My Reflections on Avoiding Confrontation

| February 24, 2009 | 8 Comments

I’ve been using a new question over the last week in all kinds of incidents that could have led to confrontation…(LWT, Take 5: Avoiding Confrontation)

In each case, before engaging, or before allowing my ego to engage, I ask, “What is more important right now?” Usually, the answer is not winning a battle, but peace and calm and presence of mind.

Two parables from a New Earth spoke to me as I continue to reflect on this topic of Avoiding Confrontation and Remaining Present.

The first is “The Duck With The Human Mind” on p. 137

After a fight, two ducks will usually separate and go their own ways. “If a duck had a human mind, it would keep the fight alive by thinking, by story-making.” … “Flap your wings – which translates to “let go of the story” – and return to the only place of power: the present moment.”

The second is the story of the Zen monks Tanzan & Ekido on p. 139.

“I put the girl down hours ago,” said Tanzan. “Are you still carrying her?”

How are you doing with this?  We’d love to know.


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About the Author ()

Leo Aristimuno helps people develop mindfulness, inner peace, and joy in their daily lives. He teaches mindfulness meditation courses in Montclair, NJ, and offers inspirational workshops, retreats, and personal consultations. Leo has worked with Eckhart Tolle's teachings many years. He's the organizer of Living With Eckhart Tolle Meetup groups in NJ and NYC with over 1,400 members. Leo is also co-producer of the popular podcast

Comments (8)

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  1. Kate says:

    Hi guys!

    I have been so enjoying your site! I am really touched by your work here and by your commitment to bringing these tools and techniques to the world on a practical level. The podcasts are wonderful too. I feel as though I’ve found an Oasis. It’s a beautiful thing! You have my deep appreciation. :)

    I am finding that some days it’s easier to to practice the above than others. And I actually am experiencing the emergence of my ego on the opposite side as I’ve always been terrified of confrontation and have shied away from making my voice heard for fear of what the other person will think and feel and how that will make me feel in return. So I’m playing with it on the opposite side, connecting with my beingness and speaking up when necessary from a conscious place and feeling the fear in my body. I’ll keep you posted!

    Much appreciation,

  2. Caroline says:

    Hi Leo,

    To be honest this is all easier said than done. I have been struggling for years with violence within me and within others. Its bubbling underneath me for several reasons. But I am trying to learn to manage it and it is hard work. Now I know its virtually IMPOSSIBLE to stop unconscious emotional reactions to not rise out of the surface without confronting the deeper meaning of why they are there. You cannot stop, take your breath think and meditate before an action that is so violent and so reactive and QUICK to stop and think no. That is what I struggle with, for some of us it takes SUPERNATURAL powers to stop ourselves from reacting physically to something that has a hold onto you so intensily emotionally. Not so easy.
    I think it takes courage and a long road ahead to face the facts and be healed. And I think that Tolle’s ideas and thoughts and your wonderful work makes it all tangeable but unfortunately, it takes more inner work than that. I think therapy also helps, because like it or not, accept it or not, there are reasons for everything and understanding and naming these reasons, helps kill off the demons.
    Thanks for listening,


  3. admin says:

    Hi Caroline
    Thanks so much for writing.

    I completely agree that many different tools, including therapy, are very useful. They’re all tools that can help us cultivate awareness and a state of acceptance that is free of judgement and, ultimately from drama, as Tolle calls it- the drama that the ego thrives on identifies with.

    In my experience, it has been easy to use the stories of the past (my life drama) as a way to live in the past, to suffer in the present because of the stories of the past.

    Understanding and naming are useful, because (and if) they lead us to the question: now what? There is the key, at least for me. What do we do with that understanding?

    Accepting the past, without judgment, without overreaction, without giving in to the drama, without letting it define “me” – it is from this acceptance that we can forgive others and ourselves more easily. It’s from this acceptance that I have been able to enjoy the present more vividly.

    I won’t say this is easy, but it seems to be getting easier… Lately, I have not felt as weighted (or ignited) by the stories of the past.

    Thank you for this great dialogue.


  4. admin says:

    Dear Kate,
    Thank you so much for your kind words of appreciation and for sharing your process.

    You point to a very interesting situation, where the fear is of something that might happen in the future (what others will think, how I will feel). I have struggled with that too and this fear of future consequences has prevented me from doing many things in life.

    Ironically, this fear of the future often stems from stories of the past! (See my reply to Caroline)

    I chuckle at that, without judgment, and I ask, what’s more important right now: the story of the past, the fear of the future, or my being present right now?

    Do keep me posted!

    All the best!

  5. Christine says:

    I was delighted to find you podcast and website yesterday. I never tire of speaking of the Eckhart Tolle. I have been greatly transformed by his teachings. Before becoming awakened, I believed that as a healthy, assertive personality, it was my responsiblity to defend my ego, not to be abused by others, to stand up for myself. What a shocker to discover that all conflict in a relationship is about me. Whether the other person is truly abusive, mentally ill, whatever, it is not their behavior that is the issue, but rather my reaction (or hopefully nonreaction) to it. I have a couple of people in my life (don’t we all) who are hard to deal with because of their substance abuse or control issues. In the past I would have thought, “No you will not abuse me. I will not stand for that behavior and so I say to you…” Fill in the blank, whatever I thought was necessary to shore up my ego. Now, in the awareness of the difference between my Being and my ego, I have a new routine. I do not react. I stop, take a calming breath and become transparent (as suggested by Eckhart). I physically feel the hurt or slight just pass through me. I then take another breath, and if I now feel the need to say something I know that it comes from a different place. This is such a gift.

  6. Paul Sirotta says:

    It’s really great to hear so many people practicing Presence in the most challenging of situations, namely dealing with other people.

    What I have learned is that the ego is not a “thing” that exists in me which I must strive to overcome. What does exist in me are the mental-emotional reactions that comprise my conditioning. They are not, properly speaking, ego. Eckhart has stated this several times in his talks. These patterns only become ego when I IDENTIFY with them, in other words when I am unconscious and therefore believe these patterns to be who I truly am. Then they become ego. So long as I can observe the reaction patterns as they occur, they remain only my conditioning.

    What I have discovered is that the conditioning is more or less a permanent feature of my inner landscape. My own conditioning is quite stubborn, coming as I did from an abusive childhood and a long struggle with addiction. It just will not go away! I still can feel the intense inner energy fluctuations that I would label as craving, dread, hurt, anger, embarassment, or frustration. I believe I always will, so long as I am in this form. Practicing Presence has not removed my conditioning, but it has reduced egoic suffering. When a reaction comes up and I am fully present with it, so that ego doesn’t arise, it has a very short lifespan.

    This is something I can only accomplish in the moment when the reaction manifests. I don’t strive to eventually eliminate these reactions by practice. That’s looking to the future for salvation.

    Personally, I find these inner energy movements unpleasant, but I have come to accept them as part of the isness of the moment. I don’t fight them, deny them, try to control them, or work toward eliminating them. There’s nothing wrong with me, that even after 10 years of Tolle discipleship they are still there.

    “No matter how much I practice, I will never rise above the level of human being,” a friend of mine used to say. How true!

    It took me a while to understand this, even longer to accept it.

    Thanks for writing, everyone.

  7. susan says:

    Thank you Greg and Paul for your advice, and it was great to get a personal response from you Greg, thank you, it has helped me greatly.
    I realize now that I should have accepted that my sons departure was the answer, I could have made it a smoother transition for us both if i had listened to my intuition going back in time.
    He is happier now I believe and the house is more peaceful for myself and his other brothers. It is sometimes hard to let someone go, but in truth we all know when someone is unhappy if we just listen to the voice / feeling inside.
    Things remain strained between us but i believe that giving him this ‘Space’ to be and to feel how he wants to about things, will lead him down the road best made for him and eventually, back to his Mum who Loves Him Very Much x

  8. Paul Sirotta says:

    It is so easy to fall prey to egoic mind and fall back into illusion, isn’t it?

    I thought I heard someone say in podcast #13, “My wife and I are not yet “fully enlightened, so we still have our moments,” or something like that. Could we still be trapped at some level in the subtle illusion of salvation in the future, so common among spiritual seekers? Do we really hope to become “fully enlightened” someday?

    The most important question ever to be posed is this: If I’m unconscious at this moment, can I awaken at this moment? A second important question is: If my conditioning is active NOW, can I remain present with it? If I can succeed at both challenges, it’s a total victory! How much more enlightened do I need to be, really?

    Even Eckhart can only be enlightened at this moment, because that’s all he has, too.

    Now, podcast#13…

    With respect to other peoples’ suffering, it’s important to remind myself, first, that ultimately there is no Other. Self and Other is an illusion. There’s human suffering, and we all share in it.

    Now, if a form is suffering because of its unconsciousness, compassion arises because of the recognition of Self in the other. I can definitely relate. I have also suffered. The empathy I can experience in the face of unconsciousness is truly beautiful! However, I also know that this suffering form in front of me–and Im speaking of egoic suffering arising from identification with thinking or an active pain body, not physical suffering like hunger or illness, which I will act to relieve if I can–requires this suffering to burn up the ego and awaken, just as I needed my own suffering to awaken. The question is, is the form poised to awaken at this moment?

    To know this I must be extremely alert when faced with this suffering form. I must be intensely present. I must pay attention. If I am not reacting myself, and that’s really the key, it’s possible to know intuitively whether or not there might be an opening here, whether the time might be right to offer an out. In such a case, I will perhaps offer what I know immediately, or I might give a copy of TPON to the person if I have one handy, as someone did for me when I was locked down in a mental ward to prevent my imminent suicide. I have done so myself many times. The point is, the ONE knows what to do, and will direct me to right action. If I don’t sense such an opening, I just remain in Presence with the suffering, unless I am in some danger, or feel the need to depart. Under no circumstances will I attempt to relieve the suffering of a form not ready or willing to let it go. I can only create suffering for myself by doing so, and I have given that up.

    And yes, the compulsion to relieve the suffering of those I claim to love or care for, whether they are ready or not, is purely an egoic movement based not on true compassion but comparison.

    I have worked in my spare time with addicts in a 12-Step program for more than a decade. I have seen many come through the doors for the first time. I can usually recognize intuitively those who have had enough suffering and those who haven’t. I can sense the emanation of despair, the surrender, the willingness to change, to do whatever it takes to end the suffering. Most of these make it, and I do what I can to help. But if I sense that they are not truly ready, then what can I do? I wish them well, then leave them be. I must allow them to continue to suffer until they also have suffered enough. Otherwise, I suffer.

    There’s a lot of discussion in the podcast around relating to people in their unconscious state. A couple of words first about relationships. It is helpful, although not so easy, to realize that our relationships are no more than forms in this moment. They don’t have any reality outside of this moment. Giving them time is what makes them problematic. The truth is that I can not have a real relationship with you if you are not here NOW. If you are absent from my direct awareness, I can only have a relationship with my memories of you, thoughts about you, or my future expectations of you, and we know how colored by conditioning those things can be. The belief in a relationship existing over time is an illusion, one we cling to desparately. Yet, to see the reality and accept it removes all the difficulties that plague our relationships. Presence, as always, is the key.

    So, how to relate to unconscious friends, lovers, fellow workers, and so on? Simple. Presence is the key. If I want to be with someone at this moment who may or may not be unconscious, what’s required is my Presence, not their’s. My alert attention is required to know what’s happening at this moment, what’s transpiring between myself and that other form over there, that wife or husband, friend, coworker, whatever; to see what comes up? Someone’s pain body, perhaps? My pain body? Egoic mind identification? Mutual appreciation of the moment? Sensuality? Dinner? I want to know, what does the form of this moment require of me? The simplicity of the present moment. What a gift!

    Actually Presence has, over clock time, removed many of my old unconscious friends from my environment. I didn’t have to do anything but allow. I have new awakened or awakening friends, but I still have to work with many not yet ready for transformation. It’s fine. I don’t ask anything of them they are incapable of. I listen, speak, even joke around if that’s what the moment calls for. If one insists on being unconscious at my expense, I walk away, or not, whatever seems best at the moment. I never have to resort to unconsciousness myself, and I refuse to suffer. The entire workplace has actually grown more serene as a result of Presence entering through this form.

    I am not lonely, but alone often. I can seek company when I require it, seek solitutde when that is called for. Beautiful! So much better a way to live.

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