Harmony Restoration is a heart-centered approach, that truly values knowing each other thro
ugh human connection, heart to heart. The foundation of our harmony is the five precepts along with regular dharma practice. We have already chosen to come together; our challenges give us the special opportunity to grow together.
Compassionate communication is more than just speaking, it is listening and understanding what the other person is saying not only with their words but also with their body and heart. Speak from your heart and listen deeply.
Our goal is the restoration of harmony with each other and within our community. Each of us shall approach this process with harmony and dharma in mind.
Challenges are when our hearts and minds are stretched and overwhelmed, and we are not able to resolve this from our own side privately.
Dharma in Difficult Situations
- When you walk among a tree or two, you may not know the moment when you entered the forest. So it is with love and compassion, as these feelings grow slowly.
- Moments build on each other, one after another after another, until they are indistinguishable. Take a deep breath and feel—truly feel this very moment.
- Each breath we take expands and relaxes our bodies, continuously every day. Our emotions are different, they hold tightly, then release. Often, we need our breath to release them.
- Only in confronting our feelings–joy, anger, happiness—can we achieve peace and calm.
- The people in our lives—those we choose, those we simply come in contact with, and those that just appear—should all be held with equanimity.
- Things are simple, but we often make them complicated.
Presenting the Challenge
During this session the Board will call on one party to begin. That party will then have 10-15 minutes to present their understanding of the challenge. The presentation should be from the heart, focus on the depth of the challenge, see if you can discover the why this challenge is important to you. After this presentation, the mediators will reflect back what you said, and ask the other party if they understand. The process will then be repeated until all parties have presented their understanding of the challenge. It is important that all parties practice deep listening during this process.
After the initially presentation, each party will then have the opportunity to present one or more solutions to the challenge. At this time, each party should listen closely, but refrain from voicing their agreement or disagreement. Harmony often comes from the simple act of listening.
Throughout the process the Board mediators will ask questions to clarify or to help the process along. They may guide or direct parties towards harmony or help clarify when equanimity or other aspects of dharma may be useful.
Once the parties have presented solutions, the Board will point out some common or similar solutions. They will then help the parties reach a solution. If no solution is reached, the Board will end the session after an appropriate amount of time.
Equanimity is Dharma
Holding some close while keeping others at a distance may be a practical reality. However, within dharma, equanimity brings calmness through holding everyone equally within yourself. This Board has been convened to help the parties achieve harmony. Practice equanimity can help you do so.
Sit and meditate together.
Mediators have the discretion as to whether or not to allow witnesses during the session, and if so for how long. All witnesses need to understand the purpose and goals of the Harmony Restoration session. A witness should be willing to respond to questions from everyone participating in the session.
Each party should offer a solution to the challenge. The mediators will restate these solutions. Often the solutions offered are not that different from one another. Harmony may not be as distant as it once seemed. Listen deeply to each other and the mediators, truly hear with your hearts. The mediators may offer some solutions based on the ones presented by the parties. If no solution has been reached by the end of the session, the mediators will present the parties with an advisement within one week following the session.
Harmony is in your hearts and minds, not in your challenge. You can reach harmony even if you have not yet reached a practical solution to your challenge. If this is the situation, the mediation will give you information on how to proceed with the restoration process. Take the next few moments together and practice harmony, if you know the practice of Tong Len, this may be one way to help do so.
Always meditate rightly on love, compassion, joy, and equanimity; even if the supreme (state) is not gained in this way, still the happiness of the world of Brahma will be attained. (Verse 40)
Working with the Board
You have already written out and exchanged with the other parties and the Board the “Explanation of Challenge” form. Around the table you no doubt see some faces you have never seen before. The Board is made up not only of Sangha members, but also of leaders of other Dharma centers in the community, other Sacramento community leaders, and possibly those with special knowledge or skills relating to this specific challenge. All members of the Board are here for the one reason: to restore harmony between the parties.
The Board hopes to accomplish this by listening deeply to what each party says, no matter who they are. Any past legal process, if there was one, does not prevent the community from living harmoniously together in dharma, regardless of the outcome of that process. While the Board might be able to help the parties find a solution to this specific challenge, the ultimate goal is for everyone to go forth in harmony. Both of these things, harmony and a solution, will take time to accomplish.
Serious challenges cause deep hurts. It may seem as though harmony with the other party is impossible. Just as we meditate one breathe at a time, we relieve our hurts one moment at a time. We have chosen this community and continue to choose this community, participation in this process is evidence of that. It will take effort to achieve harmony. The effort of applying dharma in this situation is well worth it.
The Board will guide the parties along in presenting the challenge and possible solutions, as well through meditation breaks. Listen closely to each other and speak from the heart. Keep the goal of harmony in mind.
The Four Boundless States
Supporting the balance of Equanimity, the Four Boundless States are: Boundless Love, which banishes hatred; Boundless Compassion, which banishes desire; Boundless Joy, which banishes jealousy and stabilizes our capacity for engagement. (Klein, 2014)