How to Open Your Heart in the Midst of Confrontation

I’ve noticed recently I’ve actually begun to enjoy the conflicts that spring up between Kaia and Noah (when I’m in the right mood) because they give me an opportunity to teach them some of life’s MOST important lessons.

Lessons I didn’t learn until I was close to 30 and still struggle with regularly.

Lessons I am pretty sure you struggle with too.  The one that keeps coming up again and again is about reaction and choice.

I believe this could very well be one of the major key to the resolution of world conflict.

Imagine what the world would look like if each one of us made the choice not to react in the face of conflict or confrontation, but instead to take in the experience, stay open-hearted and grow as a result.

And yet, HOW do you actually do that when you are in the midst of a confrontation and feel attacked?  How do you keep an open heart when you are sure that what they are saying is just so wrong?

Here’s how.

As you notice you are feeling confronted, before saying anything or responding in anyway feel into your body.

Where do you experience/feel the confrontation in your body?

Become aware of whether your body is contracting. If it is, breathe into the contracted, constricted part of your body.

Contraction is a result of fear, which will almost always escalate the confrontation.

This is the “normal” state with which we handle most uncomfortable situations.

But, there is an alternative.

As soon as you recognize the contraction/constriction in your body, remember that you have a choice.

Say to yourself “oh, wait, I can do it differently” and breathe into your heart.

Now, I know it’s super hard to open your heart when your mind is feeling attacked.  Don’t expose your heart. Fuck no. Danger. Danger. It says.

But, here’s what you need to remember – closing your heart is far more dangerous because it will lead to escalation of the conflict, not to resolve.

The only possibility for resolution is for you to breathe and open.

Bring breath deep into your belly and let your stomach muscles relax and expand outward. Lower your shoulders.

Do this now.  Let your stomach be big with breath.  And then listen to what you are hearing from the person speaking to (at) you. Listen.

Relax and listen.

Bring the words into focus and ask yourSelf – your highest self – is there any truth here?


And whatever you do, resist the urge to go into any story whatsoever about the person confronting you.

See the experience from their perspective.  What if what they are saying is true?

Breathe. Keep the attention on yourself and your breath.

Bring your attention tot he inside of your skin the part of your skin that faces the inside of your body and relax it out. Consciously expand and relax the inside of your skin.

Drop the space between your ears and your shoulder blades down.  Look for the truth in what you are hearing.  Consider reality from their perspective.  And breathe.

Once you have some perspective, perhaps you can see there is a gift in this confrontation.  Something for you to learn, to heal, to hear.

The choice is yours – react or breathe.  React or relax.  React or love.  Choose well.


  1. Renae BellahThursday, August 5, 2010 at 5:59 am 

    Such a great post and practice!

    Following this type of approach has been particularly beneficial in my relationship. Sure we have disagreements and tense moments, but we've never escalated to yelling or otherwise fighting in over a year.

    Live in Love!

  2. Karen L. KayThursday, August 5, 2010 at 5:20 pm 

    Thank you Alexis ~

    This is a practice I have to really work at, but you are so right. To make yourself listen when you want to shout your opinion is a rare talent. We can learn so much if we can learn to hear where each other is coming from. More often than not, it is the same place… wrapped up in the argument of words.

    Just love…..

  3. JeanneSaturday, August 7, 2010 at 1:51 pm 

    beautiful process, alexis…this is where conscious breath and our yoga training meets real life.

  4. JackieSaturday, August 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm 

    I love how you emphasize choice Alexis. I have a hospital corporate group that I regularly work with in this capacity and we always come back to the notion of 'imagine if everyone in this hospital felt the way we feel right now, could you imagine the quality of healing that would take place.' You are so right about the possibilities that come to light if everyone collectively made this choice to remain non-reactive.

    Bravo for sharing your story so authentically.


  5. Melanie Benson StrickSunday, August 8, 2010 at 12:49 am 

    I love this Alexis. Sometimes you really nail it. Being willing to move through confrontation is so challenging. I learned to avoid it then had to relearn how to accept it. Still challenged by it. One of the sayings my spiritual teacher shared early on was “What would love do?”

    I always try to breathe, hear their perspective and count to 79 if I start to react and lose it. Being present to conflict can be our greatest teacher.

    I would say however that an important distinction is having boundaries around being attacked. It too me awhile to understand it's OK to not engage when someone is attacking — I do A LOT of work with my clients on knowing the difference and tools to lovingly disengage from attack but be present to the learnings.

    Great post girl.

  6. SecSunday, August 8, 2010 at 12:52 am 

    Interesting, they use to call this yoga, ti chi, etc…I too know of these indepth ways…I too can relate to your posting…I too have daughters and all life has tossed at me..very intriquing opening to the post and I love those that can communicate openly and direct, language has barriers and breaking down barriers has never been too much a problem until my own life began to crumble. I am not sure where to start other than everything one could hope would not happen, has happened and continues to unwind..I am near the bottoms edge….I have done near all I can, some in total despiration to save anything, but deep down, I know there is a time to hold and a time to fold, even in a poker game, even in what life is serving up to us…I am not sure where to start, I am not about spewing my troubles, I think it only makes me more weak reciting them…However if you can imagine saving capital income most all your life to secure your families future while spending extensive for others either on their satisfactions or for serious health reasons, trusting in a mate and placing all assets in their powers, including business ownership and then one day finding that everything, including all you loved in family and business has been ruined taken stolen damaged or torched and nothing remains, with exception to God, have left you…Left you to fight for simple survival as well as what ever small meger cash may be left after the dust settles then you will know where I am… In life, from youth to present I have often resolved confrontations, issues and serious assault resolves by open heart while maintaining the effect of instant nano second titanium tight closure that guard's it when applicable, some things and some issues simply require it..Still, I revert back to knowing that once the inital shielding has occured, the cloak of titanium must open up to analyze fairly afterwards. In all, I am at bottoms and soon to be something I often thought was the story of others while learnign first hand the story of the phoenix. Hard part is, I've already been there with family, 3 daughters, 1 very ill and 1 that became ill duing all the thoughts of loss of the first child many times and a potential loss of a second. They are all better now, I miss them tons, like nothing else, yet they've isolated me by their mothers will. It is a sad case of designing something to take something of more value than gold, that no one ever owned.. all in the name of greed and lust of what destroying a mate can attain. I am not about whining in a pity pond, I have had my seriously sad times of depressive morning and moments of pure dispar yet I wake every morning best I can and try my hardest to get through the things created in paper to distract me in final preparation to the final showdown at the OK corral..funny, my heart remains open and my itchy trigger finger on the spring of titanium shield is rather umm, relaxed, in hope of course, and in knowledge that no matter the results, it is what it will be and I utilize hope from the heart as well as hope in truth and justice that I will not prevail so much a full winner, I am not interested in winning, I am interested in resolve and fairness of it all as I was at the onsets. All while the other is in position to toss me under a buss, in front of a speeding semi and at minimums, wanting me to live from a cardboard box along the highway, probbly so she can tell her friends see there, I ruined him and there is proof he is worthless…I have a different take on worthless, I dont' beleive any human is worthless yet what is worthy to me may be worthless to others..In all, in all this processes I am going through and experiences I am in observance and placed upon me, I refuse to believe what is right will prevail in equalizing justice…still, my faith is all but just a little shaken…again, I am not a whiner in a pity pond, time to grab the socks pull them up and move ahead…still, some people simply do not get the ideat in and of resolving conflict, no matter their religious view committements or beleifs..In their minds, it is all about winning, therefore, there is a time to observe these facts and preserve ones own life by continued breathing and move forward to make better every little piece possible that remains, if at least, to survive without moving into a subsidized shelter because the mental aspects have devoured your very existence. Nonetheless, Breathe relax and react proportionately is always the best measure, eventually, resolved or not, you have remained sucking air and physically intact so as to move again forward in life..healing is a process that by and in itself I really have no remainder time to devote to it directly however I know I will heal internally outward moving forward even during all my distractions to remain a survivor….it isnt easy, no one ever said it would be, after all, according to the story, the phoenix had to hit fire to ashes before rising again…guess I am in for far more pain, but at least I can breathe when others want me to vaporize into the smoke of the fire..and fire to ashes no longer creates anxiety, I am a bit different than most, ok far different but the reality is no matter how life tough one may think they are everyone is seriously prone to reaction and actions, in the processes, to prevent the spiral effects, re-learning self control is essence especially in these times we live..We all change over time, no one is immune from it, but how we change and how we effect others it key critical to how we grow into our older age and in the end, how it all works out…I am fearless, calculating and a perfectionist in movement yet all this has created anxiety that all those feeligns before of what woudl be serious fear for many, has created serious stress that transforms into serious anxiety and all that combined can fuel death…I am aware, I am watchful, even at my young prime age of 50, I refuse to give up now, no way I can give up on myself…no matter where I may end or move to, I have to live as though there is a tomorrow that for once, I can control for me…paradym's, they suck, but in each his personal life sometimes there simply has to be a little bright guidance from words we can read or hear..connection is best and communication can solve, but once it's all over, communication still rules…
    ~gradatim ferociter~

  7. Barry SelbyWednesday, August 11, 2010 at 3:32 am 

    So true, so true! I personally have found the biggest gifts in life and by business when I let go the resistance (which is another name for the fighting and pushing and struggle), and allow grace to enter the picture. Like Melanie, I reference this with my coaching clients as the easiest route is often the most rewarding and successful. Go figure! Thank you for sharing your wisdom and lessons, so perhaps some folks can simply enjoy the learning without going through the ringer.

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