Life=Change

Is life asking you to change the story of who you are? Are you asking what’s possible? Are you yearning for sanctuary to find meaning in the changes within and around you? Mary Mackenzie and I are hosting “Life Transitions: Rediscovering the Spark Within” from Sept 15-20, 2016 in Seabeck, WA. This retreat will offer understanding of the cycle of transitions and practice developing strong skills to move through transitions with courage, strength and grace. Join us! There are a few more spots left.

To learn more about the retreat and facilities: click here

To register:

http://nvctraining.com/registration/signup/meeting-life

 

 

Craving my Cocoon

 

I’m in the neutral zone. That’s William Bridge’s term for the second phase of transition. I’m tired, confused, lethargic, and tasks that used to be simple seem complex and effortful. It hardly feels neutral in the neutral zone.

Fortunately, I’m aware that this stage of transition requires self-care and reflection. Even though my days seem less productive than they might otherwise, I know my soul is doing some important work to recreate my life and that this phase will open up into a thrilling new beginning. Knowing that and having some practices I can rely on every day will get me through this stage with grace. Spending time in my cocoon now will serve me well.

Mary Mackenzie and I were recently in Hiawatha, IA, facilitating our “Meeting Life Transitions: Rediscover the Spark Within” workshop. I was so moved by the roomful of people that arrived as strangers, but by the end of the first night were offering each other compassionate presence as they courageously shared transitions around life, death, health, work, identity, relationships, and families. We don’t have to go through these transitions alone or without guidance. There is a flow to life that we can shape and participate in.

If you’d like to explore how to navigate life transitions in a beautiful part of the world with supportive community, join Mary and me Sept 15-20, 2016 in Seabeck, WA.

Here’s a summary of the details (click here for a flyer):

  • Dates:  September 15th – 20th
  • Location: Seabeck Conference Center, just outside of Seattle on Hood Canal (we’ll be staying in the Spruce building)
  • Price: (until 6/1): $925 (single occupancy) / $800 (double occupancy).  This includes tuition, lodging, and all meals…such a sweet deal!
  • Bonus: 25 CEUs available thru CNVC for LSW, MFT, and RN

 

If you have questions about the details above, or if you’d like to chat about if and how this retreat could support you, please feel free to contact Aimee at aimee@explorecoreconnections.com.

Guest Blog by Aimee Ryan- Life Transitions

Open letter to anyone who ever has, is, or may some day go through a transition in life (that’s right human race, I’m talking to you),

 

I come to you with a special opportunity to join Kathleen Macferran and Mary Mackenzie for a 6-day experiential workshop – Life Transitions: Rediscovering the Spark Within.

 

Why is this a special opportunity?  So many reasons, but here are some of the highlights:

 

  • As the philosopher Heraclitus noted, “the only constant in life is change.”  That means that if we’re going to flow through life with even a modicum of grace and ease, we need to be able to find self-connection and groundedness in the midst of the turmoil. This retreat is aimed at supporting you on that journey and giving you the skills and tools to find your spark and that place of inner peace, regardless of outer circumstance.

 

  • Mary and Kathleen are two of the most heart-connected, authentic individuals I’ve yet to meet and I can’t stress enough what a life-changing delight it is to spend with them. What’s even better is how they balance each other, each bringing something unique, and how their different styles complement this work so beautifully.
  • Kathleen and Mary have been offering weekend workshops on this theme for the past couple years and because they’ve been getting such rave reviews, they’ve decided to go big and do a longer, more intensive workshop. I brought Mary and Kathleen to Missoula, MT for a weekend workshop on this theme last May, and participants loved it.  The people who came represented a huge range of life transitions – some working through career changes, others focusing on intimate relationships, or life purpose, or healing from physical/mental/emotional dis-ease – and each one left with a deeper sense of themselves and their process.

Here’s a little more…

 

This retreat applies Nonviolent Communication (NVC) principles and processes to understanding and working through transitions (big or small). Mary and Kathleen have found this workshop works well for those with no NVC experience as well as those who have an integrated NVC practice.

 

I hope this was enough to get you excited about joining us. If it turns out you can’t make it (you’ll be missed!), it’d be such a gift if you’d be willing to pass this info on to others who you think might enjoy attending.  

 

Here’s a little summary of the details (click here for a flyer):

 

 

 

  • Dates:  September 15th – 20th
  • Location: Seabeck Conference Center, just outside of Seattle on Hood Canal (we’ll be staying in the Spruce building)
  • Price: (until 6/1): $925 (single occupancy) / $800 (double occupancy).  This includes tuition, lodging, and all meals…such a sweet deal!
  • Bonus: 25 CEUs available thru CNVC for LSW, MFT, and RN

 

If you have questions about the details above, or if you’d like to chat about if and how this retreat could support you, please feel free to contact me at aimee@explorecoreconnections.com.

 

Much love,

Aimee

(retreat organizer and Kathleen/Mary super-fan)

 

Carrying on Marshall Rosenberg’s Legacy

10968500_10153808734601808_3423761194286852278_nI’ve been wondering what I could possibly write that would give a glimpse into the gratitude in my heart for Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication. I can’t find words to convey the strength of life stirring in me in the midst of sadness, gratitude and awe. Because of my time with Marshall, I see the world differently. I hear so much that is unsaid yet desperate to be heard. I have a clear sense of who I am and my purpose in the world. I have courage to do my best to make a difference, and deep compassion for myself when it doesn’t seem like enough. I wake up every day determined to carry on Marshall’s legacy of creating a world where everyone’s needs matter.

Some of Marshall’s favorite venues to share Nonviolent Communication were International Intensive Trainings (IIT), 9-day immersion experiences. I invite you to find one this year and immerse yourself in the dynamic legacy. Carry on Marshall’s work in the world. He’s passed the torch to us. Will you join me in the embodiment of this work and using it to create systems where all people can thrive? I’ll be at the next IIT April 3-12 near Portland, OR, where we’ll explore how to apply NVC to our own lives, entire communities and the world. I plan to honor Marshall by keeping the fire burning. Join me if you are moved to honor Marshall and his work in this way.

Why Bother doing a TEDx Talk?

Kathleen speaking at TEDxRainierHere is Kathleen’s 2nd TEDx talk, The Power of Listening, as a part of the larger Livestream video of the entire event plus other TED video content. Her introduction begins at 1:12:46 and she begins speaking at 1:13:20. We will post the solo talk video when it becomes available.  Scott Karman was a part of the production team. Below is Scott’s post about why we do this in the first place, reposted with his permission. TEDx is an unpaid experience for the presenters.

 

Reflections on TEDxRainier
By Scott Karman

Along the way, in the eleven months of planning for TEDxRainier 2014, I experienced a particularly special moment during one of the speaker rehearsals. Kathleen Macfarren, a speaker with an elegant talk on deep listening, paused for a moment to ask us, “Why do you do this?” I chuckled as it was the very question that I had asked myself on my drive to the rehearsal. One by one, we all gave our answers. Bo Roth who was responsible for helping the speakers develop their talks said, “It’s all about the people.” Anna Boynton, a masterful speaker coach, said, “It’s all about the people.” Co-curators Phil Klein and Elizabeth Coppinger agreed. We all agreed. TEDxRainier is a unique labor of love where we get to meet, work with, and connect with amazing people doing amazing things. As a team, we have the pleasure of growing friendships through collaboration. There is a lot of laughter, some tears, and of course, some heated moments–all parts of creating something larger than ourselves.

Then, I think about the many teams that come together to make the event happen. The people that live behind the curtains of the stage that you will never see. “Why do we do this?” TEDxRainier is an opportunity for us to do our very best work without the constraints of timelines and budgets. It is a show where we get to decide what happens and how it is going to be accomplished. Kris Monro, of Milligan Events, was the glue that kept us all on track while providing her expertise on the attendee experience. The Tri-Digital team brought the live stream program to those who watched virtually. The camera work on the big screen or your screen at home was skillfully orchestrated by the Dapper crew. The presentations were the collective creations between the speakers and our Silver Fox designers. The entire auditorium experience was the result of the collaboration of all of these teams, including the amazing McCaw Hall staff. So why do we do it? This is what we love to do and we love putting on shows for our dear attendees.

And finally, during a particularly stressful event planning moment, I had posed the question to myself. “Why do I do this?” The answer came as a surprise to me.

It comes down to lifetime goals and dreams. You see, in college, my parents were not pleased with my decision to major in painting. One night, on the WSU campus, my mother asked me with concern, “What do you want to do with your life?” In my youthful and passionate naïveté, I responded that I either wanted to be an artist or the President of the United States. Well, as I grew up a bit, that evolved into wanting to be a teacher who leads and lets the creative process guide the way. Both ideas are applicable to anywhere my inspirations take me. And there I was, Saturday morning pacing my house at 3 AM, waiting for McCaw Hall to open so we could get the show started. I asked, “Why do I do this (to myself)?” A burst of adrenalin came over me and a huge smile stretched across my face. The answer is that I am doing exactly what I set out to do. This whole thing is a realization of lifetime goals and dreams.

 

The Dance of a Connected Conversation

If communication is a dance, have you ever had the sense that you were talking with someone but:

  • Your toes were getting squashed under their heels.
  • Their posture was stiff and inflexible.
  • They were getting scandalously close to your wobbly bits? (Gasp!).
  • You just weren’t connected.

Dancers of many styles - silhouettesMaybe it was like the tango where there was a strong leader in the dance, around whom the dance seemed to turn and whirl? Maybe that was even you, once or twice 😉 Perhaps you were trying to assert yourself but the rapid, complex movements of the lead partner left it tricky to share your expression? You found yourself a little dizzy, being swept around the dance floor, lifted and spun, tracking the next move of the lead partner. (Note: its just a metaphor here, folks – tango can be beautiful, amazing, and full of both people’s expression.). The video below shows a disconnected dance duo stepping on each others feet video (for comparison & contrast with the following video).

Now compare the tango with a lead partner to “contact improvisation” dance. In this style, the partners are fully playing off of each other and there usually is no “lead partner”, although the dancers will be guiding and supporting each other at different times. Movements are fluid and intimate as bodies pass over, under and around each other. This style of dance is more of a metaphor for what we call “the flow of connection” in compassionate communication. This video demonstrates that fluidity.

Back and Forth

“The flow of connection” in a conversation has a focus on keeping both people connected to a conversation. This goes back and forth, using “connecting requests” that ask, “Could you tell me what you just heard so I can know I got my message across?” or “What comes up for you when you hear that?” To stay with the metaphor, those questions keep the dancers synced up, in step on the same dance floor. Another thing to remember is that people can stay more connected with each other if the person speaking talks in “paragraphs” rather than “chapters.” By breaking up the conversation into smaller chunks, it is easier to reflect back what is being shared. If you are listening, it can also be helpful to “interrupt,” to reflect back what that other person is sharing, initiating the flow of connection from the perspective of the “ear.” So even if the speaker knows nothing about compassionate communication and nonviolence, you as a listener can model that flow and keep yourself connected to the conversation.

Trip, Stumble and Get Impatient

Sometimes you might want to have connected conversations and other times, you might not have the energy for it. It does require an openness and detachment from outcomes – a willingness to fully leap into the conversation… in the dance. Sometimes you might want to just be the lead partner or just to follow the lead of another. Sometimes a txt msg is all u have time 4. AND as you practice (and fail) and practice (and fail some more), you will find yourself dancing in conversations with others in ways that used to be battles. Even if you are a seasoned practitioner of compassionate communication, also known as Nonviolent Communication™, watch and enjoy as your skills continue to improve and you spin into deeper connection. Are you wanting to strengthen your Nonviolent Communication practice for 4 days and nights in a beautiful retreat setting, with highly skilled trainers, a supportive community, incredible organic food and rustic natural settings? Learn more about our Blackbelt Communication Skills Retreat at Whidbey Institute, Oct 1-5, 2014.

How To Tune Yourself Into Gratitude

I was thinking about how gratitude is a door we open to Life’s energies. We only need to open the door a little. Frankly, that’s all the energy I have most of the time. Thinking I’m responsible for creating and holding this huge dream of peace on the planet is overwhelming for me. I can, however, crawl to the doorknob and push the door open just a crack.

happy girl with deely bobbersThrough that crack comes a wide range of energies that ebb and flow. You could think of them as radio stations that we tune ourselves to. We can label those radio stations as universal needs. Examples of these needs could include the need for respect, safety, clarity, or understanding. They are energies of life moving through me and through all people. When I say a thankful yes to dancing with any and all of those energies, it allows me to live in the flow of life more directly and opens me to a spontaneous experience of gratitude and joy.

Sometimes we push one of those specific radio preset button voluntarily.
When you share a joke or funny story, you could be dialing yourself into Joy.  If you follow through on something you said you would do, you could dial yourself into integrity.

Other times, you seem to just land there. “Welcome! You’ve just tuned into Need for Belonging Radio, along with the rest of our listeners.”

It is different than focusing on what I might call “positive” and pushing away what I might consider “negative.” I embrace my experience in its wholeness, feeling the fullness of all feelings and present to the underlying needs When I am tuned into one of those radio stations that is uncomfortable, I match my dance to the music on that station. When I’m connected in that way, accepting what is present, I sense a vitality and authenticity that brings me to life. Just that presence is enough to lead me to gratitude.

This practice is so powerful and can have a great effect on your own daily living. It tends to be noticed by people around you, whether they are new faces in the line at the grocery store or your closest friends and family. Gratitude is one of the best ways I know to connect with our children. Sharing your gratefulness with them gives them a sense of really being seen for their beauty. It’s a splendid way for them to become aware of the power they have to make life wonderful for themselves and others while experiencing how good it feels to use that power.

Self Gratitude Exercise

  1. Pause 2X daily spontaneously or during planned times.
  2. Connect with Life reaching out through you now.
  3. Notice ways you are living, savoring, embodying, and sharing the things you most value.
  4. Give yourself gratitude for whatever is alive. This could be just stopping to notice and savor a way you are living out your values and your awareness of this process.
  5. Celebrate that you had the power to give to yourself or someone in a way that was nurturing whether or not it was acknowledged.

Notice what thoughts and feelings come up for you when you start to give yourself gratitude. Is it easy or hard? Are you nervous or relaxed?

 

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How To Break Down Your Needs Around Money

money rabbitholeOne 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, and 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 Isn’t Your Need

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 10 things you regularly 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? Keep working the exercise, peeling back the layers on more of your purchases. You just might be amazed at what shows itself behind your strategies with money.

Notice Your Thoughts and Translate The Needs Behind Them

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.)?

  1. 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.
  2. 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 health care 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.

3 Steps To Free Ourselves From Our Inner Prisons

bird-flying-from-cageThough I frequently walk in and out of WA State prisons, I find myself trapped in my internal prison much more often than I enjoy. It’s one I carry around with me and enter easily. Getting out can be an arduous process. The prison is my mind, specifically the part that spins stories about what other people are thinking, doing, intending or reacting to. I am amazed how frequently my brain can come up with a story and how often a story when checked out, can be way off base.

I find I am not alone. Conversations I hear daily are couched in language that implies wrongness or diagnosis of others. When our stories are about others, we usually feel anger. When our stories are about ourselves, the feelings of shame, guilt and depression arise.

The last time I was in the women’s prison I found myself on the receiving end of the stories. It was a very stressful weekend for the inmates. Mother’s Day events were being held. Try to imagine the stress of parenting from prison or the pain of not having contact with your children anymore. A higher number of fights than normal were breaking out, and most of the women who were trying to focus in the Freedom Project workshop I was co-leading were bundles of nerves.

At one point on the second day, one of the women told me I was disrespectful, then another said I was being condescending, yet another one agreed and added I was just like one of “them” (the officers). They were sure their stories about me were true. Their evaluations were clearly facts in their eyes. I listened with empathy and was trying to find out what they had seen or heard from me that they interpreted as disrespect or lack of caring.

I had asked two women to join me out into the hall first thing in the morning, to create safety, when I thought a fight was about to break out. I mediated between them for 45 minutes and the two women involved were thankful for the reconnection and learning. Some of the women who remained in the room, however, assumed I was somehow punishing the women I had asked out into the hall. It took empathy from my colleague and individual empathy from me with the angry participants during the following break to finally have my intentions for support, caring and learning seen by the women. We ended in a place of connection. The remaining hours of the workshop were spent giving empathy to the women for their pain and talking about the self-empathy that allowed me to stay present to myself in a way that let me hear their pain and not take their judgments personally. Judgments are simply tragic expressions of needs. 

I spent the next couple of weeks noticing when I didn’t stop to pause between something that triggered me (what someone said or did) and my story about it. Some of my stories are well rehearsed as I’ve practiced them for years. My belief in my stories can be as strong as the inmates’ belief in their stories about what they thought was going on in me. The freedom from the internal prison happens in that pause between observation and evaluation. I work through 3 steps that spring me loose.

  1. I find a way to notice what I’m reacting to the specific observation of what someone actually said or did.
  2. I pause long enough to look under my story (the evaluation) to my feelings and needs.
  3. I let a request naturally arise in relation to the needs I’m aware of.

That pause is a place of choice and power. Separating observation from evaluation is a crucial first step to freedom. I find myself making that inner journey time and time again from my prison to liberation. It’s starting to get easier the more I do it. It requires compassion for myself along the way and trust that continuing on that path will lead to greater joy, clarity and connection.

Kathleen Macferran, Certified Trainer
Strength of Connection Center for Nonviolent Communication
Office: 472 Grow Ave NW | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110
206.780.1021. Tel / Fax
Mail: PO Box 10009 | Bainbridge Island, WA 98110-0009