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Collaborative Practice as a Spiritual Practice

By on Sep 30, 2016 in Blog |

Article appeared in “The World of Collaborative Practice”. A Magazine Promoting Collaborative Dispute Resolution for the Full Range of Possibilities   What do we think about as practitioners when we consider adding or maintaining a collaborative component to our overall law practice? Certainly there are the basic considerations of marketing and cost-effectiveness that make any practice component financially justifiable and for many, the analysis may end there. Beyond that, however, there is the lure of creating alternatives that support and empower a client through a difficult time. I’m writing here of a collaborative practice that permits the practitioner to reach deep into one’s self to access curiosity, generosity and empathy in order to create solutions that satisfy not only the deeper needs of the client, but as well, allows the practitioner to experience a spiritual satisfaction that goes far beyond bottom line considerations. Divorce for many clients can be a defining moment: it can be a time of taking stock, of reflecting upon one’s choices, of admitting to mistakes, of acknowledging historical patterns, of exploring new, previously unthought-of directions, of experiencing sometimes frightening emotional highs and lows. At its very best, the divorce process can present an opportunity for the client to have a deeply spiritual experience. I’m not talking here about a traditional religious experience but of one that expands the individual’s awareness of their own human spirit. To be part of that growth and to nurture its nascent roots within a collaborative paradigm is the privilege of the practitioner. By accessing one’s own generosity and compassion as support for the client, the practitioner as well has an opportunity for personal spiritual growth through the guidance of the client’s journey. Clients come to the practitioner vulnerable and in distress. To say that they are not at their best is an understatement. They are being divorced from, or they are realizing that they will have less time with their children, or that the financial stability to which they’ve grown accustomed will be altered. Despite their stated willingness to enter into the collaborative process, there is a piece in them that is angry, resentful, afraid, tentative, defensive and reactive. They listen with acceptance to the theory of interests-based negotiation but...

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The Unexpected Collaborator

By on Apr 12, 2016 in Blog |

Article appeared in “The Collaborative Review”. The Journal of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals FALL 2015 / VOLUME 15, ISSUE 12.   I volunteered to create an icebreaker for a recent retreat for about 25 multi-disciplinary collaborative professionals. I chose a simple concept – tossing a ball of yarn to a participant, who would then tell a little bit about themselves before tossing it to another participant. Some folks were a little nervous, some clearly didn’t want to do it, still others wanted to just get on with the retreat. There was laughter, and constant reminders to hold onto the yarn before tossing. A simple enough concept, with extraordinary results. People chose to challenge themselves. While occasionally a participant would toss the yarn across the table, most chose to hurl the yarn far down the single table, with the result that the yarn became stretched and interwoven in increasingly complicated ways. And as the yarn pattern became more intricate, the stories became broader, richer and more intimate. The initial nervous laughter at the table decreased and then disappeared all together. The participant-speakers became more thoughtful and revelatory with regard to the story each chose to share. The participant-listeners became more engaged and respectful of the intimate knowledge of another’s story. We recognized at that moment how little we really know of the collaborative professionals with whom we work. In addition, there was the unspoken communication that arose from the handling of the yarn. One or two participants set the yarn on the table before them as they spoke but most continued to handle the yarn in unconscious ways either spooling and unspooling the ball, or twisting a thread of it, or tossing it lightly back and forth between hands as they spoke. Several people held the yarn and twisted it so, so tightly. Others gathered their thoughts by staring into the ball before they spoke. One woman continued to pull the yarn as she told her story so that she had a pile of yarn before her that had to be rewound before tossing to the next participant. How the yarn was handled spoke to the depth of the sharing. At the end we stood, still holding our...

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