Ethan Nichtern – The Road Home – Ep. 68 – Conflict and Conflict Avoidance

Uprooting conflict avoidance as a primary spiritual obstacle in modern times, Ethan Nichtern navigates from false neutrality to loving conflict.

Diving back in for another focused and flowing solo-cast applying Buddhist themes to the modern zeitgeist, Ethan Nichtern explores the all-too-pertinent topics of conflict and conflict avoidance. Using the current state of the world as an easy case-study, he shares how we can move away from present-day spirituality’s harmful habits of avoidance and false neutrality, to instead engage in mindfully chosen participation and loving conflict based in truth and compassion.

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Conflict Avoidance & False Neutrality

Welcoming you to The Road Home, Ethan opens the podcast by speaking about what is going on in regards to Ukraine and Russia, sharing how in many facets of life recently, pressure for conflict seems to be rising. Contemplating working with conflict in the modern world through the lenses of Buddhism and mindfulness, Ethan invites us to uproot modern spirituality’s harmful emphasis on the comfort of passivity, false neutrality, and conflict aversion.

“There is often overemphasis in modern Buddhist, mindfulness, wellness, and yogi teachings on avoiding overt conflict—being in a state of neutrality, objectivity, passivity, and acceptance no matter what. I think this confusion leads to a harmful conflict aversion, and a sort of false neutrality.” – Ethan Nichtern

Ethan & David Nichtern explain how neutrality is not a Buddhist teaching, on Ep. 11 of Creativity, Spirituality & Making a Buck
Buddhist Ethics & Fear // Loving Conflict & Right Speech (14:14)

Applying Buddhist ethics to how we live and communicate our relationship to issues like current events and politics in the world, Ethan expresses his heartfelt view that modern spirituality’s current focus on vague neutrality is harmful and actually rooted in a fear of conflict. Offering insightful examples, he outlines how to engage in a ‘loving conflict’ with somebody from a place of compassion, listening, Right Speech, kindness, and oneness.

“There’s a softness or a gentleness along with a straightforwardness in the Buddhist practice of Right Speech in a space of conflict.” – Ethan Nichtern

 Jack Kornfield relays Buddha’s view on conflict & reconciliation, on Ep. 124 of Heart Wisdom
Am I the Asshole Here? // Participation & Choice (32:32)

What happens if we come to the conclusion that a state of conflict with another person is so big that we can’t be in an active relationship with them anymore? Contemplating this notion, Ethan explores the naturally budding question which arises when being open enough to be a conflict facing person: “Am I the asshole, here?” From here, he highlights the spiritual strength of mindfully choosing what and who we participate with.

“Conflict avoidance is our greatest spiritual obstacle right now. [Certain] spiritual teachings frame neutrality, objectivity, or conflict avoidance as ideals; instead of things like listening, naming, compassion—those are real ideals. Conflict avoidance is confusion, conflict avoidance is samsara.” – Ethan Nichtern

 Krishna Das shares notes on how to deal with assholes & be a good human, on Ep. 91 of Pilgrim Heart