Ten years ago a powerful hateful force shook the minds of Americans. When the planes hit the Twin Towers I was sitting in my cubicle, working for SPAWAR as a software specialist. Internet news sources completely froze and my only contact with the outside world was AOL Instant Messenger.
My friend had been giving me his version of CNN's play-by-play, and when the Pentagon was struck he messaged me: “The world is coming to an end!!!”
My office was sent home before noon and it was hours before anyone could get through to me on the phone. I sat in my living room glued to the news, and watched repeated footage of the devastation. I could get a hold of no one. Finally, a dear friend was in DC managed to get through and express his concern. His phone call was the first expression of love I’d received in hours, and from that day forward it became my mission to understand how such hatred could control the mind.
Somatic Conflict Resolution
Reflecting on my inner conflict generated by September 11, 2001, it comes as no surprise that ten years later I settled into a graduate program called Religion, Culture & Values with a concentration in Conflict Analysis & Resolution. While much of the Religious Studies department focuses on the tensions among the Abrahamic traditions, my focus is on using eastern philosophies to understand the internal nature of conflict; how conflict generated in the mind then manifests in the physical.
On the ten-year anniversary of 9/11, I elected to take a class called Somatic Skills for Conflict Resolvers. I’m no longer in my California Hippie Holistic Playland, so my curiosity was piqued. Stephen Kotev, a black belt in Aikito, offers this one credit graduate course and brings the body-mind problem to the attention of budding GMU peacekeepers. Guess what Professor Kotev spoke most about? Breath. I swear. No kidding. His other emphasis? Posture.
Professor Kotev, in the Smiling Heart exercise, had two of us stand facing each other. My job was to get my body-mind into an angry, hateful state and use my mat to hit the other mat held by my partner. Whoa. Then he had me collect myself and bring my body-mind into a loving state. I hit the mat again and the class reported their observations.
Apparently, without prompting, my body was more aligned, firmly grounded in my feet, and I delivered a more deliberate and less erratic blow than the hateful one. While the differences slightly varied from the hateful/ loving state of each individual, the power question was undisputed. Each of my classmates struck with more force in the loving state than in the hateful state.
Loving Attack? What’s the value in that?
Well, Professor Kotev references Paul Linden, Ph.D., who claims this: “During a conflict, you can try to remember that a loving feeling is something you do. It is a choice, an action on your part. It isn’t a response to your attacker, who, after all, is acting very unloving toward you.”
This means I am in control of my emotions. I am acting versus re-acting. If my body is brittle, it’s more likely to break than if it’s soft and ready for the blow. If I need to attack someone, better to be in control of my feelings than let m feelings control me. Better posture. Better breathing. Just pay attention to it.