Thursday, June 9, 2011

A Path for Peaceful Problem Solving

Synchronicities seem to dance through my life. The same year I was invited to attend the training for peacekeeping circles with the Tagish and Tlingit First Nations People of Carcross/Whitehorse, I was also certified as a marriage and child custody mediator. These two experiences were foundations for my work over the next several years, working with families toward peaceful resolution of their differences and working with offenders and crime victims toward accountability, acceptance and forgiveness.

By that time, I had worked for many years in the Family Law area, and saw numerous families destroyed by the adversarial character of divorce court. Couples who had once been deeply in love found themselves in new life situations. Choosing to end a marriage relationship often also ended the feasibility of reasonable communication after divorce. If children were involved, they also became victims. There had to be a better way, one that supported a friendship where love once resided.

Life is not always easy, and our dreams are not always fulfilled in the manner we first anticipated. Yet, like on a labyrinth, each step along the path leads us closer to our destined goal, even when that goal is unexpectedly different that we once imagined. Life happens. People change. Illness, injury or even death occurs when we are least prepared and are most vulnerable.

The process of walking with people and assisting in the navigation through tumultuous times is spiritually fulfilling. It also informed my work with labyrinths when I was called to use the mediation process toward peaceful conflict resolution with children. The call was to move beyond sitting at a table or in a circle and speaking from the heart. The call was to incorporate movement to encourage participation, enhance the experience and embody the process. The result was more than I anticipated.

The CrossRoads Problem Solving Labyrinth ™ is a dual path, mirror-image labyrinth template for the long-used mediation process. The process itself is not new. My now adult daughter used it as a Peer Mediator in elementary school (perhaps peacekeeping is hereditary?) What is new is the incorporation of the labyrinth walk. It is well known that children love labyrinths. Facing the task of having to sit down to talk out a problem in an office is far less enticing than the idea of working through the problem creatively while walking a colorful labyrinth. You can read more about the labyrinth at:

But the stories from teachers, students and faculty are testimony to its effectiveness. One child psychologist calls it “simply brilliant.”

The labyrinth is, and also teaches, a path to peace in our sometimes troubled world.

But why limit it to schools and children? Problem solving and conflict resolution can be as easily done with adults, in relationships and in corporate settings with great results. Moving through our problems into solutions.

Interestingly, a version of this same design is available for wedding ceremonies - walking separate paths to the center, then walking out into the world together. How symbolic it would be if couples would return to this labyrinth path to work through difficult challenges throughout their marriage.

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