Trillium Awakening educational offerings and coaching services comprise a spiritual path and community of practice that includes teachers, mentors, area coordinators, community leaders, and many wonderful people with a wide range of skills and personalities. And wherever people gather, conflicts will arise in due course—it’s just part of being human, and especially so when you are engaging in mutuality.
If you are experiencing conflict with someone on the Trillium path, we suggest the following steps:
1) First, see if you can simply speak your concerns to the other party. You might let them know that you’re feeling upset, concerned, or hurt about something, and would like an opportunity to be heard by them. The vast majority of issues can be handled by this simple step (though it is not unusual for it to take several back-and-forth passes before being fully resolved).
If you are on the receiving end of such feedback, do your best to simply listen. Hold your reactivity for the moment, and make sure you understand what they are bringing to your attention. You can repeat it back: “Am I hearing you correctly, that thus and such happened and you felt thus and such?” And see if you can find some degree of regret for the other party’s distress, even if you didn’t do what they said you did, or didn’t intend any harm. Let them know you are sorry they are in pain.
Wait until the person giving the feedback feels heard before asking for an opportunity to present your side of the issue. (See the Guidelines for Coconut Yoga for more details.)
2) If you feel too much charge to approach the other person directly as in Step 1, or if that step failed to assuage your distress (perhaps because you do not feel heard or understood by them), bring the issue to your next session with your teacher or mentor and seek their support. If the conflict is with your teacher or mentor, speak with another member of your support team, or with the mentor’s supervising teacher. Often, once you’ve had an opportunity to discharge some of the raw feelings with a sympathetic listener, you can then use Step 1 to resolve the conflict.
3) If it feels too difficult to go to the person directly without a neutral party present, you can ask any teacher who is acceptable to both parties to be present at an in-person meeting, or on a conference call with you both. Sometimes having a third party present makes all the difference, because they can help you understand what the other person is saying and meaning, and thereby resolve your issues. In this situation, both parties would ideally split the fee for the teacher’s time.
4) With real thorny situations, or where the previous steps haven’t brought the desired resolution, you can seek the help of a Trillium Awakening mediator. Mediation is a formal process that will require some advance preparation by both (or all of the) parties, followed by a carefully-structured conference call where both sides will have equal time to present their side of the issue and be heard. Typically both parties will invite a support person of their choosing to be a silent observer on the call, who can help them debrief afterward. As in Step 3, the cost of the mediation should be shared by both parties.
Note: If the other person does not agree to move forward with conflict resolution, it’s best to give them some space and time. You can check back in a few months to see if he or she feels differently. If not, it is best to honor the other person’s choice. It can be very difficult to hold this kind of tension, so be sure to get support from a teacher or other members of your support team.
Special situations: Communications via email and online forums seem especially prone to misunderstandings due to the difficulty of conveying subtle feelings through this medium, or expressing care and concern for the other person as you would naturally do in an in-person situation. We recommend, at the earliest opportunity, getting on the phone or meeting in person to address any such misunderstandings before they get blown all out of proportion.
And, naturally, “flaming” or making disparaging or demeaning remarks about another person has no place in this work. Please refrain from engaging in such behavior.
In the Trillium path, our preferred modality to resolve differences is to follow the steps above in all cases except where violations of our ethics policy are the issue needing attention. If you think your situation might be of that nature, please read the section below, and consult a teacher you trust for further guidance.
A note about the Trillium Awakening Grievance Process
Members of the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle (TATC) have all agreed to abide by an ethics policy with real consequences for violating it. In the event of infringements, a teacher’s colleagues and/or members of their current mutuality group first attempt to counsel that party about how to make amends, if appropriate, or possibly do some deep personal work to address the issues underlying the behavior that is out of integrity.
In cases of substantial violation, or when attempts at offering support and coaching have proven insufficient to bring about a change in behavior, a Grievance Committee must be convened by the Trillium Awakening Operations Circle. The Grievance Committee is tasked with investigating the issue at hand, and determining what course of action is necessary and appropriate. The goal is for a teacher’s trust to be restored among his or her colleagues, and, after following a prescribed remedial course of action, to continue serving as a “teacher in good standing”.
With severe ethical violations, the Grievance Committee has the power to immediately remove the offending teacher from membership in the Trillium Awakening Teachers Circle.
The Grievance Process is a formal undertaking that is required only rarely, and a Grievance Committee is convened only when sufficient evidence warrants it.