The power of meditation for mediation

30 April 2019

The power of meditation for mediation

Mediation is often very difficult work. As mediators, we are called upon to help resolve conflicts that often seem intractable and sometimes involve destructive emotions or even physical violence. To do this work, we must stay calm and grounded. If we are to help heal the parties and the situation, we must be detached, fully awake, open and present. We also need the ability to stay flexible and move in any direction. Meditation is a tool for developing these qualities.

There is ample scientific evidence demonstrating the positive effects of meditation and other contemplative practices (such as yoga and qigong) on the human body. Among other things, there is substantial research that proves that meditation induces what Herbert Benson, MD calls the “relaxation response.” Few scientists now doubt that these practices decrease stress hormones, blood pressure and pulse rate.

However, meditation does more than simply improve physical health. It has been reported that meditation increases the tranquility of the mind, improves perceptual abilities, and promotes a detached neutrality. Most significantly for mediators, Western science has now confirmed that meditation has the ability to transform destructive emotions. For example, by using devices that image the brain during meditation, Dr. Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin has found that people who practice meditation become calmer, happier, more loving and less prone to destructive emotions. Moreover, one does not have to be a monk (or even a Buddhist) to benefit from practicing meditation. To the contrary, Dr. Davidson’s research has indicated that meditation is very helpful for ordinary people, and that the parts of the brain that help to form positive emotions become increasingly active after only eight weeks of meditation.

The question then becomes – what are we as mediators to do with the information that meditation has the ability to transform negative emotions? In addition to using meditation to develop our own qualities, we should consider whether it would be appropriate to encourage the parties embroiled in the conflict to meditate. The answer to this question depends on our view of the role of the mediator.

While there are dozens of personal benefits that flow from meditation, experienced mediators may find, as I have, that Buddhist awareness, contemplation, and insight practices can enhance our professional skills as well. It is not uncommon, for example, for mediators who meditate regularly to experience the following benefits:

  • Improved ability to remain calm and balanced in the presence of conflict and intense emotions
  • Greater willingness to move beyond superficiality in conversation and move into the heart of whatever is not working effectively
  • Expanded sensitivity to the subtle clues given off by the parties, indicating a shift in their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes
  • Deeper insight into the nature of suffering and what might be done to release it
  • Greater awareness of what apparent opponents have in common, though they emphatically disagree and even dislike each other
  • Improved creative problem solving skills, and ability to invent or discover imaginative solutions
  • Expanded capacity to calibrate and fine-tune insights and intuition
  • Greater sensitivity to the natural timing of the conflict
  • Increased willingness to engage in “dangerous” or risky conversations and raise sensitive issues without losing empathy
  • Decreased investment in judgments, attachments, expectations, and outcomes
    Increased ability to be completely present, open, and focused
  • Reduced stress and burnout

Register for the next Meditation and Mediation Training Program in Autumn 2019 by writing to Mrs. Salina at: For more info, please check this page.