Years ago, I first met and took my first training session with the noted mediator, author, and trainer Ken Cloke. To meet him, get to know him a little and receive training from him, coupled with complementary training and life experience for me at the same time, really helped open the doors to my whole orientation to the field. This exposure truly expanded my life, in general.

Without knowing it, Ken helped give me permission to dive into my heart as deeply as I could in mediation, consulting, coaching, and even in dealing with my associates in the construction business world.  On the first morning of the seminar, he said something like, “The heart is where it is at in mediation. The key is to work in the heart and aim for the heart.” I share this history because it was a major revelation to me that focusing on the heart and welcoming spiritual inspiration in mediation, consulting and negotiation were, and are, greatly valued by others in a prominent position in the field.  This type of focus was already prominent in my life. To find support for and expansion of it in my chosen emerging field was a dream come true. 

Basic Human Needs

In alternative dispute resolution settings, every human being is valued and has potential contribution. There is always encouragement to be creative, to try to be curious and open, and to have faith in possibility. We want to feel safe, heard, and acknowledged. We want to feel respected and valued. We want these basic human needs met.

In any setting where people are involved, in any challenge, in any conflict, it is always first and foremost about the people involved.  Technology is not the main thing. Techniques are not the main thing. The underlying assumption is always that the participants are the ones who are the experts, not the consultants.  The consultants are there to help create a safe and comfortable space for discussion, decision and action to take place. 

This all leads into the notion of the heart being the focal point for consulting, mediation and negotiation, as the source of the deepest wisdom and guidance in our lives.

Age-Old Wisdom

The type of conflict management work I do centers on helping people uncover deep issues that challenge them and then guiding them to seek wisdom from within. This often breaks new ground with many surprises.  This is not related to any particular religious affiliation or even a belief in God, yet the work often leads to insights, comfort, and inspiration from a higher, or deeper, place.

Spiritual wisdom for thousands of years has guided us to listen to the heart and to find solutions for life’s challenges there. The heart guides the mind, and our thoughts and stored memories greatly affect our emotions and physical health. Conflict, negativity, fear, and untrue messages taken into our hearts leads to unwellness, manifested mentally, emotionally and physically in the form of illness.

We are more connected in energy and heart than we often think.  This is a crucial point in the fields of mediation and consulting.  Simple demonstrations of this reality are how quickly a room full of people can be moved to tears by someone’s painful story, and on the other side, how quickly laughter can be shared and spread.  This is why Ken Cloke says to work in the heart and aim for the heart. When we are heart-focused, we can relax more, be more at peace, and be more able to hear others and have a connection, even in conflict.

Be in the Heart

Mediation and consulting practice that focuses on a predominantly mental approach miss a great deal and often miss what is really going on. The mind has its practical role, which is subservient to the heart – the heart is where we feel and experience connection. Approaches to mediation and consulting that take all of this into account are more effective and satisfying for all parties, and are at the core of all of the work that I do.

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