Nonviolent Communication is a practice designed to bring us back into connection with our hearts. Once we can find our way to our heart, old stories about who did what to whom, whose fault it is, how much is still owing (and so on) give way to a state of natural giving. While all of us have been to that place and recognize it– it’s our home!– nonetheless, we often forget that it exists at all. As the Buddhists say– Suffering is real (It’s the first Noble Truth), BUT there is a path out of suffering (That’s the second Noble Truth). The way is through acceptance.
In NVC, we spell it out a little more: first, there are Observations (My friend just sent me a text in which she says she doesn’t trust me); next come Feelings (I’m feeling sad and confused); then, Needs (I need support, clarity, patience); and finally Requests (Would you be willing to schedule a conversation about this?).
Many of the people I know who have studied or used NVC came to it out of a sense of heartache or despair, very often related to a personal relationship. I’d also say that many of the people I know who are drawn to NVC are quite verbal, think of themselves as bright, are middle class, usually white, English speakers… (I guess what I’m saying is: Is this a tool that really works for everybody? If it doesn’t work for everybody, can it really be said to work at all?). Hold on a minute, Mark. Your mind is talking. Be still: Breathe. Sit in the emotion. When you are ready, describe the feeling that is possessing you. The sadness has not settled down and begun to ferment (or to metamorphose!). As Thich Nhat Hanh would say: Don’t just do something, Sit there.
When I’m in pain and not in my heart, I simply don’t know that healing is possible. Sometimes, if I take this tool (NVC) and carefully, patiently use it– get it out of my pocket, feel the edges of it– then there will come a glimmer of light. No guarantees. Every time, it’s still new. My mind and my old habits still want to block and trap me. And when the first ray of light does come, then I still have to be so careful; just keep feeling in the dark. There is no easy way. The fear and the sadness have to touch your body. It’s OK– we have all been here before. We are all still here, together.
I wanted to write some stuff about how to be upbeat, and about good resources that bring us hope. Like Rob Hopkins and the Transition Towns movement, or Jim Garrison with Ubiquity University, or Judith Schwartz’s book, The Reindeer Chronicles. Today the learning for me, though, is to explore the precious pearl of my vulnerability ( that label is far too loaded for Rosenberg, though; he would call it simply Observation).