A number of years ago I became entangled in a tough workplace conflict. It wasn’t really about me, but suddenly my employment was in focus. I felt offended when I felt that the people that I previously had a good working relationship with treated me badly.
Right at the beginning of the conflict I went to a vipassanna meditation, which is basically ten days of deep meditation with a technique that brings clarity. The first day my head was full of chatter. I managed to keep my focus for 20 seconds and then I was off to visit the job conflict for ten minutes, before I managed to return my focus. That continued the entire first day, until I found a crucial insight regarding the conflict.
It was not about me.
I just happened to be the one who held the job that had become a bargaining chip, so even if I took it personally it was ultimately not about the person Daniel. It was actually not even about the employee Daniel. It was about the position that I held.
When I let go of my hurt feelings I was able find a question that I have used in several difficult situations since then:
What can I learn from this?
This is one of the most liberating questions I have found, because it shifts focus from how unpleasant we feel that the situation is, to what we can learn from it. All situations have something to teach us, but especially those difficult situations. A difficult situation is a situation that we find difficult to manage, which means that the lesson we can learn from it is so much greater. There is a potential to grow.
My work situation was no better when I came back from the meditation, but my focus had shifted. A very stressful time followed, but since the question “what can I learn from this?” repeated itself like a mantra in my head, I learned a lot about myself and others.
I hope I never have to experience any more conflicts like that one, but I am extremely grateful for all I learnt and have forgiven everyone that I held a grudge against.
Photo: 100721-A-4817Z-025 by Expert Infantry on Flickr