Generating a Culture of Peace: an NVC and Focusing class for activists

Everyone is so inspired and encouraged by the Women’s March.

How can we create new ways of acting in the world that directly address today’s political realities and at the same time reflect our deepest needs, goals and values?

Marshall Rosenberg’s theory of Nonviolent Communication has a lot to offer as we learn how to navigate this new political landscape. We need to step into our roles as courageous peacemakers now more than ever, so I want to make Focusing, NVC and  and Thinking at the Edge available to people involved in political and social change.

I’d love to give a free one-hour introductory course online, so that you can see if you’d like to continue with the full 8-week course online or in person. Leave a reply below  and we will work something out!

Thinking at the Edge for social and political activists

Everyone is so inspired and encouraged by the Women’s March.

How can we create new ways of acting in the world that directly address today’s political realities and at the same time reflect our deepest goals and values?

The old theories about how the world works don’t seem to hold water anymore.  Focusing and Thinking at the Edge help us develop new ideas based on our own lived experience.

Maybe after the march you have an inkling about something you’d like to make happen, or participate in, but you can’t quite put it into words. With Thinking at the Edge, you will be supported in listening to and valuing this inkling, based on your own life experience. Spacious listening allows your inkling to develop into something you can talk about and act on.

Thinking at the Edge involves tuning in to the bodily felt sense of your inkling. That’s called Focusing. I will help you get into Focusing if you are not familiar with it.

We need to step into our roles as courageous peacemakers now more than ever, so I want to make Focusing and Thinking at the Edge available to people involved in political and social change.

I’d love to give a free 2-hour introductory course in your community, so that you can see if you’d like to continue with a course which can be given either online or in person. Leave a reply below  and we will work something out!

Photo credit: Alma Har’el’s video of the I Can’t Keep Quiet choir

The tree with ears

I want to share with you the delightful spirit of the traditions of El Salvador in this piece by Salvadoran poet Eric Doradea, inspired by legends of the beautiful spreading guanacaste or conacaste tree with its ear-shaped seed pods. It graces the landscape and provides welcome shade in the dry Pacific regions of Central America. The tree is called conacaste in El Salvador. It is the national tree of Costa Rica, and the namesake of Guanacaste province.
Conacaste comes from Kuyu, the Nahuatl word for tree, and Nakas, the word for ear. In Nahuatl, Kunakas is the Tree with Ears.

Kunakas: Listening, the cure for loneliness

The grandmothers say that the Tree with Ears is a refuge for those in need of rest.

Its presence is like an elder brother who knows how to listen.
Many gather around it to tell their secrets.
They speak of dreams and loves, and the tree
with its four hundred ears
patiently listens to everything they have to tell it.

Its replies are not always silent.
T
hey say that the sound of its fruits shaken by the wind is like music,
like magic,
like the spell of four hundred snakes shaking their rattlers at once.

The grandmothers say that their original grandmothers learned the craft of listening,
that every evening when the sun grew tired, they listened
to the sunset,
to the flight of the birds,
to the mad river,
to the flowers as they fell asleep,
to the wanderings of the heart.

They say that knowing how to listen is the best cure for loneliness,
and when the moon is full,
they gather the littlest ones around the trunk of the Tree with Ears
and listen intently to the thoughts of the heart.

En español:
Conacaste proviene de los sonidos Náhuat Kuyu: Árbol y Nakas: Oreja, Kunakas: árbol de oreja.
REMEDIO CONTRA LA SOLEDAD.
Cuentan las abuelas que el árbol de orejas es casa para quien quiere descansar y su presencia es la de hermano mayor que sabe escuchar, que a su cintura muchos se acercan a contarles sus secretos, le hablan de sueños y amores, el árbol con sus cuatrocientas orejas pacientemente escucha todo lo que tienen que decirle, sus respuestas no siempre son en silencio, cuentan que el sonido de sus frutos sacudidos por el viento recuerdan la música, la magia, el encantamiento de cuatrocientas culebras moviendo sus cascabeles. Las abuelas cuentan que sus abuelas primeras aprendieron el oficio de escuchar, que todas las tardes cuando se cansaba el sol escuchaban el atardecer, el vuelo de los pájaros, la locura del río, el dormir de las flores, el andar del corazón; cuenta que saber escuchar es el mejor remedio contra la soledad, que en noches de luna madura reúnen a los más pequeños en la cintura del árbol de Orejas y escuchan atentamente lo que piensa el corazón.
Eric Doradea

Nonviolent Communication as a doorway to Focusing

I find it useful to use NonvioLogo_Focusing_ES_croplent Communication as a doorway to Focusing, especially when people are not used to the idea of self empathy.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC) helps us notice when we are naming, blaming, diagnosing, trying to prove who is right and wrong, etc. (Jackal language). NVC encourages us to speak Giraffe Language:

  • describing an interaction without evaluating it,
  • turning inward to notice ones own feelings and needs,
  • listening empathically to the needs of others,
  • making requests to meet needs.

People can identify easily with the big difference in the two languages. I don’t usually go into the request step until later, because my goal is to teach felt sensing through noticing feelings and needs.

The Revolutionary Pause is the moment when one decides which language to speak. It’s difficult to pause in daily life! But after the initial difficulty, people start to see what a difference the pause can make. People start noticing when they are making statements that imply judgements and blame. Then they can notice the way they are judging themselves, thus opening to the notion of empathy toward their own inner world. As people start noticing their own feelings and needs, they are already in levels 4 or 5 of the Experiencing Scale: http://www.experiential-researchers.org/instruments/exp_scale/exp_scale_long.html

In NVC, our Beautiful Human Needs are seen as something that unites us as human beings. A beautiful human need is defined as “vital energy that motivates us to act and to grow.” This concept is new for most people, experienced Focusers as well as non-Focusers. Noticing ones beautiful human needs and how they feel inside can lay the groundwork for noticing naturally-arising felt senses.

In Nonviolent Communication, other people are not responsible for how we feel. Our needs, met and unmet, give rise to how we feel. Everyone is trying to meet their needs. Without sensing into our own needs and listening for another’s needs, we often don’t understand the basic motivations in each other.

Through sensitive, spacious listening for needs, people can make space around that which can’t yet be put into words. With practice and good listening, people are on their way to learning to pause and pay attention to the felt sense of the whole, which  situation often extends far beyond what could be defined as needs and values. When people access the felt sense, what started as a conflict can transform into forward movement. Conflict can then be seen as an opportunity for “crossing”, where the carrying forward, the right next step, becomes something that could not have been conceived by either individual.

NVC is a theory, the practice of which can lead to felt sensing. Felt sensing is pre-conceptual— fresh, intricate and unpredictable in every moment. A lot of practice and careful listening are necessary before people can learn to trust the felt sense in all its transformative power.

I find that the seamless combination of NVC and Focusing lays a good groundwork for learning both.