6 Word Review: Easy to Read, Pragmatic, and Deeply Spiritual
This book is a rare combination of easily readable, pragmatic, and deeply spiritual. After reading it I find that my perspective around conflict has changed dramatically.
Most people see conflict as something to avoid, diffuse, or confront—something to get rid of in the end. Diane Musho Hamilton offers us an alternative: conflict can be a positive force of transformation in our lives and can even help us awaken to our deepest spiritual nature.
One of the book’s greatest strengths is its readability. The influence of Zen’s simple but powerful teaching style is evident in the down to earth pithy style of writing. Despite addressing complex concepts like non-duality, the nature of the self, and integral theory, it is written in a deceptively simple way.
It is also fun because it is littered with personal examples from the author’s life as a Zen teacher and professional conflict mediator. She includes reflection on her own falling out with her teacher Genpo Roshi, her first failed marriage and remarriage into a new family, challenges and gifts raising a son with Down Syndrome, and legal mediations in the Utah court system. Such an intimate look into the fragile human nature of even the most advanced Zen teachers opened my eyes and brought spiritual realization into sharper focus in my mind.
Integral and Pragmatic
While Hamilton refers extensively to Ken Wilber, his books, and personal insights she has gained after a decade of working with him, she translates the nuances of the Integral philosophy in simple ways that are applicable to improving relationships.
Instead of including diagrams of the four quadrants, she introducing the three primary perspectives of 1st person, 2nd person, and 3rd person, and how they show up in conflict—speaking for yourself, listening, and witnessing.
In lieu of introducing us to the complex nuances of developmental levels, she identifies the benefits and limitations of egocentric, ethnocentric, worldcentric, and cosmocentric wordviews. When she highlights different conflict and feedback styles, she identifies both the positives and negatives of each one.
And each chapter closes with an exercise, so that the ideas can be applied to the reader’s personal life in an experiential way. Some of simple, some are common, some are unique, and some are extremely powerful. I appreciate them being there either way.
Throughout the text Hamilton refers to the importance of meditation. She goes so far as to say that meditation is a foundation for conflict resolution; that the capacity for us to be compassionate and accept what is inside ourselves is directly proportional to our ability to resolve external conflicts. Indeed if there is one concept the undergirds the entire text, it is the critical importance of meditation and a regular meditative practice.
While she is clearly a Zen Buddhist teacher and she makes extensive use of Zen parables and quotes, she makes room for all spiritualities, occasionally referencing Jesus and St. Teresa of Avila. The book closes with a discussion about the expansion of the heart, self compassion.
I really enjoyed reading Everything is Workable and feel comfortable recommending it to almost anyone because of its balance and pragmatism. I appreciate how Hamilton discusses integral concepts, underscores the importance of meditation, and reframes working with conflict as a transformative spiritual practice. Finally, I really appreciate how the frequent real-life examples model the book’s final point—that life is practice.