Forging Shared Reality


Street Giraffes is a Nonviolent Communication resource blog & free, monthly telepractice group that gathers as a kind of NVC sangha, towards cultivating [universal human] needs-consciousness/mindfulness, focused especially on skill-building (e.g. dialogue-lab experimentation with iGiraffe, etc.).

About Street Giraffes

Learn more as to blog/telepractice here

& NVC, more broadly, here

Telepractice toolbox here

Our Next NVC Sangha:

2nd Sunday of the month @ 7 pm/ET

Join Street Giraffes 
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Contact Pamela/@StreetGiraffe
(@streetgiraffes facilitator/blogger)


Learn more as to my path here

List of my blog posts here

Other NVC Learning Venues


“Nonviolent Communication is an awareness discipline masquerading as a communication process.”

~ Kit Miller

Handy Handouts

ZENVC‘s “iGiraffe


John Kinyon‘s

“Every time I mess up is a chance to practice.”
~ Marshall Rosenberg


Experiment with Truth [Dispatch]

Sunday, July 5, 2018 ~

 Forging Shared Reality

Frederick Douglass and grandson Joseph
Frederick_Douglass_& grandson_Joseph


 John Kinyon’s Valentine for Marshall Rosenberg (referencing “Scary Honesty”)

Kinyon:  “In times spent with Marshall Rosenberg, I often heard him tell stories with an honesty that I found courageous.

This was not a surprise. Marshall has said that, in order to create a true connection, honesty is just as important as empathy.

He coined the term “scary honesty,” because of how terrifying it can be to tell people what is true inside of us.

Part of learning how to be honest with people is dealing with them “freaking out,” Marshall said. It helps to be ready for the fact that those who hear our truth may become angry, hurt, or upset. They may well react in ways that stimulate fear in us.

The crucial distinction, Marshall points out, is recognizing that we’re not afraid of other people or their reactions. Instead, we’re afraid of our own internal reactions to their reactions. In other words, it’s not the other person who is scary. It’s the thoughts and feelings that person can evoke in me that I fear…” (continues

“If our connection depends on hiding my authentic self, the relationship is neither a true nor a sustainable connection.” ~ Miki Kashtan, The Little Book of Courageous Living


Videos via @CupofEmpathy


More on conflict resolution here


Historic “Scary Honesty” (exemplary of articulating Universal-Human-Needs)

“True dialogue can only happen if I enter the conversation willing to be changed by it. If I am unwilling to change, to be affected sufficiently to consider options new to me, on what grounds am I expecting the other person to change?” ~ Miki Kashtan

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The arc of this masterful Frederick Douglass speech — delivered on this very day, July 5th in 1852 (especially if read in its entirety) — offers much fodder for thought on how a former slave turned public orator addressed the meaning that Independence Day held for him to a gathering of abolitionists (which included the then president of the United States)…

In other words, how Frederick Douglass opted to #MediateOnesLife.  If you get a chance to read it (or listen to the arc of the speech, in clip directly above), please notice how he marshaled both empathy and (scary) honesty on behalf of forging a more just shared-reality.

I hadn’t considered the Nonviolent Communication [Mediation] intonations, intermingling empathy for another’s vantage point with the rawer honesty of one’s own, rather differing point of view until this fourth of July, when my niece and I watched the musical turned 1776 (film)

In the film (clip above), John Adams — addressing state differences as to the slavery clause — says: “If we give in on this issue, posterity will never forgive us…”

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Recognizing the poignancy that this debate and other slavery references in the film held for my niece, who is African-American, the next day — July 5th — it occurred to me to introduce her to the Frederick Douglass speech, which we read together (an articulation some 76 years after the Declaration, one might say, from posterity’s hindsight).


In a Fourth of July holiday special, we begin with the words of Frederick Douglass. Born into slavery around 1818, Douglass became a key leader of the abolitionist movement. On July 5, 1852, in Rochester, New York, he gave one of his most famous speeches, “The Meaning of July Fourth for the Negro.”

“What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”

Frederick Douglass

July 5, 1852

Mr. President, Friends and Fellow Citizens:

He who could address this audience without a quailing sensation, has stronger nerves than I have. I do not remember ever to have appeared as a speaker before any assembly more shrinkingly, nor with greater distrust of my ability, than I do this day. A feeling has crept over me, quite unfavorable to the exercise of my limited powers of speech. The task before me is one which requires much previous thought and study for its proper performance. I know that apologies of this sort are generally considered flat and unmeaning. I trust, however, that mine will not be so considered. Should I seem at ease, my appearance would much misrepresent me. The little experience I have had in addressing public meetings, in country schoolhouses, avails me nothing on the present occasion.

The papers and placards say, that I am to deliver a 4th [of] July oration. This certainly sounds large, and out of the common way… (continues)

 Another Reading Of ‘What To A Slave Is The 4th Of July’ By Frederick Douglass: here

What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July? – Wikipedia

What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?[a] is an untitled speech originally given by Frederick Douglass on July 5, 1852.[1] He gave the speech, which is over 2,500 words long, to the Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society in Corinthian Hall in Rochester, New York,[1] a city that was a center of abolitionist activities.[1] The President of the United States and other important figures were also in attendance when Douglass gave the speech… (continues)

Thomas Jefferon’s Monticello

Hemmings Cabin


Parallels between now and then…

World as Lover, World as Self

“We are bombarded by signals of distress — ecological destruction, social breakdown, and uncontrolled nuclear proliferation.  Not surprisingly, we are feeling despair — a despair well merited by the machinery of mass death that we continue to create and serve.  What is surprising is the extent to which we continue to hide this despair from ourselves and each other.  If this is, as Arthur Koestler suggested, an age of anxiety, it is also an age in which we are adept at sweeping our anxieties under the rug.  As a society we are caught between a sense of impending apocalypse and an inability to acknowledge it.  Activists who try to arouse us the the fact that our survival is at stake decry public apathy.  the cause of our apathy, however, is not mere indifference.  It stems from a fear of confronting the despair that lurks subliminally beneath the  tenor of life-as-usual.  A dread of what is happening to our future stays on the fringes of awareness, too deep to name and too fearsome to face… (continues)” ~ Joanna Macy, World as Lover, World as Self; Parallax Press (2005)

Pictures From Youth Climate Strikes Around the World


Greta Thunberg nominated for Nobel peace prize | Environment

See more here: @thecitizeness

Greta Thunberg
(credit: Anders Hellberg of Effekt magazine)
Posted in Climate Crisis & Ecological Breakdown, Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment


What’s Up Next?

(Mark calendars for next telepractice group: Sunday, July 1, at 8 pm/ET)

Sunday, June 3, 2018 ~ Origin Stories

blown_dandelions2c_green_backgroundCredit:  John Liu


Inquiry:  How have you integrated your own ‘origin stories’ — whether it be a religious/philosophical influence or any other modality with which you engage — as complementary to your NVC practice (a.k.a. as a #streetgiraffe practitioner)?  Where has the overlap buttressed both practices and where has it taken a bit more elbow grease to reconcile potential differences?

Cache of Inquiries


Tools from the Toolbox:

A cornerstone to my practice — the first NVC workshop that I attended utilized this tool:

Communication Flow Chart – ZENVC


Beneath courtesy of Miki Kashtan’s “Theoretical Underpinings” course:

NVC and Other Modalities

1. Is there another practice you engage in that is very important to you, or another philosophy/idea that you’re influenced by or engaged with? If yes, what is it? If no and you’d like to participate in this activity, choose another practice/philosophy that you’d like more clarity about how it relates with NVC (even if you’re not personally engaged with it).

2. Share core principles of that practice and any areas that are overlapping and/or reinforcing of NVC principles.


Principles of Buddhism:  Right Speech

Relevant principle(s) of NVC:
Focus on self-responsibility and compassion

(See also: Miki’s Acquired Spontaneity blog)

Another way to view the intersection between Nonviolent Communication and the Buddhist precept of Right Speech (&/or yogic tradition of satya/ahimsa) is to consider how a shift from our more ingrained (a.k.a. ‘jackal’) tendencies to NVC Consciousness (a.k.a. ‘giraffe’) or needs-consciousness can facilitate a more compassionate interpersonal state of flow. (See also: Mary Mackenzie on  Identifying Needs)

In the opening to one of their Mediate Your Life Handouts referencing a Self-Connection Process (SCP), John Kinyon and Ike Lasater write, “At the root of conflict, we see the biological ‘fight/flight/freeze’ (FFF) survival reaction, also called the ‘stress response.’ This instinct toward protection and defense originates in the older, deeper parts of our brain.”

Recently, I got a window into how this flight/fight/freeze reactivity can shift to a more responsive needs-consciousness — in essence, a master class in “Right Speech & NVC” — when I had the unexpected opportunity of having a conflict briefly mediated by NVC mediation pioneer John Kinyon.  This came about when a friend of mine and I just so happened to both show up to John’s monthly, free telepractice and it worked out that our long-standing quarrel got ‘put in the chairs’ (from which I learned quite a lot, as is so often the case — the visceral gets more quickly into the bloodstream when its practiced — rather than merely theorized about).

During the mediation, I was struck by how much unexpected ease I had, following the mediator’s lead, while staying in ‘giraffe consciousness’.  For example, rather than become reactive to a seeming judgment coming at me, when my friend voiced his reticence to engage in NVC mediation, as a practice (with me), I was instead surprised by an unforced curiosity while attempting to attune to his needs (even utilizing certain naturalizing skills: such as hand-crafting the phrasing of a need — guessing that he wanted the “privacy of shielding that which was tender”). The more constricted fight/flight/freeze ‘jackal’ consciousness that would typically have infused this well-worn point of contention had magically evaporated, under John’s stewardship (to be replaced by a more giraffe-like preoccupation as to how a ‘streetified’ empathy-guess might resonate more for him than other, more garden-variety types that I proferred).

“Empathizing with someone’s ‘no’ protects us from taking it personally.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg

At the end of our time together, as John was wrapping up the call, he went over the three steps he’d guided us through (outlined below) for how to conduct these challenging “3chairs” type conversations:

1)  acknowledgement of one another by clarifying our understanding of each other’s vantage-point (even, perhaps especially, while not always agreeing with it);

2) surfacing the universal-human-needs/values in play; and

3) collaborating as to solution agreements.

John spoke about how daunting mediating our own lives can sometimes be and how interpersonal conflict invariably entails implicitly holding ‘maps’ such as the 3Chairs process (outlined above) in our mind’s eye, while navigating our way through potential tripwires as skillfully as possible.  In a sense, we’re dancing in the intra/interpersonal minefield and our fluidity of movement, avoiding detonating traps (hopefully towards safe passage), and sense of sure-footedness can be supported by these maps.  Until and unless we can make an explicit request that engages the willingness of our interlocutor, to abide by a more structured, deliberative dialogue interspersed with reflection, the structure comes from the navigational software imprinted within (by our own internal — in this instance “3chairs” type — GPS).

John recalled that one of his greatest takeaways from his time with Marshall Rosenberg was that much of the time we are simply trying to hear the underlying “please” (e.g. another’s feelings/needs), regardless of — often intentionally disregarding — how it is spoken (what critical thoughts/judgments may be intertwined in the delivery method).

“Always listen to what people need rather than what they are thinking about us.” ~ Marshall Rosenberg

Marshall reveals his interior jackal and how he transformed it (caveat emptor – colorful language):

John Kinyon/Mediate Your Life Handouts:

After the call had concluded, only upon reflection, I notice various tools, especially from the ‘street giraffes’ toolbox, had come in handy and likely contributed to what I experienced, a more effortless competency or flow state than is typical):

It likely helped that I was striving to demonstrate my mediation skill set to John — thus my more ingrained, habitual jackal-y tendencies readily fell by the wayside (vis-a-vis how I was relating to my friend) — and in this regard I was also able to appreciate afresh how invaluable, how much a potential game-changer it can be, having a third party supporting the conversation.

John Kinyon was gracious enough to elaborate on this point, sharing near the end of the call how often attuning to the “please” (read, underlying needs) of another can happen — even for him, at times — only retroactively.  He offered that he’ll sometimes review a conversation, contemplating where and how he might have better heard the “please” in the moment.

It was immeasurably reassuring to have someone with John Kinyon’s exquisite presence, marinated in decades of mediation skills mastery, both bridge our divide and then also acknowledge the more primitive collective humanity, so deeply ingrained, that can (and, in my experience, often does) readily hijack us all.

(I once heard it put, in the heat of the moment, we often don’t rise to the level of our expectations, but/rather fall to the level of our training.)

Additional Resources (vis-a-vis NVC & Right Speech):

Say it Right – Tricycle: The Buddhist Review
The Practice of Mindful Communication — Oren Jay Sofer
The Female Buddha

Beneath is an interview via Roseanne referencing NVC & Right Speech:

What We Say Matters: Practicing Nonviolent Communication bridges the gap between some of the principles we learn in yoga – particularly satya (truth) and ahimsa (nonviolence) – and the real world application of these principles. I [Roseanne] had the opportunity to ask Judith Hanson Lasater about the key themes in the book, including how speech can be a spiritual practice:  Judith Hanson Lasater Interview

The Buddhist precept of Right Speech entails a quality of equanimity that correlates well with NVC Consciousness (a.k.a. Giraffe State o’ Mind) and/or Inner Relationship Focusing‘s Self-in-Presence.  While there is a method to ‘jackal madness’, when it gets communicated, the meaning sometimes gets lost in translation.  Metaphorically, the jackal point-of-view tends to be more near to the ground (read, ‘myopic’), than that of the long-necked giraffe.  However to inhabit NVC’s generative or life-serving perspective, the elevated and far-reaching view rooted in Observations, Feelings, Needs & Requests — the elements of giraffe-consciousness (openness/presence) — it’s crucial to become aware of our interior ‘jackals’ and the transformative energy and insightful messages brought to bear by attuning to that which animates them.

Wise Heart – The Spirituality of NVC by LaShelle Lowe-Chardé

Spirituality is a word that gets thrown around a bit. Tragically a disconnected calm can be mistaken for spirituality. In my own practice of Zen this is a common trap.

Again and again I have caught myself in the trap of living from an idea or ideal rather from what’s real and alive in the moment.

Honoring life by experiencing what’s alive in the moment fully in body and heart is the spirituality of NVC as I know it. (continues…)

Initially, as with any mindfulness practice, the intention is to track our moments of reactivity:  to sense our visceral contractions in our body (i.e. an elevated heart rate, narrowing of our gaze, deafening of the ear, sense of alienation or separation and so forth).  These physiological and psychological ‘symptoms’ become a kind of wake up call that we’ve shifted into fight/flight/freeze and away from a more flow-state.  Next we turn towards these ‘jackals’.

Read a Q&A with Sarah Peyton – W.W. Norton

Q:  What is the most important thing a reader can take away from this book?
A:  (via Sarah Peyton)  The most important thing readers can learn is that they make sense. Their fears make sense, their worries make sense, and their struggles make sense. Learning about neurobiology validates our experiences: once we see that our fight/flight/freeze patterns are normal reactions to painful past experiences, we’re able to have compassion and understanding for ourselves, to see that there’s nothing wrong with us. Once we remove this shame around our own behavior, there is so much relaxation and acceptance, we’re able to turn toward the self with affection and appreciation.
Q:  What is one practical piece of advice or exercise that is most readily applicable for a reader?
A:  Know that each of us can be gentle with our own breath, and kind with our own attention, and that this easy care is the first step to experiencing a lifelong healing journey… (continues here)

The No Fault Zone

The No-Fault Zone®

“Street Giraffe” Origin Story

marshallrosenberg1990Marshall Rosenberg
(Credit: Etan J. Tal)

Origin Story: Jackal/Giraffe

How did the (quasi-shamanic) symbolism of jackal/giraffe come into being?

While traveling in Europe, sharing Nonviolent Communication, Marshall Rosenberg would often be transported to and from the airport by workshop participants. On one such occasion, his ‘chauffeur’ was a woman prone to airing her litany of grievances as to her ‘rascal’ husband — just as she had on other such occasions. So, this time, Marshall improvisationally interjected (perhaps for the sake of levity), “are you still dealing with that old jackal?” — to which he was amused to find he had struck a chord. She responded by almost driving off the road, saying, “that’s exactly what he is — always nipping at my heels!”. (Perhaps demonstrating for once and for all that colluding with jackals can sometimes be as bonding as empathizing by way of giraffe.)

“…and for all his sweetness, he had the tiger and the jackal in his soul.”
~ Voltairine de Cleyre
22.3.55Jackal Inlay – The Met

Marshall enjoyed how this metaphor had evoked such a strong reaction, so at another workshop he experimented with it again by casually inquiring, of the crowd before him, whether “any of you have got a jackal in your life?” (and was again intrigued by the immediate resonance, demonstrated by the widespread laughter of recognition).

Later another workshop participant, who had gone to a toy store during a break, brought a jackal puppet back for Marshall — which at first seemed merely a playful joke (surely to then be re-gifted to a child) — but then, again spontaneously, Marshall opted to use it (almost as a magician might pull a rabbit out of a hat, theatrically) during a demonstration on how to deal with (jackal-esque) judgments and, once again, enjoyed the liveliness that ensued. (As in the days of ancient theater replete with the embellished narration of a Greek chorus, the drama of a jackal puppet — bearing witness to the ‘jackal show’ — is nothing new under the sun.)

Initially the jackal’s counterpart was intended to be a duck, in alignment with the notion of the joy-of-a-small-child-feeding-a-hungry-duck (where it’s difficult to distinguish between the ‘giver’ and ‘taker’ – a dynamic meant to depict NVC consciousness).  So, in a sense, one can see that the sense of a flow state is inextricably linked to needs-consciousness.

Please do as I requested, only if you can do so with the joy of a little child feeding a hungry duck. Please do not do as I request if there is any taint of fear of punishment if you don’t. Please do not do as I request to buy my love, that, is hoping that I will love you more if you do. Please do not do as I request if you will feel guilty if you don’t. Please do not do as I request if you will feel shameful. And certainly do not do as I request out of any sense of duty or obligation. ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg
Koester Alexander Max GansefutterungAlexander Koester
Duck Index – Tina Tau: Judith and Ike Lasater, who wrote a book called What We Say Matters about how Nonviolent Communication works in their family, expanded this idea into a duck index. It’s a scale of one to ten. Ten is the full-on joy of feeding hungry ducks, and one is no ducks at all. When wondering whether to do something, like go to a party or take on a job, Ike and Judith check in with themselves to see how high it is on the duck index. The prospect has to have at least five ducks for them to go ahead… (continues)
Wall paintings Greece tomb IsraelWall paintings Greece tomb Israel

However, it was pointed out to Marshall that the duck just didn’t seem to hold up against the jackal (as a metaphor), if they were to go toe-to-toe…

Jackal/Giraffe Ears


Hence, the giraffe symbolism came into being, given its metaphoric value as having the largest of hearts (of any land animal) and longest of necks (long-ranging perspective — in other words, grasping the long-term ramifications of how one opts to communicate).

On Long Neckin’ & Anticipatory Beneficial Regret
Keulemans sidestriped jackalEngraving of a side-striped jackal by J. G. Keulemans
Nonviolent Communication – Wikipedia
“In order to show the differences between communication styles, Rosenberg started to use two animals. Violent communication was represented by the carnivorous Jackal as a symbol of aggression and especially dominance. The herbivorous Giraffe on the other hand, represented his NVC strategy. The Giraffe was chosen as symbol for NVC as its long neck is supposed to show the clear-sighted speaker, being aware of his fellow speakers’ reactions; and because the Giraffe has a large heart, representing the compassionate side of NVC. In his courses he tended to use these animals in order to make the differences in communication clearer to the audience.”
Wise Heart – NVC – Jackal to Giraffe Translation Dictionary

Marshall Rosenberg mentions Focusing:

(as a jackal-to-giraffe translation method)
At the seven minute mark (of the YouTube beneath) Marshall says:
“Deep breath. You see… Now this giraffe is glad that it has practiced focusing because it’s spent a lot of time learning how to get in touch with its feelings and needs and it can give itself some emergency first aid empathy right now to deal with what’s going on so that it can then focus its attention on the other person again.”
Focusing & Inner Relationship Focusing (IRF)

What is Inner Relationship Focusing? – YouTube

Spiritual Basis of NVC – Center for Nonviolent Communication

Q & A Session with Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Is spirituality important in the process of Nonviolent Communication?
I think it is important that people see that spirituality is at the base of Nonviolent Communication, and that they learn the mechanics of the process with that in mind. It’s really a spiritual practice that I am trying to show as a way of life. Even though we don’t mention this, people get seduced by the practice. Even if they practice this as a mechanical technique, they start to experience things between themselves and other people they weren’t able to experience before. So eventually they come to the spirituality of the process. They begin to see that it’s more than a communication process and realize it’s really an attempt to manifest a certain spirituality. So I have tried to integrate the spirituality into the training in a way that meets my need not to destroy the beauty of it through abstract philosophizing.
What does God mean to you?
I need a way to think of God that would work for me, other words or ways to look at this beauty, this powerful energy, and so my name for God is “Beloved Divine Energy.” For a while it was just Divine Energy but then I was reading some of the Eastern religions, and Eastern poets, and I loved how they had this personal, loving connection with this Energy. And I found that it added to me to call it “Beloved” Divine Energy. To me this Beloved Divine Energy is life, connection to life… (continues)
Beneath courtesy of Louise Evans, Coach/Corporate Trainer, Author of 5 Chairs 5 Choices:
[Giraffe-Inspired] TEDx Talk: Own Your Behaviours, Master Your Communication

a·gape, a·ga·pe

/əˈgāp/, /äˈgäˌpā/
(of the mouth) Wide open, esp. with surprise or wonder.
Christian love, esp. as distinct from erotic love or emotional affection.
Another ‘origin story’ — especially for those of of us living in the west — may come from our Judeo-Christian heritage.  I intend to explore this theme, how my own personal origin story intermingles with NVC (on another blog, shortly) however more broadly, the themes of redemption, salvation, and transfiguration contained within a Christian context are at the root of the ethos of Nonviolence
By Colin Mutchler from Brooklyn, United States via Wikimedia Commons

Agape (Christmas Sermon on Peace)

by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
December 1967

Agape is more than romantic love, it is more than friendship. Agape is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. Theologians would say that it is the love of God operating in the human heart. When you rise to love on this level, you love all men not because you like them, not because their ways appeal to you, but you love them because God loves them. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “Love your enemies.” And I’m happy that he didn’t say, “Like you enemies,” because there are some people that I find it pretty difficult to like. Liking is an affectionate emotion, and I can’t like anybody who would bomb my home. I can’t like anybody who would exploit me. I can’t like anybody who would trample over me with injustices. I can’t like them. I can’t like anybody who threatens to kill me day in and day out. But Jesus reminds us that love is greater than liking. Love is understanding, creative, redemptive good will toward all men

One of Miki Kashtan’s Core Commitments:

Assumption of Innocence: even when others’ actions or words make no sense to me or frighten me, I want to assume a need-based human intention behind them. If I find myself attributing ulterior motives or analyzing others’ actions, I want to seek support to ground myself in the clarity that every human action is an attempt to meet needs no different from my own.

And this one minute clip, which I’ve written about before, fascinates me as it could be viewed as a kind of protective-use-of-force (when more ‘jackal’ infused messaging is employed as a preventitive measure against further physical harm) and also, to my mind at least, you can detect the underlying ‘assumption of innocence’ as MLK speaks, despite the harshness of his rhetoric.  He implores, as a kind of cris de coeur (jolt of electricity, akin to an atrial defibrillator machine), to get the heart of the civil rights movement pumping — in flow — again following the shock of such unspeakable carnage likely meant to cower all those impacted into a more freeze-like state.

Martin Luther King, Jr. — What Murdered These Four Girls?

Larry Yang (excerpt):  “…The personal mantra that I have developed to navigate through the complex dilemmas and social issues arising currently is:

Can I be mindful and loving of whatever arises.
If I can’t be loving in this moment, can I be kind.
If I can’t be kind, can I be non-judgmental.
If I can’t be non-judgmental, can I not cause harm.
And if I cannot not cause harm, can I cause the least amount of harm possible?”


Note “street sweeper” theme:

I’ll post a link here* when my personal orgin-story (addendum blog post) has been completed…

Street Dispatches:

My experiments with truth blog

Posted in Buddhism/Right-Speech, Christianity/Agape, Focusing, Interpersonal Neurobiology, Jackal/Giraffe, Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources, NVC Mediation, Self-in-Presence | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sea of Unspoken Words

What’s Up Next?

(Mark calendars for next telepractice group)

Sunday, April 1, 2018 ~ Sea of Unspoken Words

Peter Paul Rubens - Christ on the Cross between the Two Thieves - WGA20235Christ on the Cross between the Two Thieves
Paintings by Peter Paul Rubens


A thought-provoking tweet that I came across today…


Cache of Inquiries


Tools from the Toolbox:

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Trigger Translation Journal


In 2006, I was introduced  by Jane Connor to a practice which Marshall Rosenberg used, and I witnessed him use it through the years I knew him.  He kept a 3”x 6” index card folded in half in his pocket, and “he would pull it out from time to time and write down the stimuli that triggered an emotional response in him.”  Later, he said, he processed them, trying to understand the feelings and needs stimulated in himself and guessing what feelings and needs the other person in the situation might have been experiencing.  As Jane commented, “One of the most important aspects of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is becoming aware of our feelings and needs and those of the others in the moment that we are experiencing them.”  I have been sharing this practice… (continues)

kateraffinjournalKate Raffin Journals

Kate Raffin  – On “Flowers, Tears, and Lightbulbs”
Balancing my yearning to grow with acceptance of who I am right now

Flowers, Tears and Lightbulbs

Kate Raffin’s

Giraffe Journal

A couple of other tweets that crossed my mind, as I contemplated the inquiry above:

Rebecca Solnit on Breaking Silence as Our Mightiest Weapon Against Oppression – Brain Pickings by Maria Popova

Solnit begins by mapping the terra cognita of silence:

Silence is the ocean of the unsaid, the unspeakable, the repressed, the erased, the unheard. It surrounds the scattered islands made up of those allowed to speak and of what can be said and who listens. Silence occurs in many ways for many reasons; each of us has his or her own sea of unspoken words.


Last weekend, on Palm Sunday actually, I attended the ballet.  While standing on line at the box office, I noticed that a former prima ballerina of the past couple of decades (retired as of last season), was standing nearby.  I found myself awestruck, openly staring at times, yet too flustered to speak (even when she came closer, hugging the woman giving me my ticket).  Still, beyond my own sense of being starstruck by the unexpected proximity to a woman whose ethereal, preternatural stage presence I’d only seen from afar, there was an anguished undercurrent that was palpable as well.  Without intending to, I could simply viscerally attune to the mixture of emotions she must be experiencing (being on home turf, sans ballet slippers); the flood of feelings of loss even palpable within myself. No other ballet dancer at the company rivaled her star quality and, in her absence, I almost anticipate a somewhat dimmed luster when attending the ballet.  Later, during intermission, I went outside to catch a breath of fresh air and noticed her departing with her family.  Compelled to do something other than gawk, I hurried after them, calling out her name.  Her youngest son, having heard me, tugged at his mother until she turned around.  It was perhaps presumptuous, on my part, but my first inclination was simply to ask for a hug.  Then I began to speak effusively of all the years I’d witnessed her dance, how the residue from her final performance (Carmen) stayed with me for days, how I still feel her presence, even as an absence, whenever I attend the ballet.  She responded with the kind of exquisite vibrant delicacy that infused her art.  Partly laughing, partly in anguish she noted how that last day on the stage and all that ensued (the table strewn with flowers and cards), that it had all been like attending one’s own funeral.  With each sentiment uttered, she couldn’t help but realize that this is what happens when one dies.  In that moment, our nervous systems seemed intertwined, as I empathized with the woman before me, the embodiment of a dancer, now perhaps experiencing life as a kind of amputee, cognizant of a phantom limb.  Then something unexpected occurred — rather than sticking with empathy, I perhaps rather indelicately  opted to express, too.  I shared with her that “as a teenager, I had witnessed an Olympic ice skating performance in which the skater, also playing Carmen at the end of a storied career, had ‘died’ on the ice.  Witnessing this shot through into the marrow of my bones and I was confronted with the sense of my own mortality.  Yet what also struck me was that she rose from the surface of the ice.  She stood up.”  And then noticing that the ballerina before me was wearing a diamond encrusted cross, and given it was Palm Sunday, I touched my own collarbone (making the sign of the cross with a finger) and said, “there is always a rebirth.”  We spoke a bit more, about finding ways to give back to society (especially in such seemingly historic times), and as she rejoined her husband and sons, she laughed at not quite receiving the same quality of applause when she does laundry.  As I walked back inside, I felt some measure of reassurance, too, that my imposition hadn’t been entirely unwelcome; as I had mentioned to her that while speechless earlier at the box office, I had indicated to the ticket taker (the same woman who she had hugged, who I knew as well) that I intended to write a letter as to how I had been touched by her as a dancer and she’d offered that she’d  still like to read it.

A couple of things strike me about this interaction.  One being how we can never know with absolute certitude what is more connecting: empathy or honesty, silent presence or self-expression.  Not to mention how seeming beyond conscious control, these dialogic dance steps can sometimes be, especially when flooded by emotions.  And how our choices to empathize and/or express come rather spontaneously and intuitively.  To have more discernment, especially in the heat of the moment, is — I suspect — a cultivated skill (that I’d like to explore more during our telepractice group).

Honesty, Transparency, and Power | The Fearless Heart

Excerpt (via @MikiKashtan):  “It is the deeper vulnerability on my part, the deliberate removal of protection, that allows the care to flow forward, unhidden.”

In that heady, raw moment, I opted to share in kind, perhaps to let the dancer know that she wasn’t alone in the unsettling experience of being blindsided by a vivid sense of one’s own mortality.  Whether or not choosing expression (revealing, thereby becoming more transparent myself), over empathy (maintaining a singular focus on her) forged more camaraderie in that moment — mitigating the potential pitfall for ‘inviting overexposure’ that empathy sometimes unwittingly incurs — whether being open as to my resonance with what she was sharing, contributed to or detracted from the conversation dance, I’ll never know for sure.  (And I recognize — of course — that if we had been seated, conversing over coffee, the dialogue may have taken an entirely different turn.)

ZENVC – Communication-Flow-Chart

Basic Pitfalls of Using NVC | The Fearless Heart

Excerpt (via @MikiKashtan):  “In different contexts, how we convey to another person that they are being heard will vary. For this, we need flexibility and heart focus rather than an anxious effort to remember the ‘right’ words.”

(Courtesy of Marianne Van Dijk – Cup of Empathy/YouTube Channel)

Although I hadn’t yet come across the Good Friday inspired inquiry/tweet that prompted this blog post (@RobertEllsberg‘s inquiry: “Who are the Crucified People of today? What are we doing to help take them down from the Cross?”), in retrospect, I recognize this as a time when I felt the pang of someone’s loss (in this case, of a life-long career, perhaps even a sense of identity), both within and without, and felt compelled to respond to it.  In a sense, in our day-to-day interactions, we may be constantly scanning the horizon for those ‘cross-bearing’ moments, and responding to it in kind.

Part of this scanning of the perimeter, at least for me, often entails seeming ‘post-hersals’ (when one recognizes a sense of loss, at one’s actions — or lack thereof — in the original moment).  Rebecca Solnit‘s “sea of unspoken words…”

Kate Raffin  – On “Flowers, Tears, and Lightbulbs”
Balancing my yearning to grow with acceptance of who I am right now

Flowers, Tears and Lightbulbs

(a favorite Mourn Celebrate Learn/posthersal tool)

Another example of a post-hersal occurred recently after I was at the perimeter of a couple who were arguing.  A bit later on, I did a bit of improvised mediation between them, but noticed some regret, even later that same day, as I reflected that while I had related the feelings as being rooted in needs (i.e. “you were frustrated, wanting more shared understanding”) on one side, I hadn’t as fulsomely on the other.

This post-hersal insight (a.k.a. lightbulb from the tears) came in handy the very next day, when I spoke with the woman and she mentioned a dream she’d just had, an anxiety dream, about being woefully unprepared in a college philosophy class.  It offered a seemless segue to my fleshing out a bit more of the philosophy underlying NVC Mediation — the connection between feelings/needs and the distinction between needs/strategies & stimulus/cause, etc. — and I offered that one of my oversights, at the time (as an impromptu mediator the day before) was not fleshing out more fully the feelings/needs such that she might have had more peace of mind.  For example, I offered, when her partner had threatened to leave the relationship during their argument, one way of contextualizing this was to see it as a (perhaps somewhat tragic) strategic expression of his underlying need for autonomy and choice; which he felt deprived of when he said he was “too depleted to continue arguing” and yet couldn’t find consensus with her that it was time to disengage.  In this way, by attuning to the underlying feelings/needs of her partner, I hope that I fostered more capacity to hear the underlying please/thank-you regardless of whatever (tragic) expression may be spoken.

The final example that I wanted to share, I’ll have to post a bit later on, however I hope this offers some fodder to chew upon, as to those times when we come away from an encounter with a sense of loss, even a sense of regret, as to the things that went unsaid…

Posted in Christianity/Agape, Climate Crisis & Ecological Breakdown, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Contemplative Inquiry

What’s Up Next?

(Mark calendars for next tele-practice group: Sunday, April 1st at 8 pm/ET)

Sunday, March 4, 2018 ~ Contemplative Inquiry



Inquiry:  What, within you, does not change and is not rocked?

(Contemplative Inquiry courtesy of Miranda Macpherson via Program & Replays | Inspiring Women With Soul)


“When we think of the unending growth and decay of life and civilizations, we cannot escape the impression of absolute nullity.  Yet I have never lost a sense of something that lives and endures underneath the eternal flux.”

~ Carl Gustav Jung

Cache of Inquiries



One way of working with a contemplative inquiry is to drop down viscerally into the body (lessening attachment to the Greek chorus-like commentary of one’s mind), witnessing what the question provokes, while simultaneously broadening one’s awareness of the world at large, the ground beneath, the air above and so forth.


An example of working with inquiry as an exploration…

See also: Non-Violent Communication (NVC) for Self-Inquiry! – YouTube


Tonight is the Oscars, the lead up to which often affords the viewing of other/former statue-grabbing cinema.  Last night I happened to catch a few, final scenes of the film Gandhi, which happened to be airing on television, and did so in conjunction with the contemplative inquiry: ‘what, within you, does not change and is not rocked?’.  It was a potent combination, as I could perceive how my understanding of the historic figure of Gandhi had shifted dramatically since I first saw the film, as a child.  Back then, his path seemed exotic, eccentric, even a bit bizarre.  Now, through being a bit better acquainted with nonviolence as a movement, I understood him more deeply, and his life made more discernible (even rational) sense.  But even more surprisingly, perhaps due to multi-tasking/inquiry, I recognized a modest kind of kindred-spiritedness (not so much of identifying with Gandhi per se, but rather of having tasted a bit of the divine spark that animated such a path).  In a world that seems unjust, I could grasp what would drive someone to such extremes to right perceived wrongs.  And despite not having personally embraced nonviolence holistically as my own, I was intrigued by how the inquiry forced me to recognize that I could now indeed comprehend how such a conviction might take root.  I even ponder whether this awesome infusion of grace and courage has become an even more indispensable ingredient, which must take root broadly across the planet, if our civilization is to be salvaged in time.


Although not to alienate anyone by this line of self-disclosure, it’s worth noting that [NVC certified trainer] Miki Kashtan, who has said that she considers herself neither Christian nor a theist, demonstrates more unequivocally than do I how it’s possible to be touched by Gandhi’s example while still not tasting any direct experience of the divine.  Miki’s spiritual path draws profound inspiration from Gandhi’s life, while still dwelling amidst a more secular world view.  Part of how this is possible is through the beauty of universal human needs, and how this construct points to the indivisibility and interdependence of humanity.

1. unable to be divided or separated.

“… I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”   

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Letter from a Birmingham Jail
16 April 1963


So one route towards accessing that which is unshakable is through the inter-connectivity of our indivisible, universal human needs.  We’ll work with some self-inquiry processes to be utilized during pivotal points in our conversation with others.


Marshall Rosenberg, who views conflict as a tragic expression of unmet needs, often brokers a mediation by asking parties what they need.  So what qualifies as a need (verses a ‘want’ etc.)?


Rosenberg developed a list of needs under headings: connection, physical well-being, honesty, play, peace, meaning and autonomy.

He also draws on the work of Chilean economist, Manfred Max-Neef who has developed an economic system based on meeting human needs. Max-Neef defines nine needs:  1) Sustenance:  food, shelter, and water – the basic, physical needs; 2) Safety: protection; 3) Love; 4) Understanding; 5) Community; 6) Recreation: play, rest; 7)  Autonomy (Rosenberg says this is one of the most important needs); 8) Creativity; 9) Meaning: purpose in life. (According to Victor Frankl, probably the most important need of all)

Max-Neef: Human Needs

Human Needs






physical and
mental health

food, shelter

feed, clothe,
rest, work

living environment,
social setting



social security,
health systems,

plan, take care
of, help

social environment,


respect, sense
of humour,

with nature

share, take care of,
make love, express

intimate spaces
of togetherness


curiosity, intuition

teachers, policies

analyse, study,meditate

schools, families


sense of humour

duties, work,

dissent, express

parties, churches,



games, parties,
peace of mind

relax, have fun

intimate spaces,
places to be alone



abilities, skills,

invent, build,
design, work,

spaces for


sense of
belonging, self-

religions, work,
values, norms

get to know
oneself, grow,
commit oneself

places one
belongs to,


passion, self-esteem,

equal rights

dissent, choose,
run risks, develop


Posted in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources | Tagged , | Leave a comment

“Tied in a Single Garment of Destiny”

What’s Up Next?

Sunday, February 4, 2018 ~ “Tied in a Single Garment of Destiny”

By Unknown

“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be… This is the inter-related structure of reality.” ― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail: Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail and the Struggle That Changed a Nation


Inquiry:  Are you able to discern the “please” and/or “thank you” being offered in a hard-to-hear message (whether the stimulus comes from within or without)?  Which giraffe-translation means most often come into play (e.g. Peace/Love/Joy, Jackal/Giraffe, etc.)?  Which maps (e.g. SCP/self-connection process) most serve you to this end?

Cache of Inquiries


“I believe that, as human beings, there are only two things that we are basically saying at any given time: ‘please’ and ‘thank you.’  The language of NVC is set up to make our ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ very clear so that people do not hear anything that gets in the way of our giving to each other from the heart.” ~ Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.


Tools for working with our hard-to-hear messages, whether external/internal:

Three [Dialogic] Choices:


Emotions are action-requiring neurological programs

Self-Connection Process [SCP]

Enemy Image Process [EIP]

Jan Davidsz. de Heem

“Compassion is being able to see and by ‘see’ I mean through the heart as opposed to ‘see’ in some sensory, intellectual way; to see through the heart the beauty and the tragedy, if you will, the love and the love that is appearing in a disguised form in all of those who come our way and in all of the experiences that emerge into our sphere. But it must also be recognized that compassion, compassionate self care is a way of coming to our current perception, our current fear, our current judgment and respecting that with the same integrity and with the same steadfastness as we respect that fear after it begins to translate itself into something warmer and deeper.” ~ Stephen R. Schwartz

Internal conflict | Define Internal conflict at

1. psychological struggle within the mind of a literary or dramatic character, the resolution of which creates the plot’s suspense: Hamlet’s inaction is caused by internal conflict. 2. mental struggle arising from opposing demands or impulses.

Hamlet – “To Be or Not To Be…” Soliloquy Compilation

Last weekend, a friend called to confirm our plans to meet later that day at the symphony, a couple of spare tickets having fallen into her lap, as I had already accepted her generous offer to attend as her guest days prior.  “Ready for tonight?” she inquired.  Immediately, she could sense my hesitation.   Something had occurred since we last spoke that had left me in a funk, the depths of which were at the edges of a bell curve distribution; I told her I genuinely feared my moodiness might be contagious.

One of the unanticipated, yet most cherished side benefits from studying NVC has come from having a heightened attunement to the complexity of my interior realm.  This originally came from many years of role playing, during NVC mediation practice, most especially the times that involve an “internal conflict” (a stimulus which fragments one’s inner world, splitting it into two or more unique points of view).  Debating an issue’s pros and cons, for example, dynamically allows it to unfold in a more experiential, less static way.  By sinking more deeply into each point-of-view, via taking two differing ‘conflictant’ chairs, I’ve become increasingly attuned to the life-energy or universal-human-needs that animate all conflict.  And in the process of delving more deeply into the contrasting points of view, I become more capable of a “3rd chair” (mediator’s) presence, what is known as self-in-presence for those familiar with Inner Relationship Focusing.  In the process of a cathartic airing of a partial perspective, the whole snaps more clearly into focus.

My friend and I both opted to risk any emotional contagion and later that evening I found myself seated in the pre-concert talk, offered by one of my favorites, a professor of music from a neighboring university who is both entertaining and profound.  In honor of what would have been Leonard Bernstein’s 100th birthday, the music professor was speaking of Bernstein’s Serenade after Plato’s “Symposium” and had just begun reading the “ladder of love” portion of Plato’s Symposium (a metaphor in which Socrates, praising Eros, while recounting the teachings of a priestess, Diotima).  I was riveted, but just then became distracted by an usher and couple in the aisle right beside me haggling over proper seating.  Initially, I tried to disregard the intrusion, the actual concert wouldn’t start until more than a half hour from then and, bemusedly I pondered, ‘wasn’t it obvious that these sparsely attended pre-concert talks were not in accord with anything like assigned seating’?  When it became obvious that I was missing key portions of the lecture, my friend and I moved to another row, seething all the while. I confided that these sorts of distractions were an irksome pet peeve of mine, later in the foyer.  Internally, I noted a kind of bitter residue, as to my sense of disappointment that I hadn’t been more adroit in my handling of the situation at the time.

In NVC mediation practice, after a round, all participants partake of a debriefing, a kind of #MournCelebrateLearn process as to each person’s experience of what has just unfolded.  I’ve found that this Mourn/Celebrate/Learn process can be invaluable in day-to-day life, more broadly, as well.  Recognizing that in this circumstance, I’d unwittingly ‘dropped’ my own needs, to hear and understand (the lecture), in attempting to seem courteous , respectful.  This is what could be described as an interior conflict, one in which you have competing impulses, each wishing to attend to differing needs.

Who Are We Really? : C.G. Jung’s “Split Personality” | Psychology Today

23 dingen voor musea via Wikimedia Commons

As fate would have it, I was to get a second bite at the apple of my internal conflict.  During the actual symphony, the couple directly to my left had a running dialogue between them and one that– to my mind — wasn’t conducted in an especially hushed, whispery tone of voice.  For the first movement, a more uproarious one (Fancy Free), I debated how to assert my own needs in a way that wouldn’t be too disruptive to a sense of harmony.  Every articulation I came up with seemed overwrought.  Finally, by the second movement, the violinist’s solo afforded a kind of stillness that seemed more conducive to my making a request.  I touched the upper arm of my seated neighbor, while placing a finger to my lips and saying, “shush, please”.  It worked like a charm, as I’d guessed it would by the time I sifted through all the other available options and arrived at its more streamlined simplicity.  This is a kind of “street giraffe”…

I do not know whether my foul mood or tendency to overthink (muddled NVC’s OFNR strategizing) resulted in the lag time towards arriving at that rather pedestrian, obvious option, but I nevertheless benefited from the process.  By the time I calibrated that “shush, please” was most ideal to the symphony hall setting — “tied in a single garment of destiny” — I assumed that my request would be heeded and not provoke a backlash (that a more wordier phrasing might have).  Striking that ideal balancing act, proceeding with gyroscopic equilibrium, isn’t always as obvious or easy.  However, it is through the awareness of both the internal conflicts and external stimuli, that greater equanimity can eventually come.

As the symphony neared its end, I noticed the fleeting thought of “I wish I didn’t exist” followed quickly on its heels by a sense of appreciation, reverence even, for having been enraptured by such gorgeous sounds.  I noted that each of these sentiments might have had the [universal-human] need for ‘discovery’ at its respective root — on the one hand a cri de coeur that there might be cessation to any evolving discovery, out of a wish for ease, perhaps, while on the other hand a sense of being incredibly privileged to have both the opportunity and the musical-appreciation inclination.  I noted, too, that this interior awareness would not have been possible, while still preoccupied by other, more external stimulation.

The Buddhist nun, Pema Chodron, has a term — bourgeois suffering — for these pedestrian, everyday annoyances.  She offers that by working with the more minor irritants, we might build a muscle for working with ones that loom ever larger.

Joel 2:13 13 Rend your heart and not your garments…

I can see this external/internal conflict, writ large, in less individual, more civilization-oriented dynamics.  For example, in 2015 at Paris — cognizant of our being “tied in a single garment of destiny” — we collectively opted to salvage the worse case scenario for our species by arriving at a climate agreement.  In 2018, however, our attention has been divided to more nuisance-like neighborly concerns (e.g. Russian probe, etc.).  It is only in the stillness, with a lack of overbearing external interference, that we can sometimes attune to the depths and that which matters most.  Ironically, with each Pruitt/E.P.A. repeal of yet another environmental regulation, I’m acutely aware of the collective suffering, for future generations of Russians (for example) in addition to Scott Pruitt’s own descendants.  How the splintered, back-biting that colors the early 21st century might appear to those on the back end of the same era (when the tragedy of our lack of unified, coordinated preventive measures come into sharper focus).  I, for example, had a father who betrayed me in my youth, setting up quite a bit of traumatic recovery throughout adulthood, and I wouldn’t wish that cross-generational angst on anyone, even those whose ethical compass I question.  As I consider our collective “shared reality” — the laws of climate physics bearing down upon us — I recognize that however things unfold in the near term, the reality-based bill will come due eventually and along with it a kind of assessment (sentencing, even) of various power-broker’s respective character.

So, in a sense, when we attune to our interior conflicts — the foreboding of Cassandra-esque appeals of climate scientists, for example —  it can afford a chance to muster the requisite initiative to engage more clearly and decisively with more external strife, towards a more harmonious whole (cloth).

During a recent NVC mediation practice group with John Kinyon, someone was working through what is referred to as an ‘intensity exercise’ around some hard to hear feedback from a boss.  John noted that Marshall Rosenberg often suggested that any time we hear a message that is too difficult to take in, we can get past the thoughts another is having about us by tuning in, instead, to the feelings and needs being expressed (any words can be heard as a “please” by translating what is being said into feelings/needs).  Often this is difficult to do in the moment, however, John demonstrated how working with a mindfulness practice: taking a breath, feeling into our body, becoming aware of the larger realm in which we exist, we can sometimes override the fight/flight/fear impulse that overtakes us in the moment.

Can you stop and hear the music/OFNR, especially when preoccupied/triggered?

Pieter Claesz. - Vanitas with Violin and Glass Ball - WGA04974
Pieter Claesz

From the author, Piero Ferrucci, who begins his chapter on empathy, in a book titled:

The Power of Kindness: The Unexpected Benefits of Leading a Compassionate Life

with this instrumental analogy:

Copy violin labelWikimedia Commons

“Although I am not a musician, I once had the opportunity to hold in my hands an exquisitely made violin dating to the eighteenth century.  What amazed me, even more than its harmonious lines or the beautiful grain of its wood, was that, holding it, I could feel it vibrate.  It was not an inert object.  It resonated with the various sounds that happened to resonate around it: another violin, a tram passing in the street, a human voice.  If you hold an ordinary, factory-made violin, that just doesn’t happen.  There can be hundreds of sounds around it and the violin remains numb.  In order to obtain that fine sensitivity and extraordinary resonance of the old violin, the makers had to had an exceptional knowledge of wood and its seasoning; they were supported by the artisan tradition of generations, and they were endowed with the talent of cutting the wood and furnishing the instrument.  This marvelous responsiveness is an active virtue.  It is the capacity of the violin to enter into resonance, and it goes hand in hand with its capacity to create sound of extraordinary quality — music with a soul, able to move and to inspire.  We human are, or at least can be, like that violin.”

60 Minutes in birthplace of Stradivarius violin

Hearing the “please” however much it is disguised…

Hippies Please Use Back Door - Antique Sign - Robson Street - Vancouver BC - Canada
By Adam Jones, Ph.D.

Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour?  Let’s find out.

“…No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made…” (continues)

Lest we think, by way of jackal ears inward, that this is indicative of ‘dumb Americanism’…

Via YouTube – “This time in Europe: A local Remix of Joshua Bells Performance in a Metro Station in Washington. Martin Yavryan, Member of the Tyrolean Symphonic Orchestra, performed in the Rush-Hour at the Main Station in Innsbruck.”

When a please it received by a thank you…

Violinist Joshua Bell’s full concert at Washington’s Union Station – YouTube

Empty, Empathic [Stradivarius-like] Presence

In 2012 I partook in a “Street NVC” tele-class — via NVC Academy — taught by Dian Killian, PhD of Work Collaboratively in NYC (beneath are excerpts from her most recent book).

Dian spoke about listening to another with our entire body (every cell), our entire being.  Perhaps a similar mustering up of intense focus that I bring to bear while listening to Shakespeare or poetry, hanging on every word and what it portends.  Or when enthralled by a concert or symphony.  That full bodied sense of being enraptured, open.  In another venue, I’ve oft heard this described as ’empty presence’.  To engage with others such that we’re being completely present and receptive first (a stillness of mind); and then, only later, shifting towards ‘silent empathy’ (i.e. searching within for the key ’empathic inquiry’ terms).  Then shifting yet again when we verbalize our empathy externally.  A three step process.  Tried it with some fellow street giraffes.  The experience seems to be one of the words arising more organically, effortlessly – perhaps coming from a more capacious presence or consciousness?

Also, try exploring pg. 93  of the book beneath, i.e. the “roots and oppositions” exercise, which depicts how to decode the needs underlying judgements (see pages 91  and 92  – i.e. “Enjoy the Talking Head Show” – for an insightful explanation of the exercise ).

Connecting Across Differences TOC Table of Contents
Connecting Across Differences Introduction Introduction
Connecting Across Differences Chapter One Chapter One
Connecting Across Differences Index Index
Connecting Across Differences, 2nd Edition
Finding Common Ground With Anyone, Anywhere, Anytime
by Jane Marantz Connor, Ph.D. and Dian Killian, Ph.D.
John Kinyon guides through a brief self-empathy process (audio link – 7 minutes):
Transforming Inner Pain and Conflict: The “Chooser – Educator” Model of Self-Empathy

Is NVC Practical? | The Fearless Heart

Excerpt (by Miki Kashtan Ph.D.)

Resolving Inner Conflict
My experience of working with people in diverse situations over the years has shown me that more often than not our inner conflicts are equally if not more distressing to us than our outer conflicts. Inner conflicts take many forms. It can be a decision that we can’t make, a painful inner loop of self-criticism followed by impatience with ourselves for still criticizing ourselves, regret about something we did that we can’t seem to come to peace about, or a host of other equally familiar ones. Even our outer conflicts are often intertwined with our inner life, since our reaction to others is fundamentally more the expression of our own meaning-making than a direct result of anything the other person  does.

I have seen both myself and others reach fast and lasting relief, even from ongoing issues, by applying the core practice of NVC which makes everything else possible: being able to name and make full emotional contact with the needs that give rise to the various thoughts, images, inner demands, judgments, or even fears that we carry internally. When I was agonizing for weeks with the decision about whether or not to continue to lead the BayNVC Leadership Program, I went back and forth without much progress until I listened fully to all the different voices inside myself. Once all the needs were on the table, I was able to make a decision easily and gently in less than an hour. What makes this possible, in my experience, is overcoming any reluctance to listen seriously to what any part in me would want, which allows synergy and internal coherence to emerge…

BayNVC | Conflict Hotline:  Sigal and Miki are joined by role players Ali Miller and Kerry Tepperman in examining the battle between different voices inside, when write-in viewer “Lauren” struggles with whether to visit her friend in crisis and provide support. 
More on mediating Inner Conflicts:
Becoming A Better Mediator By Mediating Your Inner Dialogue

by Ike Lasater, John Kinyon, Julie Stiles
February 2010

As mediators our work necessarily involves being with people who are in conflict. In the process, our own reactions to conflict in general and to the subject matter of the conflicts we mediate become stimulated. These reactions make it critical that we care for ourselves in order to continue the work of stepping into the conflict arena. Our reactions often appear in the form of judgments of ourselves or others; all too often we fall short of the critical voices in our minds that judge us against an impossible standard of perfection. When we have judgments we are experiencing internal conflict; being in conflict internally makes it difficult to be present to mediate, besides not being very enjoyable. Learning a more satisfying way to deal with these internal conflicts is a critical piece of mediator self-care.

This article provides an overview of how to use the skill of self-empathy from the body of work initially developed by Marshall Rosenberg called Nonviolent Communication (for more information see Self-empathy in conjunction with the NVC mediation model can be applied to care for ourselves in the course of our work as mediators and in our day to day lives. In this way, we not only support ourselves to work through our internal conflicts, we also continually sharpen our mediation skills; the result of both is that we become better mediators… (continues)

By Robin Oomkes via Wikimedia CommonsBy Robin Oomkes via Wikimedia Commons

“The earth is the very quintessence of the human condition.” ~ Hannah Arendt

By Sebleouf via Wikimedia Commons

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Season’s Greetings

Season’s Greetings!

(Courtesy of Marianne Van Dijk – Cup of Empathy/YouTube Channel)

See also:  @MediateOnesLife

Streetify & Naturalizing & Phrasing Needs

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Discovering Tripwires (“News as a Spiritual Opportunity”)

What’s Up Next?

Sunday, October 1, 2017  ~ Discovering Tripwires:

News as a Spiritual Opportunity

a_stack_of_newspapersDaniel R. Blume via Wikimedia Commons


“History is not a burden on the memory but an illumination of the soul.” 

Lord Acton 


Inquiry:  How do you recognize when you’ve been triggered?  What are you able to do in the moment?  Does a ‘stimulative’ somatic awareness flag an intention to self-connect (SCP/self-connection process), supporting your capacity to become more ‘response-able’?  Or do you customarily revert to flight/fight/freeze reactivity?  How do you build the muscle of detecting your exterior/interior tripwires?  What ‘off-stage’ barre work supports your ‘on stage’ performance capabilities (in other words, what on-the-cushion mindfulness practice might support your off-the-cushion, & out onto the street, lived experience)?

Cache of Inquiries


“I’m not sure that the benefit – as a writer and as a citizen – that I would get from reading at least the front page of the Times every day or every other day would outweigh the depression.”

~ Sharon Olds


Tools for working with our external/internal “tripwires” so that by building the muscle of self-awareness — i.e. utilizing the news as an opportunity for a spiritual experience (a.k.a.  a tripwire occasion to embark on a self-connection process that might enlighten, similar to noting when sediment has been stirred up and then distilling the crucial essence through a clarifying process) — hopefully strengthening our somatic attunement and response-ability, both within and without, towards greater efficacy in our day-to-day encounters:

Emotions are action-requiring neurological programs

Self-Connection Process [SCP]

Enemy Image Process [EIP]

News as a Spiritual Opportunity [SCP]


“For these women, unsentimentality is not a cure or even a palliative to the suffering that consumes our headlines and newsfeeds.  It offers a troubled and troubling encounter with the shared world that produces such suffering.  Facing facts in the terms laid out here does not mean simply knowing them, which is why the aesthetic component of this project is so important.  If facts alone could lead us to the promised land — facts about climate change, gun violence, war, racial prejudice, economic inequality — then we already live in a paradise of facts.  The problem is not that we do not know what is happening but that we cannot bear to be changed by that knowledge.  The women I discuss in the following pages all insist that we should be changed, however much we give up in the process.”

~ Deborah Nelson, author of Tough Enough:  Arbus, Arendt, Didion, McCarthy, Sontag & Weil (from the end of the introduction)


3Chairs Project for Difficult Conversations That Change Our World

Excerpt (via John Kinyon):

The vision of the 3Chairs Project is a critical mass of people around the world working together to respond to the challenges we face, and creating a peaceful, healthy, and sustainable world.

The mission of the project is people having difficult and important conversations — personal, work, political — using a “3 chairs” structure and process that brings mindful awareness, compassion and collaboration to these conversations. It’s about hearing and understanding each other in our differences and our pain, without needing to agree, and connecting at the level of our shared humanity to contribute to one another’s well being. It’s about having conversations that change us, that create the life and relationships we want, and that move us toward the world we envision… (continues)

The Renewed Importance of Pope Francis’s Encyclical on Climate Change

New Yorker’s James Carroll (6/2/17):  “When the President met the Pope at the Vatican, last week, it was as if they were members of different species, so far apart in values and style that the actual content of what separated them proved elusive.  Francis slyly presented Trump with a gift, though, that—as of yesterday—defines their opposition as absolute.  The gift was a copy of his encyclical on climate change, “Laudato Si’.”  Trump politely promised to read it.  Sure…”


Donald Trump Is Not Going to Sue Pope Francis

Courtesy of DonkeyHotey (via Wikimedia Commons)



[PDF] The Three Chair Model – words that work


Three Chairs From Hampton Court, Hardwick, and Knole

Ike Lasater (at about the 7 minute mark, beneath): “And, of course, you can use these skills in your day to day life…We use mediation as the metaphor, but this is really about mediating your life:  how to go from the conflicts within your head, to conflicts with other people, to supporting — by lending your skills — people who are in conflict.”

“The news should be a spiritual opportunity because we are confronted with images of suffering from all over the world like no other generation.”

~ Karen Armstrong


James Campbell via Wikimedia Commons


First Look: Why Karen Armstrong Says We Get “Compassion Fatigue”

News as a kind of ‘flight-simulator’


Lance Cpl. Austin Hazard via Wikimedia Commons)


Attending to needs by doing an internal process…

Ike Lasater, “One of the kind of paradoxical things is that I can also meet my need for empathy, I’ve been gotten in a certain way, without the other.  That I can  do an internal process, journaling or kind of going through it in my own mind, that will also create a kind of clarity about what need it is that is important to me at this moment that’s behind all of the thoughts that I’m having, maybe the agitation or the distress, or the happiness and the joy that I’m having and that also can meet my need for empathy.  Those are some differentiations that help me have some clarity.  But even when I say that I realize that for someone brand new to these differentiations it may not be so clear what I mean when I say empathy.  Well, that’s how I can measure that my need for empathy has been met is when I feel a physiological shift in me, when I name what it is that is that my need right now.  When I come in contact with it, when I identify it, there are all sort of ways again to point at a process that doesn’t have good language to refer to it.  But I know it, when I have met my need for empathy, because I feel this internal shift, this physiological shift.”


News as ‘barre work’ (a.k.a. Spiritual Opportunity)


Dancers at the Barre

Edgar Degas via Wikipedia Commons


News & Spirit/Psyche ~ Occasion for SCP/Self-Connection Process 

1.  Notice Your Tripwires: As you listen to the media (whether TV/radio/newspaper/blog), notice when you get triggered.  Identify the stimulus as an observation.

2.  Enjoy the Jackal Show: List judgments you have about the person or event in question

a.  _____________________________________

b.  _____________________________________

c.  ______________________________________

3.  Somatic Sensing:  When you entertain these judgments, how does your mind/body/spirit feel? How do these judgments effect the quality of your own experience: sense of hope/hopelessness, outrage/peace-of-mind, etc.? What kind of ripple effect occurs experientially when with others (perhaps with the quality of interaction with fellow citizens on your perimeter, your own civic engagement/disengagement, etc.)?

4.   Shift towards Needs-Consciousness:

a.  When I live in these conditions (#2 & 3), what needs of mine are not getting met?

b.  How are you feeling when you think about these unmet needs?

c.  Take time and connect with the beauty of needs (4-a).

5.  Identify the needs behind the judgments of #2.

a.  ___________________________________

b.  ___________________________________

c.  ____________________________________

6.  Request I have to meet those needs of #5.

a. Request to myself

b. Request to the other person

c. Request to the group

d. One action I can take now from above

(Adapted from a self-connection process that was originated by Katherine Singer and can also be found by way of Choose Connection’s resource page)



NBC Nightly News broadcast

by Jeff Maurone from Seattle, WA, USA

via Wikimedia Commons


Beneath is an example of my news-related self-connection process…

“I always consider the settlement of America with reverence and wonder, as the opening of a grand scene and design in providence, for the illumination of the ignorant and the emancipation of the slavish part of mankind all over the earth.” 

 ~ John Adams

See also:  Tips for Challenging Times – Intense Anger and Grief or Loss – YouTube



E.g. Donald Trump’s UN debut & [over]use of the term “sovereignty”


Stimulus Context (read, ‘Equation in my Head’)

Fossil Fuel Guzzling = Climate Breakdown

(Hence:  More Porous Borders, Not Less)

If/when the equator, and portions of the tropical rain belt, become increasingly uninhabitable, nations currently proclaiming “sovereignty” — with enormous, indefensible borders — will necessarily find themselves inundated by refugees.


Courtesy of Kimdrummer

via Wikimedia Commons

Runaway climate change

Orwell’s Notes on Nationalism (1945)

Via Project Gutenberg


Morning Class: Adagio coutesy of Angie Chung (via Wikimedia Commons)


An Example


1. Notice Your Tripwires: As you listen to the media (whether TV/radio/newspaper/blog), notice when you get triggered.  Identify the stimulus as an observation.

Amidst the backdrop of these news reports:

Heat index in Iran hits staggering 163 degrees – USA Today

Stimulus/Observation:  Trump uses the term “Sovereignty” (21 times)

Exactly How Many Times Did Trump Talk About Sovereignty:

UN speech analysis shows concept appeared a staggering 21 times

(see graph/analysis)

See, too:  Jeff Sachs Warns “Nuclear War is a Real Threat”

My stimulation towards Trump’s “unilateralism” (above) amidst the backdrop of the looming, existential threat of climate disruption and its best-case scenario/path, that of “multilateral” mitigation (beneath)

Multilateralist Macron is the anti-Trump at UN

Noted physicist on the connection between politics/policy debate

& salvaging our civilization

CNN:  Neil deGrasse Tyson says it might be ‘too late’ to recover from climate change

Broader Context:  Arctic’s Winter Sea Ice Drops to Its Lowest Recorded Level

2. Enjoy the Jackal Show: List judgments you have about the person or event in question

a.  Hypocrisy – Trump threatens to exterminate 25 million people on the floor of UN

b.  Propaganda – Trump shows ‘America First’ is utterly incoherent – Washington Post

c.  Denial – Sea Level Rise Will Reshape US Population In All 50 States – Yale E360

3. Somatic Sensing:  When you entertain these judgments, how does your mind/body/spirit feel? How do these judgments effect the quality of your own experience: sense of hope/hopelessness, outrage/peace-of-mind, etc.? What kind of ripple effect occurs experientially when with others (perhaps with the quality of interaction with fellow citizens on your perimeter, your own civic engagement/disengagement, etc.)?

Sinking sensation, sense of alarm & shame (towards my country and its leadership, or lack thereof).  A sense of bewilderment, alienation, even pity towards many of my fellow citizens, including family members (those who viewed Trump as viable on the world stage and preferable to all the other candidates).  A kind of learned helplessness born from overwhelm.

4.  Shift towards Needs-Consciousness:

a. When I live in these conditions (#2 & 3), what needs of mine are not getting met?

empowerment, agency, hope

b. How are you feeling when you think about these unmet needs?

saddened, curious

c. Take time and connect with the beauty of needs (4-a).

5. Identify the needs behind the judgments of #2.

a.  Congruency, Integrity

b.  Truth

c.  Shared Reality (regarding an imperiled Civilization),

     Care (for Life on Earth)

6. Request-consciousness:  Requests I have to meet those needs of #5.

a. Request to myself – To write

b. Request to the other person – To awaken

c. Request to the group – To resist

d. One action I can take now from above – Read newspaper & Reach out to my mentor

What was useful, to me, in doing the process (above) was illumining that which was most irksome — when I first heard the term “sovereignty” being bandied about — my ‘gut’ reaction was the seeming, utter incongruity of having the very one most diligently, if unconsciously, working against long-term, potential sovereignty now preposterously acting as though he were somehow the guardian of it.  I suspect that being barraged by news items, without taking the opportunity to distill the essence of its unique meaning for our own coherent, interior narratives, is what can make the news so crazy-making (however — counterintuitively — it also may be the reason why it’s an invaluable occasion for self-connection, discovering the obtainable pearl from its initial irritant, grain-of-sand quality).


Cover to the first edition of The Manchester Guardian.

By Here (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


Extra Credit:  News as an occasion for practicing

“self-in-presence” & “felt sense” awareness (of IRF)

Inner Relationship Focusing with Ann Weiser Cornell

Self Focusing Invitations

(Adapted from the work of Ann Weiser Cornell & Focusing Resources)

Connecting with Self-in-Presence

“I’m connecting with an intention for self-acceptance/compassion/acknowledgement.”

(entering a witnessing-consciousness – a.k.a. self-in-presence in focusing)

Coming In To The Body

“I’m taking time to sense into my body,

just noticing sensations.”

Making Initial Contact The Felt Sense

“I’m asking myself: ‘What wants my awareness right now?’”

(either allowing whatever shows up or regarding a particular issue)

“I’m noticing something that …”

Deepening Contact With the Felt Sense

“I’m taking time to just be with this.”

“I’m sitting with it with interested curiosity.”

“I’m noticing its unique point-of-view.”

“I’m sensing if it has an emotional quality.”

“I’m attuning to the living-energy of needs present.”

“I’m aware of any wishes or requests surfacing.”

Coming Out

“I’m thanking my body and my body’s process.”

Free Resources For Powerful Change, Focusing Resources Free Library

Tips for Challenging Times: 7 Little Words

“You can be the way you are.”

Article mentioned in video clip (above):

‘Victim’, the ‘Critic’ and the Inner Relationship – Focusing Resources


Stone statue of a Chinese guardian lion at Mount Emei in China
by Chris Feser (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”

― Rainer Maria RilkeLetters to a Young Poet


Question Mark Cloud

Courtesy of Micky Aldridge from Finland

(via Wikimedia Commons)

Posted in Beauty/Living-Energy-of-Needs, Climate Crisis & Ecological Breakdown, Inner Relationship Focusing, IRF Resources, Jackal/Giraffe, Mindfulness, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources, Quotes, Self-in-Presence | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Calibrating the Dream/Nightmare

What’s Up Next?

Sunday, September 3, 2017  ~
Re-Calibrating the Dream/Nightmare
(read, ‘Houston, we have a problem…’)

usmc-09611Martin Luther King Jr. addresses a crowd from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where he delivered his famous, “I Have a Dream,” speech during the Aug. 28, 1963, march on Washington, D.C. (Credit: Marines via Wiki)

“[A man’s] moral conscience is the curse he had to accept from the gods in order to gain from them the right to dream.” ~ William Faulkner, interview in The Paris Review (1958)

martin_luther_king2c_jr-_speaking_at_the_civil_rights_marcDr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speaking at the Civil Rights March on Washington, Aug. 28, 1963.
(Credit: Army images)


“Shame.  The feeling that will save mankind.”
~ Screenplay for Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972)



Inquiry:  Are there certain feelings that you have more of an affinity for?  Or, conversely, an aversion to?  How does the context with which your interpret these feelings serve? And how might it be an impediment?

Cache of Inquiries


FYI ~ NVCa Advanced (for requests & support)

Shame. What do you believe. Is there a thing like healthy shame? Or is all shame poisonous?  See More

“Shame is for sissies.”
~ Baron Edward von Kloberg III,
American lobbyist (1942-2005)


Tools for working with emotional dream/nightmare states of consciousness:
Emotions are action-requiring neurological programs

See also:  Linnaea Marvell’s Dynamics of Self-Connection [PDF]

Crystal Project wizardBy Everaldo Coelho via Wikimedia Commons

Linnaea Marvell’s Magic-Wand [PDF]

  1. For the “magic wand” exercise, link above, reflect on a time when you experienced shame (whether arising organically within yourself &/or prompted by an external stimuli),
  2. Notice how you reacted: e.g. contraction, rebellion, silence/shut-down, etc.
  3. When you consider your reaction — i.e. (potentially) restricted range of motion you may have experienced at the time — compost your recollection of the event a bit further by considering what might have mattered that elicited such an evocative emotion (an empathic inquiry, whether in the form of self-connection, &/or with the accompaniment of another).


Another enlivening process that is reminiscent of the ‘Magic Wand’ and has the timely title of ‘Dream Cycle’ — pictured above  — similarly supports by tapping into one’s vision/dream, resiliently stretching in the process (as Chris Johnstone further expounds upon approximately midway through his book Find Your Power):

  1. Review ~ What’s going on?  How am I doing?  What are my concerns?
  2. Dream ~ What would I like to happen (here)?
  3. Plan ~ What’s my decision?  Deepen determination.  Research phase.  Identify choice points.  How can I take steps to move that way?
  4. Do ~ Take the steps.
  5. Review ~ What’s the pattern?  How do I feel about it?  What’s my response?  What happens when I do this?  Any changes?  Back to top.


What follows is discursive, composed as much to edify she who writes/curates it, as those that may (or may not) peruse it, and so not at all necessary to read through in order to attend the “street giraffes” tele-practice group on Sundays.

Today (date posted), August 28th, is the 54th anniversary of…

Lincoln Memorial I Have a Dream Marker 2413
By National Park Service Digital Image Archives [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


It’s worth noting — perhaps especially in light of current events (Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists parading through streets of Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia) — that two and a half weeks after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his infamous “I Have a Dream” speech, he then bore witness to a backlash against the Civil Rights Nonviolent movement he championed when four children were killed in a church bombing in Birmingham.

The Lasting Power of Dr. King’s Dream Speech – The New York Times

By Michiko Kakutani

“Excerpt:  The entire March on Washington speech reverberates with biblical rhythms and parallels, and bristles with a panoply of references to other historical and literary texts that would have resonated with his listeners. In addition to allusions to the prophets Isaiah (“I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low”) and Amos (“We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream”), there are echoes of the Declaration of Independence (“the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”); Shakespeare (“this sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent”); and popular songs like Woody Guthrie’s “This Land Is Your Land” (“Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York,” “Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California”)….Along the way, he developed a gift for synthesizing assorted ideas and motifs and making them his own — a gift that enabled him to address many different audiences at once, while making ideas that some might find radical somehow familiar and accessible.” 

Within weeks of King’s “Dream” [speech], a nightmare was wrought:

Martin Luther King Jr. ‘Eulogy for the Young Victims’ September 18, 1963

MLK, “God still has a way of ringing good out of evil…”

I recall being struck by the proximity of these two events, when first I learned that the dream of August chilled, as the nightmare of September’s church bombing followed precipitously on its heels.


(Notice MLK’s rhetoric in the brief clip, directly below, a nonviolent ethos that seems deliberately infused with the emotion of shame, at least to my ears.)

Martin Luther King, Jr. — What Murdered These Four Girls?

MLK:  “What murdered these little girls?
Every negro who refuses to go down to try to register to vote participated in that act…”

One way that I have come to conceive of the variations amongst the ‘holy trinity’ of nonviolence:  Gandhi, King, and Mandela — is to note that each of these leaders was dealt a very different hand, in terms of the respective facts on the ground, and each consequently chose to play their nonviolent cards in distinctive ways.  Gandhi, perhaps the most overtly pure in his ahimsa quest, was (at least initially) primarily engaged in the expulsion of the Brits from India (so his form of nonviolence rested upon the conscience of an Empire’s unwillingness to unilaterally engage in violence against a colonized, indigenous peoples, unto perpetuity).  King & Mandela’s leadership was not one of turf expulsion of the powers that be, rather each had to re-calibrate the equality equation by appealing to a government in power to become increasingly willing to compromise and adopt alternate power sharing measures amongst those who co-existed on common ground.  MLK was able to appeal to the federal government for protection against various states with more segregationist policies.  Mandela, who was not considered a citizen under an analogous umbrella of an overarching government’s protection, felt he had to resort to other means (after a half century during which strict adherence to nonviolence proved ineffective).  All were willing to sacrifice, even to die (Nelson Mandela: An ideal for which I am prepared to die) for their cause, however the take away, for me, in considering these men and their varying, respective paths despite obvious heartfelt conviction, is that nonviolence is not necessarily a one-size-fits-all proposition vis-a-vis (social justice) efficacy.  One must be tactical in formulating strategies that will adequately attend to the needs in play.  In other words, what may initially seem to be ‘violent’ — not in alignment with ahimsa’s pure essence — may in the long run prevent even more suffering (a notion distilled in NVC’s idea of the ‘protective use of force’).


MLK:  “What murdered these poor young girls?  …The apathy and the complacency of many negroes who will sit down on their stools and do nothing and will not engage in creative protest to get rid of this evil system…”

And MLK said this despite…


John Lewis, American civil rights activist and (future) member of the House of Representatives (D-Georgia), at meeting of American Society of Newspaper Editors. (Courtesy of Marion S. Trikosko, U.S. News and World Reports via  Wikimedia Commons)

Via WaPo:  Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), then an official of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was the youngest speaker at the march. “We march today for jobs and freedom, but we have nothing to be proud of, for hundreds and thousands of our brothers are not here — for they have no money for their transportation, for they are receiving starvation wages…”

Each of these men were egalitarian game-changers, even if at times their strategies  inevitably provoked violence (with a more harmonious end in mind), and while each may have conceived of their principled stance to diminish long-term suffering in rather differing ways — in my estimation — neither MLK nor Mandela would necessarily pass a stringent NVC ‘litmus test’ (e.g. MLK’s intentional evocation of shame, Mandela’s tactical rather than principled approach to nonviolence).  A bit of “heterodoxy” that demonstrates that the historical evolution of nonviolence — a movement that tipped the balance of power in three separate nations — cannot be viewed as monolithic; something well worth considering (methinks), especially in light of the strategic efficacy necessary given the contemporary stakes of our Anthropocene era.

Bertrand Russell’s Advice for Future Generations

“Policy advocates engaged in changing public opinion rarely pay much attention to what the academic literature says about how public opinion is formed and how and why it changes.  That’s too bad, because while political scientists disagree about a lot of things, this is not one of them.  Several decades of robust empirical tests offer a pretty good road map for those who want to effectively go about ‘waging and winning the war of ideas.’  …Elite discourse—not interpersonal discourse or influence—is the dominant means of transmitting political messages.” ~ Jerry Taylor — How To Change Public Opinion

FYI ~ Common Dreams: Not Your Grandma’s Civil Rights Strategy

Excerpt from link above (via Jon Else): “…Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the Fair Housing Act of 1968 — and hundreds of decisions handed down by federal district courts, circuit courts, and the Supreme Court all slowly expanded protections to African Americans and set precedents for all Americans. Unlike blacks within white-ruled South Africa who, at the time, were not citizens of their own nation and had little hope of federal protection, blacks across the deep South could succeed because they were citizens not only of their own states, but of the United States.”

President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. at the signing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965
(Credit: Yoichi Okamoto via Wikimedia Commons)

Ari Berman – Give us the Ballot

The GOP’s Attack on Voting Rights Was the Most Under-Covered Story of 2016

Waiting for a Perfect Protest?

Well-intended moderates have used unrealistic standards to judge anti-racism activism. But this is nothing new — just ask Martin Luther King Jr.


See also ~ Additional posts re: Mandela’s use of nonviolence as a tactic to transform South Africa.

 Crowd gathers for Martin Luther King’s ‘I have a Dream’ speech at the Lincoln Memorial, August 28, 1963

What struck me, when I first encountered this photograph (taken from within Lincoln’s Memorial gazing out on MLK ‘dream speech’ on its steps and further over the crowds surrounding the reflecting pool, circa August 28th), was the sense I had — of ‘looking over’ Abraham Lincoln’s proverbial shoulder, at the 1963 March on Washington, but unavoidably from my own 21st century vantage point, now, more than a half century later and with a president of African descent having occupied the oval office — was how gazing at this image seemed to viscerally exemplify MLK’s notion that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.”

By The White House from Washington, DC,
via Wikimedia Commons

This blog is about dialogue, so the historical retrospective as to nonviolence’s three most iconic figures is offered for the sake of examining why context can necessitate a more nuanced view when choosing which strategies will truly attend to needs.

Nonverbal communication – Wikipedia:

NVC theory


Cards with basic human needs in the hands of exercise group participants.
(Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)


Via Wikipedia:  “Nonviolent Communication holds that most conflicts between individuals or groups arise from miscommunication about their human needs, due to coercive or manipulative language that aims to induce fearguiltshame, etc. These ‘violent’ modes of communication, when used during a conflict, divert the attention of the participants away from clarifying their needs, their feelings, their perceptions, and their requests, thus perpetuating the conflict.”

Certainly, the “what murdered these young girls” speech given by MLK could be translated from the ‘shaming, guilting, fear-ridden’ jackal dialect into something more resembling giraffe, toward better adherence with NVC’s ethos, however would it then be more persuasive?   Would MLK still be MLK if his speeches were all scrubbed in this way?  I have a sense that this whitewashing, pardon the pun, would drain some of the life and moral force with which MLK moved a nation.  To place these two speeches in an NVC context, one might note that the ‘dream’ speech was infused with the living energy of needs (perhaps Marshall Rosenberg was inspired by MLK when he first formulated his concept of wants/needs), while the four little girls speech could be viewed as employing ‘jackal’ as a kind of ‘protective use of force’ to buffer against the (ongoing) threat of physical violence.  So, it might be said, that MLK reserved his “bi-lingual” tongue.

MLK:  “…What murdered these four young girls?  …Was the negro business and professional individual who is more concerned with his job then he is with freedom and justice.”

Similarly, when the devastating consequences of certain social ills — such as climate breakdown — loom large, encroaching ever nearer with a sense of cataclysmic urgency, it can be difficult to know how widespread the appeal of an NVC type dialect, in all circumstances, nor envision that a crucial tipping point would motivate complicit actors/entities and galvanize sufficient masses in time.

The Strange Future Hurricane Harvey Portends – The Atlantic

CNN:  Now we have a moral duty to talk about climate change

Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move through flooded Houston streets as floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey continue to rise, Monday, August 28, 2017. More than 12,000 members of the Texas National Guard have been called out to support local authorities in response to the storm.

Texas Army National Guard Hurricane Harvey ResponseU.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West (via Wikimedia Commons)


Trump’s EPA Claims Climate Scientists Are Politicizing Hurricane Harvey

How America Went Haywire – The Atlantic

By Kurt Andersen

Excerpt:  “And if the ’60s amounted to a national nervous breakdown, we are probably mistaken to consider ourselves over it….What’s problematic is going overboard—letting the subjective entirely override the objective; thinking and acting as if opinions and feelings are just as true as facts. The American experiment, the original embodiment of the great Enlightenment idea of intellectual freedom, whereby every individual is welcome to believe anything she wishes, has metastasized out of control…”

Rick Perry Quote: [In regards to climate change] “The science is not settled on this. The idea that we would put Americans’ economy in jeopardy based on scientific theory that’s not settled yet to me is nonsense. I mean, and I told somebody, I said, just because you have a group of scientists that have stood up and said, ‘Here is the fact’…Galileo got outvoted for a spell.”

Borges opens his essay on The Art of Verbal Abuse, “A conscientious study of other literary genres has led me to believe in the greater value of insult and mockery. The aggressor, I tell myself, knows that the tables will be turned, and that “anything you say may be used against you,” as the honest constables of Scotland Yard warn us. That fear is bound to produce special anxieties, which we tend to disregard on more comfortable occasions…” (continues)

(FYI:  criticism referencing Nonviolence)  

My social-change agency preoccupations, these days, are primarily concerned with the issue of climate disruption and so for the duration of this post I will focus on shame with this in mind — rather than examine other kinds of deviations from a ‘higher octane’ ahimsa.

 Diorama of Rosa Parks in Her Bus Seat – National Civil Rights Museum – Downtown Memphis – Tennessee – USA

Diorama of Rosa Parks in Her Bus Seat - National Civil Rights Museum - Downtown Memphis - Tennessee - USABy Adam Jones, Ph.D. via Wikimedia Commons


Three Cheers for Cultural Appropriation – The New York Times

Why We Should Put Women on Pedestals

Since statues tell us whom society deems important, more female figures are in order.

Athena holding a helmet and a spear, with an owl.
Attributed to the Brygos Painter (circa 490–480 BC).
The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

In Praise of Equipoise – The New York Times


I do this as a cri de coeur, given the dire circumstances in which we find ourselves, as a species/civilization, and with the inspiration of King & Mandela’s creativity in nonviolent ethos adaptability.  In other words, historically nonviolence has not been monolithic, and has had to evolve in order to survive and thrive.  Similarly, I’m concerned with too monochrome an approach to NVC and, conversely, how a dialogic diversity of tactics, and a more nuanced (shades of gray vs. black/white) world view could play a role in retrofitting NVC to better address the pressing concerns of the anthropocene age in which we live..

Borges concludes, “…Let me add a certain virile reply recorded by De Quincey (Writings XI, 226). Someone flung a glass of wine in the face of a gentleman during a theological or literary debate. The victim did not show any emotion and said to the offender: “This, sir, is a digression: now, if you please, for the argument.” (The author of that reply, a certain Dr. Henderson, died in Oxford around 1787, without leaving us any memory other than those just words: a sufficient and beautiful immortality.)

A popular tale, which I picked up in Geneva during the last years of World War I, tells of Miguel Servet’s reply to the inquisitors who had condemned him to the stake: ‘I will burn, but this is a mere event. We shall continue our discussion in eternity.'”

[PDF] Borges:  The Art of Verbal Abuse –

Sylvan Esso – Die Young

“‘Die Young’ was the endgame of that for me.
That’s one of the songs I’m proudest of.”
~ Amelia Meath via NYT



What follows is an exploration of shame — in both present day & historical examples, both personal & political contexts — to better attend to the need for discernment, in employing tactical uses of nonviolence toward diminished suffering…

George W. Bush: “Fool me once, shame on… shame on you. Fool me, you can’t get fooled again.”


The personal is political: the journey of a feminist slogan …

“All successful slogans are subject to misappropriation:
it is a sign of their success.  The personal is political – but mind the gap.” ~ Rahila Gupta


Liv Larsson author of Anger, Guilt, & Shame, “Shame has a natural core, but the way that it’s being lived out in the world, in our lives, it’s not helpful anymore…

Brené Brown (Shame & Vulnerability Researcher), “Shame is far more likely to cause destructive behaviors than it is to cure it…”

Karla McLaren author of The Language of Emotions, “Yeah, shame and guilt are delightful!  Some of the best emotions ever…”

Jennifer Jacquet author of Is Shame Necessary?, “So, I’m interested in how we make six billion people get along and one way we can do that is through shame…”

Broader context, below, of remarks (above)…

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Atlas Shrugs? & The Power of Outrospection

What’s Up Next?

August 6, 2017 ~ Atlas Shrugs?

The Power of Outrospection



How does your awareness of the living-energy of needs factor into your practice of nonviolence more broadly, such as with social change agency (i.e. how might it be utilized as a resource for a more mindful existence within a larger, societal context)?  How does engagement with the world at large influence you as a practitioner of Nonviolence/NVC?

Gadfly EthicsGadfly (PSF)Courtesy of Pearson Scott Foresman

Gadfly: The Life of Socrates

The Gadfly Analogy made by Socrates in Plato’s Apology –
Philosophy Core Concepts

Socratic Questioning – Changing Minds

While considering an area of societal concern that you may have…

Reflection Questions:

  • What keeps you from moving forward (with reference to your issue/concern)?
  • What support do you need to go forward?
  • What beliefs might keep you from changing or going forward?


The Spiral of the Work

I keep the Spiral in my toolbox, close at hand on a daily basis, and move through its four stations often (when I’m unsettled after a phone call, for instance), however I’m incorporating it in the context of this Sunday’s call/post more in the spirit with which it was originally designed, to support, even amplify, our engagement with the world

The four stations of Joanna Macy’s Spiral of the Work That Reconnects are deliberatively a part of how our call is constructed, however the spiral can also be used with open-ended sentences, dyad work, etc. to deepen our engagement with things that we might ordinarily glance past.  As indicated in the opening inquiry,  we will identify the qualities of needs as a generative resource (a dyad practice).  I’ll offer more details during the call, however it mostly entails allowing the spaciousness — to both ourselves and others — to apprehend a need in the same way you might during a wine tasting gathering (with each swooshing it about, discerning its distinctive qualities, breathing in its aroma, etc. — this works both when someone prompts us to flesh out a need that they themselves name and/or when we choose one and then describe, even free-associate, while in the presence of another.

Lastly, to place this building of a “need connoisseur” muscle in context, it’s also useful to identify a troubling scenario and infuse one’s recollection with the qualities of whatever need wasn’t attended to, in that moment.  Imbibe of the memory of this event, while infused with the living-energy of need(s).

We’ll link our practice of apprehending mourning/beauty of needs with an exploration of Nonviolence — the tradition from which NVC stems — in the context of social change [agency — specifically vis-a-vis Joanna Macy’s work, as it relates to the environment].


What is the city but the people? ~ Shakespeare

Personal Growth and Social Change (Part 1) | The Fearless Heart

by Miki Kashtan


Beyond Personal Growth
On the personal level, the practice of NVC supports the inner work necessary to maintain a stance of nonviolence even in difficult circumstances. However, personal growth, “being the change,” is only one aspect of the work. How do we work towards creating change at the structural level? However we conceive of leverage points for structural change, we would need to organize and act with others to create shifts. For that, we need concrete practices to bring our consciousness and practice of nonviolence to go beyond the personal, inner work… (continues(2) (3) (4) (5) (6)

20th Century as the Age of Introspection…

21st Cenurty as the Age of Outrospection?

Outrospection, “which is about discovering who we are by stepping outside ourselves and exploring the lives of other people and cultures.” (Roman Krznaric wrote an entire blog on the subject)

Atlas (Farnese Globe)
Farnese Atlas (Museo Archeologico NazionaleNaples)
Courtesy of Gabriel Seah via Wikimedia Commons

Utilizing OFNR ~ towards Social Change [Agency]

  • Naming a statement that would encapsulates what triggers your despair/judgment
  • Noticing the uncomfortable feelings you have when you contemplate this statement
  • Uncovering the need or value behind that feeling
  • Really basking in the dream you have for the world to manifest your value — bring it to life; and noticing how such a rich experience of your dream sustains your resilience and uplifts your feelings
  • Finally — while remaining in such a resourceful space, finding the need of the other/others — for whom you have ‘enemy images’ — that might have led them to the conduct you disdain (that was originally such a trigger for our judgment)

An example of a statement that triggers despair/judgment:

Eight year old Sasha, “The planet is getting warmer.  We know about global warming and pollution and everything, but it’s getting worse.  And that’s why we should care.”

What follows is an example of “celebrating judgments” or  “enjoying the jackal show” (in order to surface what is being valued, in this instance, by me).  FYI ~ Near bottom of this post, just beneath the next drawing of a gadfly, you’ll find more on Joanna Macy’s Spiral of the Work That Reconnects.   

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Posted in Beauty/Living-Energy-of-Needs, Climate Crisis & Ecological Breakdown, Mindfulness, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Improvisational Observation

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Questions as to 
joining the call?
Please contact via

July 2, 2017 ~ Improvisational Observation

Childe Hassam - Improvisation - Google Art ProjectImprovisation by Childe Hassam, 1899

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

― George Orwell



How do you cultivate discernment of when/how you are utilizing the four components of Nonviolent Communication:  Observation, Feelings, Needs & Requests (a.k.a. “OFNR“)?  How do you integrate these into your everyday lives?

Tools:  Try taking an incident in which you may have struggled to find an observational way of wording things and do a ‘posthersal’ in which you take what was said and rework, or rephrase it.

For example, “You’re yelling at me!”

Re-visioned, observationally:  “When you speak at a volume that is louder than I’m comfortably able to listen to…”

Interpret less, get heard more

See also:  Turn your Judgments into gold

By innoxiuss (Thinking at Hell’s gate)

Cultivating awareness, or conscious competency, of the element of observation in our NVC pracitice…

As I’ve indicated at the @StreetGiraffe twitter account, I consider myself a “heterodox giraffe” — in other words, more of a Nelson Mandela practitioner of Nonviolence (vis-a–vis Nonviolent Communication) than that of an “all in” Gandhi or MLK (shall post on this, to clarify, sometime soon!).  Which, at least in some ways, isn’t all that different from how Miki suggests learning how to naturalize:

The second piece is to let go of perfection and to be honest and authentic about the spontaneous truth that lives in me.  Eventually I will know how to translate.  For now, if I don’t have the agreement, it is better that I speak jackal that is authentic than that I speak NVC that is imposed on you without your agreement and without my authenticity.  I much prefer that we speak authentic jackal than distorted NVC look-alike that isn’t real.  I hope you take this deep to your heart for the benefit of all beings.” Miki Kashtan via Naturalizing NVC

By speaking in ways that come intuitively and integrating the components of Observation, Feelings, Needs & Requests as seem apropos at the time (something I’ve come to think of as “improvisational OFNR”).

Unlike many of my fellow practitioners, I don’t have an aspiration to move towards ‘giraffe’ without any traces of ‘jackal’ (if this blog were to be more authentically titled, it might be termed ‘street girackal’).  I thoroughly enjoy and am often inspired by those who have a more profound commitment to practicing Nonviolent Communication, however for me, it’s one tool in the toolbox (albeit the ethos of the consciousness is something more than this analogy connotes).

Mandela once noted that ones opponent determines the means of one’s resistance and while both Gandhi & King would likely disagree, having sacrificed their very lives to their cause (of Nonviolence), I do suspect that having the Brits or American’s such as JFK/LBJ as an opponent/ally is a difference in kind than having an adversary whose conscience is not as readily appealed to (or moved/shifted through nonviolent resistance).  This, of course, comes up for me given the current tumult working its way through the American political scene, all the more acutely given that — as I type — it’s the fourth of July weekend.  This call coincidentally began on July 4, 2011 and so the liberating spirit of declaratory oaths has somehow become inextricably linked with my being a practitioner of Nonviolent Communication.  Over the ensuing years, I’ve become more at ease with my personal take/practice, and have come to enjoy the inquiry of it, akin to a scientific open-mindedness while investigating the efficacy of a hypothesis.

22if_i_were_you22_live_show_at_dc_improv_2017By Al8969a (Own work)

So, when I first encountered the brilliant Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero, a few years back now, and witnessed her improvisational genius at the keyboard, it struck a chord, pardon the pun.  Just as it’s possible to hear remnants of the original melody in her spontaneously inspired creation, it’s likely that I employ the elements of NVC, the four components known as OFNR, but rarely in the template laid out (more sprinkled in, interwoven).

For me, the improv is where the magic happens…

Gabriela Montero Improvisations on a theme offered by a member of the audience

When we are listened to, it creates us, makes us unfold and expand.”
~ Brenda Ueland

The Art of Listening | Zen Moments

Observations, Feelings, Needs and Requests are also four lenses through which we can discern, or listen empathically, to others (in addition to self-expressing).  I’ve appreciated this template of the ‘three layers’ by which one can attune to another on ever deepening levels…


Three Layers of Empathy

(beneath is courtesy of the work of Jim and Jori Manske)


Empathy is being with another with compassion, connecting to the
humanness of their experience. Empathy is the silent presence
with another, not the words we use. We can express our empathy
and some possible ways to express empathy are included here.

ACKNOWLEDGING another’s experience
Reflecting: Observation, Feeling, Request, and/or Wish
NOT: blame, criticism, or evaluation
“(Something) happened. ”
“You are upset.”
“You wish (something different) had happened.”
“You would like (something).”

Connecting to the CAUSE of the feeling (the need)
Connecting to the universal need/value that the feeling is
reflecting, making no reference to any specific person (including
myself) doing any specific action. Notice there is no reference to
“I” or “me” at the causal level.
“Are you feeling _____ because (need) is important to you?”
“Are you valuing (need)?‘
“So for you, (need) is important.”
Some examples of “need” words: security, cooperation, fun, creativity, love,
respect, freedom, healing, understanding, belonging, awareness, etc.

SAVORING the need
Being with the value of the need.
Connecting to the internal resource and universality of the need.
“Ah, (need)”
Space / Silence

Based on the work of Marshall B. Rosenberg, author of Nonviolent Communication
© 2009 peaceworks, Jim and Jori Manske
Certified Trainers with The Center for Nonviolent Communication

FYI ~  Empathy Layers.pdf

Radical Compassion – Files: Hand-outs, recordings, notes, etc.

“The great gift of human beings is that we have the power of empathy, we can all sense a mysterious connection to each other.” ― Meryl Streep


See also:  NVC Dialogue Lab & NVC Reality TV (via NVC Marketplace)

Consciousness Competence Matrix

David Brooks:  Tuners and Spinners – The New York Times

Excerpt:  …The tuner makes you feel known. The tuner is good at empathy and hungers for deep connection. The tuner may be bad at small talk, but in the middle of a deep conversation the tuner will ask those extra four or five questions, the way good listeners do… (continues)

Credit:  Four stages of competence – Wikipedia

Courtesy of Radical Compassion – Pathways to Liberation MATRIX

Pathways to Liberation
Self-Assessment Matrix

No knowledge
of the skill.

Unconsciously Incompetent

Becoming aware
of the skill.

Consciously Incompetent

Able to use the skill,
with effort.

Consciously Competent

Naturally uses the skill
with ease and flow.

Unconsciously Competent


  Noticing (and possibly describing) our sensory and mental experiences, and distinguishing these experiences from the interpretations we ascribe to them.

Habitually confuses interpretation with observation; assumes that evaluations and interpretations are facts. Becoming aware of interpretations as distinct from observations when reviewing past events; little skill or clarity of this distinction when interacting in real time. Increasingly remembering and making the distinction between observation and interpretation. Effortlessly able to distinguish observations from interpretations.

When we find that we don’t know something important, we’re often motivated to learn more. However if we’re blissfully unaware of our ignorance, there’s little we can do about it.

One of the first steps on the journey to acquiring new skills is therefore to be aware of what you don’t know. This discovery can be uncomfortable, as can be the experience of not being very good at what you’re trying to do (as you won’t be, when you first start to learn.)

The Conscious Competence Ladder is a popular and intuitive approach (attributed to many different possible originators) that helps us manage our own emotions during a sometimes dispiriting learning process.


 Gabriela Montero describes improvisation as an experience where there isn’t a sense of failure, but/rather an exhilarating sense of freefall, like jumping off a cliff, in which anything can happen…

Gabriela Montero Improvises Bizet’s “Toreador’s Song”

An Arab proverb:

He who knows, and knows he knows,

He is a wise man, seek him.

He who knows and knows not he knows,

He is asleep, wake him.

He who knows not, and knows he knows not,

He is a child, teach him.

He who knows not, and knows not he knows not,

He is a fool, shun him.

Via GabrielaMonteroTV:  After playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto in A minor with the Orquesta Simfònica Illes Ballears, Gabriela Montero offered an improvised encore on Bizet’s “La Habanera”, as suggested in the moment by a member of the audience. Watch as the theme is taken from the Baroque period, to the Tango salons of Argentina, concluding with a Joplin-esque Ragtime. The improvisation inspired a standing ovation from audience and orchestra alike.

Gabriela Montero: LIVE improvisation on “La Habanera”, July ’16 (Mallorca)


  1. just begun and so not fully formed or developed; rudimentary.
    “a still inchoate democracy”
    synonyms: rudimentary, undeveloped, unformed, immature, incipient, embryonic;

The idea of a video camera recording what has been said or done is often used, in an NVC context, as a litmus test as to whether something qualifies as an ‘observation’ — something that could be recorded as having been said or done.

However, to be a bit contrarian (as is my wont) — we know from science — that this is not always sufficient (especially in consideration of “that which is alive” — think germs, atomic energy, etc.).  In other words, that which is an empirically valid phenomena, one that is consequential to factor into the equation, does not always fall within the realm of the readily visible.  One might argue, that it is still a question of observation (more to the point, of instrumentation by which to properly observe), and this is a valid point, however if the intention of noting observation has to do with establishing common ground then it’s worth noting that there is often more complexity to this exploration other than reducing all human interaction to a video camera motif.  Case-n-point…

Note the purple CO2 exhausts:

Clip, above, in fuller context:

Vasily Kandinsky Improvisation 28 (second version)Wassily Kandinsky’s Improvisation 28

So often, what may be most significant or impactful to consider, must be seen within a broader context of discernment.  An excellent explanation, grounded in neuroscience, as to how the distinction between observations and interpretations does not fit neatly into that which is always clear cut can be found via Lisa Feldman Barrett | Neuroscientist, Psychologist, and Author directly beneath:

Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett, author of the book “How Emotions are Made: The Secret Life of the Brain,” shows how the brain constructs an instance of emotion in this brief clip.

Making Emotion (How Emotions are Made)

Lengthier explanation: – Lisa Feldman Barrett, “How Emotions Are Made”

Experts in Emotion 1.2 — Lisa Feldman Barrett on What is an Emotion

Neuroscientist Lisa Feldman Barrett explains how emotions are made

When Is Speech Violence? – The New York Times

By Lisa Feldman Barrett

Imagine that a bully threatens to punch you in the face. A week later, he walks up to you and breaks your nose with his fist. Which is more harmful: the punch or the threat?

The answer might seem obvious: Physical violence is physically damaging; verbal statements aren’t. “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.”

But scientifically speaking, it’s not that simple. Words can have a powerful effect on your nervous system. Certain types of adversity, even those involving no physical contact, can make you sickalter your brain — even kill neurons — and shorten your life… (continues)


Thus, if the distinction between interpretation and observation tends more towards the gray rather than the black/white, it’s valuable to ‘learn to see’ mindfully…

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle. One thing that helps toward it is to keep a diary, or, at any rate, to keep some kind of record of one’s opinions about important events.” ~ George Orwell: In Front of Your Nose

The Gift That Keeps On Giving: Trigger Translation Journal


In 2006, I was introduced  by Jane Connor to a practice which Marshall Rosenberg used, and I witnessed him use it through the years I knew him.  He kept a 3”x 6” index card folded in half in his pocket, and “he would pull it out from time to time and write down the stimuli that triggered an emotional response in him.”  Later, he said, he processed them, trying to understand the feelings and needs stimulated in himself and guessing what feelings and needs the other person in the situation might have been experiencing.  As Jane commented, “One of the most important aspects of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) is becoming aware of our feelings and needs and those of the others in the momentthat we are experiencing them.”  I have been sharing this practice… (continues)

The Steppingstones of Ira Progoff: Bring Together Past, Present, & Future

All quotes in this article are from Progoff’s book At a Journal Workshop: Writing to Access the Power of the Unconscious and Evoke Create Ability, written in 1975.

“The Steppingstones are the significant points of movement along the road of an individual’s life. They stand forth as indicators of the inner connectedness of each person’s existence, a continuity of development that maintains itself despite the vicissitudes and the apparent shifting of directions that occur in the course of a life. The Steppingstones are indicators that enable us to recognize the deeper-than-conscious goals toward which the movement of our lives is trying to take us.”

“…In Steppingstones, we draw out of the jumbled mass of our life experiences, the thin and elusive connective threads that carry our potentials toward a fuller unfolding.

“…By working with the Steppingstones, we make contact with these elusive lines of continuity that are seeking to establish themselves as patterns of meaning in our lives. ”


See, too:  Bill Israel on Progoff

The Progoff Intensive Journal ® Program

About the Method by Ira Progoff

Inchoate | Definition & Pronunciation of Inchoate by Merriam-Webster

Definition of inchoate

  1. :  being only partly in existence or operation :  incipient; especially :  imperfectly formed or formulated :  formless, incoherent misty, inchoate suspicions that all is not well with the nation — J. M. Perry





First known use: 1534

In Front of Your Nose – The New York Times

”We are all capable of believing things which we know to be untrue, and then, when we are finally proved wrong, impudently twisting the facts so as to show that we were right. Intellectually, it is possible to carry on this process for an indefinite time: the only check on it is that sooner or later a false belief bumps up against solid reality, usually on a battlefield.” That’s from George Orwell’s 1946 essay ”In Front of Your Nose.”

Gabriela Montero, “Gone with the Wind”

Gabriela Montero – Improvisation on Bach’s Goldberg Variations

Gabriela Montero Improvises “Summertime”

Gabriela Montero, “ExPatria”. A mini-documentary.

Posted in Nonviolence, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources, OFNR -- Observations, Feelings, Needs & Requests | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crazy Like a Fox (Method to Jackal Madness)

What’s Up Next?

June 4, 2017 ~ Crazy Like a Fox


Hymne joie 01

Ode to Joy, by Beethoven (1824) – Credit:  Kokin

There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and it will be lost.

Martha Graham


Crazy Like a Fox

Identifying Jackal(s) – The Probability Vector

Jackal’s role:  identifying what’s not working.

The jackal raises up from its more slumbering perch when it becomes agitated by what’s not working (detecting a kind of ‘bad faith’ — whether now or in the past) and projects this trajectory, and its potential impact, into the future.  It’s role is as an advocate for greater authenticity (self-honesty, authenticity with others) and a harbinger as to its view of the ‘probability vector’ that we are currently on.  By howling in its “should”/”shouldn’t” dialectic, it’s alerting to likely pitfalls.

Watching the Jackal Show

 Mourning & Beauty of Needs — Keep channel open…

(Courtesy of the work of Robert Gonzales)


Steps Write
1.  Stimulus (observation)

(write out)

2.  Jackal Thoughts

a.  Write the thought
b.  Say aloud with energy!
c.  “I’m telling myself…”

3.  Review the original stimulus

Jackal thoughts:
4.  Self-empathize

a.  Consider stimulus
b.  Name and be with the unmet needs of the stimulus
c.  Name and be with the the feelings around the unmet need
d.  Stay here until you feel a shift towards relaxed, relief.This is the mourning stage.
Unmet needs:

Feelings around unmet needs:


Steps Write:
5.  Experience the beauty of the need. 

Describe your experience of the beauty of the unmet need:  if troubled, remember a time when the need was met, how wonderful that felt.

Beauty of the Need:
6.  Bring beauty of needs awareness to original stimulus.

Notice and write down if any feelings or needs come alive.

(If applicable, make any request related to those feelings and needs.)




Re-cycle through process, if/when necessary (cyclical rather than linear as new jackals get stimulated throughout)

Needs exclude all tangibles, i.e. PLATO – Person, Location, Action, Time or Object

Ode to Joy

Schiller an die freude manuskript 2


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On Long Neckin’ & Anticipatory Beneficial Regret

What’s Up Next?

May 14, 2017 ~ On Long Neckin’ [Homo Prospectus]
& (Anticipatory) Beneficial Regret

Flickr - Rainbirder - High-rise living.jpgSteve Garvie –
High-rise living

“We are misnamed. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, the “wise man,” but that’s more of a boast than a description. What makes us wise? What sets us apart from other animals? …A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise.” ~ Martin E. P. Seligman


How do you learn from the past and/or apply lessons learned — ‘beneficial regret’ — towards the future (while staying grounded in the present moment)?  We’ll explore how needs-consciousness & NVC skills can be useful in processing more painful emotions.

Credit:  Havang(nl) (via Wikimedia Commons)

“To dwell in the here and now does not mean you never think about the past or responsibly plan for the future. The idea is simply not to allow yourself to get lost in regrets about the past or worries about the future. If you are firmly grounded in the present moment, the past can be an object of inquiry, the object of your mindfulness and concentration. You can attain many insights by looking into the past. But you are still grounded in the present moment.”
Thich Nhat Hanh, The Art of Power

(Via Wiki: Team Naked Pictures of Be a Arthur)

(beneath is courtesy of the work of Jim and Jori Manske)

Beneficial regret

Acknowledging and learning from one’s missed opportunity to meet needs, without guilt, shame, or self-punishment.

(via Matrix)

Positive Intent | Need Missed

Action Taken (as observation) Positive Intent – Related Need(s) Need(s) Not Attended To
Arriving later than time agreed to Efficacy (completed task) Consideration (of another)
 Did not do _____  Need X Need Y
 Said, “______”  Need X Need Y

Which need animated your conduct (positive intent)?
Which need wasn’t attended to in how things unfolded?

Sustenance  Order Belonging Meaning  Transcendence
Security  Love  To Matter Honesty  Freedom  

Needs consciousness

Awareness of (and the willingness to honor) needs, the essential universal elemental qualities of life (like sustenance, love and meaning).

(via Matrix)

“We may believe that mistakes have been made already and that we cannot go back to the past to change things. When we look deeply into the relative nature of time, we see that the past has created the present. If we seize the present moment with mindfulness, we are in touch with the past. We can actually go back to the past, while staying firmly rooted in the present moment, and heal the past. We forgive ourselves for our mistakes, knowing we didn’t have enough wisdom or the right conditions at that time to do better. We transform our regrets in the present into compassion and understanding, and in this way we also transform the past.”
~ Thich Nhat Hanh, Savor


Matrix | Pathways to Liberation

Beneficial regret: Acknowledging and learning from oneʹs missed opportunity to meet needs, without guilt, shame, or self‐punishment.

Unskilled:  Takes responsibility for the feelings of others with guilt and/or shame, or defends oneself; apologizes to protect oneself by assuaging anotherʹs feelings.

Awakening:  Newfound awareness that othersʹ  feelings are caused by their needs, and may want others to ʺget over it”. Heightened awareness of habit of self‐ blame.

Capable:  Increasing ability to transform guilt into learning. Fostering willingness to seek connection with others (with empathy and honesty) when events did not work for others.

Integrated:  Consistent willingness to openly own oneʹs part in outcomes that did not meet needs; willingness to feel and express regret; seeks learning and growth.


We Aren’t Built to Live in the Moment – The New York Times

We are misnamed. We call ourselves Homo sapiens, the “wise man,” but that’s more of a boast than a description. What makes us wise? What sets us apart from other animals? Various answers have been proposed — language, tools, cooperation, culture, tasting bad to predators — but none is unique to humans.

What best distinguishes our species is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future. Our singular foresight created civilization and sustains society. It usually lifts our spirits, but it’s also the source of most depression and anxiety, whether we’re evaluating our own lives or worrying about the nation.  Other animals have springtime rituals for educating the young, but only we subject them to “commencement” speeches grandly informing them that today is the first day of the rest of their lives.

A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise. Looking into the future, consciously and unconsciously, is a central function of our large brain, as psychologists and neuroscientists have discovered — rather belatedly, because for the past century most researchers have assumed that we’re prisoners of the past and the present…(continues)

Credit:  Sidney Smith (1877-1935)

The giraffe ‘neck-shortening’ cartoon further up and neck-elongating video clip below…

…Reminded me of one of the symbolic reasons as to why Marshall Rosenberg chose the long-necked giraffe: the evolutionary adaptive trait of being able to see far out into the distance — as is described in the video beneath:  seeing the “big picture”, taking the “long view” — as a characteristic of choosing our words wisely (considering their potential impact, in advance).  I’ve heard it said that other animals will gather around a watering hole, when a giraffe is present, as there is a sense of trust that they have scoped the surrounding terrain and deemed it safe.

In a sense, these evolutionary traits, the long-neck and large heart, offered Marshall a symbolic shorthand for conveying the intent of communicating with NVC consciousness in mind.  To choose one’s words with the long view and from a big-hearted (or emotionally connected) orientation to life.

(Courtesy of Etan J. Tal via Wikimedia Commons)

One of the stories told during the time of Marshall’s memorial was by Dominic Barter when he spoke of hitch hiking from England to Marshall’s residence, then in Switzerland, and having Marshall pose the question of ‘what is the evolutionary value of emotions?’  In an NVC context, of course, our feelings are akin to our nerve endings, by alerting us to pain, our emotions can help us make adjustments (away from the too hot stove or any similarly destructive scenario).  Dominic, who had been studying anatomy and physiology at the time (in a formal academic setting), was struck by how in all his previous, more ‘high brow’ consideration of the human organism, that fundamental truth (emotions ‘raison d’être’) had gone unremarked.

While it may have been noted that those with a kind of brain damage that effects their emotional range might have difficulty with discernment and judgment, the direct linkage of our emotions as ‘nerve-ending’ like indicators of what we are valuing (a.k.a. universal human needs), at any given moment, was’t even a blip on the proverbial scholarly radar.

Feelings awareness

Ability to identify and experience our physical sensations and emotions.

(via Matrix)

Evolutionary function of Feelings —–> Needs

The Fabulous Baker Boys (1989) – “Feelings” Is Parsley


Transforming the suffering of loss; letting go of resistance to what is, and being willing to allow our experience to unfold.

(via Matrix)

 Joanna Macy – Embracing Pain

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On Being All Ears

What’s Up Next?

(Courtesy of Holger Motzkau)

April 2017 ~ On Being All Ears
(& the Dynamism of Universal Human Needs)

Russian figure skater wins gold with program that included audio from 9/11


A jest’s prosperity lies in the ear
Of him that hear it, never in the tongue
Of him that makes it…

~ William Shakespeare
Act 5, Scene II of Love’s Labour’s Lost

Courtesy of Irina Polikanova (via Wikimedia Commons)


How do you speak into the listening of others?

Practice:  Write down a stimulus, as an observation, and then notice how your interpretation morphs as you journal four differing evaluative contexts (of jackal/giraffe ears, both outward/in).

Handout for Sunday’s tele-practice group:

Communication Flow Chart (2nd page)
&/or Jackal/Giraffe Ears – Four Choices

(Building on our experimentation with strengths & learning/growing edges, we’ll continue to explore the NVC skills which might help transfigure —  Strength/Edge_Worksheet — the listening context that we lend, both to ourselves and others.)

Anubis mask (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

 Thich Nhat Hahn:
We need someone to be able to listen to us and to understand us. Then, we will suffer less. But everyone is suffering, and no one wants to listen.

Four Choices When Hearing a Difficult Message

Judgmental (Jackal) Ears Out

Blame or Criticize the other person

“It’s your fault.”
“You’re bad/wrong.”
“You should____.”

(Voice of Anger)

Judgmental (Jackal) Ears In

Blame or criticize yourself

“It’s my fault.”
“I’m bad/wrong.”
“I should_____.”

(Voice of Guilt, Shame, Depression)

Generative (Giraffe) Ears In

Connect to your internal experience

“I’m feeling__________ because I need/value____________.”

(Voice of Self-Empathy)

Generative (Giraffe) Ears Out

Connect to the underlying cause of the other’ s communication

“Are you feeling________ because you value/need____________?”

(Voice of Empathy)

FYI ~ Here is a link to the recording from “Recovering from Reactivity” (utilizing the giraffe/jackal ears handout:  Four Choices.pdf) via a  free webinar courtesy of Jim & Jori Manske
papilio_polymnestor-kadavoor-2016-07-27-002“Papilio polymnestor-Kadavoor-2016-07-27-002” © Jee & Rani Nature Photography is used here under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License – Life cycle of Papilio machaon

For as Thich Nhat Hahn reminds us:
Listening is a very deep practice… you have to empty yourself. You have to leave space in order to listen… especially to people we think are our enemies — the ones we believe are making our situation worse. When you have shown your capacity for listening and understanding, the other person will begin to listen to you, and you have a chance to tell him or her of your pain, and then it’s your turn to get healed. This is the practice of peace.


From the book, The Power of Kindness by Piero Ferrucci, which begins a chapter on empathy with this instrumental analogy:

“Although I am not a musician, I once had the opportunity to hold in my hands an exquisitely made violin dating to the eighteenth century.  What amazed me, even more than its harmonious lines or the beautiful grain of its wood, was that, holding it, I could feel it vibrate.  It was not an inert object.  It resonated with the various sounds that happened to resonate around it:  another violin, a tram passing in the street, a human voice.  If you hold an ordinary, factory-made violin, that just doesn’t happen.  There can be hundreds of sounds around it and the violin remains numb.  In order to obtain that fine sensitivity and extraordinary resonance of the old violin, the makers had to had an exceptional knowledge of wood and its seasoning; they were supported by the artisan tradition of generations, and they were endowed with the talent of cutting the wood and furnishing the instrument.  This marvelous responsiveness is an active virtue.  It is the capacity of the violin to enter into resonance, and it goes hand in hand with its capacity to create sound of extraordinary quality — music with a soul, able to move and to inspire.  We human are, or at least can be, like that violin.”

FT:  Putin’s cellist friend ‘interested only in musical instruments’

Guardian:  Sergei Roldugin, the cellist who holds the key to tracing Putin’s hidden fortune

WaPo:  Trump Foundation admits to violating ban on ‘self-dealing’

The “invisible foot” ensures us that in a free-market … economy each person pursuing only his own good will automatically, and most efficiently, do his part in maximizing the general public misery. ” ~ E. K. Hunt

 “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
~ Epictetus

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More on our Learning Curves (Rounding Edges w/ Strengths)

What’s Up Next?

March 2017 ~ More on our Learning Curves
(Rounding Edges w/ Strengths)

(Bookbinding via Simon A. Eugster)


What are your strengths and/or (learning/growing) edges?  Have you identified which NVC skills, currently under your belt, might buttress those yet beyond your grasp (e.g. using “presence” to fortify “feelings-awareness” etc.)?

Handout for Sunday’s tele-practice group:  Strength/Edge_Worksheet


We’ll experiment with differing strength/edge skill pairings during the dialogue lab (w/ iGiraffe) portion of our call:

Alternate_iGiraffe (remote_control)

(Wikimedia Commons Figure Skating Edges courtesy of Hergilei)

Strength or Edge?  e.g. Try divvying up (into the two columns beneath) which of these handful of Matrix skills you consider to be either a strength &/or edge:  Presence;  Observing;  Feelings-Awareness;  Needs-Consciousness;  Request-Consciousness & Making Requests;  Honest Self-Expression;  Empathy;  Patience;  Reconnecting-to-Self & Recovering-from-Reactivity

Strength      |           Edge    



Recovering from Reactivity

Presence  Observing  Feelings-Awareness  Needs-Consciousness  Requests
Honest Self-Expression  Empathy   Patience Recovering from Reactivity  Self-Acceptance  

What’s an edge that you would like to build upon?
(Pick a complementary strength that might support you in developing this skill.)

Pathways to Liberation – Matrix

Listen to a (free) recording of one way to use the Matrix here.


Pathways to Liberation Self Assessment Matrix v1 2.pdf
Pathways to Liberation Self Assessment Matrix v1 2 large.pdf

Three Necessities for Integrating NVC

An individually crafted practice
to support integrating NVC in your life.

1. Identify an edge
2. Identify a strength

(Consider, how can you use your strength to support your edge?)

Skills to consider:

Feelings -Awareness
Recovering from Reactivity
Making Requests Empathy
Honest Self-Expression

Strength/Edge practice originated with Jim & Jori Manske via 1) Radical Compassion – Matrix & 2) Taste of Compassionate Leadership Free Teleclass – NVC Academy – see last slide of their handout here – [PDF].

Here is the link to the audio recording of their (free) 2/25/17 call.

Per Newsletter:  This is a taste of what the NVC Academy library offers.  Click here to explore the library more fully.  To support NVC Academy’s mission of making NVC available to everyone who wants it, please donate here.  The Manskes will be teaching a free class on the 4th Saturday of March (March 25th) to explore “Recovering From Reactivity” (register here).

The Flight Simulator – Mediate Your Life

(WikiMedia Commons: United States Air Force – Master Sgt. Jeffrey Allen)

Lastly, try identifying a practice (e.g. Three-Layers-of-Empathy) that may support you in utilizing a strength [e.g. needs-consciousness] to fortify an edge [e.g. recovering from reactivity] in this instance, towards ‘taking it down a notch’ — from a warmer to cooler hue:

Red, Yellow, Green


Fleshing out the concept of ‘needs-consciousness’ (via Robert Gonzales)

Transforming the Pain of Unmet Needs to the Beauty of Needs

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” 


Robert Gonzales on the Beauty Of Needs

The Essential Living Energy of Needs

There is only one life energy, one life force. Everything in existence has the same life energy flowing through us. Needs are qualitative, an expression of our life energy. All needs are forms of life itself.

See the person’s longing, their need, whenever you are interacting with another person. We can learn to have compassion for ourselves – we invite and listen to the pain. At the heart of the pain is that part of us which wants to be seen and heard and invited. Compassionately accept whatever arises in yourself. So you can compassionately accept whatever arises in the other person.

Needs are an aspect or an expression of the energy of life. We experience the beauty of a need when we are in contact with the quality of its energy.

Developing the ability to focus our attention on and intention to connect to the life energy within needs is one of the most important abilities we develop within NVC. This practice is the embodied spirituality of NVC: in touch with our essence, we follow the longing, the yearning to experience this quality of the ecstatic flow of life. When we do this, we are in touch with the need in an embodied way, we experience its qualities, its essence, how it feels when that need is met and how we experience this “met-ness” in our body, emotions, and in our very being.

(Via Notes from a Workshop with Robert Gonzales – courtesy of Diane Emerson)

Learn to value Beauty/Living-Energy-of-Needs (Aliveness) more than:

  • being right
  • getting what you want in the moment
  • Learn that no one can take ALIVENESS from you


Past Experience

Physical Awareness

Emotional Awareness



Being at the center of one’s own life
(Plato’s idea of perception courtesy of RobinHEnglish Wikibooks)

Needs vs. Strategies


If you have any one of the above five (more temporal, tangible) qualities, than what you are focused on is most likely a strategy — rather than a need.

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Our Corners-n-Edges

What’s Up Next?


February 2017 ~ Our Corners & Edges

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.” 


What are your conversational street signs (e.g. OFNRRed/Green/Yellow)?  Rules of the road (e.g. [NVC] Communication Flow Chart)?  How do you stay in your own lane (e.g. Self-Connection Process)?


Tools for this week’s practice group:

Jean Béraud (Walters Art Museum)

Institute for Mindfulness:

Image result for nvc focuses on two questions

Giraffe Fighting:

Reflect on moments of tensions that you’ve experienced…

  • Write down an observation/stimulus (or several) from such exchanges.
  • Track what were the specific moments, or corners, when these interactions shifted in tone (through the Red, Green, Yellow light spectrum — see Chapman’s “Mindful Communication” beneath)?
  • How did your responses attend to ‘what’s alive’ (your own needs/values)?  How not?
  • How did your responses attend to what the other may have been valuing?  How not?
  • Going forward, identify your ‘strategic discomfort zones’ (growing edges), noting how you might more fully attend to ‘what’s alive’ both in yourself and others (i.e. with greater presence to all of the universal-human-needs on the table).
  • Can you envision what might have ‘made life more wonderful’ (strategies that might have served both sets of needs)?

“The course of conflict isn’t determined by the person who initiates but by the person who responds.” ~ Mozart In The Jungle

(Photo above courtesy of Wiki Commons via Arriva436)

(Accepting Limitations While Simultaneously Stretching) — About 5 minutes in… Being mindful of our ‘strategic discomfort’ (our growing edges)

Wanting Fully Without Attachment – Tikkun Magazine

National Archives and Records Administration

In her book on The Five Keys to Mindful CommunicationSusan Gillis Chapman writes about communication that is closed (red light), open (green light), or somewhere-in-between (yellow light).  Initially, Chapman suggest, it’s useful to cultivate an awareness of the more obvious states: green/open & red/closed.  The yellow light is a more nuanced state, often imperceptible (unless mindful), however it may also hold greater potential for increasing our communicative efficacy.


The Five Keys To Mindful Communication (book’s study guidelines)

Delineating Susan Chapman’s five essential elements of mindful communication:

• Mindful Presence (awake body, tender heart, open mind)
• Mindful Listening (encouragement)
• Mindful Speech (gentleness)
• Mindful Relationships (unconditional friendliness)
• Mindful Responses (playfulness)

See also:  The Five Keys to Mindful Communication


Triune Brain – Interpersonal Neurobiology

(Image courtesy of Wiki Commons – ManosHacker)

“First, I realized how I distort my view of other people when I’m reacting defensively. I also saw that when I can open up and see another person in a fresh way, my own self-image transforms. On the surface, these two insights might not seem to be that a big deal. Not as exciting as a dog and a hungry bear rolling in play.* But learning how to switch out of defensiveness into a more humorous, receptive state of mind is a big deal – it is the key to happy, harmonious relationships and communities.”  (Chapman’s “The Five Keys to Mindful Communication”, p. 3)

FYI ~ Polar Bear Plays with Sled Dogs :

*The photos circulating around the Internet were of a polar bear and a dog playing together.  I first saw them in a National Geographic magazine many years ago and was captivated by the story.  A dog named Churchill was tied up to a stake in the ice.  His owner spotted a starving bear, just out of hibernation, through the window of his cabin.  He watched in horror as the bear approached his dog.  Feeling powerless to protect his pet from certain death, he grabbed his camera and snapped pictures of the scene unfolding before his eyes.  But to his amazement, what he ended up witnessing was how Churchill saved his own life.  As the bear lumbered toward him, Churchill crouched down and wagged his tail.  In spite of his ravenous hunger, the bear responded to the signal and switched from predator to playmate.  One of the photos shows Churchill and the bear embraced in an affectionate hug as they tumbled and rolled around on the ice.  Then the huge polar bear turned and ambled away.  Over the next few days, the bear returned to the site several times to play with his new friend.  The National Geographic photo essay came into my life at the right moment.  I had been preparing to teach a series of workshops on mindful communication, where students would learn practical skills in bringing awareness, insight, compassion, and choice to their communication…”
~ Susan Gillis Chapman

Bull and bear in front of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange (Photo courtesy of Eva K.)

 Continuum (& related exercise) beneath via

NYCNVC – The New York Center for Nonviolent Communication

The Exercise – Shifting Toward Compassion

Even though this is an online exercise, you still need a pen or pencil and a piece of paper with a blank side. I created this exercise so people can have what I call a “Shift”. By that I mean experience a “shift” in what you are thinking about and a shift in how you feel. Read More …

The Connection Continuum:
<<< You and I (always moving back and forth) >>>continuum

rage, disconnection and violence to                                  connection, compassion, peace

Note parallel between Mindful Communication’s “Green Light” (above)
the NVC’s “Zero Step” (below)


Taste of Compassionate Leadership Free Teleclass – NVC Academy


Characteristics of the Zero Step:

• Warmth toward self and other
• Care for the vitality of both yourself and other(s)
• Wonder/Interest
• Vulnerability/Empathy
• Which leads directly to Connection Requests
• Openness to Outcome

More notes on “Zero Step” here.  (Recording of Zero Step presentation by Manskes, January 2017:  Download Recording)

Four Steps of NVC

“In the field of observation, chance favors the prepared mind.”
Louis Pasteur

empathetically listening:





honestly expressing:







What is Mindful Communication?

Additional videos:  Green Zone Communication (videos)

Three green-light faculties as the basis for mindfulness practice:

• Awake body, the ability to pay attention
• Tender heart, the ability to empathize with others
• Open mind, the ability to be honest, curious, and insightful.


Red Light

Notice when you’ve become defensive and closed off. Be careful. Communicating in this zone can lead to difficult and painful reactions.

Yellow Light

Pay attention to the limbo between open and closed. Relax with the uncertainty. Pause, reflect, linger there, and let possibilities emerge.

Green Light

When your state of mind is open, feel free to explore your connection with others. Share. Learn. Change. Expand.

Susan Chapman – Mindful Communication poster

The Three Lights

In my mindful-communication workshops, the metaphor we use to notice whether communication is closed, open, or somewhere in-between, is the changing traffic light. When the channel of communication closes down, we imagine the light has turned red. When communications feels open again, we say the light has turned green. When communication feels in between, or on the verge of closing down, we say the light has turned yellow. Participants find that the changing-traffic-light imagery helps them identify their various styles of communication, and to recognize the consequences of each.

We use the green and red lights to highlight open and closed patterns because this isn’t something we normally track. Once those are clear, we zero in on the in-between stage of the yellow light. Following is a brief overview of what the lights mean. The red light indicates that communication has shut down… (continues)

Mindful Communication – Which of Our Emotions are Accurate?


Excerpted from Chapman’s The Five Keys to Mindful Communication: Using Deep Listening and Mindful Speech to Strengthen Relationships, Heal Conflicts, and Accomplish Your Goals:

“The yellow light describes the period in between the green and red light, the gap of groundlessness that occurs just before communication shuts down. We’ve been caught off guard and we feel embarrassed, irritated, or disappointed by an unexpected event. Below the surface of these reactions, deeper fears and self-doubts are exposed. If we can meet these fears with gentle insight, using mindfulness practice, we can intercept our red-light triggers…” (continues)

Susan Chapman – online class, “working with fear”


Susan Chapman on how “green zones” help us to identify our projections

Open/Closed emotions & how to reconnect to the “Natural Communication System”

Susan Chapman is a marriage and family therapist and author who presents training programs applying mindfulness to conversations, relationships and communities.

Resources:  Green Zone Conversations – Green Light Institute

Click to hear interviews with Susan Chapman

See too:  What is Mindful Communication


In a World in Crisis – Mindful Communication Matters

“Our survival as a species depends on our ability to recognize that our well-being and the well-being of others are in fact one and the same.”
~ Marshall Rosenberg

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Reflection & Renewal

What’s Up Next?

January 2017 ~ Reflection & Renewal

François Barraud – La Tailleuse de Soupe


Do you have any New Year’s dialogic intentions?  Such as a quality of NVC consciousness that you are drawn to, perhaps wanting to cultivate and more skillfully integrate (by this time, next year)?  How might you go about this (what ritual might support you as a practitioner)?


Try reviewing the Self-Assessment Matrix
(see more, below) to see if any one skill jumps out at you.

(e.g.  ‘Presence’)

For simplicity’s sake:

Matrix co-creators Jim & Jori Manske have suggested these five skills  as “easy ways to integrate NVC, anywhere/everywhere”:

  • Presence

  • Observing

  • Feelings Awareness

  • Needs-Consciousness

  • Gratitude

Notice how each of the skills above can also be complementary in our capacity for growth with another skill — e.g. distinguishing between observation and interpretation can lend itself to cultivating presence (wanting-fully-without-attachment) or sensing into our ‘feelings awareness’ can naturally flow into a heightened state of ‘needs-consciousness’ etc.

These skills are further delineated by clicking on the chart beneath:

Four Competencies of NVC (Consciousness) ~
Unskilled, Awakening, Capable & Integrated:

Self-Assessment Matrix

Listen to a (free) recording of one way to use the Matrix here.

Matrix small

Via  This document comes in two sizes, they contain the same information.
The large version is on eight pages and the other version is on four pages.

Pathways to Liberation Self Assessment Matrix v1 2.pdf
Pathways to Liberation Self Assessment Matrix v1 2 large.pdf

I’ve structured much of the tele-conference to reinforce some of the rituals that I use to buttress my NVC practice (& capacity for ‘presence’).  For example, the four stations of Joanna Macy’s spiral (which serves as an outline for the call’s format) closely parallels the Mediate Your Life Practice honed by Ike Lasater and John Kinyon of Mourn, Celebrate, and Learn (MCL) (an NVC mediation process).  Similarly, I’ve adapted their Self-Connection Process: Breath/Body/Need which then routinely gets employed, on our call, in both an abbreviated and a more lengthy form.

One way that I’ve also found it useful to lean into a growing edge is to begin with something simpler, such as Mourn/Celebrate/Learn or Breath/Body/Need (or Inquiry) and then once that practice is under one’s proverbial belt, to expand upon it.  So, for example, one could tack on a repair action-step (along the lines suggested by IPNB guidelines for secure attachment/trust), or even the option of brainstorming possible repairs, at the conclusion of an MCL process.  Similarly, to deepen the process of Breath/Body/Need, one could intermingle some of the skills of Focusing, such as getting a ‘felt sense’ (and/or handle).  Or of utilizing Inner Relationship Focusing’s (IRF) ‘presence language’…

Here’s an example of an intention (read, ritual) that I’m currently engaged with — at least making the attempt to ingrain it a bit more consciously in the coming year (as fodder for thought for your own exploration/integration).  As with any mindfulness practice, it’s a practice of bringing one’s awareness back into focus (so-to-speak) once you’ve noticed that it’s wandered…

NVC & Inner Relationship Focusing

Free Resources For Powerful Change, Focusing Resources Free Library

Chardin, Jean-Siméon – Vegetables for the Soup

Inner Relationship Focusing [PDF] – “Presence Language”

Identified Language vs. Presence Language

Identified Language:

“I am angry.”
“I am terrified.”
“I feel so frustrated by what she did.”

Presence Language:

“I’m sensing something in me is angry.”
“I’m sensing something in me is terrified.”
“I’m sensing something in me feels so frustrated by what she did.”

If you’ve ever encountered the modality of [Inner Relationship] Focusing and wondered how it might complement self-connection/self-empathy, here is link to another video clip of Gina Censiose on Embodying Our Needs (Embodying Our Needs (rather than needs as a ‘story-we’re-telling-ourselves’).

Here’s an appetizer:

“I’m going in with a full quality of presence to myself and saying to whatever is there, ‘yes, I want to hear you’. Whether my mind thinks it’s garbage, it’s worthless, other people won’t like it. I will treasure it, in the moment, right now… And that I think allows for that space to unfold. There is a kind of inner relaxing where things will come up because they’re not being judged as bad or this isn’t acceptable. Doesn’t mean I have to share it with other people. But it means that when I am with other people I will be aware of these parts of myself and holding them lovingly and not projecting them either unconsciously onto other people by saying a sweet OFNR that is not at all true or that I’m trying to be nice by using OFNR — and that is obviously a beautiful learning curve in NVC — at the beginning you try OFNR and you see it doesn’t work (people do a two day intro and say, ‘hey, it didn’t work’) …Well, if the intention or reorientation of your heart hasn’t changed, it’s not changing your language that will change anything in life…It’s not the phrasing, it’s never the phrasing, it’s your intention.” ~ Gina Censoise

For the excerpt above in its fuller/video context, click here:

DOROTHEUMGiuseppe Costantini Die wärmende Suppe

“If you want to know what the soup smells like,
it’s better not to stick your head in it.”
– Eugene Gendlin

Relatively recently, Shulamit Day Berlevtov gave a presentation in which she recalled a quote from Focusing’s originator, Eugene Gendlin (see above).

It struck a rather idiosyncratic chord in me (this time around, despite having heard it before), serving as a reminder of the value of cultivating presence-of-mind towards a greater capacity for discernment; and how by employing a ritual utilization of presence language, I may have a bit more perspective from time to time (thus not becoming as easily mired in the slippery slope of interpersonal dynamics gone awry).  I see it as holding potential in my quest to ‘mediate-our-lives’ by potentially cultivating what in IRF circles is referred to as ‘self-in-presence’ in order to better mediate our internal conflicts which would then prepare us to engage more constructively with those external conflicts as well.

Self-in-presence: an experiential introduction

by  | Jul 6, 2014 |

A friend has asked me to write about “self-in-presence in plain English.” Self-in-presence is a concept from Inner Relationship Focusing. It refers to a skill or capacity, as well as an experience, that creates the conditions for physically felt inner data-wisdom-information to come into a person’s awareness.

Einstein is quoted as saying, “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” Whether or not he actually said it, the idea is significant. Inner data can play an imporant role in taking us beyond what we already know and toward new, present-moment information that can be applied to day-to-day living. This enables us to make choices and take actions in life that are more self-connected, rather than following along with what is already known–either from socialized habits and ideas, or from our own thinking about issues and situations.

Because self-in-presence is a pre-requisite for access to this inner data or wisdom, much of the early learning in Inner Relationship Focusing attends to cultivating self-in-presence and its related inner attitudes. In this post, I’ll outline an exercise that will provide an experience of self-in-presence… (continues)


viejos_comiendo_sopaViejos comiendo sopa

FYI ~ Shula has offered access to a free e-book which guides how to incorporate the ‘presence language’ of Inner Relationship Focusing into one’s self-connection process:  Click here to receive a free e-book

Step-by-step guide to transforming stress with kindness

Shulamit Ber Levtov

Posted in Climate Crisis & Ecological Breakdown, Eugene Gendlin, Focusing, Identified v. Presence Language, Inner Relationship Focusing, IRF Resources, Mindfulness, Nonviolent Communication (NVC) - Resources, Quotes, Resources - Shulamit Berlevtov, Self-in-Presence | Tagged , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Reflection & Renewal

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