Today I learned of the passing away of Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication.
“Empathy is a respectful understanding of what others are experiencing.”
It is the ability to postpone judgment, interpretation, and evaluation, so you can be with someone’s observations, feelings, needs, and desires. It is the willingness to be vulnerable and accept their perspective, to understand the world through their eyes.
Marshall Rosenberg’s teachings helped me to acknowledge the fact that I had needs, a fact that was unknown to me at that time. Yep, I always thought that I didn’t need anything or anyone. Never considered I wanted acceptance, belonging, respect. After the first revelation that I had needs, I learned that my feelings arose from my needs…. Du-uh?!… Aren’t others responsible for my feelings? I can’t blame them? Or thank them? Don’t I make people happy? (or sad, angry, lonely, scared) Am I not responsible for what they are feeling?
After a few years of calibrating the ideas that I have needs, and that my feelings are a result from my needs being met or unmet, I started to experiment with Marshall Rosenberg’s insights on requests. Making requests that are an invitation to collaboration and connection. Different from a demand, isn’t it?
Six years later I can tell that I think I am getting it. Maybe not completely, and I am getting there. Even better, last night I taught a class on collaboration. I used all my understanding of Nonviolent Communication. The assistant professor thought it was a phenomenal session that exemplified collaboration.
I want to share one precious memory I have of him. I participated in a training that he led. I was invited for a healing session with him. He impersonated my three-day old sister, who died when I was two. I had always seen her in my mind’s eye as an incapacitated person. Then he started empathizing with me, as her. And while I was talking with him -Marshall Rosenberg impersonating my younger sister- I clearly saw her aura around him.
I cried tender and much needed tears. After the session I realized that the younger sister that I always held as handicapped, had transformed into a mature woman, who was there whenever I needed her. This transformation was so profound that my life opened up, and I made choices I would never have dreamed of making.
Not everyone was happy with my choices. For me they were an expression of my autonomy and authenticity. I am deeply grateful for Marshall’s contribution to my courage to be honest with others and following my dream.
Marshall, you didn’t die January 7, 2015. You continue to live in my heart and through your contributions to this world. Thank you.
This is a tribute to my aunt. Tante Ria. She died last Monday. Peacefully. Trusting that she would enter Heavenly Paradise, and be welcomed in the house of her Father.
I am flying out today to attend her funeral.
I feel a deep sense of sadness and loss.
And more deeply than that, of gratitude and appreciation.
Image courtesy to creativecommons.org
She offered a warm, welcome home every Summer holiday for my sister and me. She organized fun events, exuberant barbecues (and even now, being a vegan, I enjoy thinking of those gatherings), and special activities. I always had such a sense of love, acceptance, belonging, appreciation, and delight, whenever I visited her house, at a time when I didn’t experience much of that in many other places.
She never talked about my troubles. She never asked about my pain. She just offered love and acceptance.
Teyber and McClure call that a restorative emotional experience. Through tante Ria I knew that love, acceptance, belonging, understanding, and joy were possible. Also for me.
We cannot always prevent children from feeling pain, hurt, loneliness. We can’t always repair the damage done by neglect, criticism, and ignorance. But we can always offer our open heart, welcoming hands, and radiant smile to let a child know how delighted we are that they are in our world.
Tante Ria, thank you, for inspiring me to bring out those qualities in myself for all the children and grown-ups in my life.
I love you.
I’m back home. In Austin. I said the same thing when I landed in the Netherlands July 12: “I’m back home.” I have two homes. Well, actually, I have many more. Or actually just one.
When I first arrived in Austin in April 2009, I was homesick for the Netherlands, my family and friends, my two cats. For many years.
This time before I flew out to the Netherlands, I had what you might call a little epiphany. I was driving through Texas hill country, enjoying the beauty of nature, the gorgeousness of everything G*d created and is creating, when I realized with a sudden insight “G*d created this piece of Earth, just like She did the Dutch piece of Earth. I am always home in G*d’s Earth, no matter where I am.”
Even though we, humans, establish boundaries, Immigration control, and property lines, Earth knows no such thing. Presence and energy just continuously morph from one manifestation into another. From mountain, into meadow, into river, into ridge, into cliff. There is no sign “Stop here. Go no further. Identify yourself first.”
It is not hard to understand the wisdom of the speech the Indian Chief Seattle gave in 1854 “How Can you Possess the Earth?” when you connect to your breath. Do you know who exhaled the breath you’re breathing in now? Or who will inhale your breath after you exhale? You can hate the person in front of you -or far away- and you cannot stop inhaling her out-breath. Nor can he stop inhaling your out-breath. You share the same air and ‘inter-are’, whether you like it or not. Even if you succeeded not sharing the same air, you cannot stop your dead bodies being held by the same Earth. And even if you could do that, you’ll always be part of the same Universe.
It is Thich Nhat Hanh’s simple message of interbeing.
I am home. And I have always been. Wherever I am.
You want help to connect to the interbeing of all life? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.
When is the last time you heard someone say: “Peter? Peter is highly successful. He did very well for himself. He opened his heart, speaks in a way that encourages others, learned to transform his anger in requests, and listens to his friend when she is down and out.”
I never did.
Such things are usually not counted as accomplishments, as something others are impressed by and want to copy.
When we talk about success we usually talk about careers, houses, cars, maybe fame, hopefully a stable family life, although we would not say “Margaret she did SO well: her husband loves her SO much!”
Yet, most possessions don’t go into the grave. And even if they do, they are mainly interesting and valuable to archaeologists 1000, 2000 years from now, not so much to you. The only thing we take into our grave are our intentions and efforts. Financial enoughness can help us stay more focused on those -because we are less distracted by survival struggle- and that’s all.
Let me tell you about Stuart.
I met Stuart four years ago, when he asked me for money as I waited for the traffic light. He walks with braces on both legs, which -of course- makes it harder for him to reach cars in time and receive what’s been offered. He had polio when he was one, didn’t receive much support during life, managed to find work on only a high school diploma, and finally got fired from his last job, because he couldn’t climb the ladder anymore. I never heard him complain. He always told me that every situation is an opportunity to thank G*d for support and love. He received every dollar with gratitude and grace.
Can you imagine the world we would create if we’d call people like him successful? How would your life be if he is your role model for modesty, gratitude, and trust? Can you imagine the big smile, appreciation, and openness we all would have?
You want help to live of life of love, openness, and gratitude even under challenging circumstances? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary discovery session.
I want to ask for a raise. I don’t receive my pay check as appreciation for the value I add. I think my empathy and mediation skills are unique and contribute to the emotional, social, and academic development of my clients. I empower them to be autonomous, authentic, and responsible. I teach them to include all needs and figure out strategies that work for everyone. I want to be seen and appreciated for these qualities.
I talk with my empathy buddy about this. I tell him I should earn more, that I deserve it with the level of commitment I have for my clients.
I just read in Nonviolent Communication that ‘should’ and ‘deserve’ language conveys that a request is actually a camouflaged demand.
I fall silent. I check in with myself. I am making a demand. I am so scared I will hear a ‘no’ that I am using force to get a ‘yes’. I’m too afraid to hear the ‘no’ as proof that I don’t matter, that my employer doesn’t care about my needs.
“Mattering to whom?” my buddy asks. Duh. To my employer, of course! I need to know that I matter to them.
Then I fall silent again… Or is it mattering to myself? Am I afraid that I will walk out on myself, as soon as I hear a ‘no’? Am I scared that I will give up on myself and my needs to accommodate the relationship?
Image courtesy to wellness.nicolepresents.com
Silence… Yes… That’s it… And I realize that if I matter to myself, I would use this request as an opportunity to express what’s alive in me, what my inner experience is. Not to get what I want (NVC is never a good tool for that purpose), but to be known for who I am and what I need. To create a relationship that’s based on honesty and empathy.
And all of a sudden I realize that this conversation is actually a chance to support the inner child in myself. The little, stuttering child who so often thought she didn’t matter, that no one cared what was going on within her. Who was too scared to speak up, because she feared disconnection. This is the time to invite the adult within me to squat next to her and encourage her to speak, to help her find the words. This is not about a salary raise, this is about healing. Learning to ask for what I want, in a way that conveys to myself that I matter. That’s all that matters.
You want help to matter to yourself? Contact me 512-589-0482 to schedule a complimentary, discovery session to see if and how I can help.