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.
Insight is revealed through the practice of compassionate listening, deep looking, and letting go of notions, rather than through accumulation of intellectual knowledge. We are determined to learn to listen deeply, without judging or reacting, and to refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community we value to break. (source: 2nd & 8th Mindfulness Training)
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.
- Your thoughts may feel as though they are chiseled on stone, when in fact they are written on water.
- Things are simple, but we often make them more complicated.
- Dharma is the basis that brings us together and in which we grow.
- Harmony Restoration is a process of connecting, not about who is right and who is wrong.
- Be in the presence of your emotions. Name them during this process but remember that your emotions are not in control.
- Oftentimes our communication and connection with another person is more important than a concrete solution to any single challenging situation.
- Solutions, when needed, may involve the broader community or may take time to implement.
Presenting the Challenge
During this session the Triumvirate will call on one party to begin. That party will then have 7-12 minutes to present their understanding of the challenge. The presentation should be from the heart, focus on the depth of the challenge, and how you were stretched and overwhelmed. Use compassionate communication, taking a moment to notice how you are feeling before you speak.
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 to practice deep listening during this process. Deep listening is a compassionate communication skill. Harmony Restoration often comes from the simple act of listening deeply.
Once the parties have presented solutions, the Triumvirate will point out some common or similar solutions. They will then help the parties reach a solution. If no solution has been reached after 54 minutes, the Triumvirate will end the session.
Deep Listening and Dharma
Between speaking and listening, take a deep breath. They are different skills and you may need a moment to transition between them. Likewise, take a moment between to breathe between listening and speaking. Allow yourself to reflect on what you just heard as it may influence what you have to say next.
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.
Working with the Triumvirate
There are a few things to remember which will make the new experience of working with the Triumvirate easier. First, remember that everyone has gathered with the purpose to restore harmony to the parties. Harmony is what everyone here is working toward. Second, the mediators of the Triumvirate are your fellow sangha members, they are your friends. The task of restoring harmony requires effort on their part, just as it does on yours. Third, the Triumvirate is not a “fact-finding” process. This is not a place to determine who was right or wrong or the details of what exactly happened. While it is possible that these facts may come to light, the focus of the process is to bring the parties together in harmony.
Lastly, while a solution to the challenge would be nice, it may not be possible. The solution may simply be that the parties to the challenge are able to move forward in harmony with each other and live with an unresolved challenge. If this happens, know that dharma and letting go come hand in hand.
On a more practical side, you may find it challenging to deal with a Triumvirate. Please know that the mediators are aware of the difficulties they may impose by doing things such as talking all at once or giving inconsistent instructions. They are working hard to make sure that things like this do not happen. A primary or point mediator should be nominated, so when in doubt, ask for this person.
The five precepts we commit to are the basic foundation for harmony. They are:
- To abstain from taking a life;
- To abstain from taking what is not given;
- The abstain from sexual misconduct;
- To abstain from false speech; and
- To abstain from intoxicants.
The Four Seals
- Everything conditional is impermanent.
- Everything emotionally tainted leads to suffering.
- Transcendence of suffering is complete peace and ecstasy.
- All phenomena are selfless.
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.
Deep Listening Practice
(From How to Fight, by Thich Nhat Hanh)
Deep listening is the basis for reconciliation. Whenever we want to practice the art of deep listening, we can first recite this verse. Avalokiteshvara is a great being who has the capacity to listen deeply to relieve suffering.
“We invoke your name, Avalokiteshvara. We aspire to learn your way of listening in order to help relieve the suffering in the world. You know how to listen in order to understand. We invoke your name in order to practice listening with all our attention and openheartedness. We will sit and listen without any prejudice. We will sit and listen without judging or reacting. We will sit and listen in order to understand. We will sit and listen so attentively that will be able to hear what the other person is saying and also what is being left unsaid. We know that just by listening deeply we already alleviate a great deal of pain and suffering in the other person.”