Monday, June 11, 2012


I wonder if you can relate, joy is very much a present moment experience and one that too few of us really get to experience as often as we would like.

I recently took a intro class to inner relationship focusing with one of my favorite teachers and she spoke about a quote from Marshall rosenberg who founded nvc that I had not heard before: He says to do everything in life with the same joy that a little child has when feeding hungry ducks. This two day workshop was particularly poignant for me because the subject was how to listen deeply to all the different parts of your inner experience, the good the bad and the ugly that you really wish would go away. And what I realized is that true presence is about connecting with a feeling of energy, joy, love and that it is possible to connect with such experience no matter what is going on in our external lives or internal lives. Indeed it is when we bring this joy and energy to the table that the shitty, tense , angry, fearful parts start to loose their potency.  I learnt that I can be angry and joyful at the same time.

Not bad for a two day workshop. I will definitely be signing up for the year long course. I really celebrate that there are many people waking up to our potential for more joy and energy in our lives and hope to participate in helping as many people as I can start to believe that it is possible.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Compassion and wealth

I really appreciate all the feedback I have been receiving about my blog and am full of joy that my efforts at writing have been meaningful for people. I saw this article on the facebook page of  the center for compassion and altruism research and education at stanford university:

The basic premise is that rich people are less compassionate than those who are not as well off financially. I feel quite a bit of dissonance and sadness as a I read the article. On the one hand I am overjoyed that we live in a time where compassion has become a topic worthy of study and am excited abut what we will learn and how that can be translated into programs and policies to support compassion in our society. On the other hand there is this irony that a study about compassion does not recognize that the very question they ask misses the essence of what compassion is or at least the way I understand the word. 

For me compassion is about recognizing that the other person is not really all that separate from me and that we are all interconnected. Therefore it is natural that I want happiness for others and wish for them not to suffer. 

Now I am reading an article about the studies and not the studies themselves but I wonder if it's not time to move away from rich vs poor, more or less, us against them thinking. I wonder if this very paradigm of duality and labelling that we are in is what prevents us from having access to our compassionate nature. As long as I see others as different or separate from me I block compassion from happening.

In this case what saddens me is that many of us read these types of articles and buy into the image that those who have money are greedy, less compassionate, less caring, more unhappy, different from me. I also question the criteria that was used to define the groups (income and type of car the person drove) To me this is a poor reflection of a person's true wealth. 

It saddens me because I would love to see everyone have enough resources in their life to support them in living  a life full of energy and opportunity to shine at what they most enjoy doing. That would promote happiness and reduce suffering for many people. A dream life takes wealth. Not necessarily only money but all kinds of resources that make one rich. 

In my world creating division between the rich and the poor which is what the basic premise of this study does does not support people in having compassion and acceptance for the part of them that really would love to have sufficient wealth because these types of studies tell us we risk the most painful thing for a human being which is social rejection. No one wants to be seen as greedy or not compassionate so reading this we choose emotional safety and reject not only people who look rich just based on their income or outer symbols but also the part of ourselves that could flourish if we allowed ourselves to accept wealth into our lives. 

Compassion is about unity and that means unity between people but also unity between the different parts of my inner world. I am done with rejecting the part of me that wants ease and choice and passion in my life just because I am scared of being seen as greedy or disconnected from the masses. I don't buy into it that having the resources to contribute to life in the way I want is selfish or greedy. Nor do I buy into the idea that the only way to have sufficient resources is to deny someone else that right. 

And it's not just money, resources that make someone rich include friends, skills, culture, technology, education, attitude, health, compassion, vulnerability and this article sparked in me the thought that I am ready to receive whatever form of wealth wants to come my way.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another item on my wish list

It's happened again.

I now have a new course I want to add to my list of things I want to do in life. This blog is about nonviolent communication but also about my other experiences in life and it has been very clear to me for some time that the same basic truths are reiterated in many different packages. Kindness, conscience, altruism, empathy, knowing yourself, feeling you contribute to others, the power of trust, having a sense of meaning, abundance are all themes that are repeated again and again in all the different sources I have consulted on well being and happiness. My newest find is a company called 6 seconds. Someone posted an article from one of their founders on Facebook and it resonated enough with me to encourage me to check out their work:

I like their clear, concise way of presenting such an important topic as emotional intelligence (know yourself, choose yourself and give yourself).

Adding to my list of things to do is all about choosing myself. Investing in my own education has never been something I have regretted. My grandparents who are in their 80ties have often told me they have at least 15 years of things they would like to do. They may not achieve everything they want but they have achieved many of them. I am still amazed that every time I see them they can surprise me with a new story about their life experiences.  (amazing that in their youth news was spread by a young boy going to the center of town and drumming to alert everyone to come get the news)

I am putting it out there that another one of my wish list items is visiting Belize and then the trans-siberian train.    I also want to go to the most remote island in the world a place called Tristan de Cunha. (Pierre says this definitely proves that I am in fact marginal as some very wonderful caring non marginal people have called me recently)      

Which brings me to the topic of today's blog. Today I want to practice the art of accepting things exactly as they are. There are both wonderful and scary feelings to every path taken and resources like NVC or the above 6 seconds material or Stephens coveys work for example allow me to at least be aware that it is possible to be fully open to all these experiences without wanting feelings such as fright or sadness or uncertainty to go away. You can't get to the choose yourself or give level of emotional intelligence without the first step of know yourself.

For me part of the give aspect of all this is my role in helping others know themselves especially my daughter. I see my role as a parent to be one of support for this child that has uniquely been entrusted to me for some reason. It's my role to help her discover what gifts she has in life and to help her foster them as much as possible. My mother in law when she was born said that in Argentina there is a saying "every child is born with a loaf of bread under their arm." Every child arrives with their own unique gifts.

It's incredible how warm and connected you feel when you start asking yourself what gifts does this person have to offer me. Even a very disagreeable and difficult interaction can be seen as an opportunity to practice gifts of patience or kindness or tolerance or maybe assertiveness, taking your place, setting a limit.

I am really enjoying writing this blog and appreciate all the people who have let me know that they appreciate what I put out there.

As I was writing my course material for my new 2 hour intro to compassionate communication, it struck me that in order for nvc to add value to someones life there needs to be a paradigm shift. There needs to be a conscious re-ordering of what we pay attention to and how we choose to live our lives.

Right now I have a small child that needs my attention so until next time!


Monday, February 20, 2012

Just play

You know there are moments in life when something you have known in theory finally becomes integrated. You get it on a deeper level. You know it your mind, in your heart and in your whole being. One such moment happened to me when I was pregnant. I was feeling exceptionally happy and stable in my moods and said I think this state will go away after birth so it's not real life. At this moment gina who is one of my nvc teachers replied by saying that this moment is real life. Until that time I knew it in theory but had not realised how much time I spent away from present moment awareness. Her response helped me see how often I had missed out on moments of joy, of calm, of peace as well as moments of loneliness and fear and just how precious these moments are. Present moment awareness helps me stop and pay attention and savor this all too brief period when my daughter is so full of fun and play. It helps me become aware of both the wonderful feelings that come with me telling myself that my needs are met as well as the more uncomfortable feelings when I tell myself my needs are not met. In both cases I and most people I know can rarely get to the needs because we are off worrying about the future or the past instead of paying attention to exactly what is happening right now. Nvc frees me up to pay attention to both the comfortable and uncomfortable present moment reality because underneath it all is a human need and in the end discovering that need is always wonderful. If I am happy because I ate well then great. If I am lonely because I want more connection that too is wonderful, I can now take responsibility for that need because I know it's there. The best part is that the simple act of knowing the need exists helps somehow get it met. I hear myself say things that we typically say to children, you are just playing, or you're a big girl now as though being big is somehow better than being exactly the size you are and I love having the option to question myself without blaming myself and to commit to living my life as much as possible in the present moment. The nvc way of giving feedback is really supportive of that goal because instead of expressing an evaluation we attempt to describe what need was met. For example instead of saying wow what a big girl you are when she tries to put her pants on her head I might say I really like your determination, or that you want to learn to dress yourself. The chance to reflect upon and really integrate present moment awareness has been a blessing for me and is one of the reasons I want to teach nvc consciousness. I am thrilled that so many people have enjoy my blog and am really enjoying the opportunity to share what to me has been a life changing material.

Monday, February 6, 2012

the source

A few people have asked me where I studied NVC so I have compiled a list of resources for anyone interested in looking into non violent communication further.

Non violent communication is strategy that supports life. More and more people are looking for ways to reconnect with life and training in empathy is one way to do that.

For me the journey began almost ten years ago, Pierre sent me a website:
I looked into it but was not ready at the time. Later on I picked up a book called Arretez d'etre gentil et soyez vrai from Thomas d'ansembourg. What happened next still amazes me. I started using the concepts at work and at home and immediately saw results. The feedback encouraged me to read more and I read several works over the next two years by Marshall Rosenberg and others. I took an introductory course in 2006 and still remember two things from that course: A question I often ask myself : what would make life wonderful right now? and a role play with a woman whose father often said racist things to her. Non-violence, non judgement, an open heart is doable when the other person is someone you like or are sympathetic to but what about that person who does and says things that you really disagree with? The racism role play really shocked me because it made me realize that underneath ideas and values that I disagree with is a person, a human being who is trying to meet his or her needs to the best of their abilities (in this case it was a need for security and comfort) and that by speaking to the needs rather than to the strategies we can connect with that person and perhaps have some influence with them.

I continued reading and in 2007 signed up for a three year course with Groupe conscientia, three wonderful CNVC certified trainers who have extensive experience teaching NVC. I am very grateful for their support and their willingness to teach in a co-constructive manner. Co-constructive teaching means that the students have the opportunity to really try out and interact with the material being presented. My teachers prefer working with real situations and therefore we were often asked to apply NVC concepts to real life situations.

Training in non violent communication is helpful for my relationships with others but where it really helped me was in my relationship to myself. Most people (myself included) deal with painful emotions by cutting themselves off from emotions in various ways. The problem is that we then have no access to painful experiences but we also lose access to joy (hence the rise in depression). I cherish a memory from my training: We were asked to introduce ourselves and several people introduced themselves as someone who is happy. One of my breakthroughs was that I had been so pre-occupied with getting my needs for security met that I had for some time forgotten how to play. Underneath some pretty painful stuff I managed to connect with a desire to be more joyful and playful in my life. This has made my life rich and wonderful in many ways. It was only after this that I finally (after two years of wanting a child) got pregnant with Evelyn.

So here is a list of ressources:

You can get all of Marshall Rosenbergs books as well as other authors work from Puddle dancer press:

For my french friends:

The center for non violent communication:

My teachers:
Marcelle et Robert: Groupe Conscientia:

NVC Academy:

NVC and parenting:
Victoria Hart and sura Kindle (NVC and parenting):
Inbal Kashtan:

The freedom project(Teaching NVC to incarcerated people):
Restorative circles:
NVC in europe:
NV in eatern Europe:

I hope these resources are helpful to all those who have taken the time to read my blog.


Monday, January 23, 2012

The observer

I hope to show this to my daughter Evelyn when she is all grown up. Last night she fell asleep with me in my bed and unfortunately when we went to move her to hers she woke up and decided that she much prefers sleeping in our bed. Two hours later we still had not managed to get her to go back to sleep in her bed.

Now I've seen you desperate parents out there on Facebook and I know there is no easy answer to this dilemma. We discussed it with Pierre and our decision is that we want her to spend at least the first part of the night in her bed. So once the decision is made there is no turning back because I can see the writing on the wall with this child and she has a will of her own. Yesterday she clearly decided that she was going to sleep in our bed.

My job is to love and protect and guide this child and I can't do that if I always do as she asks because it's the easy path to take. My dilemma is that this could turn into a power struggle between us and I am hoping to minimize the occurrence of such a nasty interaction.

There are so many emotions and needs at play when going through such a tough situation (hers, mine and Pierre's) and I was really glad that I was able to connect with myself and her while going through this. It's so difficult to not give in when faced with a very angry or upset person. We are conditioned to see these emotional states as negative and to want to do everything in our power to alleviate them even if what we do in the here and now has consequences that are less then desirable later.

So in a nutshell this is what we did: rocked her to sleep, put her down in her bed, stayed in the room until we thought we were safe and as soon as we got up she woke up, stood up and screamed to go to our room. Went back, if we were lucky put her back on her back if not then rocked her back to sleep. All this for two hours.

I titled this blog post the observer because it's what helped me not panic or become overwhelmed yesterday. Essentially emotions happen and it's easy to get caught up in them and not have the necessary perspective to recognize the different layers of what is going on for yourself and for the other person. Practicing feeling an emotion and just letting it be, observing it, recognizing that the emotion is a part of you but not all of you helps in these situations. It allowed me to work with my daughter, to accept that she she was upset and angry and that it is okay for her to feel that way. It allowed me to recognize that she wanted me to stay in the room even after she (grudgingly) accepted to try to lay down in her bed and sleep. It allowed me to be aware of my emotions and needs but to accept that if i wanted her to get to sleep in her bed I needed to honor my needs but put them aside to be present with her given how upset she got. After two hours I was surprised at how much energy I still had and am really touched by the impact that these ideas had on helping me deal with pretty challenging parenting situation.    

Non violent communication has given me the gift of being able to accept a fuller range of human emotions and to teach my child to do the same without having to immediately intervene to alleviate the discomfort. I feel more confident today as a parent because I made a decision and stuck with it but did not make it into a power struggle. I was amazed and hopeful for the future when I finally thought that she was asleep she woke up again and was again standing in her crib. As soon as I came to her room she looked at me and lay back down and went to sleep. At strong will is a great thing to have but you need your parents brains until your own catches up and I hope that I manage to create a relationship with her so that she will freely give me the authority to be her parent. So far so good.    

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Nobody listens to me

You are not listening to me is a pretty common complaint and one that usually gets a defensive reaction. It's sad that the only tool most people seem to have to try and take care of their need to be heard is to tell the other person that they are not listening. I'm the first one to fall into this trap. It feels so terrible to have something important to say and to see that the person you want to connect with is not taking the time to consider what you are saying. 

Last night Pierre came home and immediately told me he had a headache. I of course conveniently forgot about this since I wanted to speak to him and ask his opinion about the plans for the week. After a few attempts to communicate I started feeling the frustration go up and I was about to start a fight by saying ''You NEVER listen to me, isn't what I have to say important etc..." Luckily (although he denies it) some of my nvc training has rubbed of on him and he said ''What you have to say is important but I am not able to listen right now, I have a headache, am hungry and need to relax can we talk about this later?''  

Of course you need to later keep faith and be available to listen but his response really underscored a key issue in communication: The importance of checking if the conditions for communication are present. I don't even know how many times I have coached parents who expected children to execute a task when the child did not even hear the request (because they were distracted by the TV or a toy or the parent yelled the request from another room) 

Checking if the person you want to listen is available is one side of the equation, the other is being honest with yourself about whether or not you are available. I have had to adjust to accepting when Pierre says he is not available but even more difficult is letting people know when I am not able to communicate in a way that respects my intentions. I just keep talking even when there are about a thousand signs that it would be better if I didn't.  

I have seen harried parents make huge withdrawals from their relationship with their children because they decided to discipline a child in a moment where they were tired, hungry, not feeling well, anxious or overwhelmed. I have also seen parents try to reason or teach a child when that child was having a major meltdown. It's easier said than done but waiting and being clear about our intentions in our relationships is essential. In these types of situations alerting everyone that there is a storm and letting the storm pass goes a long way in preventing the storm from  becoming a hurricane or a tornado.  

It's an aspect of communication that I struggle with because I get caught up in wanting to be heard and don't heed the warning signs from me or from the other person that it's not a good time. Of course there are times when what you have to say is very important and needs to be heard. I have found it useful to change mediums in these cases and write instead of speak or chose to speak to someone else who is more available. 

I once worked with a girl who had 25 years of experience on the crisis intervention line and she said that in her whole life she has only dealt with a true emergency a few times. I will always remember this because it helps me to take a step back and ask myself if there is really an emergency that justifies me reacting by using force or a directive approach to what is going on. If there is no emergency then creating the conditions for communication might take some time but will save time and effort in the long run. 

In reality though not being heard feels like an emergency. In the seven habits for highly effective people author Steven Covey describes the feeling as lacking psychological air. This is why it is so important to have a few options available should either person be lacking psychological air. It's also why the practice of NVC entails regularly doing check ins with yourself and offering yourself empathy on a daily basis. It's like breathing exercises you can't just use it when there is a stressful situation. Taking the time to listen to yourself (don't skip lunches for example) everyday increases the chances that you will be available to hear what others have to say and in return that they will be willing to hear you. 

The research supports that having choices in life is one of the best indicators of health. Knowing that what you have to say is heard and taken into consideration is really important to happiness in my opinion. I am grateful that I have had the chance to learn, model, teach and mediate skills that increase the chances that people will listen to each other.