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December 30, 2018

3 Ways to Keep our Peace when we’re Navigating Conflict.

How many hours have we wasted stewing over an interaction that went south or picking apart dialogue after a conflict?

After the fact, it can be tempting to indulge in the high school habit of imagining alternative scenarios where we finally get a solid burn in instead of clamming up. But in reality, lashing out during a conflict usually results in feelings of guilt and emptiness.

We’ve all been there.

Some people really know how to push our buttons and might even do it on purpose to provoke a heated response. However, pointing fingers at who “started it” isn’t exactly a conflict resolution step. The fact is, the way we engage in conflict—provoked or not—directly affects our peace.

Not only that, it contributes to the more global issue of fear and pride trumping love and connection.

We Can’t Avoid Conflict Forever

Right away, we can rule out the possibility of avoiding conflict altogether, especially with constant digital pings haunting our homes and offices. There’s a minefield of conflict to navigate every time we look at our devices. It’s true that people tend to say things in texts, tweets, and comments that they wouldn’t dare say in person. And worse, the offending remark is there in print for us to review again and again, piling onto the mental highlight reel of “ways I have been wronged.”

Something we must accept is that we all play our part in contributing to the chaos of conflict. We get caught up in the drama. But the blame game stops here. We can learn to navigate conflict in a healthier way. It’s time to quit reacting out of fear and start responding out of love. This change must happen within us to see positive shifts toward peace around us.

We Can Transform our Response to Conflict

The conflict-conquering protocol I use is the ultimate inner peace companion for face-to-face and digital scenarios. I developed this approach as a coping mechanism during a major time of transition in my life. In the early 2000s, I decided to leave my career in clinical pharmacy, where I was well established, to pursue a private practice in Functional and Regenerative Medicine.

I was following my heart toward a dream of helping people heal the root cause of their illness, but I didn’t receive the support I’d hoped for. The holistic path wasn’t as mainstream back then and my choice led to a great deal of conflict with people I loved. Many believed I was making a terrible mistake. I committed to the conflict by constantly defending my choice, and it was exhausting. I felt emotionally paralyzed from living in constant fear of judgement.

I learned firsthand that when the topic of conflict is our own personal life choices, the urge to react from a place of fear rather than love during a confrontation is overwhelming. Something had to change so I could make the shift toward heart-centered living, even during challenging conflicts. I knew I couldn’t change anyone else’s behaviors or reactions, but I could transform my response. So, I took “response”-ability and developed a conflict-response system that still serves me well in my personal life and in my private practice.

The 3-Step “Pause, Prana, Pray” Protocol

Anyone can benefit from the three steps that help me navigate conflict with confidence and compassion. By following this protocol, we can become pros at responding from a place of love rather than reacting from a place of fear.

Step 1: Pause

As Mark Twain famously said, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

When you feel yourself being triggered by an interaction—with telltale signs like your mind racing, your face getting hot, or your body language tensing—the best thing we can do is delay the reaction that’s bubbling to the surface by pausing so we can thoughtfully compose ourselves and avoid blurting out something we’ll regret.

A great way to pause during a conflict is by “grounding.” Feel your feet connecting with the ground and let it remind you that you’re safe and supported. Pause to understand what is being said, and to examine the way you feel and why. This also gives you the chance to clear up any misunderstandings to help avoid jumping to conclusions—perhaps you could ask for clarification from the other party to give them a chance to express themselves with more context or clarification.

Holding space for someone else by listening, as long as they are being respectful, is so important. Sometimes, we may want to interrupt someone in the middle of their thought because we feel so strongly. But showing respect by actively listening will help ensure you are given the same courtesy. If the other person takes your pause as an opportunity to fill the silence, calmly express: “I need some time to process what you’ve said.” Then, take the time you need.

Step 2: Prana

“Anger is like a storm rising up from the bottom of your consciousness. When you feel it coming, turn your focus to your breath.” ~ Thich Nhat Hahn

In Sanskrit, the word prana means breath, life force, energy, and soul. Connecting to our breath is one of the most centering things we can do during a conflict. It sounds simple enough, but it’s a coping skill that can take practice. When we’re in a state of stress, we often take shallow breaths as a “fight-or-flight” response.

So, when you initiate the first step and pause, try a controlled breathing technique like triangle breath. All you need to do is visualize drawing an equilateral triangle in your mind’s eye: draw one side of the triangle while inhaling for a count of three, then exhale for a count of six while drawing the other two sides to complete the triangle.

According to Psychology Today, controlled breathing triggers the parasympathetic nervous system to neutralize the fight-or-flight response with a relaxation response. No matter what situation we’re in, we can always come back to our breath—our life force. When we’re calm, we can make wiser decisions and handle conflict with greater composure.

Step 3: Pray

“I used to believe that prayer changes things, but now I know that prayer changes us and we change things.” ~ Mother Theresa

Prayer is the purest expression of unconditional love. Pray in the moment, pray over the situation afterward, and pray for the person the conflict involves. Settle your attention on your heart and notice the warmth you feel there when you put positive intentions into the universe with prayer. To pray is to acknowledge that you don’t have to go through things alone. You are always supported by the universe; you are always heard and understood.

The power of prayer is always accessible to us, no matter what our religious or spiritual beliefs are. When conflict is blurring our perspective, it can be difficult to remember there is a whole spiritual support team there for us 24/7. We all have guides, angels, and ancestors that want to help us—we just need to ask. As you pause and practice your controlled breathing, send out a prayer, even if all you can manage is, “Please help me.” You’ll be wowed by how swiftly your support team comes to your aid!

Reclaim your Peace and Personal Power

Next time conflict arises in your life: pause, prana, and pray. You’ll be amazed by the peace you feel even in the heat of the moment. Although it’s certain conflict will arise many times throughout our lives, take comfort in the fact we always have a choice when it comes to our response. With practice, we’ll come to know that reacting out of fear is how we give away our personal power and responding out of love is how we reclaim it.

As you hone your conflict navigation skills, notice how your “response”-ability rubs off on others. The conscious effort we put toward honoring our peace and personal power sets a shining example for others to follow in our footsteps. Growing through challenges and conflict helps move us along our life path, which in turn allows our mind, body, and soul to expand.

That’s the beauty of experiencing the contrast of fear and love in our lives. It’s what shapes our divine purpose here on Earth and reminds us we are all one.


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Elena Bensonoff

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