Earlier this week I had a wonderful conversation with my dear friend and integral sister, Diane Musho Hamilton, about her new book: Everything is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution.

Diane is the perfect person to write this book. As you may know, she has been one of the top teachers in the integral movement for nearly ten years. Before that she worked as a professional mediator with the courts in Utah, and founded the Office of Alternative Dispute Resolution. Plus she is a fully transmitted Zen master and founder of Two Arrows Zen, a center for the study and practice of Zen meditation in Salt Lake City.

The idea is not to eliminate conflict; I cannot stress this enough. The aim is to transform it. Evolution is a messy business. Everything Is Workable, pg. 128

Diane integrates all these perspectives into a wise and practical approach to the subject of conflict, the thesis of which is summed up by the title of her first chapter: “Conflict is Good News.”

Now that is a challenging statement. Most of us have an instant aversion to conflict; it’s disturbing, upsetting and in some cases dangerous. But when we look through an integral lens we also see that conflict is the engine of evolution. It’s the necessary catalyst for and the subsequent result of change. The nature of the Universe itself is change: it’s active, destructive, creative and ever-emerging through the clash of natural forces.

In a way this is true of our individual lives in general. If we’re making an impact as a human being we’re going to be making waves. If we want true intimacy with other people we are inevitably going to rub them the wrong way. We also find ourselves struggling with interior conflict, where we are called to manage our own psychological sub-personalities who may be warring with each other over some decision or action we’ve taken or have to take.

Pick up the book from Amazon.com, Shambala.com or Powells.com

Pick up the book from Amazon.com, Shambala.com or Powells.com

Diane tells us that the first step to workable conflict is to acknowledge that “this is happening” and then tell yourself that it’s okay, that this should be happening. It’s important that this is happening. Through mindfulness we can practice staying with our emotions, witness the arising of fight or flight sensations and decide to stay in relationship to the conflict. As we do we see that the conflict itself has an intelligence, and it comes bearing the gifts of clarity, intimacy and forward movement. This one switch in orientation toward conflict — actually welcoming it — changes everything that follows. Instead of feeling resentful, clenched and blaming, we find ourselves becoming more curious, open, willing to be influenced and challenged to grow.

In this conversation Diane and I explore some of the ways her approach to conflict works in actual everyday situations. I learned a lot and, as always, really enjoyed my time with Diane, who is one of my favorite people in the whole world. I hope you enjoy it too.

Download or listen to the conversation here: