Sometimes the passion for helping others originate from the trauma of having known conflict personally. It is the case of Nani Lata, whose interest in mediation stems from the fact of having grown up in the midst of the Basque conflict, a moment of Spanish recent history marked by violence and behaviours branching out from pain and fear. Such a moment of hostilities lived at an early age ignited a spark in Nani, leading her to become an experienced community mediator in the United Kingdom. She sees mediation as one of the remedies to misunderstandings and exclusive narratives, which are at the heart of every conflict. In addition, to be a mediator, Nani is passionate about language training; she always thought our communication skills are a forgotten tool for reconciliation, for coming together. This conveys the way we enter into relations with each other, and it is the channel on which to invest for moving forward in the inter-personal realm, aiming at building a peaceful, and sustainable, world. However, first and foremost, we need to listen, feel and understand ourselves. Interior peace is the necessary pre-requisite for projecting caring kindness around us. “Mediation and meditation go hand in hand because finding balance and restoring your equilibrium open up a beneficial space for others.”
Between dictionaries, planes, and mediation
Nani’s curriculum stands out for the variety of experiences that have alternated along with her career. Above all, three strands are the most significant throughout her working life: the passion for teaching languages, an attachment to the aviation sector and a deep interest in mediation.
She started her studies trying to pursue a Bachelor’s in Linguistics. Unfortunately, due to a myriad of reasons, among which the conflict scourging her teenage homeland, she had to drop out of her undergraduate studies. Then, after having spent a few years in the UK, Nani returned to Spain and became a teacher of English as a second language. Since this first experience in close contact with the use of languages, she developed a strong desire for helping others develop communication skills as she considered language to be key in the building of bridges among different cultures; a desire that is, evidently, still ongoing. Moved by this interest, she eventually set up a small firm, working in close contact with local companies, big and small, and provided an array of support services, mostly in the form of translation of contracts for businesses expanding beyond their national territory and assisting leaders with presentations. During these years, the nexus between mediation and the use of language started to take shape.
Nani realized how much the ability to communicate clearly and respectfully was fundamental in determining the relations between people, in the workplace and the community, as well as the invaluable tool it is to overcome uncertain, and conflictive, situations. Having left the business, Nani continues to cultivate her love for languages by helping out in her community. She is a volunteer for the local library in the Gatwick area, and co-facilitates group conversations in English for anyone who may not quite yet master the language that needs a boost in confidence or is eager to share knowledge and experiences. “Gatwick is a multicultural haven. We seek to create a place where people feel they can come and share their learning in the use of the English language while we all learn to overcome cultural, social, and personal barriers that get in the way of a positive integration experience within our community.”
Nani’s wish to bring a change and help others improve their lives fuelled her passion for mediation, that she envisions as a way to support people to communicate mindfully and compassionately, that is respectful of our differences, rather than being led by biases, pre-judgments, and stereotypes that inhibit and disturb human connection. Nani obtained various certifications among which a post-graduate certificate in Mediation and Conflict Management granted by LOYOLA University. For a number of years, she has been volunteering for a local charity as a community mediator, supporting the resolution of neighbouring disputes of various kinds. “In the end, everything is about the well-being of people. In my mediation activity, my peers and I try to help parties to tighten their relations and explore joint solutions aimed at improving their well-being, that is all!” Besides, she is to start some rounds of intergenerational dialogue aiming at filling the gap that emerges in the way people from different generations interact kindly and communicate effectively with each other so that relationships improve.
Since the early 2000s, Nani also likes to work with the feet far from the ground. In fact, she is an experienced Cabin Manager for a UK commercial airline. She considers the aviation industry a sector in extreme need of evolution in the way business is done and now, more than ever, the need is acutely felt among people working and delivering transport services: all hierarchal layers must behave responsibly and silos must open up for us all come together and spark synergies for the greater good. She believes in the power of quality, constructive, mindful, and compassionate conversations for minimizing unintended consequences, overcoming uncertainty and disruption and strengthening our working systems in a way that wellbeing is present in any, and each, of its components. “Mediation is a way to ease frictions among people and to produce caring and meaningful conversation that attends to the way people feel in all system, and even more so in the aviation industry.”
Nani, some decades later, got back to school, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Business Studies and she is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University. Her final dissertation explores the influence of mindfulness and compassionate leadership on employee engagement and customer satisfaction and how to re-build a sustainable overall system that works for all the stakeholders, beginning with the public which “we are here to serve. We must regain balance, improve communication and coordination, and boost harmony in a holistic way.”
Mediation and Meditation. A Necessary Duo
“World peace begins with inner peace,” once the Dalai Lama said, and Nani strongly agrees. As the first fundamental step to solve the surge of conflicts among each other, or any disruption for that matter, she believes that human beings have to learn to navigate through themselves. Across the dense pile of emotions, fears, grief, hopes, and joys, we have to take a breath, learn to listen to our inner self and find the way to our own harmony. Only when such a balance is reached, it is possible to get to a place where our interests are open to meet the interests of others. Only by making space for understanding ourselves, we can create spaces for answers to be offered mindfully, with respect to our differences, and compassion to ourselves and all other beings, human included.
“In my working experience, I have seen first-hand how the constant pressure we face every day ends up having a terrible impact on our well-being because our emotional needs are not met. Mediation and meditation go hand-in-hand because, through meditation, our personal spaces become ready to open up to others.” To bring peace outwards and live in harmony with others, it is first and foremost imperative to find that space where we can hold and reflect on our emotions and attend to our inner conflicts. Nani’s mindful attitude wants individuals to learn to reframe their own narratives in ways that are respectful and inclusive. There is no need to agree on the same values, but human beings need to discover the power of understanding each other: the ‘power within’ us, rather than ‘power over’. Only then, conflict can effectively take us to sustainable, non-violent, and positive places. Only through meditation, mediation can happen.
MBBI: Inspiration and Expertise
Although Nani is not directly involved in any MBBI’s projects, she demonstrates great enthusiasm for the work of the organization. She decided to join 2 years ago as she felt fuelled with hope in seeing the efforts of MBBI worldwide and support its ambitions. In her mind, MBBI represents an important learning platform, able to get peacemakers scattered around the globe together. She feels inspired by MBBI’s powerful mission and is thrilled by the opportunity of sharing knowledge with mediators from various cultural backgrounds and areas of expertise, learning from differences and enjoying the strength, and warmth, of such a ramified network. “When I joined MBBI, my aim was not only to expand my knowledge but also to expand my heart by assisting so many amazing people standing for others’ well-being. Thank you for making it possible. Always stay connected and present, and more so at challenging times!”
Written by Matteo Piovacari: MBBI Writer