is not only "better" but easier? The only way you will ever know for sure, is to explore… yourself… your own "truth" to its fullest extent. The answer(s) to our human dilemma (and conflict with others) lies within each of our own spirits.

J Patrick Ware, MD
Atlanta Family Psychiatry
Child, Adolescent, Adult & Family Psychiatry
P.O. Box 871149
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30087
Phone: 770-806-8323
Atlanta Dispute Resolution
Author of:
An Uncertain Pilgrim © 1997 Aware Publishing
ISBN: 0965822443 & 1585004367
26 April, 2003

One Brief Moment

Amidst a shower of distractions I travel
onward, onward seeking the center.
Almost knowing, questioning, faltering, stepping
with boldness and fear I go.
Aware of the passing of time and opportunity
knowing that somehow loss and loneliness are the beginnings.

A knowing somehow that pain and failure are the doorway.
Must one embrace their pain as part of this glorious gift?
A sense that an accounting must be made of all of the moments
that we may experience the wholeness.
Do not turn away for I sense our spirits are stronger than our fear
if we will but challenge our essence.

Courage and strength ebb and flow
along this way I go.
Seeking sharing in fullness and truth
finding solitude and gratitude always there.
Rarity indeed is a companion who
savors the moment as I.

Astonished am I in the discovery of
our own judgement as the barrier to our all.
Witnessing the despair and disbelief in those I know.
I reach out in passion and sincerity to touch
the very souls of those who find themselves in my world.
Every brief moment is but the entire world from the beginning to now.

Pass on old time and know that I am as He has given me
and offering the key to any who will but pause in their path.
Dare you slow and listen yes but for a moment?
For within you is the beginning to now and beyond if we should be.
Clutch this moment as all forsaking all judgement of the original offering
That we may share the entirety of this glorious gift.

Hear me my friend for I know if you held this precious
you would offer such privy to myself.
How do I gain your ear as there is so much noise that deafens.
I shall wait for that unique opening for the time when your heart is open
and your mind uncluttered.
A lifetime is within the moment and it takes but a lifetime to hear.
I know you would wait diligently for me as I shall for you.
I pray you will not tarry along your way.

A Song a savored song may we sing in gratitude and solitude.
May we journey and love and share with any
who will pause along their way and forsake any judgement
of the nature and intent of our souls.
May truth live and breathe within our breasts unabridged
And passed on to any who will pause, listen and feel... their all.

"for all would be pilgrims"
by J Patrick Ware MD
(c) 2011
Atlanta Family Psychiatry, Inc

J. Patrick Ware, M.D.
P.O. Box 871149
Stone Mountain, Georgia 30087

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