‘Zen and the Art of Mediation’ by Martin Plowman

Paperback: 978-1-912687-33-6
Published: March 2019
Price: £19.99
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“A Zen monk was walking along the bank of a deep river. He wanted to cross, and he saw another monk walking along the opposite bank. So he called out: ‘Brother, how do I get across to the other side?’  The second monk replied: ‘Brother, you are already on the other side’.

We all see things from our own perspective. And we can’t help others to find their way – whether that way lies across a river, or whether it’s from an entrenched position to a mediated settlement – until we can find a way to share their perspective. If you want to help someone to move, if you want to help them in any way at all, you have to go to where they are. To start from where they’re starting. To stand, as it were, on their side of the river”.

Drawing on Zen wisdom, but underpinned by the practical mediation experience of one of the UK’s leading mediators, ‘Zen and the Art of Mediation’ is a re-evaluation of the mediation process for today. Placing empathy, a shared perspective and the building of trust at the heart of the process, the book is a compelling and often controversial critique of many of the orthodoxies of current mediation thinking, from the role of ‘Reality Testing’ to the efficacy of the traditional joint or ‘plenary’ session.

With a cast of characters that includes a fat cat, seventeen camels, and a man with 83 problems, and drawing inspiration from quantum physics, research on risk aversion and modern linguistic theory, ‘Zen and the Art of Mediation’ will be of interest to anyone involved in dispute resolution, and is essential reading for mediators, mediation advocates and negotiators.


Martin Plowman has been a mediator for fifteen years, and has successfully mediated over a thousand cases. He is the only mediator to have been ranked in the top three mediators in the United Kingdom by the independent National Mediator Database in each of the past ten years. He is a regular speaker on mediation and negotiation, and has taught ‘Zen and the Art of Mediation’ at the University of East Anglia. He is a solicitor, and before qualifying as a mediator was Head of the Litigation Department at a large provincial solicitors’ firm. He is also a student of Zen.


The Mediator and the Seventeen Camels
Something magical
Isn’t all this Zen stuff a bit freaky?
And a disclaimer

Chapter One
My greatest mediation teacher

Chapter Two
The First Noble Truth
The Buddha and the man with 83 problems
Recognition and affirmation

Chapter Three
The Second Noble Truth
Language and cinders
But what about Morality?
Zazen: stilling the mental narrative?

Chapter Four
The Third Noble Truth
A slap in the face with a wet fish
The opening joint session
A memo to barristers and mediation advocates
What about Transformative Mediation?
Keeping an open mind

Chapter Five
Not always so
Schrödinger’s cat and probability waves
Risk in litigation
A fanfare for the common lawyer
Risk aversion and loss Aversion

Chapter Six
A mediation
Something magical (2)
The art of evaluating risk
Zen Mediation

Chapter Seven
The Fourth Noble Truth
The goalless goal

Top Ten Mistakes To Avoid for Mediators