Add a "t" to "mediation" to get "meditation"

I don't think it's merely coincidence, semantics, or alliteration that has people frequently confusing meditation with mediation. On more than one occasion upon learning the nature of my business, individuals have asked me if I offer yoga. Now that would be interesting. I stop myself from imagining clients stretched out on yoga mats doing downward facing dog pose in my office pontificating on why they would be the better residential parent for the children. On the other hand, perhaps that is worth imagining:

The client takes a deep breath ... "because they've always been with me ..." stretches further ... "because I understand them and am better equipped to care for their needs ..." sigh ... " and because ..." a release of air so as to remove the weight of the world from his or her shoulders ... "what was I saying?"

Creative visualizations and alphabet soup aside, I do believe there are some important and fundamental similarities between mediation and meditation particularly from the standpoint of being the mediator. Both meditation and mediation require one to be fully present while also remaining somewhat removed and not emotionally invested in an outcome. A mediator must be conscious and observant of her thoughts and emotions without acting upon them, as one must do while meditating. Meditators and mediators must exist on a higher level of consciousness without judgment of oneself or others, at least for the duration of their practice or session. Given all of that, it seems that meditating and mediating would be complementary practices. So why, I have recently begun to wonder, did I stop meditating upon becoming a full-time mediator?

Both my practice of mediation and meditation evolved gradually, over a lifetime. Meditation probably began with a childhood anxiety-related belly ache being eased by soft breaths of relaxation blown toward my abdomen by my mother. She was less subtle at times, leaving meditation tapes on my desk or books about stretching on my bed. Eventually all the relaxation, creative visualization, stretching, and yoga I learned evolved into an unstructured but relatively successful practice of meditation.

I began mediating early too. My parents owned a Jeep Cherokee before car seats, seat belts, and booster seats were proven to save lives. My mom and the mothers of my two best friends, Brad and Jeff, would alternate driving the three of us to and from preschool. When my mom picked us up at the end of the (undoubtedly) long (3 hour?) school day, we'd race into the Jeep to the "way back" and clamor for a seat on the "bumps." While on the exterior of the Jeep these bumps were the rear wheels, on the interior they created perfect chairs for two of us. The last one in had to sit on my dad's metal toolbox, a most undesirable position.

On the fateful day about which I write, Brad and I landed "the bumps" and a very unhappy Jeff got stuck with the toolbox. Jeff immediately grabbed Brad and attempted to pull him off his bump seat. This was against the rules. Whoever got there first got the seat. That's how it had always worked. For whatever reason, Jeff wasn't having it that day. The boys struggled and I yelled at them to stop, jumped off my seat, and pulled them apart. Disgusted, I told Jeff to take my bump and Brad to return to his. I was also secretly proud of myself. I had gotten them to stop beating on each other.

Then as now, truth and justice have always been important to me and I believe this drove my quest to become a mediator. Justice is elusive and slippery, but through my role as a mediator I get to participate in a process that allows for an unfolding of what those in conflict come to define for themselves as fair, good, and right. Like justice, inner peace is larger than our individual selves; it is something with no clear beginning or end. Yet we all know it when we feel it, if only for a fleeting moment.

So why did I stop meditating about 3 1/2 years ago, right around the time I began mediating custody and visitation disputes full-time? I can't say for certain. Perhaps it's because "neutrality hurts my psyche" as I blogged about previously. In having to create a neutral space for others, perhaps it has become more difficult to create the same space for myself via meditation. Or maybe I'm just afraid of what I'll hear when I'm silent, like our clients are so often afraid of the truths of which the other party might speak. Once we hear something and know it, aren't we then required to act upon this knowledge? An empty space with no judgment is scary because when we have no reason to defend ourselves we become vulnerable.

All I know for certain is that I miss it. It's time to break out those relaxation tapes (now where did I store the Boom box?) and evolve my practice of meditation once more. 

By Laura L. Noah
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