I was driving along the lovely North West Lancashire roads around Lancaster earlier this week when my phone rang. I answered, using hands free of course, and it was a young gentleman with a Manchester accent informing me of his company’s wish to contract with me to provide Hunt ADR with website search engine optimisation services. He asked me “…do you enjoy meditation and is meditation your main source of business?”
Now this isn’t the first time people have got mediation and meditation mixed up - there is only one letter difference between them after all. But this was first time I have had someone get it so clearly wrong during a sales call. But, as I say, it is not unknown for people to get the two confused and I have thought of writing a blog about the amazing shared benefits of the two for some time. This has finally prompted me to finish that blog.
So a good place to start is with definitions of the two. Last week it seemed that a large portion of the mediation community has been in Paris at the ICC Commercial Mediation Competition. So as a nod of deference to the ICC, let’s use their definition of mediation which is:
"Mediation is a flexible and consensual technique in which a neutral facility helps the parties reach a negotiated settlement of their dispute. The parties have control over the decision to settle and the terms of any agreement. Settlements are contractually binding and widely enforceable."
That makes it clear, mediation is all about parties in dispute gaining the help of a neutral third party to try and reach a settlement of their dispute.
As for meditation, there are many different definitions, so I am going to choose one I like the best, and it comes from Psychology Today and reads
"Meditation is the practice of turning your attention to a single point of reference. It can involve focusing on the breath, on bodily sensations, or on a word or phrase known as a mantra. In other words, meditation means turning your attention away from distracting thoughts and focusing on the present moment."
OK, so that makes mediation and meditation very different. Or does it?
The Shared Benefits
In December 2017 The Huff Post published an update to an article which outlined the main benefits of meditation in a piece titled “8 Ways Meditation Can Improve Your Life”. Let’s run through the 8 ways and compare them to mediation:
Meditation reduces stress. Well yes, so does mediation. It is a well established advantage of mediation that it is less stressful than going to court and fighting your dispute in public with expensive lawyers.
Meditation improves concentration. Again, yes so does mediation. At mediation the mediator will encourage the parties to concentrate on the issues at hand and not other distractions like whether they like the other party or not. Mediation definitely concentrates the mind and with it being a more time constrained activity than litigation this adds to concentration by making sure everyone gives it their total focus for the day.
Meditation encourages a healthy lifestyle. Mmm, can the same be said of mediation? Well yes, I think it can. When parties agree to mediate they agree to keep control of the problem and to seek to come to a resolution which all parties can live with. This can reduce stress, improve sleep, save money and is a better use of time. And don’t tell me that a settlement on your own terms won’t give you a bounce in your step that a judge’s decision wouldn’t give!
The practice of meditation increases self-awareness. Oh yes – again! In mediation parties become very self-aware. They become aware of their own weaknesses, their own prejudices and opinions, they become aware of their own competitive nature and sometimes, they become aware that they are a bully or susceptible to being bullied. I would argue strongly that mediation increases self-awareness!
Meditation increases happiness. Yep, and here we go again. I have mediated many times where the parties start the day very unhappily, and by the end they are buzzing, I have to pry them from the ceiling, because they have a new deal, or they have extra time to pay debts, or they have a new relationship with a very important client that they thought was at risk.
Meditation increases acceptance. Oh come on! Mediation also increases acceptance because that’s what it is all about! The mediator works with the parties and they accept their own limits, their own weaknesses (personal and legal) and they work together to achieve a resolution, which they all accept!
Meditation assists cardiovascular and immune health. OK this is a tough one. I would say cardiovascular health can be assisted at mediation, especially for the mediator. I have mediated cases in small towns in law offices spread over four floors of old town houses. I have mediated cases in London where I have spent most of the day huffing and puffing up and down Victorian staircases, and I have mediated cases where the parties have been next door to each other but as the negotiations have developed I am up and down and in and out of each room constantly without a break. Yes, mediation aids cardiovascular health for sure – for the mediator!
Meditation slows aging. OK, I think that one has got me, but 7 out of 8 isn’t bad!
There are clearly several shared benefits between mediation and meditation. Maybe in time to come mediators will learn to apply the benefits of meditation more and work with the parties to help give them an improved mediation experience. And who knows, maybe one day it will be a mediator who finds a way to slow the ageing process!