Here's one way to start the internal process of transforming yourself in order to transform a difficult relationship: First, notice the energy that's triggered inside you in this person's presence. Remember the last time you were with him or her and sense the way the energy feels in your body when you think of that encounter. Notice how your throat and stomach feel. Be aware of any emotions and thoughts you have about this person. See how long you can stay in this state, standing aside from the situation and your reactions while holding them in awareness.
The witnessing awareness is the most empowered part of your consciousness; it's your connection to the creative power of the universe, and once you tune in to it, awareness itself will, over time, integrate all the contradictory energies within you. When you tune in to the witness, gnarly feelings let go.
That may be enough in itself to shift the energy between you and your difficult person. But if you want to go even further and use the creative power of consciousness to communicate subtly with the person—or at least change your internal relationship to him or her—you can use symbols, which the unconscious will recognize more easily than words. You could engage in a practice like Fran's flower meditation, for example. Flowers are recognized universally as a symbol of appreciation and reconciliation, but you might also use an olive branch or other gift.
I like to do this by imagining myself walking into my heart. A ladder connects my brain to my heart, and with each inhalation and exhalation, I walk myself down that ladder. In the heart, I imagine the two of us sitting in a cave, with a candle between us. Then I speak to the person. I ask that the two of us be friends, or that we be at peace. Sometimes I say what's bothering me in the relationship and ask for help in resolving it. Often, though, I just imagine us sitting together in the heart space.
Once I've done this internal process, I've found that confrontations I've been dreading turn into reasonable discussions. People who seemed distant or disagreeable become less so. Above all, and first of all, I feel easier.
The creative consciousness of the Great Mind is best contacted through the heart. When you use active imagination, or bhavana, to resolve a relationship inside your heart, you are putting this insight into action. I've long suspected this is how the difficult people in your life can become your best teachers—by inspiring you to change the dynamics of your relationship with them by shifting the dynamic within yourself.
Sally Kempton, also known as Durgananda, is an author, a meditation teacher, and the founder of the Dharana Institute. For more information, visit www.sallykempton.com.