Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase each other
doesn't make any sense.
- (Sufi Poet Rumi)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Occupy Life

The news is all abuzz with the sit in protests that started a month ago in New York City known as "Occupy Wall Street."  They sparked movements all over the world, and they have even come to our small town for the past 10 days.  The occupiers  speak of being part of the 99% whose lives are being negatively impacted by 1% of the population who control resources. 

Some of the complaints I have heard about this movement is that they are not clear in what they want, or how to get there.  In Nonviolent Communication speak, they have not made clear and doable requests, or at least that the media has reported. 

Requests though are only one component of nonviolent communication.  Other components are observations, feelings, and needs.  What is happening in the streets is a widespread emotional response to global and local economies that that are heavily directed at serving those with power and control, and not at human flourishing as a whole.  I believe it is important for people, as individuals or as a community, to give full reign to the emotions in their bodies, for in this way they might discern what their needs might be. Out of this connection can arise results.  But we need to allow spaciousness for feelings and needs to arise, such as what is happening all over the world.  I imagine that the gathered feel anger and frustration for they so long for equality and fairness, as well as health for earth and her beings.

Looking at the reports of the crowds, and in some cases, the small gatherings around the world, what feelings come up for you when you think of our economic and environmental situation?  What needs come up that correspond with these feelings?  Allowing yourself spaciousness and time, are there any requests you would make of yourself or others?

Part of allowing yourself spaciousness is to watch the "should" talk. Are you telling yourself that you should be protesting yourself instead of attending to your daily concerns?  Perhaps you are thinking of what the protesters should be doing, or the people against whom they are protesting?

Should language is telling a story that leads us away from our feelings and connecting with our needs, and the needs of others. It places a demand on how others should act, instead of inviting them into a place of connecting to your needs and theirs, which is life serving.

If you have a sense of "shoulding" I invite you to consider this exercise.

Think for a  moment where you are "shoulding" on others or yourself. 


What are you feeling?


What are you current needs?


What request, if any, would you make of yourself and others?

For myself this little exercise of breathing in between NVC components adds spaciousness and more lightness to my body. Heck, even describing this exercise now to you added to my sense of connecting to life by thinking of needs, and experiencing the living energy of needs. It helped me occupy life more fully. 

What helps you occupy life?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Loving the Complaint and the Demand

Percy Wakes Me
Mary Oliver

Percy wakes me and I am not ready...
Now he's eager for action:  a walk, then breakfast....
He is sitting on the kitchen counter where he is not supposed to be.
How wonderful you are, I say. How clever, if you needed me, to wake me.
He thought he would hear a lecture and deeply  his eyes begin to shine.
He tumbles onto the couch for more compliments.
He squirms and squeals; he has done something that he needed and now he hears that it's okay.
I scratch his ears, I turn him over and touch him everywhere.  He is
wild with the okayness of it.  Then we walk, then he gas has breakfast, and he is happy.
This is a poem about Percy.
This is a poem about more than Percy.
Think about it.

In my spiritual practice of nonviolent communication I often struggle with accepting with ease the complaints of others.  When I first hear what they want, often expressed as a demand, or worse, as whining, I don't have much empathy for others or for myself.  It's also hard for me to get in touch with my gratitude that they let me know what was going on for them, for I know that when someone asks something of me, often in a an unskillful way, they are just letting me know what would make their life wonderful.  This is such a great gift, but so frequently I am reluctant to open the gift to appreciate how life flows through them.  Instead I have "shoulds" going on in my story telling brain, "Why can't they think of anyone else but themselves?" 

Reading this poem today, I sense a break through, a vision.  People around me are like bounding Percies, inviting me to make their life wonderful.  How lovely for them, and for me, if I could reply in word, thought, and action so that they could know how wonderful they are and the okayness of their needs.

Oh how our lives might shine.  Though we may not be ready, may we awake to this possibility today.

To whom would you like to communicate "okayness?"

Friday, January 21, 2011

Compassionate Communication for All Beings

Dr. Ursula Aragunde Kohl, me and participants at the CC Workshop in Puerto Rico

Last weekend I was in Puerto Rico offering two separate workshops on Compassionate Communication. One was to the Puerto Rican Parrot Recovery Project and the other to a conglomeration of animal welfare, social services, and faith organizations in San Juan.  This was the first time I had chosen to concentrate on organizations that deal with nonhuman animals.  My goal in so doing was to support and nourish the humans so that they in turn could help all beings flourish.

In my home faith tradition, Unitarian Universalism I am also gearing up to offer workshops in Compassionate Communication to those interested in the interweaving justice issues that include nonhuman animals.  I will do this as part of the Reverence for Life Program that the Unitarian Universalist Animal Ministry is offering our congregations.  Now is the time to struggle with how we covenant with earth and her beings as our association of congregations deals with the Study Action Item: Ethical Eating and Environmental Justice.  In the last few weeks congregations and list serves have been abuzz with commenting on the Draft Statement of Conscience that deals with this compelling and complex topic.  Comments on the draft are due February 1st and we as an association will vote on the final draft at General Assembly in June, 2011.

How shall we come up with a statement that includes the wide diversity of who we are and yet challenges us to hold the needs of all species ever more tenderly?

My response to this question, at both the workshops and to my fellow Unitarian Universalists is this:

It’s important to think of how animals feel and suffer, how their evolution has brought them to where they are , and what they are thinking as we research how their brains work.  Yet, we can never know what is “best” in the morass of ethical vagueness that cloaks humanity.  Let this complexity be not a death shroud for any.  Instead, let us lift up the few things we can know: 

All beings have needs that connect us in an interdependent web of inherent worth and dignity

We can bring kindness to every moment.

Everything is a practice ground for the skills of compassion.

May this be our prayer in intention, word, and action in the months to come.