This practice, inspired by Thich Nhat Hanh’s ritual “Beginning Anew” for resolving friction between community members in Plum Village France, is excellent for any relationship where difficulty and challenges or even just some small resistance or tension has crept in.
I have used this practice for couples who aren’t speaking to each other, and it has had positive and even some very tender and touching results.
To connect in this way is to look deeply and honestly at ourselves, our past actions and words so as to create a fresh start in our relationship with others. When a difficulty arises in our relationship and one of us feels resentment or hurt, it is a perfect time to do this practice.
Begin by being clear in yourself what your hurt or issue is. If we are willing to courageously explore our own shadow through the reflections of another, much can be gained and potentially transformed.
Just one person speaks at a time and is not interrupted. The others practice deep listening and following their breath. (It can be helpful to have one or two others present whom you trust and respect to hold the space during this powerful but gentle process, especially if there is a lot of tension between the two participants.)
You can use a bell between each of the four steps if it is useful to give everyone a chance to integrate and breathe. Here are the four steps:
- Appreciate. Share what you each admire and value about the other person – this could be general qualities, or particular actions or words. This practice may support the other’s personal development and lessen their suffering, as well as potentially opening and softening all our hearts by acknowledging these qualities.
- Apologise for any suffering you may have caused or regrets you may have.
- Articulate any suffering or hurt you have experienced through the other person’s words or deeds, using “I” statements rather than blame.
- Ask for support with your own suffering, from whatever cause. This can help others to better understand you and to know how they can offer assistance to help transform your suffering.
This practice offers a safe container to share our appreciation as well as our hurts of concerns, and Thầy teaches that it “helps us develop our kind speech and compassion listening”. We all have strengths and weaknesses and this allows us to support and develop positive and useful qualities in ourselves and our relationships. As in a garden, when we water the seeds of loving-kindness and compassion in each other, we also take energy away from the weeds of anger, jealousy, fear, and misperception. This practice is not about trying to “fix” someone or some situation, but about coming into right relationship with them and with ourselves.
We can practice this when needed or (even better) every day by expressing our appreciation for those around us, and apologising right away when we do or say something that may have hurt them. The health and happiness of the whole community depends on the harmony, peace, and joy that exist between each of its members.
I hope you find this as useful and supportive for good relationships as we have.
— Shanti Huebner
From her book ‘Finding the Luminous Field’