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Mark Westmoquette

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Zen and the Art of Dealing with Difficult People

Zen and the Art of Dealing with Difficult People

Booking options


£30 - £50



  • On-Demand course

  • All levels


This is a course that will help you deal with difficult people, and help you see those difficult people as your best teachers - what we call in Zen 'troublesome buddhas'. When we change our attitude from one of trying to avoid difficult people to one of seeing them as teachers, then can show you where you can grow and act with greater wisdom, compassion and kindness. This is a companion course to my book of the same title (2021, Watkins) and my podcast series on this topic called ‘Zen at the Sharp End’.

This course is for anyone wanting to learn how to respond to difficult people and situations with more clarity and wisdom. You might be someone who has a number of troublesome people in various quarters of your life, or perhaps you have one particularly enraging one, or you have brushed up against an array of them at different points in your life. You can see that there’s often a pattern to your behaviour in relation to them and it usually causes pain – perhaps a great deal of pain. The only way we can grow is by facing this pain, acknowledging how we feel and how we’ve reacted, and making a commitment to end this repeating pattern of suffering. I assume no previous experience with mindfulness or Zen (or indeed any kind of Buddhism), and by no means do you need to identify as a Buddhist or adhere to any beliefs.

In part 1 we'll explore what a troublesome buddha is and what it means to start learning from the difficult people in our lives. Then in part 2 we'll explore how our particular tendencies and habitual behaviours contribute to the difficulty of certain relationships - for example one person might get angry, while another person may react very apologetically. In part 3, I introduce what I'd see as the first key skill to develop - awareness of body sensations and the importance of maintaining emotional regulation, and in part 4 I guide a body scan meditation practice. Part 5 is about the second key skill: considering the possibility that you may not always be in the right. In part 6 I guide a meditation on being with discomfort in the body, since our ability to be ok with discomfort as the emotional heat rises is very important. Part 7 is all about trying out new ways of behaving, and I guide a meditation on a Zen koan about dealing with conflict in part 8. Part 9 is about the subject of  opinions, how they can contribute to the difficulty in our relationships and how we can learn to hold them more lightly. And in part 10, we explore shifting from a perspective of seeing ourselves and others as separate to one of connection and integration, where we might see everyone (including our difficult people) as just facets in one giant jewel.

Each part includes a suggestion for an exercise or set of exercises to follow to help you embody the teachings of this course.

Course Content

  1. 1. What is a troublesome buddha?
  2. 2. Tendencies and habits
  3. 3. Key skill #1: Awareness of sensations
  4. 4. Guided body scan meditation
  5. 5. Key skill #2: Considering you may not be right
  6. 6. Guided meditation on being with discomfort in the body
  7. 7. Trying out new ways of behaving
  8. 8. Guided meditation on a Zen koan
  9. 9. Letting go of opinions
  10. 10. Seeing their Buddha nature
  11. 11. Bye