Happy New Year and a Wish.....

A Reading, by Mark Nepo,
from The Book of Awakening
I See You!
I Am Here!
For centuries, African Bushmen have greeted each other in this way. When the one becomes aware of his brother or sister coming out of the brush, he exclaims, "I See You!" and then the approaching rejoices, "I Am Here!"
This timeless bearing witness is both simple and profound, and it is telling that much of our modern therapeutic journey is suffered to this end: to have who we are and where we've been be seen. For with this simple and direct affirmation, it is possible to claim our own presence, to say, "I Am Here."
Those people in our lives who have validated our personhood by seeing us and exclaiming so are the foundations of our self-worth. Think of who they are. For me, the first to rejoice at my scrambling into the open was my grandmother. If not for her unequivocal love, I might never have had the courage to express myself at all. And, after all, isn't art in all its forms the beautiful trail of our all-too-human attempts to say, again and again,
I Am Here.
It is important to note that being seen enables us to claim our lives, and then it becomes possible to pass the gift on to others. But just as important as bearing witness is the joy with which these Bushmen proclaim what they see. It is the joy of first seeing and first knowing. This is the gift of love.
In a culture that erases its humanity, that keeps the act of innocence and beginning invisible, we are sorely in need of being seen with joy, so we can proclaim with equal astonishment and innocence that of all the amazing things that could have been or not, We Are Here.
As far back as we can remember, people of the oldest tribes, unencumbered by civilization, have been rejoicing in being on earth together. Not only can we do this for each other, it is essential. For as stars need open space to be seen, as waves need shore to crest, as dew needs grass to soak into, our vitality depends on how we exclaim and rejoice, "I See You!" "I Am Here!"

This reading from Mark Nepo I've read many times. It reminds me of a special time in my life where I was seen with joy.
Some years ago, in a too far away land called Colorado, I practiced this joy of seeing and being seen. Through the L.I.F.E. program offered by CNVC trainer, Robert Gonzales
 (www.livingcompassion.com) we intentionally practiced what Mark describes in the reading above. Having received guidance in this practice by Robert, we began to walk quietly and softly toward one another. Gently, I walked toward the faces I'd come to know and love deeply through four 7 day retreats, meeting each person one at a time in a room where so many of our mournings and celebrations had been unearthed and expressed through sacred tears. Approaching one of the many beloveds in the room, I spoke through my tender, opened, and vulnerable heart these words: "I'm Here, I Show  Myself to You" where upon I received, holding a breathless tremble, the reply, "I See You."

This is the essence of NVC! Learning, practicing, and living into seeing myself and others with an open, giving heart, with simple Presence that embraces joy through a heartfelt sense, where we can say, where we do say.......... 
I See You and I'm Here!

Happy New Year My Dear Companions.

A Wrap Up!

Recently, NVC Nashville offered a workshop with Sarah Peyton as our guest trainer. Here, I'd like to share my celebrations that are connected to my own personal healing.

Last year, our community went through a transition in leadership on our NVC Nashville board. The year of transitioning that occurred impacted some of my relationships with community members, conversations and connections  with family members, and how I began to assess whether this NVC stuff really worked or not! As if taking an impressive swan dive off a cliff, I literally fell into a depth of blame and shame I've experienced only one other time in my life as I evaluated the words and actions of myself and others as dead wrong. Quite frankly, I lived in and out of anger and shame for over a year. The one consistent practice accessed from years of learning and living NVC was the practice of self compassion; a specific practice I learned in my L.I.F.E. Program provided by CNVC trainer Robert Gonzales. Making the practice my own through a few adaptions, I practiced it for those many months, every day, and often several times a day! The practice became a buoy as I surfaced to find breath. Today, when I find sharing transparently from my own life supports the content of my workshops, I'll speak of the depth of healing that becomes available when a compassionate space in ourselves FOR ourselves is actualized. Simply put, it's grace allowing me to lie in the field Rumi speaks of in his well known quote:
“Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing 
and rightdoing there is a field.
I'll meet you there."

Yet, it's the rest of his quote that I'm celebrating.

"When the soul lies down in that grass
the world is too full to talk about.” 
― Jalal Ad-Din Rumi

Once in a training with Robert, I heard him explain his experience of a sunset. In the fogginess of my memory, I recall him saying that sometimes there just are no words to describe an experience. So, please, trust me when I say I'm luxuriating in the celebrations I'm listing here.

1. A workshop committee that joined the current board in the mission of NVC Nashville; to learn, practice, and share NVC in the world.

2. A board impacted by many challenges surviving and thriving through them together.

3. Welcoming new people into our NVC Nashville Family and watching contribution and ownership of responsibilities with joy.

4. Learning and experiencing shared power in leadership roles.

5. Experiencing pure 'Joy' watching people in the workshop enjoy and learn from Sarah's body of work, Your Resonant Self.

6. Touched by meaningful and rich connections with long time NVCN, CNVC, and experienced NVC contributors and the serendipitous pleasure of meeting new people from Nashville and around the country.

So as I lie in the beauty of lovely, fresh green, tall grass surrounding me while reflecting upon the joy of healing, I'm compelled to share:

This NVC Stuff? 
It works.... if you work it!


"The world is too full to talk about."

Addictions, Cravings, Compulsions and NVC

In September 2018, our local nonprofit, NVC Nashville, will host Sarah Peyton for a 2 day workshop called Addictions, Cravings, and Choiceless Behaviors,  A Workshop For Those Who Suffer And For Those Who Love Them.
Sarah, a certified trainer with the Center For Nonviolent Communication, and a notable researcher of Interpersonal Neurobiology, IPNB, has combined the two learnings in her life work. Her offerings to the public are profound and in my experience, life changing.

Because my family has been deeply impacted by the helpless hopelessness of addiction, Sarah's work has been important toward keeping a clear head and open heart with those I love whose powerless choices in the life of addiction have been, in my opinion, self destructive. In my own journey of recovery, keeping my heart open to myself through the dedicated and repetitive practice of self compassion and developing a resonant self witness, has afforded me a new way of being with the painful suffering of addiction.

Quite a few years ago, during a particularly stressful and uncertain time in my life, I found the 17 Core Commitments, developed by sisters Miki and Inbal Kashtan, useful in how I chose to make an excruciatingly difficult decision. The decision concerning a request from our loved one heavily in the cycle of addiction presented a pressing adverse affect in my marriage. As a mother, I experienced being trapped between the love for my adult child and respect for my husband. The commitment I began using as a mantra was number 7 on the list of 17 core commitments found through BayNVC: 
It reads:
7. Loving No Matter What
Even when my needs are seriously unmet, I want to keep my heart open. If I find myself generating judgments, angry, or otherwise triggered, I want to seek support in transforming my judgments and meeting others with love.

The alienation of our loved one by almost all of the original family structure due to the debilitating course of addiction, has been another painful symptom of addiction to inhabit. It’s been through NVC that I’ve learned how to stay connected to our family member(s) in the process and progress of addiction and seemingly choiceless behaviors.  I’ve learned how to support my own helplessness while also being aware of loving, holding compassion, and keeping my heart open to each of us through the journey of harmful things said and done. When (notice it's when and not if!) harsh words were shared, practicing self compassion opened my heart to myself allowing space in me for me. Anytime this shift occurs, I'm available to offer compassion to others. It's through this shift of energy repairs can be made in restoring relationships.

By learning to translate what I hear in those heightened stressful moments of suffering and anger, I’ve been able to stay in authentic, clear, and loving communication with this person and others in our family. In Sarah’s book, Your Resonant Self, she writes: 

Healing from addictions is not simple. It’s doable, but it asks a lot of people. It asks them to become truly alive. Addictions allow people to hide from and survive vast landscapes of pain. More than anything else, people need compassion, persistence, an understanding of the after-effects of trauma, and sources of resonant empathy outside of the self to allow them to heal and put in place brain pathways for self connection.”

Most often when I offer a workshop, such as one recently entitled Simplifying Challenging Conversations, I sense those attending are waiting to hear the bottom line! "Just tell me how to do it and tell me in a paragraph so I can do it too" is the motivation for attending many of my workshops! In our western enculturation and conditioning, we want fast answers to slow problems! As I’ve learned through the life of addiction, I share with people that in my experience, there is no short answer. The answer begins internally; to first be available, open, and willing to develop a practice for myself where my inner life is examined, through my thoughts, excavating my feelings, and the values important to me in the situation. The more intimate and compassionate I become with what goes on inside of me, the greater the likelihood it can be manifested outside of me toward enriching the lives of all concerned. There is no short answer. 

Sarah’s opinion that healing from addiction takes a lot of people has been true for our family through this journey. I believe that whether the healing calls for many or a few, those who choose a committed practice of self awareness, a willingness to develop and exercise their compassionate nature, and skills to meet ones self at every turn of every painful emotion, carve a path through the murkiness of addiction for each person in the situation. As Ram Dass is quoted to have said, “We’re all just walking each other home.”

I invite you to attend the September 22-23 workshop in Nashville. You may register here:


If finances are an obstacle, please see the contact on the flyer found on our website.
And, if registration isn't possible for you at this time, I highly recommend purchasing Sarah's book, Your Resonant Self. I’m confident you will find, as I have, the valuable resource of developing the skill to find our way back to love and compassion in the life of our addictions, cravings, and choiceless behaviors. Yes, it takes a lot of work and Yes! it’s overwhelmingly worth it! 

Today, after many years, my son is sober from a painful chemical substance. Together, we celebrate the clarity he enjoys one day at a time. The connection we enjoy has been a journey of ‘staying in’ relationship amidst the hopelessness and helplessness we’ve bothendured.  Nonviolent Communication has given me the internal awakening of awareness and the communication tools of how to do just that.

FYI: Yes, I did ask my son if I could reveal him on my blog:) Through a smile, I heard him say, "Of Course Mom!"

Empathy is........

"We are all just walking each other  home." ~Ram Dass

My mornings typically begin nurturing a quiet space within me either through meditation and readings inspired by what is alive in me. Elizabeth Lesser in her book Broken OpenHow Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, is where words on paper often call me home to myself. Recently, I read her experience about a son in all the misunderstood efforts toward blending a divorced family; an experience where I too have found resonance. Her words and experience add meaning in my life as I assess the value of being heard by myself and by others. 

Over simplified, the path toward empathy takes a lot of inner work! Recently, I’ve encountered those questioning the value of empathy. One passionate inquirer asked why I want to be in empathetic presence with someone when clearly the someone was wrong. Another, skilled in living NVC, is questioning whether empathy even works. My curiosity about these moments have deepened my continued exploration on the topic too. Enter Elizabeth Lesser, Carl Rogers, Ram Dass, and Mark Nepo, all guides in my early morning hours of reading and contemplation.

In our practice of living Nonviolent Communication, empathy is the bedrock whereby through learned and practiced skills of presence and listening, we experience truly being heard. It happened many years ago for me in my first 5 day experiential retreat with a certified trainer from the Center of Nonviolent Communication. In a moment of vulnerability, I chose to share a situation in which I had continued to experience suffering. Today, I know it was the first experience of being fully valued for who I was in the present moment. As I spoke about the issue, she paused and while keeping eye contact with one another, I sensed she not only cared deeply about me but also held what had laid buried within me for many years as if it mattered! I remember thinking to myself, “What is this?” and with wide eyes of fear, nonverbally pleaded my longing for her eyes to not leave me. I’m reminded of a quote from Carl Rogers that addresses how that and empathic experiences since, have put me in touch with “the unknown in me.” He’s quoted: “When someone really hears you without passing judgement on you, without trying to take responsibility for you, without trying to mold you, it feels damn good!” As Ms Lesser recites from an early experience with a step son, being heard and understood by him, she writes: “It was then that I realized families are defined not by blood but by love.” Empathy can shift our suffering into oneness and love.

Of course, the practice of self empathy also touches what wants to be known in me. The willingness to accompany myself into the unknown living in me, inquiring about my feelings and needs, expressing the deep mourning that sometimes comes through quivered lips, I find a release of a soul yearning for communion. From this well, I’ve learned to drink deeply and poetically experience the words of Wendell Berry in his poem, The Peace of Wild Things:

“When despair for the world grows in me and I wake in the night at the least sound in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be, I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought of grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel about me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.”

Empathy has not removed conflict in my life. It has not produced an outcome of harmony and peace with others many times. Empathy has not healed the inner wounds I carry. Yet, this is what empathy has given me. It has brought me home to myself. Over and over and over again, the mystery of what lives deeply is revealed through an empathetic presence. Here, I sense the truth of my existence. Human beings need one another. The more I’m in touch with what lies in me, the more I have understanding for another. Living empathetically, opens my heart to yours. I believe it’s this work that creates actions where all are free, even for a moment.

When All That's Left Is Love

I recently attended a Celebration of Life gathering for a dear one. Young of 35 years, funny, talented, a loving, generous gentle giant of a man is how I would describe him. He struggled with opioid addiction for many years. It finally took his life.

When my son and I first entered the room, I wondered if we were in the wrong place. There was a band playing old rock and roll music and a banquet table covered with delicious looking foods and ample drinks open to everyone's grieving appetite! People were mingling, embracing one another with hugs while in the background the sounds of Dire Straits, Al Green, The Eagles, and more played! I felt comfortably uncomfortable and yet, just to be sure we were in the right place, I still asked someone if this was a memorial gathering for our friend. I smiled at the reply.
"Of course it is! Wouldn't he have loved this?!"

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Are We Confused About Compassion?

There's been a depth of learning I've experienced this year as I've begun to question how I want to live. It's been brutal.....yet, also, beginning to feel lovely. I've said to a few people that after these many years of learning, practicing, and living NVC something about these experiences is renewing me. A few of the weighty topics of inquiry are patriarchy and its effects, evaluating power dynamics interpersonally, and the investigation of how compassion is understood and activated individually and collectively.

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Courage or Comfort?

“You can choose courage or you can choose comfort, but you cannot choose both.” – Brené Brown

Fortunately for me, in my beginning years of learning Nonviolent Communication, my friend and teacher Miki Kashtan introduced me to the power of vulnerability. The practice of vulnerability has led me to the fundamental knowledge that vulnerability is a source of courage and strength in my life. Practicing vulnerability has proven to be liberating, as if suddenly the walls of persona and masks drop, all at once! It’s been scary and exhilarating at the same time. Yet in spite of this soul-level truth—that the practice of vulnerability brings liberation—somewhere in the last year and a half, the mask and persona have not fallen with such confidence nor willingness as they once did.

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My Need for Love

Once again, Love has come into my life! And yes, I’ve been surprised and overjoyed by the depth of its expression in me.

Before I share the juicy details, I’d like to first explain how I experience Love. Although I use the word love culturally as a feeling, such as I “love” the beach, my family, my friends, sunsets, and asparagus, the deeper expression of Love lives within me as a need. When my need for Love is touched, the experience of it is deepening, enriching, and rather than being a static experience connected to a person, place or thing, Love as a need connects me to the heart of our human existence. We all have a need for Love, yet not everyone “loves” the water—or asparagus—as I do! Love as a need is a universal experience. When Love is touched, I (we) experience a connection with our common humanity.

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Conversations….What are they Really?

I’ve been hearing a lot about conversations lately. It’s most likely because I’m offering a class on the 17th  of March about having challenging conversations in the workplace and the topic is on my radar these days! 

Recently, Dan Haile, an Executive Coach in Nashville, in his monthly newsletter cited an article called The Neuroscience of Strategic Leadership. Reading this was the third time the topic of conversations caught my attention. The other two ‘co-incidences’ were provided by Deb Palmer George, Palmer Solutions, during a phone conversation about neurobiology and language and my new hero, Sarah Peyton, Certified Trainer with The Center for Nonviolent Communication,where for 10 days in February I took in with curiosity every word about Interpersonal Neurobiology and the languaging of NVC.

So what is so interesting about conversations?

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I’d like to share with you a meaningful experience I’ve had this week at the conference: participating in a Truth Mandala. The ritual exercise known as the Truth Mandala provides a tender, truthful practice whereby grief is experienced and witnessed in the presence of a loving group (of note, the Truth Mandala is just one way to carry out grief work; there are many other techniques outlined in the book The Work That Reconnects).

To quote Joanna Macy and Molly Young Brown’s explanation of the Truth Mandala from their book, Coming Back to Life:

“This ritual exercise provides a simple, respectful, whole group structure for owning and honoring our pain for the world, and for recognizing its authority and the solidarity it can bring. The practice emerged in 1992 amidst a large, tension-filled workshop in Frankfurt, on the day of the reunification between East and West Germany; since then it has spread to many lands. To many participants, it has been the most significant experience in a workshop, if not in their lives.”

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