The Self-Connection Process and "Taking the 3rd Chair" in Difficult Conversations

In our Mediate Your Life training, we offer what is called a Self-Connection Process. This process integrates components of Compassionate Communication (Nonviolent Communication/NVC) with mindfulness and a 3-chair mediation framework that provides different "maps" to navigate life's challenges and difficult conversations, and collaborate based in giving and receiving from the heart. 

The first map is the map of the Self-Connection Process, which gives you the ability to locate and anchor yourself in the inner "3rd chair" of mediating presence and awareness. Self-connection is not just connection with one's individual, personal, separate sense of self, but rather connection with the larger, more expansive and interconnected experience of "Self." From this perspective of Self as mediating presence, you can metaphorically observe the inner "opposing chairs" conversations of your thoughts and feelings, and effectively navigate the storminess and rough terrains of inner and outer conflict in a way that leads to well being and new possibilities and solutions. 

The Steps of the Self-Connection Process: Breath, Body, Need 

Breath. Observe your breath, following it in and out in the present moment. Slow and deepen the breath, from the belly to the chest/heart center to the head. As you observe the breath, observe the conversation of thoughts in your mind — the consciously talking to yourself thoughts, words, beliefs, and the automatic, habitual thoughts that pass through: perceptions, images, stories, evaluations, judgments of others and yourself. With the breath as your anchor, over and over stepping back into the inner 3rd chair of awareness, witnessing and observing the conversation of thoughts in your mind: Past, future, "self" and "other" come and go, arising and dissolving like shadowy, misty phantoms, potential not actual. Sense perceptions come alive — sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste! 

Body. Feel your body. Feel the sensations and emotions, especially the difficult ones: the fear, anger, hurt, suffering. Shift from thinking, such as who or what's to blame, to feeling and experiencing. With each out breath, relaxing the body more and more, shifting from the body's fight-flight-freeze threat system to the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. As you deepen into presence with body sensation, feel the underlying energy, aliveness, life force animating and flowing through awareness.

Need. At the source of thoughts and feelings are needs — human and universal — a language of life, of connection and commonality: safety, love, freedom. And need, the essence of needs, is the vulnerability we all share as living beings. We all need. It is what connects us to each other and to a larger wholeness, universality, and interrelatedness. Need is life, the source of creativity, synthesis, evolution, emergent possibilities, and the experience of synchronicity.

From the inner 3rd chair perspective of mediating presence, remembering need is becoming aware of space, the space of connection between and surrounding "the inner chairs" of thoughts and feelings. It is the space that connects all we perceive into one boundless whole. Bring attention to the space — the emptiness surrounding, connecting, holding the conversation between everything you perceive in your field of awareness, and the mystery of fullness in the emptiness. 

In this place, that is no place, the light of consciousness and empathy shines through the inner and outer conversations with self and other. You can then see with compassion the underlying commonality and connection that transforms and liberates. Everything, everything is dancing the dance of need meeting needs. Thought and action arise as giving and receiving, the natural desire to contribute to one another's needs; and there appears a new sense of choice — no demand, have to, or should — just kindness in service of well being.

For information on public training see mediateyourlife.com. For more information on organizational training and support for difficult conversations see johnkinyon.com.