Keeping Cool in the Fire: Becoming More Skillful with Inner or Outer Conflict – A Two-Day Training with Donald Rothberg and Lawrence Ellis

Saturday, January 23, 2010, 9am to 5pm and Sunday, January 24,  1 to 5pm

How do we bring our spiritual practice into situations of conflict, whether inner conflict (“Should I stay in this job or relationship?”), interpersonal conflict, or conflict within an organization or community or society? By conflict, we mean a tension or contradiction between goals, intentions, or styles, which may or may not be connected with hostility. For most of us, conflicts are difficult and we often tend to the extremes of either avoiding conflicts or “acting out” when conflicts arise. This occurs particularly because in conflicts we typically have difficult emotions, and thoughts involving blaming and harsh judging of others (or ourselves).

In this two-day training, we will offer perspectives and tools to take home, brought together from Buddhist teachings and the work of mediators and peacemakers, that will help us to understand the nature of conflict; to see conflicts as opportunities for reconciliation, learning, and deepening relationships; to be more skillful when there are difficult emotions and polarizing thoughts; and to cultivate mindfulness and skillful speech in the midst of conflict. We will explore all of this through meditation, short talks, discussion, interactive exercises, and practicing conflict scenarios drawn from our own life experiences and from simulations.

Lawrence Ellis has been meditating since 1975, has practiced extensively in the communities around Thich Nhat Hanh for years, and is mentored by both Jack Kornfield and Joanna Macy. He did his master’s thesis at Oxford University on Gandhian Satyagraha and received extensive professional training in conflict management as a senior associate and later director with one of the nation’s oldest firms, focusing on managing organizational and community change­­where conflict management is a core competency. He has delivered or taught conflict transformation services in spiritual, interpersonal, organizational, community, and movement-building settings for many years, and draws on systems and complexity theory, Buddhist traditions, and his ancestral African and Native American traditions.

Donald Rothberg, Ph.D., a member of the Spirit Rock Teachers Council, has practiced Insight Meditation since 1976 and has also received training in Dzogchen and the Hakomi approach to body-based psychotherapy. A former teacher at the University of Kentucky, Kenyon College, and Saybrook Graduate School, he currently writes and teaches classes, groups, and retreats on meditation, daily life practice, spirituality and psychology, and socially engaged Buddhism, in the San Francisco Bay Area and nationally. An organizer, teacher, and former board member for the Buddhist Peace Fellowship, he is the guiding teacher for the two-year Spirit Rock program, “Path of Engagement.” He is the author of The Engaged Spiritual Life: A Buddhist Approach to Transforming Ourselves and the World and the co-editor of Ken Wilber in Dialogue: Conversations with Leading Transpersonal Thinkers.