I try to participate in social media and conversations without impulse. To join a heated argument is simply not a good use of time. Things Will Be Said that cross a line. Points Will Be Made that come from a different place in the brain.
My goal online and in person is to engage in curious and respectful conversations across difference. If I jump into the mix without centering myself, I feel offended or mad, mad and offended. It's not good and it is not only useless, it's harmful. At such a time, there is no such thing as my being right or wrong. An emotionally-charged conversation is barely a conversation, if at all -- by definition.
Occasionally I think about getting offline and avoiding this. Sometimes I think I'll become more introverted. After all, it really doesn't change minds to be offering counter facts of equally questionable value (even if I like them).
When I center myself in humility, generosity and curiosity, I have had moments of new patience, listening, and empathy. With practice, I am learning to access my wise mind more spontaneously. Some worry and anxiety and definitely frustration linger on.
Based on my own story, I learned early on never to try to discuss anything -- or especially not argue -- when emotions are running high. It's simply not smart. It defies brain science. We hear more and more about the variable accuracy of our pre-frontal cortexes, the quickness of the amygdala and whether or not the pathway to the hypocampus is sufficiently trod.
Our hypocampus is the place in our brain that guides us to insight, or wise mind.
Wise mind is the result of processing our emotions and rationale thoughts. My own experience of practice has show me that this equation is more multiplication than addition. After all, it is wisdom that is produced. Wisdom is priceless. Our ability to navigate and negotiate comes from constantly practiced interactions that are the result of wise mind. Wise mind is cultivated through the practice of mindfulness; being present. Mindfulness practice comes from Eastern (Zen) spiritual practices.
When we add discussion to the process our feelings and thoughts in order to gain understanding, we are talking about a process that is sometimes called dialectical behavior therapy. I first learned about this therapeutic model when I was a hospital chaplain intern. I learned how it is being used for people who struggle with mood disorder. As such, talking through the meaning of thoughts and feelings in a group is a powerful approach to gaining individual and group insight.
When we are spiritual leaders, when apply ourselves to sharing our purpose and passion with others in any form, the question is: from which place do we want to lead? model? convey? from the place of our emotions? from a purely rational place? if these two places are so different, which they are, what connects them?
Wise mind connects our parts into a whole.
Taking time and holding space to allow wisdom to guide takes a very practical application of empathy.
Everyone has a story of long ago and many wounds. Some people have more. Other people have had the means to acquire expensive treatments. Our role as spiritual leaders -- as practitioners who can inspire and equip, is to sort out our emotions before going out in to the public and speaking up and out.
That way, we can best respond to those who really show up battered and bloodied and get them the help they need.