NLP, Conflict Resolution and Spiritual Traditions
Dr Richard Bolstad
Traditions Discussed in order of discussion here:
- New Zealand Maori
Perspectives On NLP, Transforming Communication And Islam
Dr Richard Bolstad
What This Essay Is And Is Not
The Transforming Communication course is a course on cooperative relationships which is based largely on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). I am very enthusiastic about sharing my Transforming Communication course with people around the world, and I have found it useful to offer people from particular cultural or religious perspectives some links between the course, the field of NLP, and their own models of the world. These particular notes will, I trust, be useful for people from an Islamic background. In reading Islamic works on conflict resolution, I am aware that there are some concerns I need to acknowledge before starting. These include:
- The history of western-Islamic relations has many examples where western theorists attempted to impose western models on the Islamic world, by force or by dishonest representation. That is utterly inconsistent with the Transforming Communication model itself and my aim here is to offer some tools that may be of service to those who live in the community of Islam, for their own intentions (as discussed in Said et alia, 2001, p 133-134).
- I have referred to Islamic translations of the Qur'an and Hadith, and it is important to acknowledge that these works were written in Arabic and come from Islamic cultural backgrounds, and that subtle differences in meaning are possible in the translation process. I have trusted Islamic writers who know the original work in Arabic and share the faith of Islam, using them as my guide to the meanings of the original texts.
- In the last century in particular, many areas of the Islamic world have been economically impoverished, largely as a side effect of western policies. In offering these communication skills, I am not intending to suggest that new communication skills are all that is needed to solve problems that also require economic and political solutions. The communication skills we use are part of a wider system, and in some of my other writing I urge people with these skills to also work for a better world economically and politically (as discussed by Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 186).
- In this historical context, there will also be some Muslims who will reject ideas coming from people like myself, per se, and who will believe that these ideas challenge legitimate and necessary hierarchies within Islamic cultures (as discussed by Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 116-127). I am not aiming to challenge anything here; but instead to provide tools for people who want these tools within Islam.
Why Model Islamic Conflict Resolution Processes
If we can consider how the Islamic communities understand and resolve conflict themselves, then we can offer two things with Transforming Communication. Firstly we can use Transforming Communication as a way of explaining Islamic ways of creating cooperation, so that these ways can be easier shared. This process is called "modeling" in NLP. Secondly, we can find out how the Transforming Communication skills could be used within an Islamic context, just as the computer can be used in an Islamic context. The aim would be to support Islamic communities to obtain what they identify as important goals (as discussed in Said et alia, 2001, p 186-187) such as:
- Preserving and enhancing the Islamic community
- Embodying the teachings of Islam
- Preserving the historical learnings and wisdom of the Islamic world
Some Islamic writers have criticized this offer from the field of NLP. Ibrahim B. Syed, is a Professor of Medicine at the University of Louisville School of Medicine and President, Islamic Research Foundation International, at Louisville, Kentucky. He says "For Muslims there is no need to borrow from the NLP as it cannot add anything new to the Muslim behavior. Actually NLP should borrow ideas from Islam. Otherwise it shows that the behavior of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was deficient to the extent that Muslims have to borrow from NLP. This is an insult to the Muslims." (quoted by Hoag, 2008). I want here to offer some specific skills in much the same way that Professor Syed might offer any other new medical skills to Muslims in his work as a doctor, and I also want to accept his offer and use NLP to learn from Islam. Islam has been the source of constantly developing skills and understandings over time. The great Islamic teacher of non-violence K.G. Saiyidain urged "Even if my competence to undertake an authentic interpretation of the message of Islam would be in doubt, I strongly affirm the right of any serious, honest and intelligent person to do so. Such reinterpretation becomes necessary in every age for a variety of reasons." (quoted by Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 92)
NLP and Islam
Many Muslims have not only trained in NLP, but also run NLP training of course. For example, Ehsan A. Hannan is the Head of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the LMC's London East Academy. He runs NLP training in London, exploring the interrelationship between Islam and NLP. Muslimah Shamsudin is the Manager of the Quality Secretariat of Human Resource Department at KTMB (Malaysian Railways). She explains how she used her NLP training while studying in Japan. "NLP is how you make sense of your world and most importantly how to make it what you want it to be. ...Basically, in using NLP, you need to focus on the good things you want to happen. Then, you need to figure out how to achieve these goals, and finally, you follow the steps to achieve them. For example, I wanted to be able to pray at the right time wherever I was, so I identified the steps I needed to follow. My first step was to pray to Allah (the All Mighty God) so that my requirement could be performed anywhere and that the people I was making a request of would meet my need. Only after such prayers would I request a praying place. I used NLP to achieve my training too. Before starting, I envisioned myself going through a good training and completing it successfully. I planned the things and steps I needed to take. So although I encountered some problems, I managed to get through." (quoted by Hoag, 2008).
There is an Islamic NLP Facebook site, and Islamic researchers are rediscovering connections between NLP and centuries of Islamic thought about the functioning of the mind. For example, it is a central NLP idea that mental activity occurs in sensory terms and that we can identify which sensory system a person thinks in by watching their eye movements. When people visually recall something, they usually look up to their left, and when people talk to themselves, thinking in words, they look down to the left. This idea is first hinted at in writings in medieval Bhagdad. In a treatise called "On the difference between spirit and soul", Qusta ibn Luqa (864-923) wrote that people who want to retrieve memories look upwards and people who want to think look down. Qusta ibn Luqa, himself a Melkite Christian living in Baghdad, was a philosopher, physician, mathematician and astronomer, and his writing was widely respected in thirteenth-century scholastic Islam and Europe (Wilcox, 1985). The famous Moslem scientist Ibn al-Nadim praises his medical writings and his ability to translate between Islamic and European science (Ibn al-Nadim, 1871, page 234).
NLP Based Healing: RESOLVE in the work of the Prophet Mohammed (Peace Be Upon Him)
In my book on NLP "RESOLVE: A New Model Of Therapy", I outline the sequence through which an effective NLP change process tends to move. To explain this sequence here, let me take the example of the healing work done by the prophet Mohammed (Peace be upon him). NLP change processes are not themselves "magic" – they are ways of utilising the "magic" that people already have been given by God, as Islam would say. As such, they work when you adopt certain basic beliefs (the "presuppositions of NLP") and use them inside certain systematic steps of the change process. The steps as I list them are:
Resourceful state for the guide
Specify person's outcome
Open up person's model of the world
Lead the person to their outcome (healing)
In the book "The Prophetic Medicine", Imam Ibn Qayyim Al-Jawziyah, 1292-1350 CE / 691 AH - 751 AH, explains the sequence that the Prophet Mohammed (peace be upon him) went through when healing. The core of his emphasis in terms of healing anxiety and depression is to focus on the one source of true resourcefulness, and he quotes from the Prophet (peace be upon him): "Whenever sadness and grief intensify on someone, let him often repeat, "There is neither power nor strength except from Allah." " (Abd El Kadir, 2003, p 249). At the same time, Al-Jawziyah understands that the client must have a model of the world in which cure is possible. He says "When the heart accepts that a certain medicine carries the cure, the body will feel an elevation in its strength." (Abd El Kadir, 2003, p 124). Note that this explanation of what we now call the placebo effect is 700 years old.
Al-Jawziyah then describes the sequence of healing thus: "We mentioned before that the Prophet (peace be upon him) used to ask the sick about what they complained from and how they felt. He would in addition ask them about what they had a taste for and would place his hand on the forehead or even on the chest, asking Allah to bring about whatever benefits them in their condition. Sometimes the Prophet (peace be upon him) would perform ablution and then pour the water he used on the sick person. Sometimes the Prophet (peace be upon him) would say to the sick person "It is alright. You will be purified (cured), Allah willing." This indeed is the kindest way to treat the sick when visiting them." (Abd El Kadir, 2003, p 145). This description covers the elements of the RESOLVE model very fully, as listed following:
- Resourceful state: "There is neither power nor strength except from Allah."
- Establish rapport: "He would in addition ask them about what they had a taste for."
- Specify outcome: "Asking Allah to bring about whatever benefits them in their condition."
- Open up model of the world: "When the heart accepts that a certain medicine carries the cure, the body will feel an elevation in its strength."
- Leading: "He would in addition … place his hand on the forehead or even on the chest, asking Allah to bring about whatever benefits them in their condition. Sometimes the Prophet (peace be upon him) would perform ablution and then pour the water he used on the sick person."
- Verify change: "It is alright."
- Ecological exit: "You will be purified (cured), Allah willing."
Islam and Conflict Resolution
There are three main sources of information that are available about Islamic methods of creating cooperation, in the sense that Transforming Communication means it. They are:
- The Qur'an. This is considered in Islam to be the word of God revealed to his prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
- The Hadith. These writings are stories about and quotations from the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
- The history of conflict resolution in Islamic communities, especially the early Caliphates.
The following are brief notes to support the discovery of important connections between NLP, Transforming Communication, and Islam.
There are many reminders in the Qur'an that peace and cooperation are sacred. For example:
- The daily greeting of all Muslims is "Al-salam 'alaykum" (peace be with you) as explained in the Qur'an "And their greeting therein shall be peace." (10:10)
- One of the names of God is dar-al-Islam (the abode of peace) and the Qur'an says "God invites to the abode of peace." (10:25)
- This peacefulness applies even to those who argue with Muslims. "And the servants of (Allah) most Gracious are those who walk on the earth in humility, and when the ignorant address them, they say "Peace!"" (25:63)
- The Qur'an cautions "Repel evil with that which is best [not with evil]." (23:96). In his commentary A. Ali (1991, p 859, Commentary 2934) urges "to do what is best repels the evil. Two wrongs do not make a right." (quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 60).
The History Of The Community
The history of non-violent conflict resolution goes back to the beginnings of the Islamic movement. When the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived at Mecca, he practiced non-violent conflict resolution entirely (610-622 CE), Wahiduddin Khan says (quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 42) "Of the twenty-three year period of Prophethood, the initial thirteen years were spent by the prophet in Mecca. The Prophet fully adopted the way of pacifism or non-violence during this time. There were many such issues in Mecca at the time which could have been the subject of clash and confrontation. But by avoiding all such issues, the Prophet of Islam strictly limited his sphere to peaceful propagation of the word of God." One of the Prophet's most famous Meccan interventions involved a dispute between the clans of Mecca over who should carry the sacred black stone of the Ka'bah up to its new location. The clans were about to go to war, after five days of fierce argument, and they asked the Prophet to help mediate between them. The Prophet placed the stone on a cloak and asked each clan to hold one side of the cloak and jointly lift the stone to the desired height. A simple example of a win-win solution (retold in the Hadith and quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 62).
The early rulers of Islam understood that a leader is not automatically more wise than any other member of the community. Abu-Bakr was a close friend of the Prophet, and the first ruler in Islam after his death. Abu-Bakr told his people in a public statement "I am no better than you.... I am just like any one of you. If you see that I am pursuing a proper course, then follow me; and if you see me err, then set me straight." (quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 70). Similarly, Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib, cousin of the Prophet, said "Whoever wants to be a leader should educate himself before educating others. Before preaching to others he should first practice himself. Whoever educates himself and improves his own morals is superior to the man who tries to teach and train others." (Balagha, 2007, Saying 73).
Of course, Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, also has a history of resistance to invasion and of physical warfare in defence of its community. Is this the "real" Islam? M.R. Bawa Muhaiyaddeen (in Said et alia, 2001, p 266), in criticizing the tendency to think of Islam as accepting of war, quotes traditional Islamic Sufi understandings of the term "jihad" (struggle). When the Prophet was cast out of the city of Medina, he says, the Prophet did not fight back physically, but recommended struggle using the weapons of charity, fasting, pilgrimage, faith and worship. The Sufi call these the five external weapons and Muhaiyaddeen adds "My brothers in Islam, beyond these five outer weapons, Allah has also given us six inner weapons, which the Sufis have explained. If you go deep into Allah with the certitude of unwavering faith, you will see that within this eye of yours is an inner eye which can gaze upon Allah. Within this nostril is a piece of flesh which can smell the fragrance of Allah. Within this ear is a piece of flesh which can hear the sounds of Allah. Within this tongue is a piece of flesh which can taste the divine knowledge of Allah and know the taste of His Wealth. Within this tongue is also a voice which converses with Him and recites His remembrance in a state of total absorption. Within this innermost heart is a piece of flesh where the eighteen thousand universes, the heavens and his kingdom are found.... These are truly great weapons, and with them we must fight the battle within. We must overcome everything in our hearts that covers the truth, all that reflects our disbelief....My brothers, once we understand what the true weapons of Islam are, we will never take a life, we will not murder, we will not even see any brother as separate from ourselves. We will not be able to conceive of any enmity." This is a very clear description of the task that NLP change processes ultimately aim at. It also refers to the sensory basis of mental experience which is the core of the NLP model.
In the Islamic communities, two types of conflict resolution have been noted most often from the beginning (as discussed in Said et alia, 2001, p 186-187). These are:
1. Tahkim (arbitration). The Prophet was accepted as an arbitrator by the Islamic and non-Islamic communities during his life, because of his ability to find win-win solutions. He required Tahkim to be the method used when a marriage ended or needed reconciliation after a conflict. Two arbitrators, one appointed by the husband's parents and one by the wife's parents, would be used. The Qur'an instructed about this "And if ye fear a breach between them twain, appoint an arbiter from his folk and an arbiter from her folk. If they desire amendment, Allah will make them one mind. Lo! Allah is ever knowing, Aware." (4:35) (Quoted in Said et alia, 2001, p 153)
2. Sulh (conciliation). This is a community based process for resolving conflict. The parties air their grievances, promise to renounce retaliation, and acknowledge the importance of their continuing relationship. They make compensation for any damage suffered in the conflict already, and have a period of mourning and reflection. After this they come together for a ritual of forgiveness and reconciliation, involving sharing bread, sharing coffee and shaking hands. (described in Said et alia, 2001, p 186)
The HadithThe Khalifah Institute (2005), teaching a Muslim way of bringing up children, quotes several of the sayings of the Prophet from the Hadith. It explains in a section called "Against Punishment" that "The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) never scolded or raised his voice with children when he was advising them. He was always gentle when talking to children. A hadith from Sunan Abu Dawud relates: A companion of the Prophet once said, "When I was little, I loved to throw stones at date trees so that the date fruit would fall down. One day, the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) came upon me doing this and advised me to just pick up the date fruit that had already fallen from the tree, and not throw stones at the tree to make them fall. He then ruffled my hair and invoked a blessing on me." The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) was always light-hearted and tender with children, and never hit any child (or woman) in his entire life. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) always practiced the concept of giving reward and not punishment in the matter of raising children to be right Muslim adults." The personal life of the Prophet is an extraordinary embodiment of cooperative, non-violent communication skills.
There are several other central sayings from the Hadith that emphasise the importance of responding peacefully, of finding cooperative solutions, and of respecting all persons as equal. For example:
- "The Prophet said "Power resides not in being able to strike another, but in being able to keep the self under control when anger arises." -- Hadith (quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 72)
- "Whenever violence enters into something, it disgraces it, and whenever gentle civility enters into something it graces it. Truly, God bestows on account of gentle conduct what he does not bestow on account of violent conduct." -- Hadith (quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 42)
- "All people are equal, as equal as the teeth of a comb. There is no claim of merit of an Arab over a Persian (non-Arab), or of a white over a black person, or of a male over a female. Only God-Fearing people merit a preference with God." -- Hadith (quoted in Abu-Nimer, 2003, p 59)
Islamic Conflict Resolution Training
Conflict resolution training almost identical to the Transforming Communication training is run in Islamic communities across the world. The Khalifah Institute in Malaysia details a four step process for resolving conflict by:
1. Raising the issue
2. Discovering the underlying interests
3. Inventing options for mutual gain
4. Developing agreements based on objective standards
Mohammed Abu-Nimer describes running hundreds of such conflict resolution trainings in Palestine, Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. I hope that this short commentary assists others to continue to make links between such skills and Islam.
Inside the NLP community, NLP trainers have also made links with Islam. Dr Wyatt Woodsmall , the former President of the International Association for Neuro-Linguistic Programming (IANLP), is the founder of the International NLP Trainers Association (INLPTA), was co-author (with Dr Tad James) of Timeline Therapy and the Basis of Personality and is the author of over 50 published articles on NLP. Richard Bandler, co-creator of NLP, says "There's no one who knows more about NLP than Wyatt Woodsmall." On Sunday 15th July 2007, corresponding to the beginning of Rajab 1428 hegira, Dr. Woodsmall embraced Islam at Al-Fateh mosque in the Kingdom of Bahrain under guidance of the prominent Muslim preacher Dr. 'Awad' Al-Qami. Dr Woodsmall has taken the Moslem name Abdul Hakeem. I highly recommend also reading a book by my friend Hamid Jaouhar "1311: There's no greater battle than the one we lead against ourselves."
Dr Richard Bolstad is an NLP Trainer, teacher and developer of the Transforming Communication course. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Abu-Nimer, Mohammed, Nonviolence and Peace Building in Islam, University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 2003
- Balagha, Nahjul, Translated by Jafri, Askari, Peak of Eloquence: Sermons and Letters of Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib (as) Eleventh Revised Edition - Islamic Seminary Publications
- Hoag, John David, "Islam and NLP", on line at http://www.nlpls.com/spi/Islam.php John David Hoag Training-Coaching-Therapy, Menlo Park, California, 2008
- Ibn al-Nadim, Kitab al-Fihrist mit Anmerkungen hrsg. von Gustav Flugel, 2 vols., Leipzig, 1871
- Khalifah Institute, "Against Punishment" www.islamic-world.net/mkc/e_book3.htm The Khalifah Institute, Selangor, Malaysia, 2005
- Khalifah Institute, "Dealing The Conflict" http://islamic-world.net/youth/conflicts8.htm The Khalifah Institute, Selangor, Malaysia, 2005
- Said, Abdul Aziz, Funk, Nathan and Kadayifci, Ayse ed. Peace and Conflict Resolution in Islam, University Press of America, Lanham, Maryland, 2001
- Wilcox, J., The Transmission and Influence of Qusta ibn Luqa's "On the Difference between Spirit and the Soul", PhD thesis, City University of New York, 1985
Perspectives On NLP, Transforming Communication And Christianity
Dr Richard Bolstad
The Transforming Communication course is a course on cooperative relationships which is based largely on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). I am very enthusiastic about sharing my Transforming Communication course with people around the world, and I have found it useful to offer people from particular cultural or religious perspectives some links between the course, the field of NLP, and their own models of the world. These particular notes will, I trust, be useful for people from a Christian background.
Jesus Of Nazareth And The RESOLVE Model
NLP change processes are therapeutic processes of a special type. In my book on NLP "RESOLVE: A New Model Of Therapy", I outline the sequence through which an effective NLP change process tends to move. To explain this sequence here, let me take the example of the healing work done by Jesus the Nazarene. Rather than simply "heal" people, Jesus followed a careful sequence of steps, where he built rapport, asked people for an outcome, checked that they thought of their problem as solvable, healed them, and then confirmed their healing for them. The following examples help to explain the value of these steps. The steps are:
Resourceful state for the guide
Specify person's outcome
Open up person's model of the world
Lead the person to their outcome (healing)
Resourceful state for the guide
Jesus was described as being confident and "resourceful". This is important because, for others to trust his healing skill, they needed to see and hear that he knew what he was doing. "The crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes." (Mathew, 7.28-29)
When asked "Why do you speak to them in parables?" Jesus answered that his aim was that people needed to be led through stories so "they should perceive with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn for me to heal them." (Mathew, 13.15) This is more literally put in older translations, "so that those with eyes should see, those with ears should hear, and those with a heart turn to me and be healed." In NLP we know that some people have a preference for thinking in visual images, some for thinking in auditory sounds, and some for thinking in kinaesthetic body feelings. Jesus has said here that by telling stories he "matched" each of these types of people. This care to match people was common in Jesus' work. He frequently restated the exact words or type of words that the person being healed had used. This process built rapport before he began to help them. "And behold a leper came to him and knelt before him saying "Lord if you will, you can make me clean." And he stretched out his hand and touched him saying, "I will; be clean.""(Mathew, 8.2-3)
Specify Person's Outcome
Even when the problem appeared obvious, Jesus asked for an outcome from those he healed. He didn't just charge in and do what he thought they needed. He checked with them. "And Jesus stopped and called them, saying "What do you want me to do for you?" They said to him, "Lord, let our eyes be opened."" (Mathew, 20.32) "And when he came near, he asked him "What do you want me to do for you?" He said "Lord, let me receive my sight."" (Luke, 18.41). "One man was there who had been ill for 38 years. When Jesus saw him and knew that he had been lying there a long time, he said to him, "Do you want to be healed?"" (John, 5.6)
Open up person's model of the world
Jesus knew that healing was much more likely to occur if the person believed it was possible in their "model of the world". He checked this belief before healing. "When he entered the house the blind men came to him; and Jesus said to them, "Do you believe that I am able to do this?" They said to him, "Yes, Lord."" (Mathew, 9.28) "And to the centurion, Jesus said "Go; be it done for you as you have believed."" (Mathew, 8.13)
Lead the person to their outcome
Jesus used both prayer (we might say "verbal suggestion") and touch or energy work to heal others. He understood that different techniques would work with different people. "And a woman who had had a flow of blood for twelve years and could not be healed by anyone, came up behind him, and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her flow of blood ceased.... But Jesus said "Someone touched me; for I perceive that power has gone forth from me."" (Luke, 8.43, 44, 46) "And when Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it "You dumb and deaf spirit, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again." And after crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out of him and never entered him again.... And when he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" And he said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer."" (Mark, 9.25, 26, 28, 29)
Jesus encouraged people to verify that the change had happened. Confirming that things are different; actually testing the change, is an important part of healing. At times, the process of confirmation itself seemed to cause the healing to happen. "And Jesus said to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people." (Mathew, 8.4) "And as he entered a village, he was met by ten lepers, who stood at a distance and lifted up their voices and said "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us." When he saw them he said to them, "Go and show yourselves to the priests." And as they went they were cleansed." (Luke 17.12-14)
After healing, Jesus had people imagine themselves in the future behaving differently, so that the old problem would not arise again. "Afterward, Jesus found him in the temple, and said to him, "See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse befall you."" (John, 5.14) This is an important way to conclude such an exercise.
Paul's Use Of Pacing And Leading
Paul, originally called Saul of Tarsus, took up the task of translating Jesus teachings into a form which would make sense to non-Jews throughout the Roman Empire. In Athens, he was teaching people who put great stock in their ancient religion, and had numerous statues and altars, including one entitled "The Unknown God". Rather than condemn this "idolatry", Paul complimented the Athenians on their religious nature, and then reframed Jesus teaching as referring to this unknown God. In his letters to the various churches, he explained this teaching process as being one of (in NLP terms) pacing and leading.
Pacing And Leading: An Example in Athens.
"So Paul, standing in the middle of the Areopagus, said "Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along, and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, "To an unknown god." What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all men life and breath and everything...." (Acts; 17.22-17.24)
Explaining the Principle of Rapport, Pacing and Leading
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law --though not being myself under the law- that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law --not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ- that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." (1 Corinthians 9.19-9.22) "Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another." (Romans 12.15-12.16)
Paul's Approach To Win-Win Relationships
Paul consistently applied this pace and lead approach to the issue of whether some people should control others. He emphasised that those with less power should "obey" those with more power (not because they are in power, but out of love of God), but only in the same way as those with more power should respect the rights of those they "control". He then emphasises that in God's eyes, there is no power difference at all. He begins with "Slaves, be obedient to those who are your earthly masters.... Rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to men." And then follows with "Masters do the same to them and forbear threatening, knowing that he who is both their master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with him." (Ephesians, 6.5, 6.9). He starts with "Children obey your parents in the Lord" and then adds "Fathers do not provoke your children to anger." (Ephesians, 6.1, 6.4). These comments are repeated (eg Colossians 3.18-4.1) in the same careful form each time. Paul restates the equality of all, for example saying "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galations, 3.28). He also repeatedly emphasises that one person cannot pass judgement on another, for example in saying "Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgement upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things." (Romans, 2.1)
Dr Richard Bolstad is an NLP Trainer, teacher and developer of the Transforming Communication course. He can be reached at email@example.com
- The Holy Bible Revised Standard Version, 1973, Collins, New York
- Transforming Communication Richard Bolstad & Margot Hamblett, 1998, Addison Wesley Longman, Auckland
The above selections are designed to assist Christians and others to begin to make sense of Neuro Linguistic Programming in terms of the New Testament teachings of Jesus and Paul. Prepared by Richard Bolstad. The following selections come from an article called "Can A Christian Counsellor/Therapist Use Hypnosis/Trance?" by Bobby Bodenhamer D. Min. 1997.
The Bible and Unconscious Parts
What does the Bible say concerning unconscious parts? The Psalmist exclaimed of God, "Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom" (Psalm 51:6, KJV).
The Hebrew word here for inward parts means "that which is covered over with something else." A covering conceals it. Note also the plural tense of the word. This indicates the presence of more than one unconscious part. The writer of Hebrews referred to these unconscious parts as "bitter roots." "See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many be defiled" (Hebrews 12:15, NASB).
Trance, the Bible and the Church
Both the Bible and the Church actually refers to and makes much use of trance. Remember how the apostle Peter entered Joppa and on the house-top where he had gone for a time of prayer, Peter fell into a trance. "...he became hungry, and was desiring to eat; but while they were making preparations, he fell into a trance" (Acts 10:9-10).
The word trance here derives from ekstasis. As you look at that word you can recognize our English word ecstasy--"stasis" (to stand) and "ec" (ex, out), hence to "stand out of yourself." The Greek lexicon defines this word as "a state of being brought about by God, in which consciousness is wholly or partially suspended."
Actually this lexicon definition of trance sounds as if it came right out of a NLP manual. The critical addition in this definition differs only in that God brought about Peter's trance. (Imagine that, God a hypnotist! And given the vision he saw--what a hypnotist!) As Christian counselors, we know and want all of our work to operate in a Christ centered way--in a way filled with and by the Holy Spirit. Accordingly, Christian counselors will bathe his or her work in prayer. We do that so that the Holy Spirit will empower our work and enlighten our minds.
Consider the Hebrew verbs for meditation: hagah and siach. Both of these words translate "to muse, speak or talk." Thus the concept of meditation comes from the definition "to muse." Accordingly the Psalmist said, "I will meditate (hagah) on all Thy work, and muse (siach) on Thy deeds" (Psalm 77:12)
Perspectives On NLP, Transforming Communication And Judaism
Dr Richard Bolstad
The Transforming Communication course is a course on cooperative relationships which is based largely on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). I am very enthusiastic about sharing my Transforming Communication course with people around the world, and I have found it useful to offer people from particular cultural or religious perspectives some links between the course and their own models of the world. These particular notes will, I trust, be useful for people from a Jewish background.
Judaism and NLP
The Hebrew Torah (scripture) acknowledges that the Source of the universe is unknowable and even to speak Its name is not possible (in NLP, the first core presupposition is the same - that any "map" is never the true "territory"). Our inner experience of the world is filtered by our human brain and occurs in sensory terms (the idea that people "think" visually, auditorilly and kinesthetically is central to NLP) and this is commented on by the Jewish prophet Isaiah, who explains that in helping people change we are working so that "they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts, and turn and be healed." Isaiah 6:9-10.
The second core presupposition of NLP is that all life is connected in systems. Part of this understanding is that life is more appropriately viewed as a series of interacting actions, rather than as a set of discrete objects. We do not so much have "an anxiety condition" that exists as a separate thing; we interact with our life experiences by "worrying" and can choose to interact by "relaxing". Rabbi David Cooper (1997, p 69-70) explains this in Kabbalistic Jewish terms. He says "Each part in the universe is in dynamic relationship with every other part." and "The closest we can come to thinking about God is as a process rather than as a being. We can think of it as "be-ing", as a verb rather than as a noun. Perhaps we would understand this concept better if we renamed God. We might call it God-ing, a process, rather than God, which suggests a noun.... Moreover from this perspective creation should not be treated as a noun. It too is an interactive verb; it is constantly creationing." In NLP linguistics this reconverting of concepts into processes is called denominalisation, and is an important part of therapeutic change.
NLP skills for transforming emotional responses, such as reframing are based on the understanding that it is better to identify the higher positive intention of an undesired behaviour or emotion, rather than to try to simply destroy that response. This understanding is part of the spiritual heritage of Judaism too. Rabbi Nilton Bonder describes a Jewish version of reframing emotions, using the NLP concept of ecology. He says "It's quite common these days to hear about people trying to reflect on the "ecology of the mind and heart". These attempts recognise that a mind or heart can become a storeroom for pollutants that don't disappear over time, that are not degradable." (Bonder, 1997, p17) Bonder takes the example of hatred. "How do we fight hatred? In three stages, the rabbis say: kabbalah (reception), hahna'ah (conquest), and hamtakah (sweetening).... Learning not to scare off evil and to use it is important, because the potential it carries is too valuable to discard.... Educating oneself to do this is like learning not to dump trash in public places. This means understanding that it is not possible to throw something "out", because there is no "out". Hatred that is discounted without being "sweetened" will certainly end up in an individual's own system." (Bonder, 1997, p164)
Modern Jewish NLP practitioners note that their NLP work, often dealing with the results of traumatic events in Israel itself, is firmly grounded in the values of the Torah. For example, Your Eternal Spark (YES) is an organisation using NLP in Safed (one of the four holy cities in Israel and a centre for Kabbalistic Judaism). Y.E.S. is headed by husband and wife team, Rabbi Immanuel Yosef and NLP Trainer Rabbi Moriah Legomsky. They say "Y.E.S. has very strongly positive, written approbations from 2 of the greatest Torah Sages of our time: Rabbi Ben Tzion Rabinowitz (the Biala Rebbe), and HaRav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg. Rabbi Legomsky is a personal student of both these Sages, and a Biala Chassid. Many other great Torah Sages have written support letters on Rabbi Legomsky's successful work resolving terror and other serious traumas." (www.YourEternalSpark.com).
Conflict Resolution and Judaism
Our Transforming Communication course applies NLP to conflict resolution. Here again, there is a central tradition in Judaism which supports the use of NLP. The Torah describes G-d's future paradise on earth as an abode of peace, saying "And they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." Isaiah II 3-4 (quoted in Wilcock, 1994, p 217). To work for the end of conflict is to work for this future.
The dissolving of conflict and the creation of loving relationships is not peripheral to Judaism. Rabbis identified it as the central commandment of G-d. In the Jewish book of Midrash, Sifra on Deuteronomy, Perek 4, it is written "You shall love your neighbour as yourself, and Rabbi Akiba said, this is the greatest of all commandments." To clarify who is "your neighbour" he continues "Ben 'Azzai said, This is the book of the generations of Adam, this is the greatest of all." Which, as Evelyn Wilcox points out "leaves us in no doubt that our duty in Torah is to all decendants of Adam, the first man." (Wilcock, 1994, p 217).
Evelyn Wilcox also studies Rabbi Moses Cordovero and the medieval Kabbalists, whose mystical Judaism emphasizes this even more fully. She notes, ""Who is a saint?" the rabbis asked and the answer was, "He who does Lovingkindness to his Creator." One of the ways a man must train himself to acquire the quality of Lovingkindness is "to make peace between man and his neighbour... It is necessary to make peace between a man and his neighbour and between a man and his wife: All similarly peaceful acts are acts of benevolence on behalf of the Upper Worlds.... When a good man meets provokers, he should appease them and quiet them with goodwill -- drawing on great wisdom to weaken their anger that it does not overstep its boundaries to cause harm.... Man is created with two inclinations, good and bad: the one belongs to Lovingkindness," says Cordovero, "the other to power." (quoted in Wilcock, 1994, p 79)
Many of the specific skills of Transforming Communication were developed by Jewish Conflict Resolution experts, such as Marshall Rosenberg, who has run his Nonviolent Communication trainings in both Israel and Palestine, John Gottman, researcher on marriage and couples relationships, and Eliyahu Goldratt, from Tel Aviv, whose new theory of business management is called the Theory of Constraints. It is possible to see Goldratt's model of win-win conflict resolution as an expression of Rabbi Bonder's notion of hamtakah (sweetening) and even of Cordovero's Lovingkindness. I will describe this model in more depth here as it gives an interesting new perspective on Transforming Communication.
Eli Goldratt's Model Of Conflict Resolution
Goldratt's method of introduction for his theory was intriguing in NLP terms; he wrote a metaphorical novel called "The Goal". He explained this use of metaphor saying "To induce someone to invent, you must bring him/her -at least mentally- into a realistic environment." (Goldratt, 1990, p 18). Once again, the connections with an NLP way of thinking are very clear here.
The Theory of Constraints is based on the simple understanding that it is always useful to know the goal of a system such as a business, and to know what the current main constraint holding you back from reaching that goal is. Everything else in the system can then be considered a resource which can be focused on releasing that constraint. Frequently, the constraint involves a conflict between two courses of action. Goldratt's solution to this situation of conflict is called "dissolving clouds".
As an example, consider a common business situation. My company produces audiocassette tapes. How many should we produce at one time? If we produce a large batch, we will need to setup for copying only once, and so the cost per tape will be lower than if we produce several small batches. But if we produce a small batch, we can hold it in storage for less time, and so we save money on storage and save the money that it takes to produce something without getting any return on it. Most people, faced by such a situation, try to compromise between the two choices. Goldratt points out a number of other solutions, which occur once we understand that both choices are attempts to reduce the cost per tape. He diagrams this as a "conflict cloud"(Goldratt, 1990, p 43-45). Reducing the cost per unit is in turn best reframed ("sweetened" to use that term from Rabbi Bonder) as raising profit per unit (a shift that NLP practitioners will recognise as moving to "towards motivation"). This final positive goal is what Goldratt calls "the global objective". This, points out Goldratt, is the only thing that really matters in this whole situation.
The same method can be applied to solving conflicts between people or to conflicts between the system "rules" on the one hand and the desires of individual people on the other. Domenico Lepore and Oded Cohen give the following example of resolving interpersonal conflict with the model, from a medium size company (Lepore and Cohen, 1999, p 140-142). The maintenance manager is assessed based on how much time the factory machines spend not working. He wants the best quality spare parts he can get, so that they need replacing less often. At present, the purchasing manager is the only person allowed to purchase spare parts. And he chooses spare parts that are cheaper, because he is assessed based on how much money he can save while purchasing needed parts.
Goldratt encourages us to first challenge the presupposed links between actions and needs or between needs and objectives. Amongst presuppositions that could be challenged in this example is the notion that the purchasing manager can strike the best deals with spare parts manufacturers. Another is the notion that giving someone else permission to purchase would mean that the purchasing manager loses control over the buying and the prices accepted. By keeping the focus on the shared outcome of being profitable, the two managers can create win-win arrangements that meet each of their needs better than their old approaches did.
Dr Richard Bolstad is an NLP Trainer, teacher and developer of the Transforming Communication course. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Bonder, N., The Kabbalah Of Envy, Shambhala, Boston, 1997
- Cooper, D.A. God Is A Verb: Kabbalah and the Practice of Mystical Judaism, Riverhead Books, New York, 1997
- Goldratt, E.M. The Goal North River Press, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 1985
- Goldratt, E.M. Theory Of Constraints North River Press, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 1990
- Lepore, D. and Cohen, O. Deming And Goldratt: The Theory Of Constraints And The System Of Profound Knowledge North River Press, Great Barrington, Massachusetts, 1999
- Rosenberg, Marshall, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion, PuddleDancer Press, Del Mar, California, 1999
- Wilcock, Evelyn, Pacifism and the Jews, Hawthorn Press, Lansdown, Gloucestershire, 1994
Perspectives On NLP, Transforming Communication And Buddhism
Dr Richard Bolstad
The Transforming Communication course is a course on cooperative relationships which is based largely on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). I am very enthusiastic about sharing my Transforming Communication course with people around the world, and I have found it useful to offer people from particular cultural or religious perspectives some links between the course, the field of NLP, and their own models of the world. These particular notes will, I trust, be useful for people from a Buddhist background.
"The Map Is Not The Territory"
NLP is a model of psychology based on several key assumptions. The most important of these is an acceptance that our theories and beliefs are just maps of the real world; they are not in themselves the reality we live in. This encourages an acceptance that different maps may be useful for getting different desired results (just as a subway map and a street map are both useful, and help to get different results). Knowing that the map is not the actual territory also encourages a questioning of maps, and a searching for new maps that serve one better, rather than a blind acceptance of old maps.
Buddha once spoke to the Kalamas, a group of people from a village where there were many arguments about which religious beliefs to follow. He urged them "Yes, Kalamas, it is proper that you have doubt, that you have perplexity, for a doubt has arisen in a manner that is doubtful. Now look, you Kalamas, do not be led by reports, or tradition, or hearsay. Be not led by the authority of religious texts, nor by mere logic of inference, nor by considering appearances, nor by delight in speculative opinions, nor by seeming possibilities, nor by the idea of "This is our teacher." But, O Kalamas, when you know for yourself that certain things are unwholesome, and wrong, and bad, then give them up.... And when you know for yourselves that certain things are wholesome and good, then accept them and follow them." (Rahula, 1962, p1)
Buddhist Psychology and NLP
The very first words of the central Buddhist text the Dhammapada sum up a core understanding of NLP with utter clarity. "We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world.... Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable. Look how he abused me and beat me, how he threw me down and robbed me. Live with such thoughts and you live in hate. Look how he abused me and beat me, how he threw me down and robbed me. Abandon such thoughts and live in love. In this world hate never yet dispelled hate. Only love dispels hate. This is the law, ancient and inexhaustible." (Byrom, 1993, p 1-2). NLP is the study of exactly how our thoughts and internal sensory experiences create our inner reality.
"According to most of the Tibetan Buddhist schools there are six possible main minds, one for each sense consciousness and the mental consciousness. The six main minds are:
Sensory main minds
1. visual (eye) main mind
2. auditory (ear) main mind
3. olfactory (nose) main mind
4. gustatory (tongue) main mind
5. tactile (body) main mind
Mental main minds
6a. perceptual mental main mind
6b. conceptual mental main mind
This description of the central concept of Buddhist psychology is identical to the core description of NLP, given in Neuro-Linguistic Programming Volume 1 (Dilts et alia, 1980, p 17, 75). Here the developers of NLP say "The basic elements from which the patterns of human behaviour are formed are the perceptual systems through which the members of the species operate on their environment: vision (sight), audition (hearing), kinesthesis (body sensations) and olfaction/gustation (smell/taste).... We postulate that all of our ongoing experience can usefully be coded as consisting of some combination of these sensory classes.... Our language (auditory digital) representations tend to be primarily organised by neurological systems located in our dominant hemisphere.... The digital portions of our communications belong to a class of experience that we refer to as "secondary experience". "
Buddhism and Happiness
One key focus of NLP has been on how to create happiness. Living according to the Buddhist precepts, says the Buddha, is not merely nice for other people; it helps the practitioner to be happier. "Don't be afraid of doing good. It's another name for happiness, for all that is dear and delightful." says the Buddha in the Itivuttaka Sutta (Bancroft, 2001, p 175).
Dr. Richard Davidson, director of the Laboratory for Affective Neuroscience at the University of Wisconsin used an fMRI machine to map the brain of over 175 people, showing that he could accurately predict their level of happiness by checking the level of activity in a specific area of the brain -- the left prefrontal cortex. When he studied Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard (Oser), with 30 years experience in "compassion meditation", Davidson found something dramatic. Ricard's left frontal cortex was way off the scale.Daniel Goleman explains, "While Oser was generating a state of compassion during meditation, he showed a remarkable leftward shift in this parameter of prefrontal function... In short, Oser's brain shift during compassion seemed to reflect an extremely pleasant mood. The very act of concern for others' well-being, it seems, creates a greater sense of well-being within oneself." (Goleman, 2003, p.12)
The same results were gained when other compassion meditators were wired up. In his non-meditative state, one geshe (abbott) from a Buddhist monastery, for example, was far off the scale of normal happiness. Davidson describes the geshe as "an outlier" on the graph - his reading was "three standard deviations to the left", far beyond the rest of the bell curve for positive emotion.
Can the results be duplicated? A tentative answer to that last question has come from a study that Dr. Davidson did in collaboration with Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Clinic at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester. After 3 hours of Buddhist meditation a week, for two months, volunteers trained by Kabat-Zinn produced a dramatic shift towards brain-measured happiness. Their immune functioning was also boosted, as were their subjective reports of calmness and happiness.
Both Buddhism and NLP have explored how to achieve such desired states of mind quickly by use of sensory "anchors", to use the NLP term. These are specific sensory experiences that have become associated in the person's memory with a state of mind (an emotion). All of us have had similar experiences. Hearing a song, on the radio, that you haven't heard for many years can anchor you back to the memories of that time when you heard it years ago. You begin to feel the feelings you had back then. The whole state you were in at the time is recreated by the anchor of that music Anchoring can happen in any sense. A specific sound (auditory), sight (visual), taste (gustatory), smell (olfactory), or touch (kinesthetic) can anchor the entire state originally associated with it. The process of anchoring was "rediscovered" by Richard Bandler and John Grinder (1979, p 79-136). It can be used to take any emotional state that a person has experienced at some time in their life, and "connect" it to situations they would like to experience that state in. A person may, for example, make a certain hand gesture while they are feeling confident and energised, and then be able to recreate that feeling state when they are in a challenging meeting, simply by reproducing the hand gesture.
In Buddhism, visual anchors (mandalas), auditory anchors (mantras and music) and kinaesthetic anchors (mudras or hand positions, and asanas or body positions) have been used for over two thousand years. Tatjana and Mirabai Blau discuss the three types of Buddhist "anchor" in their book "Buddhist Symbols" and explain that for example "Mudra is a Sanskrit word meaning sign or seal. In Buddhism it is a sacred hand gesture expressing inner wisdom.... Mudras are also an aid to meditation. A mudra may be associated with a certain mantra or visualisation and so may help maintain focus while meditating." (Blau and Blau 2003, p 94).
Other NLP Visualisation Processes
The Tibetan practice called mandala parallels closely many NLP visualisation processes. (Trungpa, 1976, p 152-156; Evans-Wentz, 1972, p324-325). A mandala is usually a visual symbolic representation of the integrated nature of the universe, which is ultimately "mentally absorbed" into the artist who creates it. The process of working with a mandala is an act of devotion and adoration. But it also reminds the Buddhist practitioner that the universe we imagine (the map of the universe in our minds) emerges and merges into our own being.
Is the world depicted in the mandala, including any deities drawn there, to be thought of as real? Yes and no. The Tibetan Shri Chakra Sambhara Tantra (Evans-Wentz, 1972, p 44-45) urges practitioners to view such creations "with exalted regard, veneration and devotion, looking upon the devatas (depicted deities) as real, holy and divine. They are none the less so because mind-produced, for the mind ultimately is That, and its ideas forms of That." And yet, immediately after, this Tantra emphasises that one should "remember that all these devatas are but symbols representing the various things that occur on the path, such as the helpful impulses and the stages attained by their means." This is the same attitude that we normally use when using an NLP visualisation process. The images we create are clearly symbolic and produced by the mind. And yet, at the same time, we allow them to evoke the feelings we want, as if they were real, because this is the entire point of their creation. By using them, we can produce the changes in our inner experience that we seek.
Buddhism and Cooperative Relationships
Buddhism, like NLP, has also been interested in the detailed structure of successful relationships between people. In teaching his own community of monks, the Buddha said "The nature of a community is harmony, and harmony can be realised by following the Six Concords: sharing space, sharing the essentials of daily life, observing the same precepts, using only words that contribute to harmony, sharing insights and understanding, and respecting each other's viewpoints." (Thich Nhat Hanh, in Kotler ed, 1996, p194)
Thich Nhat Hanh describes the use of Buddhist mindfulness in relationships in a way that clearly emphasises the core Transforming Communication skills: I messages and reflective listening. He says, "If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give someone is your presence.... When she is suffering you have to make yourself available right away: "Darling I know that you are suffering. I am here for you." This is the practice of mindfulness. [this is what Transforming Communication calls reflective listening] If you yourself suffer, you have to go to the person you love and tell him, "Darling, I am suffering. Please help." [this is what Transforming Communication calls an I message].... We need each other." (Thich Nhat Hanh, in Kotler ed, 1996, p205).
The Vimalakirti sutra urges Buddhists to become active in conflict resolution (as taught in the NLP based Transforming Communication course). The sutra says "In times of war, give rise in yourself to the mind of compassion, helping living beings abandon the will to fight. Wherever there is furious battle, use all your might to keep both sides strength equal and then step in to reconcile this conflict." (Sivaraksa, 1992, p 91).
- Bancroft, A. The Pocket Buddha Reader Shamballa, Boston, 2001
- Blau, T. and Blau, M. Buddhist Symbols Sterling, New York, 2003
- Bolstad, R. Integration: NLP and Spirituality Transformations, Christchurch, 2005
- Byrom, T. Dhammapada: The Sayings Of The Buddha Shambhala, Boston, 1993
- Dilts, R., Grinder, J., Bandler, R. and DeLozier, J. Neuro-Linguistic Programming: Volume 1 The Study of the Structure of Subjective Experience, Meta Publications, Cupertino, California, 1980
- Evans-Wentz, W.Y. Tibetan Yoga And Secret Doctrines Oxford University, London, 1972
- Goleman, D. Destructive Emotions -- How Can We Overcome Them Bantam, New York, 2003
- Kotler, A. Engaged Buddhist Reader Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, 1996
- Rahula, W. What The Buddha Taught Crowe Press, New York, 1962
- Sivaraksa, S. Seeds of Peace Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, 1992
- Tsering, Geshe T. Buddhist Psychology, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006
Perspectives On NLP, Transforming Communication And Hinduism
Dr Richard Bolstad
The Transforming Communication course is a course on cooperative relationships which is based largely on NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). I am very enthusiastic about sharing my Transforming Communication course with people around the world, and I have found it useful to offer people from particular cultural or religious perspectives some links between the course, the field of NLP, and their own models of the world. These particular notes will, I trust, be useful for people from a Hindu background.
Dharma, Karma and Satyagraha
Dr. Badrinath Rao, Professor of Sociology at Kettering University in Flint, Michigan, advocates the use of Hindu perspectives in conflict resolution. Rao says "The world needs to find new mechanisms to enable people to solve conflicts.... The use of religion is one attempt at identifying a new approach.... India is one of the most diverse societies in the world, and as a culture has to deal with these issues more that other societies. My interest emerged from the recurrent and class-based conflicts going on in India, and grew to encompass conflicts in general, and in particular, conflict resolution and alternate dispute resolution." (reported by Dawn Hibbard, 2008).
In Rao's opinion, Hinduism's emphases on the three core values of Dharma, Karma and Satyagraha all provide potent tools for resolving conflicts. He explains the three principles thus:
1) Dharma involves following the moral order, acting in ways that are right for one's own life path
2) Karma is a principle which emphasises the inevitability of the consequences of one's actions, and so encourages tolerance and non-violence
3) Satyagraha means the force of truth rather than coercion
In analysing the application of Hindu religious traditions in conflict resolution, Rao suggests that "The relativism of Dharma supports both tradition and modernity, innovation and conformity." The concept of Dharma has entrenched ethical relativism in the Hindu way of thinking, according to Rao. In the Hindu model of following one's dharma, what a person should or should not do depends on the context of the situation. One result of such a context-based approach, he suggests, is that truth is relative (and ultimate truth is unknowable), and there is no choice but to be tolerant of the truth of others. "Different cultures prefer either context-free or context-sensitive rules in their thought processes," Rao explained. "Hindus tend to operate on context-sensitivity." This relativism of truth is a fundamental principal of NLP, which sums it up in the phrase "The Map is not The Territory".
Dharma and Destiny
Does this Hindu concept of Dharma inevitably mean that each person's life is predetermined by their past 'karma"? Teachers such as Mahatma Gandhi have challenged this interpretation of the Hindu scriptures. The Hindu book Yoga Vasishtha emphasises "There is nothing like destiny other than the effect of our previous efforts" [II-6-4] and "Man determines his own destiny by his thought. He can make those things also happen which were not destined to happen." [V-24-28] (Sivananda, 1995, p 108). Mahatma Gandhi, for example, took on the seemingly impossible task of defying the world's largest empire and wresting its biggest colony away. He clearly believed that his destiny was in his own hands. In one of his articles, he quotes a very beautiful letter about this, written to him by a person with limited English. The letter says "Men are born naked. But to them two hands are given. We think God have given paradise upon men, but He have not given it directly upon men. He have given it indirectly upon them by giving two hands - the power to create any and everything - to make paradise itself in the present world. So I think it is the duty of man to make use their hands best." (Gandhi, 1997, p 84).
Karma and Systems Thinking
The "law of karma" is what NLP would call a systems model of life. The second fundamental principal of NLP is that the world is best understood as made up of interactive systems rather than separate "things". Karma applies this understanding to our actions. Unpleasant karmas (actions+consequences) drive us to ever more desperate karmas (actions+consequences), which create a cycle of suffering. The sufferer keeps hoping that she/he can have the first part of an action (say gorging her/himself with too much food) without the second part (say feeling overfull and becoming obese). To use more subtle examples, we keep hoping that we can be dishonest in a business transaction without it affecting our self-respect, or that we can secretly have an affair without it altering the intimacy in our marriage. But, as the Indian teacher Jiddhu Krishnamurti emphasised "Cause and effect are inseparable -in the cause is the effect." (Mehta, 1997, p 70). Life is systemic! Western interpreters of the "law of karma" have considered it a law of punishment. There is no concept of punishment involved. In fact, teachers of karma point out that the sad thing is that so called "evil" actions are themselves a result of misfortune -they could hardly deserve some divine punishment. We know, for example, that the more violence someone is subjected to in their childhood, the more likely they are to be violent themselves as an adult (Eron et alia, 1987). Should the universe punish people for their misfortune? Swami Sivananda explains "Why does one man possess good moral character? Why does another possess evil character? ... These things can be easily explained by the law of action and reaction. Nobody is to be blamed." (1995, p 48). This shift from a blame frame to a systems based understanding is central in both NLP and effective conflict resolution.
How does one act, knowing that all things are interrelated in this way? Mahatma Gandhi, who considered himself first and foremost a karma yogi (a practitioner of the path of action), explains the application of this systems model using the core Hindu scripture; the Bhagavad Gita: "The Gita says 'Do your allotted work but renounce its fruit - be detached, and work - have no desire for reward, and work.'.... But renunciation of fruit in no way means indifference to the result. In regard to every action, one must know the result that is expected to follow, the means thereto, and the capacity for it. He who, being thus equipped, is without desire for the result, and is yet wholly engrossed in the due fulfilment of the task before him, is said to have renounced the fruits of his action." (Duncan, ed 1972, p 36).
Rao cites Mohandas Karamchand (Mahatma) Gandhi's use of non-violent resistance as addressing conflict resolution from the Hindu perspective. He says "His use of non-violent resistance was successful in showing the world an alternative to violence and armed conflict." Gandhi considered truth (Satya) to be the core principal behind his methods (Satyagraha, his name for the methods he used, means "the force of truth") and he titled his autobiography :"The story of my experiments with truth." (Gandhi, 1953). Violence, Gandhi said, prevents the speaking of truth, so non-violence (Ahimsa) is central to the search for truth. Similarly, in Transforming Communication, we begin by clarifying others' truth by reflective listening, and clarifying our own truth using I messages. As with Transforming Communication, Gandhi's aim was to create solutions that honour all parties' needs. He explained "My experience has shown me that we win justice quickest by rendering justice to the other party." (Gandhi, 1953, p 95).
Gandhi concluded "My uniform experience has convinced me that there is no other God than Truth.... A perfect vision of Truth can only follow a complete realization of Ahimsa. To see the universal and all-pervading Spirit of Truth face to face one must be able to love the meanest of creation as oneself. And a man who aspires after that cannot afford to keep out of any field of life. That is why my devotion to Truth has drawn me into the field of politics; and I can say without the slightest hesitation, and yet in all humility, that those who say that religion has nothing to do with politics do not know what religion means. (Gandhi, 953, p 267)
The ayurveda (science of life) system is a perspective on health founded in Hindu teachings. One of it's central tenets is the recognition that each person operates from a unique body type or "Prakruti'. Dr Deepak Choprea explains that Prakruti "...is really your world, the personal reality you generate from the creative core inside. More accurately, we might call your Prakruti your "psycho-physiological constitutional type," a phrase that includes both mind (psyche) and body (physiology)." (Chopra, 2000). Chopra identifies that each of the three main operating principles (Doshas) which make up your Prakruti (Vata, Pitta and Kapha) are associated with a sensory system preference (Vata with auditory, Pitta with visual and Kapha with kinaesthetic and gustatory). Skilled practitioners of Ayurveda would use their assessment of Prakruti, much like an NLP Practitioner does, to help clients identify which of the sensory systems assist them most easily to transform their body-mind system.
Chopra gives the example of Bobby, who came to him complaining of a variety of different health problems. Identifying his predominance of Vata, however, made it possible for Chopra to quickly prescribe a core solution. "In Western medicine, each of his complaints would be neatly classified under textbook headings of "insomnia," "anxiety," "lower back pain," and so on. But if you traced these signals of distress back to their origin, only one thing was at fault - a fundamental imbalance that cried out in different ways. Fortunately, treating Vata is a lot simpler than trying to treat five or six symptoms. In Bobby's case, we didn't need to resort to medicine, because the diagnosis itself was enough. Rather than prescribing medications, which tend to mask the underlying problem, we suggested that he simply listen to his body. It was suggested that his body type wasn't suited for the work he was in. He was encouraged to find a job that would make his Vata happy instead of driving it crazy. Whatever he did, Bobby was not going to adapt well to noise, overcrowding, and constant activity because his Vata couldn't tolerate it. What does Vata actually like? A little more peace and quiet, for one thing. Bobby might be happier as a prep chef working when the restaurant kitchen is relatively quiet."
- Chopra, D. Perfect Health, Revised : The Complete Mind Body Guide Three Rivers Press, New York, 2000
- Duncan, R. Selected Writings Of Mahatma Gandhi Fontana/Collins, London, 1972
- Eron, L.D., Huesmann, L.R., Dubow, E., Romanoff, R., and WarnickYarmel, P. "Aggression And Its Correlates Over 22 Years" in Crowell, D.H., Evans, I.M. and O'Donnell, C.R. Childhood Aggression And Violence Plenum, New York, 1987
- Gandhi, M.K. The Story Of My Experiments With Truth: An Autobiography Beacon Press, Boston, 1953
- Gandhi, M.K. Hindu Dharma Orient, New Delhi, 1997
- Hibbard, D. "Conflict Resolution and Hinduism" p 1-2 in Kettering Perspective magazine, Spring 2008, Kettering University, Flint, Michigan; published online at http://www.kettering.edu/alumni/perspective/spring08_conflict_resolution_hinduism.jsp
- Sivananda, S. Practice Of Karma Yoga Divine Life Society, Shivanandanagar, India, 1995
Modelling A Taoist Process: The Inner Smile
1. This Chi Kung exercise is usually done sitting on a chair. Sit on the edge of the chair with your feet flat on the floor. Your back needs to be straight but relaxed; an effect which you'll get by imagining that your head is suspended by a cord from the crown up to the ceiling. Close your eyes and gently press your tongue against the top of your mouth. Clasp your hands together gently.
2. Remember a time that you can feel comfortable recalling, when you felt caring or loving. Perhaps a time when you were caring for a plant, or an animal, or for a child. Imagine that you can see this time, and the gentle smile of caring it brings, as a picture about three feet in front of your eyes. Allow your forehead to relax, and draw the energy of caring into the place between your eyes. Experience it as a limitless source of caring energy flowing to this place, and from there flooding through your body as a smile.
3. Allow the smiling energy to flow across your face, relaxing it. Smile into the neck and throat, through the thyroid and parathyroid glands, which control your metabolic rate and keep your bone tissue balanced. Smile down to the thymus gland in the upper central chest area; the gland which co-ordinates your immune system. From there spread the smile back to the heart, allowing it to relax and blossom in a shining red light, transforming hastiness and irritation to joy and love. Flow the smile out on each side to the lungs, filling them with white light, transforming sadness and grief into the ability to discriminate what's right for you, and enhancing their ability to take in energy from the air.On the right, flow the smile down through the liver, filling it with leaf green light, enhancing its hundreds of cleaning and organising functions, and transforming resentment and anger into an assertive kindness to yourself and others. On the left flow the smile through the pancreas, which assists in digestion and regulation of blood sugar. The far left is the position of the spleen which forms and stores blood cells, and here rigidity and stuck thinking are transformed to openness. Fill the pancreas and spleen with yellow light. On each side the smile now flows to the back at waist level, flooding through the kidneys which filter the blood, and the adrenal glands atop them which give your body the energy burst of adrenalin. As these glands relax, fill the kidneys with dark blue light, and feel fear transformed into a gentleness. Finally, flow the smiling energy down through the urinary bladder, and through the sexual organs, including the glands (ovaries or testes) which balance the cycles of your life. Conclude by flowing the smile to a place just below the navel and a couple of centimetres in from the front. Feel the energy spiral into this centre, called Dan Tien in China, as a storage for the day. As you flow this smile, check for the "feeling" that each organ is smiling back. Take the time it needs to allow this to happen.
4. Draw the smile again into the place between your eyes. This second time, flow the smile down your nose and mouth into the digestive tract; swallowing as you do, and imagining that the saliva you swallow is also full of smiling energy. Smile through the stomach, just below the ribs, and through the intestines. Having flowed the smile down through the whole digestive system, draw the energy back to the Dan Tien centre below the navel.
5. The third time, draw the smile into the centre between your eyes (actually called "upper Dan Tien") and circle your eyes nine times clockwise (as if watching a speeded up clock face right in front of your eyes) and nine times counter-clockwise. Draw the smile back through the brain itself, smiling deep into the brain tissue, where the glands which co-ordinate your entire hormonal system reside. Flow the smile down the spinal column, and through the neurons (nerve cells) out to every part of the body. As you continue to draw the smile into your body from an infinite source of love and healing, imagine the smile flowing out from your body into the air around you, and across the entire room. The smile, remaining infinite, flows out beyond the room across the whole area, across the whole country, into the oceans and across the continents, until the entire planet is filled with the smile. As the smile continues to expand, just check back in your body in the room. Check if there is anywhere in your body where there was an excess of energy (perhaps an area where there was some tension -just an indication of energy not flowing on easily yet) and draw the energy back to lower Dan Tien, feeling it spiral in there as a store for the day.
Taoism (Pronounced Daoism) means the "way"; the way of nature and the universe, as well as the way or path through which we discover more about that nature of which we are part. Taoism implies a practice in which our personal "way" and the way of the universe become one. Taoism developed at a particular time and in a particular culture (in ancient China). The central writing of classical Taoism is the Tao Te Ching (Book of the way) written by Lao Tzu (Master Lao) in the state of Ch'u near 500 BC. But the first words of the Tao Te Ching are "The way that can be spoken of is not the true way; the name that can be named is not the true name." The implication of this is that as soon as we call the Tao by a name ("Buddha", "God", "Allah", "The Universe", "The Tao" etc) we are attempting to define what cannot be defined, and our definition is coloured by our own beliefs and internal images. In NLP, the core presupposition is the same - that "the map" is not the same as "the territory". The second basic presupposition of NLP is that all things are interconnected in systems. This is also referred to in the first page of the Tao Te Ching.
The NLP Within The Inner Smile
This Taoist meditation contains within it all the core NLP Change Techniques.
1) Physiology: The physical use of the smile, and the straightened back alter the state of mind by themselves.
2) Anchoring: Remembering a time when you had the feeling of love "anchors" the person back to that feeling.
3) Submodality shift: Changing the colours of the organs is a "submodality" shift and affects the body's emotional-physical response.
4) Reframing: the process "reframes" all the significant stressful emotions as signals to act positively:
- Sadness means its time to get clear what is right for you to continue to hold on to and what is right to let go of.
- Fear means its time to be more gentle with yourself.
- Anger means it's time to be kind to yourself as well as others, rather than only kind to others.
- Rushing and stressed overactivity means its time to appreciate and feel grateful for what is here, and to feel joy.
- Thoughts that go over and over, stuck in a pattern mean that it's time to be open to new ways of acting and thinking.
NLP Within The Maori World
Hirini Reedy, NLP Master Practitioner
As we enter the 3rd Millennium, the digitisation of information and the acceleration of change is seeing a greater need for NLP skills worldwide. This digitisation is even implicit in the name, Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) as coined by the founders of NLP. The name, NLP, suggests to me that we can encode and decode our internal thinking systems very much like programming a computer if you understand the necessary programming code. The use of the words such as auditory digital and now visual digital continues the influence of digital age terminology. The danger of this digitisation of the human mind and body into its constituent modalities can sometimes take away the mystery and magic that has always been part of the human experience, part of our cultural makeup. Ancient cultures have always had an understanding of NLP processes as expressed through their mythologies, songs and dance, rituals, ceremonies and knowledge systems. We are now seeing many NLP leaders from around the world starting to integrate ancient teachings with NLP. Examples of recent discoveries include Tad James and his exploration into the teachings of Huna, the Hawaiian esoteric system of knowledge which led to the creation of his Time-Line Therapy. Dr Richard Bolstad and Margot Hamblet have been instrumental with integrating Chi Kung energy practices into their teachings of NLP here in Aotearoa. In my opinion the use of metaphor and associated terms in NLP is perhaps creating new terminology for the ancient art of storytelling. Storytelling reflects the power of the spoken word, the oral tradition which preceded the advent of the written word and print media which has revolutionised the transmission of knowledge ever since.
It is timely in Aotearoa New Zealand to explore our own indigenous Maori culture from an NLP perspective. The Maori culture of Aotearoa is deeply rooted in the energies of this land. All lands have different vibrations of energies very much like the different energy vibrations of the human body. The land, the waters, the plants all have energy signatures that are attuned in with the vibrations of the land. Similarly the beliefs, language and the cultural ways of Maori reflected this attunement with the natural environment of Aotearoa. This is more noticeably so in Maori cosmology and world view.
The Maori World View
In strong similarity to the Taoist beliefs, the Maori believed in a cosmic genealogy that led to emergence of the human form. In the beginning there was Te Kore (The Nothingness), a state of primeval energy that pre-existed everything else. Te Kore was the seedbed of the universe in which all creation gestated. It was the womb from which all things were born. Within Te Kore there existed the supreme being, IO Matua Kore, who represented the genesis of all things, the original consciousness, the original form. IO then held inner intercourse between its masculine and feminine aspects to initiate the fertilisation process. As a result of this fertilisation the primeval energy began to move, to pulsate as the embryonic universe began to take form. From within this gestating energy there emerged the metaphysical and the physical worlds. From within the physical world, there manifested animate and inanimate matter. From within animate matter, there appeared the many life forms. From within the many life forms there arose the human form. From within the human form, there appeared the Maori people. From the Maori people I express my sense of identity. Tihei Mauriora! (The First Breath of Life). This genealogical process is called whakapapa, the art of kinship to all things.
The Maori created metaphors and divine concepts to represent this universal whakapapa. We all know about Ranginui, the Heaven Father and Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. However the Ranginui and Papatuanuku concepts are even more important for they represent the male and female aspects that make up all things. They are the Maori equivalents of Yin and Yang. The children of Ranginui and Papatuanuku represent the many variations and permutations that exist in the physical world (as well as the metaphysical world!). Maori whakapapa strands or lineages can be interwoven into wonderful patterns to show the linkages with nature in a similar way to the change patterns in the I-Ching, The Book of Changes which is over 4000 years old. The I-Ching uses 64 patterns of change to explain the changes we see in both the human and natural worlds.
This whakapapa or kinship meant that the Maori saw the human form as a child of the universe, a microcosm of nature, subject to the same forces and energies that affect the seasons, the tides and the planets. Therefore many Maori rituals, beliefs and ceremonies focussed and honoured this universal kinship with Nature. The whakapapa concept can be used to explain the workings of the human mindscape where the neural pathways of thought can be navigated back to their parent source. This intimacy with nature meant that the many wananga (learning) systems of the Maori were attuned to the seasonal and daily cycles that affect the human mind and body. Essentially to the Maori, the classroom was nature, the sky the roof, the earth the floor. In this classroom there are many teachers of both human and non-human form.
Before we can begin to gain insight into Maori concepts, protocols and language we must have this understanding of the Maori world view. In later articles I would like to explore with more specificity the elements of the wananga (Maori learning) systems using examples from haka (Maori dance), the taiaha (Maori weaponry and martial arts), rongoa (Maori healing) and other esoteric practices. This will assist in highlighting the linkages to subconscious mind conditioning, chi kung and NLP change processes such as metaphor, state changes and anchoring.
- Reedy HG. Unpublished Thesis, Te Tohu a Tu (The Warrior Arts of the Maori), Masters of Philosophy, Massey University 1996
- Bolstad R, Hamblett M and Dyer-Huria K. Profusion, Transformations NLP Consultants Ltd, Christchurch 1995
- James T, James A. Lost Secrets of Ancient Hawaiian Huna, Pre-publication manuscript 1994
Hirini Reedy M. Phil, BE(Hons) is a training consultant with Tu Strategies Ltd which specialises in integrating indigenous knowledge with the latest NLP change processes. He has extensive experience with conflict resolution and peace-brokering having served as a NZ Army officer on UN peacekeeping overseas. He is also a Maori storyteller, a NLP Master practitioner, a Reiki master and a blackbelt trainer in martial arts including the Maori taiaha. He can be contacted at: Tu Strategies Ltd, PO Box 1947 Wellington Ph (025)300-465 or email: email@example.com
NLP and Maori Wisdom
Richard Bolstad (NLP Trainer, Ngati Pakeha)
In his Tauparapara for the NLP book Transforming Communication, Te Hata Ohlson (Tuhoe, with links to Ngati Whare, Ngati Kahungunu, Ngati Porou and Te Arawa) says:
Tini whetu ki te Rangi
Ko nga whakaaro hou taka haere
Hei kakano mo nga aitanga
Ka tu te tangata
(Just as there are multitudes of stars in Father sky, so there are new thoughts roaming Mother earth; seeds for descendants growing and searching. By challenging; they progress until they are able to stand tall in their own uniqueness.)
Here Te Hata celebrates the newness of NLP, and indeed NLP offers new ways to understand and explain how human beings acheive success in any situation. But while the ways of explaining this success are new (and thus make success available to us all more easily) the skills described are ancient. In the introduction to Pro-fusion, another NLP text, Karen Dyer-Huria (Kai Tahu, Kati Mamoe) describes Maori culture as a place "where highly skilled processes of communicating, called now accelerated learning and thought of as a new technology, are a natural way to teach and preserve the history and learnings of all time."
Similarly, NLP Trainer Tad James (called by his Hawaiian teacher George Naope Kiaina'auaomaikalani) says in his book Lost secrets of Ancient Hawaiian Huna "The teaching of the Kahuna of ancient Hawaii regarding the function of the conscious mind and the unconscious mind (the science of La'au Kahea) was so complete that western science has only recently achieved a comparable level of understanding with the work of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. [on whose work much of NLP is based]" Tad comments about his own NLP development of Time Line Therapy? (a process for healing the past and installing goals in the future) that "the Hawaiians had similar concepts or systems that included the Unconscious Mind's internal storage of time." The ancient Pacific techniques of accelerated learning and of psychological and physical healing are rediscovered in the "modern" skills of NLP. For someone with a background in Maori, Hawaiian or other Pacific culture, NLP provides a second perspective from which to view skills which are not yet widely respected in Pakeha/Haole society.
Maori Perspectives on Transforming Communication
Interestingly, the Transforming Communication approach of reflective listening and I messages may refer to an attitude similar to the traditional Maori quality of 'whakaiti' (humility). Consider Tipene Yates description (quoted in Joan Metge's book "In And Out Of Touch" 1986, p. 86) of his kaumatua: "I observed them and watched them, and they all had one thing in common, whakaiti. To me that is how these old people conducted their whole way of life. You didn't see them abusing people; you saw them talking fire, not abuse. Always they were polite and humble. But they made their points and they would not turn away from them. They would say, 'Well, I am sorry. You say this is white, I know it is black, and you are misguided. ' Something nice like that in Maori." This message uses reflective listening and an I message, followed by a reframe. The "I message" format is also used in many Maori proverbs such as "Hutia te rito o te harakeke, kei hea te komako e ko, Ki mai ki ahau he aha te mea nui o te ao katoa, Maku e ki atu "He tangata, he tangata, he tangata" Tear out the heart of the flax plant (the most important part) and where would the bellbird sit? You ask me what is the most important thing in all the world. For me, I would say, "It is a person, it is people, it is humanity."
The win-win format is emphasised in a number of Maori proverbs such as: "Ma pango ma whero ka oti te mahi" By red (chief) and white (worker) pulling together the task is done. "He kai, he kai" Some food for some food (said by the chief Rakai-paka when messengers came from his coastal Whakatane relative, Tamatea-rehe, asking for forest delicacies).