I sat for some time underneath the 'Hive' sculpture at Kew Gardens at the weekend. There is a drone musical accompaniment which was intended to resemble the 'hum' of the bees. Honeybees communicate by vibrating messages against the honeycomb.
After sitting here, then sitting somewhere else where i could hear the hum, and then somewhere else, all in the range of about 20-50 metres of this large structure, i felt really relaxed and enlivened. There's something about humming that really relaxes and restores. Many sound and healing modalities encourage an intentional hum for self-soothing. Benefits of humming
I need constant reminding of how well my being responds to embodiment, to paying attention to all aspects of my being, to going within and connecting to sound.
All of the work I/we as individuals do is so important to create social justice, greater equity and a more peaceful work. It all requires being really grounded and resourced so that we can respond with empathy and self-connection in line with the greater good and truth that a situation is calling for.
So today, why don't you hum a little and envision healing, justice and equity as you do so!
I was in a seminar earlier on in the year with people from various racialised backgrounds and we were exploring tackling white supremacy. It was named several times and it really struck me the importance of white people accessing anger and rage at the injustices that are happening and have happened.
When white people aren’t accessing anger, it’s left to Black and Indigenous people and people of colour to do this work, which then leaves BIPOC labelled and judged as angry and reactive as a means of control and avoiding the issues.
Our anger and rage can mobilise us into action and I find being ”angry that,” rather than “angry at” supports me to direct anger in a grounded way. When I’m ‘angry that….’ I feel more connected to my pelvis and legs. When I’m ‘angry at ….’ I’m more in the upper part of my body.
I'm angry that so many young people are being killed in London (and other cities)
I'm angry that talking about colonialism and the harm it causes is not at the heart of our public discourse.
I'm angry that the glaciers are sliding into the sea
I'm angry that the trees are being devastated in the Amazon
I'm angry that indigenous people's lands have been taken from them and no reparations have yet come.
I'm angry that so much energy is put into policing, rather than supporting people and really tackling issues.
What about you? What are you 'angry that' ....?
Who are you going to speak to about this? Who will witness your anger? Who will support you to connect to your needs, the shared needs, and then get clarity on your next request to self or other?
This blog is part of the Blogging Carnival for Nonviolence 2021
A couple of notes about the environment
1.That word ‘environment’ is so fraught with meaning. How can we all engage with and protect the environment? What does it mean to say ‘the environment’ when we are all differently placed to engage with it? The environment is all around us, in our streets, in our homes, in our parks, in the air we breathe and the water we drink. Let’s have a broad understanding of what the environment is and means to us.
2. If engaging with the environment is as simple as walking down the street. What happens to us as we do? what do we encounter? what are we faced with? what challenges do we have? For some, walking down the street involves risk. Some people, young people particularly, are faced with higher levels of violence and I’m really devastated to say that this week there’s been another fatal incident locally, in which Chino Johnson was shot dead when out walking his dog. Some parts of our local community are dealing with such huge grief of youth-on-youth, lateral violence, and is in fact, a public health crisis.
I invite you to pause for a moment to honour the tragic loss of life of Chino Johnson.
3. With whatever happens from this point on in relation to the climate and ecological crisis — if we face increasing floods, food shortages, drought, more breakdown, more pandemics — as well as the public health crisis of gun and knife violence, what we are going to need is a solid community to lean into. So that no one gets left behind and so that communities facing gun and knife violence can heal. So that when things get tougher, we grow our networks of support, and solidarity becomes the way we do things.
The metaphor that inspires me to keep going comes from Aria Doe, speaking after Hurricane Sandy struck New York in 2012.
“Even though you have a hand pushing you down, you still offer a hand to help people up.”
(All the things the climate cannot change)
I love this. It inspires me to keep reaching out to people and being there for people, even when things are hard for me. What if we lived that principle everyday of our lives?
4. To be true to the complexity of life, we need to celebrate the initiatives that lower carbon emissions and protect nature and call for the ones that also create greater social justice and equity that aren’t yet happening and need to be happening. The times we are in necessitate a good hard look at what we aren’t doing, what we are failing to find ways to do. It needs to be OK to acknowledge the shortfalls.
It was an incredible privilege to be alongside
Kwesia, AKA City girl in nature in on an incredible journey, and speaks openly about growing up in Deptford with the challenges of marginalisation and exclusion. She got the opportunity to go on an expedition to the Peruvian Amazon rainforest and shares her love of nature with others and her passion that everyone should have the opportunity to connect to nature.
Nick who works with and advises XR, Transition town, Stand up to Racism, Healthy living platforms. His doctoral research focusses on the intersection of environmental sustainability and social justice, particularly on why environmental movements are ‘Green, but mostly white’ and asks these questions:
· Why social justice and race matter for environmentalism?
· What do we mean by community sustainability and resilience?
· Who is included in our understanding of community? Who is excluded and why?
· How can we build solidarity across differences?
It was also fantastic hearing about the Remakery, Loughborough Junction Action Group, Father Nature, Myatts field Park horticulture and Lambeth Council Climate Change team
As I welcomed and introduced the speakers, I realised I was holding John Berger’s book Hold Everything dear which he wrote in the aftermath of the second Iraq war. He articulated in 2005 the destruction we are facing ‘The blunting of the senses, the hollowing out of language, the erasure of connection with the past, the dead, place, land, soil, possibly too the erasure of certain emotions, compassion, mourning, hoping.’
It was to restore right relationship with our emotions … to grieve, to talk together about the difficult things, the conflicts, increasing the skill and capacity for empathy and celebrating our amazing people in our communities, that Lahnah, Golda and I created Amplifying the Good Energy (2020–21) and the Conflict and Grief project in 2016.
As we reflect on community, community is not really those people who look like me or like the same things as me. As Dominic Barter said,
“Community is not primarily made up of those with whom I identify but of those with whom I share resources (material and affective), with whom I share risk, with whom I persist.”
Finally, back to Aria Doe. “One of the things we do is to make the community feel safe, secure and loved. And what do you do if you feel safe, secure and loved, you dance! What else do you do?!” (after Hurricane Sandy, New York 2012)
On that note, this is our Jerusalema dance, May 2021
1. Assume positive intention of the other person.
Know that the other person is always trying to achieve something life affirming. Even if they go about it in ways that have a further impact on you.
When someone does something I find challenging to receive, I find it incredibly helpful to ask myself ‘What are the very good reasons that so and so is doing this?’ This question validates the actions of the other person.
This assumption helps us to genuinely consider the perspective of the other person, and possibly ‘step into their shoes’. This is about empathic understanding.
2. Name impact clearly
I will encourage you to name impact in the following way:
1. Naming what happened – what the other person said or did.
2. Focus on the impact on you, (rather than focussing on the other person)
3. Focus on your values or what is important to you that wasn’t lived up to in the situation
Eg, when I read this email, I felt hurt and angry because being included and hearing from everyone is so important to me.
The reason this is helpful is that it focusses fully on you, what happened to you, the impact on you and on your values. If this gets heard, then you and your experience is validated.
If,on the other hand, you spend your time saying that what the other person has done is wrong or outrageous or whatever, you spend your energy focussing on them. Your experience actually gets lost.
I’m trying to give more space to your experiences. This is how reconciliation and healing can happen.
3. Hear impact without reacting
I’ll often invite people to reflect back what they are hearing during a conflict support session.
• I’m hearing you say that ….
• Don’t follow it with .. but… (that undoes all your work of listening!)
• Don’t follow it with your perspective immediately.
• Check that this is accurate if necessary. This means the person speaking feels you are listening to them.
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I've got a little pack of Flower Essence cards made by the Findhorn Foundation. Each one has a picture of a plant, the plant’s name, a quality that this plant evokes and a sentence affirming this quality. I pick a card a day or whenever I need to and a life affirming quality comes into focus for me. Today I picked GORSE – Joy – I live my life with joy and passion. Other cards show that GARDEN PEA is associated with Expression, HAZEL is associated with Freedom and SPOTTED ORCHID is associated with Creativity.
For me, there is a resonance between the qualities shared in the Findhorn Flower Essence system and the ‘human needs’ that Marshall Rosenberg catalogued as he went about creating Nonviolent Communication.
As we get deeper and deeper into chaos, polarization, confusion and inequality on a societal level, these qualities - through whatever system or modality that is harnessing them - are touchstones or guiding inner resources that I absolutely know the felt sense of because I will have experienced each of them at some point in my life. I can actively recall these experiences in order to reconnect to the quality right now. This supports me, when on one level, I am faced with overwhelm and a sense of powerlessness about the state of the world. Holding awareness of these qualities gives me an anchor, a resource, some relief and a little bit of juice to move forward.
I bring focus to this similarity between the list of Needs in the Nonviolent Communication system and the Qualities in the Findhorn Flower Essence system because I’m very interested in the places where different traditions meet. I imagine that someone who might have never heard of Nonviolent Communication might see this connection and feel a spark of opening towards it; similarly someone who might have never heard of the Findhorn flower essence system, might suddenly feel a resonance with this earth-connected spiritual system. Both systems have a fundamentally spiritual basis.
Here is a link to the Findhorn Flower Essences website
Here is a link to NVC UK website where you can get Feelings and Needs cards
Here are the Human needs outlined in the modality of Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
“The simplicity of the approach is the most important thing. The message for me is that I can stay with the grief and I need it to be seen but I do not necessarily need “the therapists” and two years one to one sessions of talking with psychotherapist.;-)
Walk Participant, May 2015
“Thank you for doing it and for the trust that we can deal with it, stay with it by simply walking.”
Walk Participant, May 2015
“Thank you for the experience of the walk.I liked all of the information you gave us about communication. It felt a lovely, supportive environment.”
Walk Participant, June 2015
“It felt special to be sharing whilst walking, whilst out in nature.I can honestly say that your walk was a significant element of a weekend that made me feel I had helped myself shift psychologically.It felt a truly meaningful thing to do.” Walk Participant, June 2015
“Since the Walk, I think something has shifted in me. It’s as though there is now the possibility of not having to automatically burying painful emotions. It like it’s OK to feel loss or sad (now) about a friend who is seriously ill. Facing this is new and it feels honest. Thank you so much, for opening up this possibility for change. It’s the very best of learning.”
Walk Participant, June 2015
“Thank you for Wednesday’s Walk. What you say does sink in and it has helped me this week. I thought you facilitated the session with a light touch and very skilfully and that’s what made it possible to share our thoughts and emotions. Being outside, having tea, walking, coming together under the tree………………….. provided a lovely calm setting that balanced well with the openness of our conversations with you and each other. Once again thank you for providing this community event.”
Walk Participant, September 2015
“I actually came away from the Grief walk quite stunned by its power.
It was an unexpectedly beautiful day in terms of the weather…….for me, the walking round in a threesome really worked……it was very powerful to listen to people’s stories and I did genuinely feel heard from the quality of the thoughtful responses I received. A theme in our separate threads was identified and that was very helpful…it wove them together!!!
It had seemed really important to me to go on the walk, it was exactly what I needed.”
Warm Wishes, October 2015 Walk Participant
“I’d never given ‘grief’ substance before now. The emotion itself. Awakening unspoken agonies long ago dulled by grief, yet always latent and from time to time touching your soul and yearning for a moment to express. Today’s walk did that. Sharing made the turmoil less tumultuous. Thank you Ceri and our cosy group – it felt so natural.”
L Johnson, November 2015
Cultivating the Strength to Love: 2 day training in Nonviolent Communication. Transforming conflict in relationships and groups
Conflict is feedback that hasn’t happened.
How many times have you noticed an unease inside of you about something that is happening that you don’t want to be part of, or something that someone is doing that you don’t like, or something that you are being expected to do?
This is happening all the time on a micro level in interpersonal relationships, at work and on a bigger scale in our shared reality of living in this city together, in this country, on this planet. Things are happening that we don’t like, and we very often don’t even acknowledge this to ourselves, let alone speak up about what is happening, let alone find support to collectively transform the situation.
One of the skills needed is the capacity to give and receive feedback.
The parts of this skill include having compassionate understanding of:
This 12 hour Foundation training will give you a solid overview of the tools of Nonviolent Communication that support giving and receiving feedback, speaking truth, self-care and compassion.
This workshop will transform your potential for speaking your truth.
What is Nonviolent Communication? And this series of workshops Cultivating the Strength to Love?
Nonviolent communication (NVC) is a process, skill and consciousness which can be learned. NVC strengthens practices of:
The African American Bishop Curry transformed the energy of the Royal Wedding with his sermon. He flagged up what "The Rev Martin Luther King said, We must discover the power of love, the redemptive power of love. Love is the only way. There is power in love. Don’t underestimate it."
Cultivating the Strength to Love is about learning how to cultivate love for self, others, community and the world. The Strength to Love is one of Dr Martin Luther King's most famous sermons and this training is designed to help you cultivate this power of love. I evoke the memory of Dr Martin Luther King with care. As a white person, I want to be aware of the tendency of white people to appropriate words (and resources) carelessly. I don’t want to be appropriating his words without also integrating the vastness of his vision and practice around racial justice; something he lost his life for.
So far in this series Cultivating the Strength to Love (NVC Foundation Trainings) we have looked at Authentic Relationships and the systematic blocks to authenticity and ways we can transform these with different structures, acknowledgments and practices.
We have looked at Choice, Consent and Creativity and how the practice of NVC can begin the generative cycle of empathy and choice, alongside support and collaboration so we can tackle larger systemic challenges.
Why these themes? I know that I’m caught in a ‘cycle of violence’ when I get scared, confused or stuck. We don’t exist in a vacuum, so the systemic cycles of violence appear in our personal lives insidiously as we go about our daily interactions. Very often, if we have more privilege we are blind to them, or if we have less privilege, we are numb, angry or relentlessly caught up in the violence of them.
This is what Marshall Rosenberg, who built on the nonviolence of Dr Martin Luther King and Gandhi, called ‘Domination culture’, and since the time that Rosenberg was writing and attending to social change, we have even more understanding about trauma responses and about systems thinking for social change.
“If you are not aware of how you are part of the problem, you can’t be part of the solution.” David Peter Stroh
And about money ...
I work in a creative way with money ... pay what you can and what meets your needs.
People pay what they can, considering their needs and mine. Some people pay more. Some people pay nothing. It's a fascinating journey towards a needs-based approach to money.
And I like working with different levels of experience so while this is a foundation training, I welcome people who have more experience in NVC.
In the course of my training in NVC, I repeatedly attended and assisted on Foundation trainings, where I revisited again and again the foundations of nonviolence. As paradigm shifts or changes in habits and patterns take a long time to take root, the repeated practice was very important to create change.
Come and join me for 2 days of learning and connection. Book here
If you haven’t encountered NVC before, have a look at these 4 pages of Information
Or what Marshall Rosenberg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O4tUVqsjQ2I NVC Training course with MR 9 hr vid
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UEqmZ2E1o64 The purpose of NVC (3 hr)
A=Allow and accept what you are hearing and how it is being expressed (unless you really can’t, see below).
B= Boundaries. Use a Time Boundary. Use reflecting back Feelings and Needs as a structure.
C=Connection. Use your Resonant Warmth and Generosity so that the other person really feels your humanity radiating towards them. Empathy is not mechanical.
ABC of Empathic Listening (more detailed guidelines)
A=Allow and accept what you are hearing and how it is being expressed. If someone is stuck, you are not trying to ‘unstick’ them. Try and connect to the relief of not trying to fix anyone. A is for Acceptance, not for Action (although Action comes, and there may be times when you cannot ‘accept’ what you are hearing)
B= Boundaries. Empathic listening is a very boundaried practice.
C=Connection. Use your Resonant Warmth and Generosity so that the other person really feels your humanity radiating towards them. Empathy is not mechanical.
If you can’t be in this resonant space of warmth and generosity. Stop, acknowledge you don’t have capacity. Go and do something lovely for yourself.
Remember, when people are offloading with a lot of energy, this is because they have a very deep, strong need to be heard on something. This need may be chronic and urgent.
The aim of Empathy injection to share the ‘tools of empathy’. It’s very confusing in the media and scientific research what Empathy even is. Some researchers talk about Cognitive empathy (ability to imagine what life might be like for someone) and Affective empathy (ability to feel what the other person is feeling)
I draw on the Nonviolent Communication understanding of empathy; empathy is allowing space for the other person to feel what they are feeling, so they can get clarity, so they make changes to improve things.
Some people take on feelings and experiences of other people very easily, that is not the aim of this kind of Empathy. If that happens to you, make sure you hold yourself, imagine a protecting power holding your back so that whatever comes in, can go out again. You could also say to yourself as you listen to someone else “I take what is mine and leave what is yours.”
Often we don’t know what we are feeling, we don’t know what we are needing. It takes some reflection to discover this. It’s really like holding up a mirror to what the person is saying. “I’m hearing you say this …”. It’s important to be aware of interpretations and your own feelings. Don’t reflect back “I’m hearing you say (this) and (this) is your own stuff/interpretations/feelings”
It’s very important that the spotlight of an empathic conversation is on one person, rather than bouncing about all over the place as it does in regular conversations, which results in not much listening really happening, just a lot of talking in the vague hope of being heard.
Agreeing to talk for a limited amount of time each might seem a bit artificial and controlling, but this time boundary can be very supportive in having an effective conversation with more listening happening. Active listening can be very demanding so you can’t do this for hours on end! Agreeing to listen to someone with intent for 10 or 15 mins can be hugely effective in getting to the bottom of an issue. (See my ABC of Empathic Listening for more on Allowing, Boundaries and Connection when listening)
How to practice Reflective listening:
(To listen without own thoughts and feelings getting in the way of the speaker’s important process of self-discovery)
I’m hearing you say …
What I heard you say is …
Do not skimp on the Reflective listening.
How to utilise the Boundary of feelings and needs:
Use the energy of curiosity to guess, rather than say the following in a ‘diagnostic’ way.
Are you feeling upset because you’re needing communication and respect?
(to get out of the habit of linking your feelings with whatever someone has or hasn’t done eg “I’m feeling upset because you didn’t call.”)
How to give Feedback to someone when you are listening to them:
When someone talks to you, things gets triggered and stimulated for you, usually as positive or negative judgements. This is real, unavoidable, and there could well be important information in this for the person speaking.
Always ask permission before you give feedback, ask a question or share something from you.
“Something’s coming for me and I’m wondering if you are open to hearing it?”
“I’m telling myself you’re probably not gonna like this, would you still like to hear it?”
Asking permission gives the person a little bit of time to prepare themselves to hear.
Always follow feedback with this question “What happens to you when you hear that?”
There will then be more opportunity for Reflective listening and Feelings and Needs guesses because other stuff will come up.
I acknowledge Maria Arpa’s work around Giving Feedback. Maria does excellent 3 day trainings in her application of Nonviolent Communication which she calls the Dialogue Road Map. https://www.centreforpeacefulsolutions.org/