Court Annexed Mediation Due to Pilot 1 August 2014

Peace on earth hoodiesHolla!

I  have just been invited to a consultative workshop in connection with court annexed mediation, to be hosted next Saturday by the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.

Court-annexed Mediation will be implemented in certain selected courts across the country, from 1 August 2014. Rules for court-annexed mediation were published in the Gazette on 18 March 2014, under Notice No: 37448.

This workshop seeks to consult with and receive input from the role players in mediation and each organization may take three delegates

I will report back to our trained mediators and current registered trainees after the workshop.

Please note all registrations for next week’s workshop in Jozi must be in by tomorrow 12pm. Past trainees may attend contingent on space and at cost of catering.

Further dates are

19-23 May Durban

9-13 June Cape Town

7-11 July Winter Schools

All new trainees get an Access to Justice Winter Collection Hoodie. Various Colours and styles available. You will also receive J Kim Wright’s ebook Lawyers as Peacemakers


Please email or leave a text on 0614915314

As always, peace



Tough Minds, Tender Hearts

 “Be ye therfore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves”



I blog in peace on this beautiful Monday morning. I have previously written about the kind of individuals we look to train up as mediators and peacemakers. I have written that we look for the sharpest of minds and the softest of hearts.

In searching out literature supporting non-violent methods of resisting evil, I was delighted to find resonance with this thinking in some of the work of Luther-King Jr. In a sermon “A Tough Mind and a Tender Heart”, he quotes scripture “Be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves, Matt 10:16”

A French philosopher said “no (hu)man is strong unless (s)he bears within his or her character antithesis strongly marked” Luther-King Jr says that the strong (hu)man holds in a living blend strongly marked opposites. Not ordinarily do (hu)mans achieve this balance of opposites. He says that the idealists are not usually realistic, and the realists are not usually idealistic. The militant are not generally passive, nor the passive militant. Seldom are the humble self-assertive or the self-assertive humble. But, he says, life is at its best a creative synthesis of opposites in fruitful harmony.

Philosopher Hegel says that truth is found neither in the thesis or the antithesis, but in an emergent synthesis which reconciles the two.

Christ recognized the need for blending opposites. “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves” and “Be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves”. Difficult to imagine simultaneously having the characteristics of a serpent and a dove. No?

In order to be agents for change in this world, in communities, in organizations, in families and in the lives of individuals, we are to combine a tough mind with a tender heart.

Luther-King Jr goes on to list some characteristics of a tough mind: incisive thinking, realistic appraisal, sharp and penetrating breaking through the crusts of legends and myths and sifting true from false. The tough minded-individual is astute and discerning with a strong austere quality that makes for firmness of purpose and solidness of commitment.

He goes on to say that rarely do we find individuals who willingly engage in hard, solid thinking. There is an almost universal quest for easy answers and half-baked solutions. Nothing pains some people more than having to think. This prevalent tendancy toward soft-mindedness is found in our sometimes unbelievable gullibility. A few examples are advertising: advertisers capaitalize on the soft-mindedness of individuals with skilful and effective slogans. Don’t believe this? Consider for a second how much take-out you have had in the last month. The tendency of readers to accept the printed word of the press as the final truth. We tend not to question enough. Just take a look at the extent to which society has allowed for the psychotropic drugging of children.

Softminded individuals, he says are prone to embrace all kinds of superstitions. Their minds are constantly invaded by irrational fears ranging from Friday the thirteenth to the fear of black cats crossing their paths.

The softminded individual fears change. We do not need to look far to detect the dangers of softmindedness. Dictators capitalizing on softmindedness have led humans to acts of barbarity and terror of unthinkable proportions. Hitler himself said in Mein Kampf  “I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few”

Softmindedness is one of the basic causes of race prejudice, which has as its basis groundless fears, suspicions and misunderstandings. Softminded individuals do not recognize that it is rationally unsound and sociologically untenable to use the tragic effects of segregation as an argument for its continuation.

There is little hope for us until we become toughminded enough to break loose from the shackles of prejudice, half-truths and downright ignorance. Luther-King Jr says that a nation that continues to produce softminded individuals purchases its own spiritual death on an instalment plan.

Softmindness allows us to adjust to oppression and acquiesce and resign ourselves to injustice. We must learn that to passively accept any unjust system is to co-operate with that system and thereby become a participant in its evil.

But we do not stop with cultivating a tough mind. Toughmindedness without a tender heart is cold and detached, leaving one’s life in a perpetual winter devoid of the warmth of spring and gentle heat of summer. There is nothing more tragic than seeing an individual who has risen to the disciplined heights of toughmindedness but has at the same time sunk to the passionless depths of hardheartedness.

The hardhearted person never truly loves. He or she is too cold to feel affection for another and too self-centred to share another’s joy and sorrow. No outpouring of love links him or her with the mainland of humanity.

There are hardhearted and bitter persons amongst us who would combat the opponent with physical violence and corroding hatred. Violence by creating more social problems than it solves, never brings permanent peace. A voice echoing through the corridors of time says to every intemperate Peter “Put up thy sword”. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations that fail to follow this command: “Put up thy sword”.

A third way is open to us: non-violent resistence of evil that combines toughmindedness and tenderheartedness and avoids the complacency of do-nothingness of the softminded and the violence and bitterness of the hardhearted.

You may be thinking “Yoh! Sheena this stuff may apply to stratospheric collision between light and dark, international conflict and war. This stuff bears no application to me is a dispute resolution practitioner or in my own inter-personal conflict.”

To which I must respond thus: This has everything to do with everything. And it has to do with all of us. Softmindeness and hardheartedness in our own lives, always ultimately ends up in violence. As you know when I talk about violence I mean that anything that violates is violent. Violence starts with violent thinking, progressing through violent speaking and ending up in violent deeds.

Our work in non-violent communication as a basis for conflict resolution is taking shape and it is taking root. It has become an integral part of our training of Dispute Resolution Practitioners, Mediators and Arbitrators. And it has become an integral part of how we empower others to on conflict resolution in their own lives.

Have a beautiful Monday.

Until next week, peace.


Doing Life through Numbed Pain


When looking to train mediators, we look for the sharpest of minds and the softest of hearts.

-Sheena Jonker


I blog in peace.

I can be a real genius at times. And by genius, what I mean is dumb-ass. (“Ass” in this context means “donkey” or “Mule”. No really.)

If you read my last blog, you will know that I recently took up freediving. If you, haven’t yet, you should read that blog. It’s cool, if I may say so myself. On the weekend of the course I had sinus and so I didn’t think I would do the open water dives on the Sunday. However, on Saturday night I took sinus medication. I did the same on Sunday. So I decided to attempt a five metre dive and all was cool in paradise. No pain. Then I decided to attempt a 10 metre dive and at 8 metres, my head pretty much exploded. So I called it on the dives for that day. Three days later both my ears ruptured.

So what happened? This is what happened. Painkillers. Numbed pain. The problem was still there but I was numb to it. And so I proceeded through numbed pain and caused more damage.

Sound familiar? I am not the only genius out there. We all do this stuff all the time. We numb the pain. Whether it is through substance use or abuse-alcohol or prescription drugs-, tuning out by staring at our smart phones or TV screens, shopping, over-eating, cutting behaviour in teens, most of us have a story to tell of how we try to tune out the pain.

Human beings will do just about anything to numb pain, whether it’s physical, emotional or spiritual. Some of the stuff we do just causes further detriment. Pain is a powerful life-sustaining resource. It is an indicator that something is in need of attention.

Most of the people who arrive in my office are going through a life crisis. Divorce, workplace conflict, strained business relationships and all kinds of legal disputes. It is possible that the majority of those I encounter are medicated: there is a psychiatric  drug for every life crisis and I hear stories all the time of scripts written out within minutes of walking into a doctor’s office and mentioning a particular life crisis.

Am I proposing that we take everyone off the drugs? Am I proposing that we don’t seek medical attention in life crisis? In an ideal world, yes. But the world is not ideal, so no, I’m not. Unfortunately, withdrawal from psychiatric drugs is dangerous.

But I do say this: when dealing with those in conflict, one of our prime objectives is to help them courageously and robustly address the source of the pain in their lives which often is the source of conflict. Disconnectedness in relationship is fertile ground for conflict in families, schools, workplaces and in business. Escapist techniques that help us avoid addressing the problems only perpetuate disconnectedness.

So first up, we acknowledge that almost everyone we deal with, is in profound pain. We teach people that pain is necessary and life-sustaining. We look to point them in the right direction via a collaborative approach invoking other disciplines and engaging other professionals if necessary. We start helping them to build courage to face the issues causing pain, and to start to see and acknowledge that substance use and abuse and other escapist techniques are counterfeit and simply mask the pain for a short while but help to perpetuate further detriment.

It is relatively easy to settle legal disputes and all kinds of other disputes, and we do that all the time. But actual conflict resolution, and life change for the better, takes time. It takes courage. It takes intention. It takes commitment. Many come to us in weakened states due to long term conflict exacerbated by detrimental pain-numbing techniques encouraged by the instant gratification world we live in.

So we train mediators. And as you have probably heard me say before, those we look to train are those with the sharpest of minds and the softest of hearts. We see too many professionals losing sight of the pain in the lives of those they deal with. We never want our mediators to own the pain of others, but our mediators can only help disputants to address pain if they see it.

I read a lot, research a lot, live a lot of stuff. Every process I am involved in teaches me. Every experience educates me. I am about to embark on an LLM and then an LLD in non-adversarial justice with the Institute for Dispute Resolution Africa. I am so excited. I am so honoured to have spent time with and to be getting to know Prof Faris. Such a great mind. Such a masterful teacher

The following are new aspects to our ADR and Mediation Training programs informed by my experiences and dealings over the last six months:

1.  Learning skills in Non-Violent Communication

2. Teaching others to communicate non-violently

3. Dismantling adversarial mindsets and systems in family relationships, schools, workplaces and in court

4. A collaborative approach to conflict resolution: shifting parties out of disconnected states and reducing anxiety in order to prepare for conflict engagement

5. Shifting from punitive justice to restorative justice

6. Process design

For more information on our Programs, please email

Until next time, peace

Sheena Jonker

Please comment below or email me

Twitter @sheena_ostjon




Free diving skills in Alternative Dispute Resolution? Yes!



As always I blog in peace. And today I blog having just completed a level 1 free diving course. This equips you to dive to depth on one breath and with no artificial breathing apparatus. Crazy, no?

It’s a dangerous challenging sport. So why did I want to do this?

I have shifted into a space in my life where the stuff I do is about the stuff I do and it’s about me, but it’s also not about the stuff I do and also not about me. So a year ago when I took up swimming again, it was about the swimming and it was about me but it was about more than that and about many more people. It helped me further develop life skills that I am passionate about: courage, intention, commitment and the ability to win with any hand.

I have always loved the ocean, and in my twenties, I scuba-dived a lot. But learning to free dive, for me I looked forward to learning to get into a peaceful state under any circumstances, to operate in fearful conditions and to remain focused. All skills that I need in the life I have chosen and the work I do in pursuit of non-adversarial justice. I think a learnt way more than I bargained for.

Firstly I learnt some fascinating physiological facts. That physically we are capable of way more than we know. I learnt about the mammalian reflex that we have and that allows seals to dive to amazing depths on one breath. This reflex is triggered in us when our faces encounter water.

I learnt that at depth there is a fine line between life and death but for some the challenge is irresistible. I learnt that fear can be life-sustaining as it keeps you sharp and that the aim should not be to obliterate fear but to build courage to operate even when there is fear.

I learnt that 90% of the dive happens on the surface. Preparation is profoundly important. Life and death important. Your surface work determines the dive.

I learnt that most freediving fatalities happen in the pool. It is often the thing we are least scared of that kills us.

I learnt that positive thinking is no guarantee of success, but that negative thinking guarantees failure. I learnt the difference between negative thought processes and realistic problem solving. It is all very well to visualize peaceful conditions during your land training, but how does that help you if there is actual danger on the dive and at depth. Do the peaceable training, but prepare for dangerous eventualities. Visulaize yourself handling curve balls well.

I learnt that good diving decisions in the moment are critical. I learnt that self-preservation is a life skill that is to be highly valued. If someone is willing to risk there own life, are they the appropriate person to teach you?

I learnt about athleticism and I learnt about the central nervous system. Under stress, 80% of your oxygen is used up by the nervous system.

I learnt that I am not special, we are all special. I learnt to start thinking about where my strengths lie and to be free in this.

I learnt to balance my focus on the goal with focus on the skill. It is excellent skills that will get me there, not merely setting and envisioning the goal.

I learnt to intentionally do everything with a certain quality, a certain presence and to conquer fear by diving skilfully. Confidence is accomplished through effectiveness.

I learnt that is important to acquire excellent skill and to use resources frugally. The more skill we have, the less energy we need to use. Your behaviour under water (under stress) is key.

Are you seeing this stuff? Are you seeing the life application and the application in what we do, in our fight to restore the template, in our resistance of adversarial and violent methods of dispute resolution? Do you see?

I was so honoured to learn this stuff from Trevor Hutton, professional free diver, and deepest spear fisherman in the world. And I was honoured to learn this stuff alongside my colleague Andrew McGibbon and amazing young orthopaedic surgeon, Dr Pieter Mare.

And I was honoured to feel closer and gain more knowledge of our great King.

I will be unpacking the skills learnt in our Mediation Training Programs and upcoming seminars.

I am also super chuffed that I will be practising the diving skills in the future with my friends and Traveor Hutton

Until next time, peace.