You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
- Mark 12:30
This week we continue with the second of five emails exploring "Relating Body." Last week we focused on three-centered love, and this week we focus on the experience of three-centered communication. If you need a refresh on three-centered being, start with last week's email.
We've all had the experience of miscommunication. Pop street wisdom says that the problem with communication is that we think it has occurred – and it hasn't.
To help us develop more conscious communication skills, grounded in each of our three centers, we turn to many Work ideas that address and invite us to become more aware of our habits and manner of communicating, our speaking and listening, affect and gesture, tone and disposition, inner states and outer expressions – recurring in like circumstances and/or with familiar people – most particularly, our own family, work relationships, anyone with whom we regularly communicate.
Our habits of communication or lack thereof, reveal our state of thinking, feeling and sensing more than anything else – in part because communication involves each of our centers, our thoughts, emotions, and physicality. They also review our associations. And communication is one of the most transparent places where our Being is revealed and where negative emotions can seep through the cracks of polite façades.
For instance, watch this two-minute video from the Gottman Institute and notice how four negative and common patterns of communication in relationships (criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling) manifest through each center. This is just one simple example of four different expressions of negative emotions that can manifest through communication – not just our words, but our affect, gestures and body language. And it all impacts. Such communication, verbal or non-verbal, may not be our conscious intent, but it is our impact and all would be served if we brought more conscious awareness to our listening and speaking. But what might be getting in the way?
Negativity and Communication
The Work locates the roots of human conflict and relational difficulties primarily as a result of our mechanicalness or sleep, and the psychic muck arising up from the negative parts of our centers, especially the negative part of the emotional center. We've covered this topic before in many ways, but if you are interested in a deeper dive, you can begin with this definition of negative emotions.
The key point about how the Work defines negative emotions is that they are often mechanical, fueled by identification with an energy that is depleting, controlling, and constricting us and those we might be relating to or communicating with.
The other point the Work makes about negative emotions is that they are not grounded in truth – in fact, they are most likely always lying. And as such, they are the fuel that can ultimate in violence.
More benign than negative emotions, the Work idea of outer or moving parts of centers sheds light on things such as mechanical talking, which can manifest as small talk, jokes, talking about the weather, sports or the mindless repetition of cliches. In short, very surface-level communication that requires no or little intellectual focus, emotional investment or force of physical presence.
In contrast to surface communication, is the Work ideal of communication from one's essence versus communication from one's personality: essence to essence, in a three-centered way.
Cultivating Equanimity in Conversation
So, what to do? How do we cultivate this type of conscious communication?
Here's a key, powerful paragraph from Maurice Nicoll's Commentaries* that gives practical guidance on the importance of cultivating passivity or peacefulness to an event, which could be hearing someone say something to you, or experiencing conflicted or hurtful communication. That is, the orientation is toward making personality passive.
The power of these ideas is in the doing, so try this on for yourself, as it relates to your own communication with others. To aid in this application, where you see the word "event" below, shift it to "conversation":