“How many of us, if granted three wishes, would ask for world peace? Or maybe we wouldn’t – because we stopped believing in it a long time ago,” says Tim Atkinson, Executive Director, Imago Relationships International.
Atkinson makes the unusual confession that he sees himself as an obstacle to world peace. “I create what I am. If I am not at peace with myself, then the chances are I will reflect some of my conflict onto the world. If I want world peace, then I have to be peaceful. And if what I create reflects who I am, then I need to start with myself,” he explains.
According to Atkinson, the Imago theory provides a pathway to peace in that our intimate relationships are “the nearest way in which you interact with the world.” Pointing to research about the value of mindfulness in human relationships, Atkinson explains that those able to train themselves to be mindful can deflect negativity and judgmental thoughts, deepening their senses of compassion. “The practice of compassion is the practice of peace,” he says, adding that the Imago dialogue can strengthen one’s ability to be mindful and compassionate by doing the following:
Teaching us to listen – “This is a mindful practice –shifting your attention from your own thoughts to another’s, without judging or reacting,” he says.
Becoming aware of thoughts and feelings – Taking your turn as the speaker in the dialogue is an opportunity to practice awareness, Atkinson explains. “But unlike meditation, when you try to still the chatter of thoughts, as your partner asks you ‘is there more,’ you get a chance to really follow these thoughts, and learn their origin. Your partner then mirrors them back to you. The next time these thoughts come up, you will find yourself less absorbed in them, or the associated pain. This, in turn, helps you to be present for others,” he says.
Creating sacred space – Through this process, couples experience deep connectedness and understanding that in addition to each partner, there is a relationship that is real.
Building empathy – “As we learn to practice empathy with our partner – it extends to others, too,” Atkinson says. “And empathy lies at the heart of compassion.”
To read more of Atkinson’s article, click here.