Beginning Anew guides readers through steps of conscious breathing, loving speech, and compassionate listening designed to help us see people and situations more clearly, allowing our perceptions to better reflect reality. Sister Chân Không brings the practice to life by sharing stories of couples and families she has helped to reconcile using the practice.
When we’re upset with someone, we’re often afraid to say anything. We tell ourselves, “Oh, it’s just a small matter; it’s not important.” But the accumulation of many small issues can create an explosive situation, and can even cause relationships to break. Beginning Anew gives us a way to address problems when they’re small, so we can understand each other’s words, actions, and intentions.
Beginning Anew introduces a practice for anyone looking for a way to keep communication open and resolve conflicts. When practiced regularly, beginning anew will help anyone clear up misunderstandings, communicate more honestly and openly with the people around them, and heal relationships.
“The moving language in this book inspires and guides while laying out elegantly simple practices for healing and maintaining relationships. For those struggling with communication knots, or seeking to bring out the best in themselves and others relationally, it offers remarkable wisdom, freshness and clarity.”—Jennifer Freeman, Marriage and Family Therapist, Co-author, Playful Approaches to Serious Problems
“We live in a very stressful, alienating world. Beginning Anew can save a lot of people from the corrosive effects of that alienation, and the grief that it brings, in their personal relationships. Sister Chân Không has once again translated the priceless, practical legacy of the Buddha into a form we can use today.”—Michael Nagler, PhD The Nonviolence Handbook
Anger is not a stranger who shows up unexpectedly; it doesn’t come all at once. Usually, we have a lot of little hurts or annoyances and we don’t express them until they become so big that we explode.
Often a couple who has been together for many years will come to me for advice because hurts have accumulated over time and their relationship has come to the breaking point. One woman told me that she had been hurt by something her husband said on their first day of marriage, over thirty years before. But because it was the beginning, she hadn’t wanted to start a fight, so she didn’t mention it. “That’s okay,” she said to herself, “it’s not a big issue.” But the hurt remained in her for thirty years and as more hurts accumulated she couldn’t bear it anymore and she decided to leave him. Hurt, accumulated over time, is called an internal knot because it’s so hard to untangle. If you have an internal knot, don’t wait until it becomes so tight it can’t be undone.
I’ve spent many years teaching a practice called Beginning Anew. The practice consists of four steps that can transform our relationships, even when there is a big wall of anger between us and the other party. But the most transformational part happens before we even begin those four steps. First, before anything else, we need to take care of ourselves and our anger. Often when we’re angry, the feeling is so strong that it tricks us into thinking we need to communicate it right away. We want to fix the other person or prove that they’re wrong. But when you’re drowning, you can’t save someone else. You need to take care of yourself first.
When you’re angry and you shout at someone, he won’t listen. He’ll be afraid of your anger and try to escape, deny culpability, or fight back. Even if you don’t shout or say something harsh, any anger you feel will show on your face and people around you will be able to tell that something isn’t right. Don’t swallow your anger and try not to show it. Swallowing your anger means it gets lodged deep inside you, which can make you sick and unhappy. Being calm doesn’t mean hiding your anger; it means taking the time to sit with it, so that you’re not controlled by it and you have a chance to restore harmony in your relationships.