This is an excerpt from my book Leap Before You Look.
When you find yourself courting conflict with another person,
Go somewhere alone where you can be undisturbed.
Put two cushions down on the bed or on the floor.
Sit on one of them and close your eyes.
Imagine the other person is sitting before you on the other cushion.
What is this other wearing, how is their hair?
What is the expression on their face?
Let yourself see their eyes and hear their voice.
Now, speak out loud to them for about a minute.
Tell the other everything that has been held back. Be total.
Now, stop, and listen.
Listen to what the other has to say to you.
After another minute, again speak.
Fueled by what you have heard, say everything.
Be as open and vulnerable and truthful as you can.
Now get up from your cushion,
Move over and sit down on the cushion of the other.
Let yourself completely become this other person.
Not just imagining what they would say, but really feeling what they feel.
Notice what it is like to have these thoughts, these feelings,
These body sensations, to have this body itself.
Speak completely as this other person,
Say everything that has been held back.
After another minute, get up and move back to your original cushion.
Slip back into being yourself as though putting on a t-shirt, and speak again.
Finally, stand up.
Stand between the cushions
So one identity is on your left and one is on your right.
Extend your arms open,
And feel both of these identities embraced here.
Take a breath and welcome them both into your heart.
I have shared this simple practice in workshops with thousands of people over many years. I’m still amazed by how often people come back to me and say that after they themselves did this practice, it was the other person who changed! For example, there was a man in a seminar who had been married several years before. They were both young and, as far as he was concerned, they were both very much in love. One day he got home, and his wife was gone. She had left a note saying that things were too much for her, and she was leaving. Since then, the man had never heard from her. Later, he got married again, but he could never really be fully in a relationship again after this; he was holding on to too much hurt from what had happened. He did this simple practice. He placed his wife from many years before on the cushion in front of him, and spoke to her. He told her of his pain, his feelings of abandonment. He listened to her, and then he spoke again. But it was only when he switched his body over and became his young wife from that time that the transformation happened. He felt in his body her feeling of entrapment, her inability to communicate with him, her despair. He felt in his own body the panic that led her to her desperate flight. After the workshop was over, when he arrived home there was a message on his machine. “I know you must be surprised to hear from me after all these years. I did not even have your number, I had to get it from the directory. I would love to talk with you…” A few days later, he met with his ex-wife, and they passed through a deep resolution and healing. He was able to fully let go, and his present marriage became much richer as a result.
You can do this practice with someone who is on the other side of the earth. You can do it with someone who is estranged, with whom you have no contact. You can do this with someone who is no longer alive. This practice opens to you the reality that nothing is truly separate from anything or anyone else. You can know and feel completely what another person is feeling and thinking, what they want, what they regret. The purpose of this practice is not to achieve any particular result, although that may happen. The aim is not to be right, or to get your own way, but rather to dissolve the feeling of the me and the not me.
From Leap Before You Look by Arjuna Ardagh. You can order a paperback copy or Kindle edition on Amazon here.