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Creating Calm for Mediation

July 23, 2011

I looked up the definition of “calm” on the internet.  At http://www.thefreedictionary.com/calm, among many other expressions I found “serenity; tranquillity; peace.”  These are attributes I try to bring to every mediation.

I believe that calmness is extremely important for a mediator.  If the mediator is calm, unperturbed, at peace in his or her demeanor, it rubs off on the participants.  Nearly every disputant comes to the mediation table agitated and/or in distress.  The emotions of conflict can be overwhelming.  Encountering a calm person can tone down the turmoil, sometimes.  But how does one create a sense of calm?

I can’t say for others, except to speculate about meditation, but I can say what I do for myself:  I try to eliminate experiences that agitate, one of the worst of which is traffic.

Not driving can be a blessing for one seeking calm, at least not driving in traffic.  And there’s plenty of traffic in and around Los Angeles.

So, for local trips, I take the subway and the other forms of reliable public transit like light rail or dedicated busways.  (Local buses are not really reliable, although one can manage if enough extra time is allowed.)

On the subway for instance, I read, work the daily crossword puzzle, study my file and the mediation briefs of the parties, watch people, relax.

Sometimes, there is someone making a commotion on the subway; I just move to another car and that solves the problem for me.

For much longer trips, I go and stay at a hotel the night before to avoid the traffic in the morning, particularly the traffic on the San Diego Freeway (I-405) which is usually just awful.  Then I can take my time and compose myself before the mediation session.

I also like to arrive early.  There is something about getting to the mediation session before others and getting acquainted with the rooms, sitting alone and allowing myself the opportunity to focus on how I will approach the morning session.

I also want to be there early to greet the parties and their counsel as they arrive, to accommodate them, make them feel comfortable, to kibbitz a little and to establish some rapport if I can.

There is also something to be said for experience.  Mediating every-day-that-I-can is important for feeling a sense of self assurance or competence in my work.  Someone once told me that I appear “very comfortable in my own skin,” also “authentic.”  I like that and do feel that way in mediation.

So, finding a sense of calm and being at peace in the world helps the mediation process.  It also helps me personally.

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