Like attach and attack, mediate and meditate are another pair of closely related words. The delighted expression of people first glimpsing my business card quickly transforms into something just shy of crestfallen when they grasp that mediate is for resolving conflict and dissolving marriages, rather than the peaceful, expanding consciousness promised in meditating. These words again are separated not even by a letter, but merely by letter placement.
- to intervene between people in a dispute in order to bring about an agreement or reconciliation.
“Wilson attempted to mediate between the powers to end the war.”
- to help to settle a dispute or create agreement when there is conflict between two or more people or groups by acting as an intermediary or go-between for those parties.
- to bring accord out of by action as an intermediary.
Med·i·tate /ˈmedəˌtāt/ verb
- think deeply or focus one’s mind for a period of time, in silence or with the aid of chanting, for religious or spiritual purposes or as a method of relaxation. — “I set aside time every day to write and meditate”
- think deeply or carefully about (something). — “he went off to meditate on the new idea”
- plan mentally; consider. — “they had suffered severely, and they began to meditate retreat”
Perhaps with these word siblings, exploring them offers more than a mere explanation of the inherent difficulties caused by their overlap. Perhaps there is something to be unlocked and appreciated when we talk about mediate and meditate. Here lies the hope that there is a way, a new way, of being with one another, a way that promises consciously holding many things at once: our individual wholeness, differences, and inherent sameness with spacious intimacy.
Both mediation and meditation ask participants to be present, thoughtful, and mindful.
Both meditation and mediation are premised on an understanding of the need to cultivate our gentle, unprejudiced natures, to practice observing our thoughts and emotions with detachment.
There is something both simple and exalted in both practices.
At times, at its best, something honest and sacred.
In mediation, we navigate both attach and attack. Mediation provides the possibility of keeping company with one particular kind of attachment while it transforms into another. Partners can transition from married into another way of being attached; a way that better fits their unique circumstances. Instead of conceptualizing their attachment as terminating altogether, by considering a different attachment, an innovative way forward can emerge. This requires navigating the attack inherent in the rupturing of the old attachment and creating a fresh way of being together.
In both mediation and meditation, we invite gentleness with what is hardest inside us and between us. Mediation and meditation deal with the pragmatic — how do we divide assets, how do we be here in this world, breathing in and out? Both mediate and meditate deal with the esoteric and the existential, locating the essential observing self, discovering that our spirit seems to belong to us as well as every other thing that breathes. Mediation traverses the banal and the philosophical — the what will I drive when this lease expires next week, who keeps the better TV, how do we raise our children in this different reality, and how do we love one another in a way that makes this possible, even when the coffers of good feeling are empty.
Mediation provides a process of respect for the other. Meditation provides a process for respecting the self. Both make a place to be willingly present to what is.
Both practices ask participants to build their tolerance for the discomfort of the present moment, and also open to the ease it promises. Both practices ask participants to hold the practical and the unknowable, the particulars and the global, like ancient g-ds pictured with opposite objects in each hand — a thunderbolt in one, a newborn in the other.
The wisdom of word pairs points us to the rigors of consciousness demanded by our humanness, our pairing, and our parting. They instruct on the inherent challenges of being together (attach/attack) and advise how we might cultivate the grounded patience to manage conflict within our togetherness (meditate/mediate).
Consider the words of Rumi to summarize how we might hold ourselves and others in conflict and love.
You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop.
Alexander Mediation Group