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The Spiritual Side of ADR

Ripley’s Believe It Or Not! In the most recent issue of the Dispute Resolution Magazine (Spring 2004), published by the American Bar Association (ABA) Section of Dispute Resolution, the above phrase appeared on the front cover. This is a first; an historic event! The ABA now joins the Association for Conflict Resolution (ACR) which established a Spiritual Subcommittee just a few years ago. I do not know about you, but I find the articles contained in this Issue, and the use of the word “Spiritual” on the cover of this magazine to be A-S-T-O-U-N-D-I-N-G! I also find this event comforting, and it provides me with a profound sense of peace.

I realize the word “spiritual” can make some people uncomfortable. People sometimes confuse the words “religion” and “spirituality”. Within the context of alternative dispute resolution, spiritual is intended to refer to a process which is healthful and healing. It has been estimated that approximately ninety (90%) of the population engage in prayer at some point in their lives. This indicates to me, that these people have a belief in a higher power, a power greater than themselves who may be referred to as God, Allah or Yahweh or some other name. I have made a distinction in my mind between “religion” and “spirituality”; “religion” is for people who are afraid of going to hell, and “spirituality” is for people who have been there.

Inside this Issue are five (5) articles on spirituality: 1) Peacemaking, Applying faith to dispute resolution, by R. Seth Shippee; 2) Circles of Conversations, One trial lawyer’s journey into sacred spaces, by Tom Porter; 3) Hindu DR, Developing a global program for the Hare Krishnas, by Arnold M. Zack; 4) Embracing Religion, Spiritual tools to help meet mediation challenges, by Heidi M. Tauscher; and 5) Negotiating Wisely, The third eye of decision making, by Erica Ariel Fox and Marc Gafni.

In Peacemaking, Applying faith to dispute resolution, by R. Seth Shippee, an extremely interesting overview is provided describing arbitration and mediation as offered by Christianity, Islam and Judaism. Seth Shippee concludes that, “In a time when faith seems to be a subject brought up more to spur conflict than to resolve it, it is both ironic and reassuring to read the holiest texts of these three religions and reflect on their common commands: get along with one another; compromise; work things out.”

Tom Porter in Circles of Conversations, One trial lawyer’s journey into sacred spaces presents a personal transformation from trial lawyer to mediator to restorative justice and peacemaking circles. Restorative Justice provides a healthful and healing process for the victim of crimes, offenders, and other impacted parties to come together to create solutions as a collectivity. Tom Porter observes that this is a justice that focuses, “… on harm and addressing the harm, first to victims, then to the community as a whole, and finally to the offender as well. This justice involved accountability, real accountability, where the person who created the harm was involved with the victims and the community in determining how to address the harm and make things right. This model is the circle process, which recognizes that the space within which healing and restoration takes place is a sacred space.”

The next article, Hindu DR, Developing a global program for the Hare Krishnas, by Arnold M. Zack, presents the steps taken to establish a world wide mediation program for conflicts between members, and an ombuds model for interpersonal issues arising between members and the leadership; for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) or more commonly referred to as Hare Krishnas. In 2003 fifteen (15) forty hour mediation trainings had trained over 350 members across four continents. By January 1, 2004, approximately 250 mediation cases had been heard in 25 countries, reporting a settlement rate of approximately 80%; and 75 ombuds cases had been heard during the same time period. Arnold M. Zack wonders if other religious organizations, facing similar internal conflicts, will move toward the model of transparency implemented by the ISKCON.

Heidi M. Tauscher provides inspiring considerations for mediators to ponder in Embracing Religion, Spiritual tools to help meet mediation challenges. She observes, “Though traditionally ignored by mediators, religions possess a treasure of indispensable peacemaking tools and conflict-resolution strategies that can inspire openness, fairness, empathy, compassion and imagination. A survey of contributions, culled from the religious traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, are provided and plugged into the framework of four (4) stages of mediation: 1) establishing rapport, 2) fostering creativity in a cooperative atmosphere, 3) inviting receptivity, and inspiring fairness and fidelity.

Personally, the most exciting and inspiring article is presented last; Negotiating Wisely, The third eye of decision making, by Erica Ariel Fox and Marc Gafni. Initially, this article presents the benefits and limits of rationality and emotionality. An insightful quote is provided by Robert Benjamin, author of Managing the Natural Energy of Conflict, “There are limits to rationality, a point at which being rational alone is, in fact, irrational.” A third way of seeing is then unfolded, which is not about facts or feelings; spiritual traditions refer to this alternative as “big minds”, the “third eye”, “eye of the soul” or the “inner eye”. The authors emphasize that the wisdom drawn from this perspective does not require any religious affiliation or practice, and is available as a practice of discernment in which any negotiator can harness inner wisdom and bring it to bear on a decision making process.

As if the above articles were not sufficient, a sidebar illuminates a new research project at the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School, referred to as The Harvard Negotiation Insight Initiative (HNII). Founder and director, Erica Ariel Fox explains that the project, “…aims to explore the interface between the fields of negotiation and conflict management on the one hand and mindfulness and the great wisdom traditions on the other.” For more illumination go to:

I keep blinking my eyes, thinking this is a dream, that the word “Spiritual” did not actually appear on the cover of an ABA publication, and these articles represent only wish fulfillment. This event is startling! Mediation training needs to incorporate a spiritual dimension beyond merely the facts, crunching numbers and being respectful of the feelings of the parties. Have you ever asked certain clients, “How is your spiritual life?” Have you ever asked your clients if they have read, Spiritual Divorce by Debra Ford? Have you ever thought about having clients receive an upper body massage for ten or fifteen minutes prior to a mediation session? Have you ever walked a labyrinth?

A thought that guides me personally and my work with others is, “The path that was previously unseen shall become visible.” Namaste (the god in me greet the god in you)


Timothy J. Mordaunt

Timothy J. Mordaunt, Esq., is an attorney in the general practice of law and is a trained mediator. He received his J.D. from SUNY at Buffalo and was admitted to practice law in New York State in 1988. Prior to earning his law degree he earned a B.A. in psychology… MORE >

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