Sunday, 19 January 2014

The importance of dialogue

This is something I wrote for a Discussion meeting I was supposed to moderate but I ended up not being able to attend. In rereading it, I found it not too shabby, so here it is. (nothing at all to do with the fact that it's already written).

Why is dialogue so important and how do we do it?

This is based on a wonderful article from November AOL, in which Peter Osborn (btw, who is this guy? He must be a bloody genius!) talks about the importance of dialogue.

Sensei stresses the importance of dialogue constantly. Whenever we are stuck or have problems with others, we are always encouraged to “create a dialogue” with them.

Sensei says: 
Dialogue is not simply two people asserting their opinions, nor is it just a simple exchange of words. Through conversing, we can gain a shared insight into each other’s point of view and intent. It is also a process of creating something of new, and positive value.
Easy peasy, aye?

According to the article, in order to create “new and positive value”, a dialogue should possess the following qualities (deep breath in):

RESPECT, with which we pay attention and listen to others;
OPEN-MINDEDNESS, to properly consider what we hear;
WISDOM, to express our views clearly;
COURAGE, to challenge other people’s thinking and have ours challenged in return;
COMPASSION, to ensure that the outcome is positive and valuable for all involved.

Five qualities of immeasurable power. When I look at my way of establishing dialogue, very often I can find only a few of those. I normally do respect others and try to listen to them. I try to express my views clearly, if not wisely. But as for open-mindedness, courage and compassion, well, I must say I fall short. Often.

As a person displaying a suspicious number of Autistic traits, I am obsessed with facts and truth. I am obsessed with being right, and as such I completely lose track of the idea to create something “of new and POSITIVE value” and I settle with battling to establish that I am right. Because being right is the be-all and end-all of everything, obviously (notice heavy sarcasm).

To quote one of my favourite movies, Fight club, all too often I don’t have dialogues, I don’t listen, I just “wait for my turn to speak”.

However, as Sensei remarks: “In true dialogue we are not trying to win. We are trying to think together, exchanging and comparing thoughts, creating something of new and positive value.” Big, massive breath in.

Since I started chanting and studying this article, lots of things have manifested in my life. Lots of “failed” dialogues have taken place, where very little value was created. I suffered, a lot. I felt like a failure as a votary of the Lotus Sutra.

Then, after chanting, studying and, well, talking to fellow members, I finally understood one thing. Or five.

True dialogue is the essence of our practice for others. And is the main medium for shakubuku. When we manage to create that wonderful flow of ideas and words, in which two hearts, rather than two minds, meet in the middle to discover something new and precious about the other, but most importantly about themselves, we are making one, tiny step forward towards Kosen Rufu. We feel reinvigorated, strong, courageous. When we allow our faith to guide us in our exchanges with others, and we truly show our heart, real value will come forth. Sometimes others will not be receptive to that, sometimes they will not listen, they will not respect us, they will show the opposite of each of the five qualities detailed above. And so what?

To move forward, and create value, we must completely accept others as they are. Once we accept that others are different from us, and their uniqueness is marvelous, rather than puzzling and annoying, we can open our heart to them. They will feel accepted, and little by little our dialogues with them will take a more positive turn. And if they don’t, we can still go back to good old duct tape! (that was a joke).

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