Diane Musho Hamilton always delivers the goods when it comes to applying the Dharma to the real world. Her first book Everything is Workable: A Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution broke the stereotype of the perpetual peaceful Buddhist and helped demonstrate that we all are subject to getting a little hot under the collar. Her latest book, The Zen of You & Me – A Guide for Getting Along with Just About Anyone is similar in focus in that it relays “how we are the same and how we are different.” We engage in judgments that cloud our thinking. This makes us feel less than – like we’re beyond hope for enlightenment. How can we consider ourselves spiritual beings when we’re consumed with petty complaints about our co-worker being nosy, or our frustration with the neighbor’s loud parties?
This book asks us to begin to examine differences. So often we want to be polite and not rock the boat when we’re upset. We also may not want to look at why we feel threatened by those we perceive as ‘others.’ Getting comfortable with this discomfort is what Diane calls for in order to help us better understand both ourselves, and the world around us. We like to think that our world is stable, that our partners are solid and that nothing changes. As Buddhists we know our friend impermanence is always at play.
Using many examples from her life as well as stories from her readers, Diane provides relatable material that shows we’re not so weird after all. She is deeply philosophical and her writing has a lyrical and evocative quality about it. She includes several practices for readers to try in order to work towards shortening the distance between self and other.
Conflict can be healthy – but only if we have the courage to face it directly and not flee from the struggle we find ourselves in. The Zen of You & Me uncovers how our brains and bodies react to conflict, judgment, and differences. It provides real world advice in a step-by-step format that helps us work with conflict and learn to negotiate with others. She posits that some conflicts can help us learn and grow. They may force us into making necessary changes in our lives.
We can become confident in knowing that we can work out any situations because we’re flexible and have some basic wisdom we can draw upon. We can also let go and drop clinging to our perspective and allow others to express themselves. We may not agree with them, but we hear them and we’re curious to learn more. We’re at one with the person we’re listening to. People want to be heard. We want to be heard. We all have unique perspectives and backgrounds. We come from different Vajra families.
Diane offers direct insight into what is involved in becoming an effective communicator. How well we listen and how skilled we are able to speak both go hand in hand with how well we are able to connect with others and express ourselves. She deep-dives into exploring feelings and how important it is to be aware of all of our feels – but not be trapped by them. They are temporary states – impermanent.
Our old friend ego is at work when we’re engaged in conflict. We are hardwired to habitually react based on what we’ve learned aka we’re mindless. Learning to be mindful and aware is discussed at some length within this book as a means to transform how we relate to others. The ability to listen deeply is also examined and the author describes techniques to help deepen one’s ability to stay tuned in.
Diane mentions the concept of natural compassion – something that can be missing when we are engaged in heated debate. She encourages us to reconnect with our compassion when we get consumed by conflict. Check in with your inner bodhisattva.
This book is less self-help and more self-awareness. It provides a reality check for how we think things are – and demonstrates that things are much deeper than they seem on the surface. We can exist between two extremes and make ourselves comfortable living in the grey. And we can engage in conflict – mindfully without negating the “you” and sticking too firmly with the “me.”
This is a bit of a no-brainer to say but given the current global situation and political climate, this book is a must read. Seriously. What are you waiting for?