Thanks so much for coming by to check out Episode 112 of The New Family Podcast, where we talk to a mediator and yoga enthusiast about bringing mindfulness to divorce and other disputes.
What does yoga have to do with divorce? Well, a lot actually. I’m joined on this episode of the show by mediator, educator, public speaker and yoga enthusiast Mike MacConnell. Mike is the principal at Reflective Mediation and the author of The Yoga of Divorce: A Mindful Route to Resolving Disputes. Mike was able to work through the pain that came with the end of his 25-year relationship with his former wife by leaning heavily on the principles and practices of yoga and meditation. And in the end he and his ex-wife were able to sort out their divorce amicably and for only $1,200.
Mike’s wisdom about using yoga principles to get through a rough patch is relevant to all of us. In this episode Mike and I talk about his own journey and about how to bring mindfulness to any conflict situation or just tough period in general.
Here’s a little snippet of our chat.
Q. So often the separation process is just mired in conflict. You see this all the time in your mediation business and as you mentioned in the book, also among your peers. What do you think gets in the way, at least most of the time, of a more peaceful process?
A. I have a single word answer to that question and the answer is ego. People get wrapped up in the narratives they tell themselves, the stories that we use to bolster our image of ourselves and it almost always involves casting aspersions on other parties. The peer group that I mentioned in the book were fairly close friends of mine who had been mired in each case for more than two years in divorce conflict that essentially entailed trying to prove to themselves and to anyone who would listen—i.e. lawyers and judges—that they were the innocent victim and the other party was the monster. And that is an inevitable recipe for ongoing conflict.
Q. How did yoga begin to play a role in your divorce?
A. My initial goal was just to reduce the stress in my body. I’ve done a lot of research since then on the neurological impact of mindfulness-based strategies for stress reduction. And the findings are really dramatic out there in the research world and anecdotally my own experience confirms that. Even though yoga didn’t improve any of the chaos out in the external circumstances of my life, I was doing an hour to an hour-and-a-half every morning, and experiencing—at least on the mat—moments of serenity that bolstered me, provided a foundation that, okay, life is actually still pretty good or there are elements that are. And that gave me sort of a home base that I could go to, because there was a lot of conflict that needed to be worked through in order to reach a non-adversarial resolution. Some people even find that studying yoga opens doors to more opportunities. For example, one of my best friends enjoyed learning all about yoga so much that he decided to complete yoga teacher training in goa and is now an aspiring yogi himself. It just goes to show that channeling your energy in an alternative way can have unexpected consequences.
Mike’s Favourite Parenting Advice
“The best parenting advice I’ve received was to listen to the child, to really draw out what the child’s—young adult’s, whatever the age may be—what is going out in their mind and their thoughts. We’re so quick to want to give advice and to fix things that often we do so prematurely. It’s not that we don’t have wisdom to share, it’s that we’re not sure what the issue is until we can really hear the young person’s voice.”
Here’s where you can find Mike and his work:
Here are some other resources related to my discussion with Mike:
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