Strength of Connection : Creating Connections for Change
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Strength of Connection eNewsletter
Vol I, Issue 5, March 2009


Turning Prisons into Houses of Healing

One day I hope our prisons will be places of healing, growth, learning, community and safety. When I go into prisons, I invite the men and women I work with to create that space with me. During each workshop we create a sanctuary of hope and healing. Many of the participants, including me, find ways to carry that sanctuary inside ourselves as we leave the workshop, so we can go there again and again when we are faced with tough decisions.

Recently my colleague, Sura Hart, and I were leading an Empathy workshop for men in a WA State prison. As I entered the workshop, I was surprised to see an inmate, Dan (not his real name), who had participated in a Freedom Project workshop I had co-led with another colleague, Doug Dolstad, four years ago at the same facility. I hadn't seen him since. Seeing Dan, I remembered a moment at that first workshop when he responded to some grumbling in the group about what he was doing by saying, "I know I'm taking up a lot of time here, but learning this stuff is life or death for me." The whole room went silent as we soaked in the truth of those words for all of us. Dan was transferred out of state for three years and had recently returned. I was moved by what seemed to me a profound change in his energy and skills at the recent workshop. He set a tone of courageously looking at "skeletons in the closet," inviting the whole group to participate in his learning and understanding. His example encouraged others to do the same.

To experience the kind of presence these men gave to one another is to walk on sacred ground. If we can create that sacred space inside prisons, we can create it anywhere. What corner of your life do you want to turn into a place of hope and healing? What support would you like to make that happen? Encountering the enormity of the violence around me can be overwhelming, but I find renewed energy when I focus on creating safe corners, places of sanctuary in the midst of a larger backdrop. Science and history seem to support the idea that small changes in behavior have the power to affect living systems and organizations in profound ways. Be the change you wish to see and savor new life unfolding.



Empathy Corps Training

President Obama said "Empathy strikes me as the most important quality that we need in America and around the world...the ability to put ourselves in someone else's shoes; to see the world through those who are different from us." Empathy can bridge ideological divides and address everyone's core needs. Tools exist to implement the practice of empathy in the government, country, and world right now.

These words opened the "Bridging The Empathy Gap- Yes We Can!" proposal that I co-created with my colleagues, Jori Manske, Miki Kashtan, Sylvia Haskvitz and Catherine Cadden (to read the full proposal and comments, go to Our current focus is to "Create an Empathy Corps of trained volunteers who respond to conflict domestically and internationally through empathic connection and shared understanding." I see this developing as a movement across the globe where empathy skills are being passed on and implemented. My hope is that there will be "empathy corps personnel" in every neighborhood. Several CNVC trainers are offering empathy corps trainings. There are several prisons with inmates trained to respond to violence with empathy.

If you would like empathy corps training for your neighborhood, business or local organizations, please contact me ( or 206-780-1021). I will be glad to work with you to get a trainer to your community. In the words of President Obama, "Empathy is a quality of character that can change the world." Yes we can.



Money Thoughts

One of my first "ah-ha" experiences while learning Nonviolent Communication was when I understood the differentiation between universal needs and strategies to meet needs. There are multiple strategies to meet any particular need. Desperation tends to emerge when we confuse strategies and needs, when only one strategy is seen or attachment to one strategy is very strong. Freedom and flexibility bring relief when I'm clear there are many strategies to meet needs. I can then continue searching for new strategies when a chosen strategy doesn't work out. Conflicts don't occur at the level of needs (we all share them, thrive on them, value them), conflicts happen over the strategies we choose to meet needs (I may want a very different strategy than you want to get needs met, or I may be telling myself there is only one strategy even if it meets some needs at the expense of others.).

Money is a strategy, not a need. It can be a very useful and convenient strategy to meet needs for food, shelter, comfort, relaxation, learning, support, ease, fun, contribution, self-expression, beauty and community. Sometimes money is an effective strategy to meet needs; sometimes it is not. To gain more awareness around the role money plays in your life, write down all the things you spend money on. Then go back and list what needs are being met by the things you buy or invest in. Are there needs that could be met by strategies other than money? List all the strategies you can think of. Are there any strategies that would work better than money? For example, are there needs for comfort, mutuality, community, and connection that might be better met by a different strategy? Do you have needs you are currently not spending money on to meet that could be met more effectively by investing money there? Notice how you feel as you are going through this process. Is there some relief around having more options and choice to meet needs than you were aware of before?

Another exercise to increase your awareness around money is to notice what thoughts you have in relation to it. How we think about money determines how much power we give to it. Do you have a set of "shoulds" around how to use money (I shouldn't buy this, I should give more of it away, I should save more, I can't afford that, I can't survive on this low of a paycheck, etc.)? Write down your thoughts and translate them into the needs behind those thoughts. For example, "I should save more" might be an expression of your value/need for self-care, protecting your resources, or integrity. "I can't survive on this low of a paycheck" might be an expression of needs for support, mutuality, empathy or to be valued. Look at the list of needs and think of creative strategies to meet those needs in ways that don't only involve money.

When I think of the national debates around how we use our collective money, I yearn for a different conversation than what I often hear. I yearn to hear discussion on how we can meet our needs for safety, health, education, community, caring for life on the planet, and meaning, in ways that tap into the immense creativity we hold as humans. Yes, let our collective money be part of that strategy, but let the wisdom of our head and hearts guide us to all the other resources to which we currently have access. I don't "buy" the idea that we can't have healthcare for all because there is not enough money. I don't "buy" the idea that we must limit education because of too little money. I would like us to take back the power we've handed over to the concept of money, and get reacquainted with the power we all have to serve Life at every moment through our words, touch, skills, knowledge and actions. I'm confident we would find abundant resources to carry us into a new era where the needs of all are treasured and met through natural giving.



Kathleen Macferran's Upcoming Public Trainings

March 13-14, 2009 - Twisp, WA
"Communicating with Compassion and Courage"

March 13, 2009 7-9 PM & March 14, 2009 9 AM-5 PM
Community Covenant Church 710 HWY 20, Twisp
Requested fee: $15-$30 Fri only, $75-$100 Fri. and Sat.
Registration and Questions: (509) 997-0221

June 1-10, 2009 - Albuquerque, NM
"International Intensive Training"

Madonna Retreat & Conference Center. Lead trainer-Marshall Rosenberg. CNVC Trainers- Kathleen Macferran and Roger Sorrow.
For more information visit or call +1 505 244 4041.

July 13-15, 2009 - Columbus, OH
"Creating Compassionate School Communities:

Tools and Support for the Joy of Teaching and Learning"
July 13, 7-9 PM; July 14-15, 9 AM-5:30 PM. CNVC Trainers Sylvia Haskvitz, John Cunningham, Jean Morrison, and Kathleen Macferran. For more information or to register: Phone:  (614) 558-1141

July 16, 2009- Cincinnati, OH
"Building Safer Communities, Reducing Violence"

Contact Gail Garvin at for more information.

July 17-18, 2009 - Cincinnati, OH
"Living Compassionately: Integrating Nonviolent Communication into Everyday Life"

For more information or to register: Contact Susan Miller-Stigler, 513-300-6832 or

On-going:  NVC Academy on-line

Learn NVC in the comfort of your home or office. NVC LIVE! is an on-line program that allows access to CNVC trainers around the world for $10 a month. Go to and check out the possibilities.


Know an organization that could use some support in operating efficiently, compassionately and in alignment with their values?
Contact me at or 206-780-1021 to explore how I can help.