Norman Fischer is a poet, author, Zen Buddhist priest and former abbot of the San Francisco Zen Center. As founder of the Everyday Zen Foundation, his work with meditation practice has taken him into many corners of contemporary American life, including lawyering as a spiritual path. Norman has worked with the Center for Understanding in Conflict on inquiries that focus on bringing the calmness and insight of meditation practice directly into conflict situations.
I have learned from working with my colleagues at the Center that conflict is not the exception in human relations – it is the rule. Its roots are deep, common, and various, and not easy to deal with, and there is no substitute for simply wading out into the deep waters of conflict with honestly, fierceness, and a willingness to plunge into the depth of human feeling when necessary. Regardless of how calm good and nice we think we have become, as long as we and others have desires and needs, we will clash, and if we don’t expect this and learn how to deal with it, we will either have to live in some sequestered self-protective way, or be embroiled in stressful controversy much of the time.