Yes, mediation is a profession.
We need mediation. And we need trained mediators. Even so, the practice has seeped deeply into the culture over the past few decades. almost unexpectedly practically unknowingly to most of us.
Mediation as we know it today got its start slightly more than half a century ago in the 1950’s at the onset of the cold war and with the threat of a global nuclear holocaust. Countries had to do something other than demonstrate their military might. They either backed away in nationalistic isolation or attempted to open “talks” among leaders. The art of modern diplomacy was born. Hand-in-hand came the art of negotiation.
The founders of this country were influenced by “reason.” The Age of Enlightenment, heralded three centuries ago, espoused reasoning and tolerance in reaction to the abuses of monarchies and churches. Blind faith was replaced by science and logic. We were “enlightened.” And therefore advanced human beings. We strove to be objective rather than intuitive. People recognized the need to cooperate.
Obviously not that advanced. Wars, famine, disease and poverty still exist. The world is still in turmoil.
Were the great thinkers of the time short-sighted?
Reason wasn’t enough. Logic did not lead to “enlightenment.” What may seem reasonable to me may not to you. Being rational doesn’t make us safe and doesn’t necessarily help us thrive. But the Age of Reason has moved us along.
Mediation as we know it today took hold during the mid-20th century. There are many styles of mediation, the most well-known being:
- Facilitative (The mediator helps, but stays out of the way.)
- Transformative (The parties become empowered and even changed for the better.)
- Evaluative (The mediator predicts what might happen in court and takes it from there.)
- Directive (Certain experts as needed are brought in.)
In the end, each style has a common striving for fairness given the circumstances and the parties involved.
Fairness is much different from the concept of “justice.” Justice implies fairness, but much more. With justice comes an overarching set of laws that must be adhered to. Justice also involves rewards and penalties, winners and losers. Justice removes power from us, relying upon the adjudicators. There are times when we need justice to be served.
An even further shift is occurring today in the way we relate to one another, including the way in which we resolve conflict. Quantum physics has lead us to the theory that thoughts are vibrations of energy. Thought power and mind power suggest that to change outcomes, we first change ourselves.
We know today that real conflict resolution begins with changing how we think.
The modern consciousness movement has introduced a kind of secular spirituality into our culture. Meditation is one of its indispensible tools. An ancient practice, it is widely used in today’s frenetic world to cultivate inner peace.
Diane Musho Hamilton writes this in Everything is Workable: a Zen Approach to Conflict Resolution:
There is plenty of greed in the world and ruthless competition, no doubt. But there is also an abundance of generosity, goodwill, and a terrific amount of cooperation that serves the whole. Each of us knows what it’s like to surrender a hard and fast position in exchange for genuine harmony or to release others from a difficult demand so that we can share a settlement. In giving we gain.*
These sentiments come as no surprise to most of us. To you, dear reader, the world may not feel enlightened. Not surprisingly, mediation combines reason with intuition. Mediation is a well traveled path we can take to resolve conflicts, large and small, in each of our lives, in the 21st century.