The Mindful Mediatortm

Embracing The Uncertainty of Conflict


Mindfulness and Mediation

The connection between mindfulness and mediation is one that resonates with people and institutions.  One reason for this may be that mediation evolved out of the law as an alternative vehicle for resolving disputes.  Over the the course of the past 30 years, both mediation and mindfulness have grown in popularity in the United States.

For example, the Insight Meditation Society in Barre, Massachusetts was stared in 1979 by Sharon Salzberg, Jack Kornfield, and Joseph Goldstein.  Not far away in Worcester, Massachusetts, at UMass Medical School, Jon Kabat-Zinn was developing Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and eventually formed the Center for Mindfulness.  Only a few years later in 1983, the worlds first teaching and research center dedicated to negotiation  was established at Harvard Law School.  The Program on Negotiation (PON) was founded by Roger Fisher, Brice Patton, Howard Raiffa, Frank Sander, James Sebenius, Lawrence Susskind, and William Ury.  While many different modes and styles of mediation have developed since 1983, the pragmatic approach -- the classic problem solving model of mediation derived from Fisher and Ury’s 1983 bestseller, Getting to Yes.

As the science underlying mindfulness practices and meditation continues to reveal robust and powerful effects on concentration, listening skills, empathy, and well-being, a growing number of mediators are finding meditative process to be helpful to their work as mediators, and beneficial to their lives in general.

What is the Difference Between Mediation and Meditation

At the Institute for Mindfulness Studies (IMS) we like to say that the  difference between mediation and meditation is the “uncertainty” found in meditation. (Get it -- uncertain-T?)  Meditation and other contemplative practices are geared toward embracing uncertainty.  This comment appreciates that parties engaged in conflict tend to find the uncertainty uncomfortable and strive to reduce it as best they can in order to tone down anxiety and worry.  While this phenomena opens the door to a parties’ interest in pursuing mediation, finding it to be a less consequential (and seemingly less uncertain process), it remains the case that most disputes worth  mediating engender a great deal of uncertainty.

As we learn as mediators to embrace the uncertainty inherent in conflict, we become more adept at navigating through emotionally complex terrain and cutting through to the heart of the conflict so that the parties may come to see more clearly the underlying interests at stake, and the larger picture within which their concerns rest. 

Mindfulness and Awareness of the Internal Dialogue

Mindfulness is an contemplative practice that helps one bring awareness to their internal states of mind and body.  As clarity and insight into this often shrouded domain emerges, mediators begin to attend to their biases, needs, and personal agendas that can interfere with their effectiveness and mediators and disrupt or even pervert the process.  Increasingly, mediators are looking to mindfulness practices to so that they can be more effective in their role as mediators.  

The Mindful Mediator website is a resource for lawyers, mediators, negotiators and law students interested in learning more about the role of mindfulness in the mediation context.  If you have questions, click here to send us an e-mail.

Click here to learn more about the Institute for Mindfulness Studies.  If you’d like to sign up for The Mindful Mediator newsletter or another newsletter of the Institute for Mindfulness Studies, click here. 


The Mindful Impasse

Moving Mountains

with the Breath

The mediation process often entails the seemingly miraculous softening of positions as parties entrenched in their positions begin to move toward one another until a mutually acceptable compromise is reached. It often is as if somehow mountains are moved in the process  . . . .  Click here read more.