This heart of ours is filled with joy when connecting with others. We can be challenged by vulnerability and closeness, allowing another to see our dark places. And we may find a challenge in listening to the dark places of the other. Many of us are lacking skill in navigating relationships. Many of us have been traumatized, and left with distrust and avoidance. Nonviolent Communication (NVC) gives those of us who meditate relationship skills to join others in the community. We can develop skills in NVC to give and receive support, and to have difficult conversations. NVC as developed by world renowned psychologist and mediator Marshall Rosenberg is an exciting and joyful way to build on the teachings of the Buddha, the Dharma through close, healthy relationships.
The Buddha emphasized that healthy relationships were essential to developing in the Noble Eightfold Path, the path of liberation from suffering. He also stated that relationships were an antidote to the 5 hindrances, the static that occludes mindfulness. Static like anxiety and anger. Our consistent meditation practice will soften the static. We can use NVC to provide clarity in communication through clearly expressing what is important without static. We can practice being able to be present for what is important to others. Healthy relationships are soothing and grounding. We will find ourselves walking towards our true nature, love and compassion.
The most important indicator of human success is how we are thriving in healthy relationships.
We deeply need each other. We all have similar needs, like being seen and being heard. The Buddha wanted all beings to be happy. Relationships are an important part of being happy. If we keep to ourselves, we may become that old piece of cheese in the fridge molding. NVC emphasizes being present, being mindful of self and others in order to meet needs. We can work in NVC and Buddhism, and find ourselves moving towards presence for others with empathy and compassion. Do we converse with friends? Are we moving toward closeness and vulnerability in relationships?
We practice loving friendship in the meditation community. We are committed to non harm, abstaining from actions that are hurtful. This attitude facilitates safety in this difficult journey to intimacy. NVC is a communication model in relationships where we can speak and listen in ways that are non harmful. Our meditation community provides the context for NVC. NVC can give us some skill to attain safe non threatening relationships where we can get our needs met. Will I be able to support my new friends in the community? How can I demonstrate that I care for people in the community ? What kind of support do I need to move closer to the community?
This movement to the light of close relationships is tough for most of us to navigate. The Dharma, with the support of NVC, can be the boat in which to cross this perilous ocean. We need to get in our boat and sail the rough waters now. If we wait for the water to be placid, we can be waiting the rest of our lives for suitable conditions to sail. The Buddha would say that one has to navigate their own way along the path of liberation. NVC is just one model of communication, so we are free to find what works for us. Have you found communications skills that work for you? Are you flexible with how you operate with self and others?
The Buddha was considered radical when he insisted each person is responsible for their effort and development on the path of liberation. Through individual ownership of emotions and needs, the practice of NVC creates an atmosphere of safety for each person. Through presence for others’ needs and emotions, we practice safety for others. Daily meditation practice is essential for our development. Do you take responsibility for your development in relationships? Are you able to take responsibility for your perception and emotions? How is your daily meditation practice? \
The value of formal meditation practice is that we can see how deep, stratified and conditioned the judging mind is. The Buddha would tell yogis that the cause of suffering is how one judges experience. We are learning to be in touch with the judging mind with informal practice, awareness of moment to moment activity through mindfulness. In meditation practice, mindfulness training is the cornerstone of learning to be present with the experience, observing the experience instead of judging the experience. We are training the mind to observe experience with a sense of balance and non reactivity.
NVC can be a tool to help us to understand the subtlety between observing and judging. There is a difference between saying “You are attacking me” and “Yesterday after class, I felt hurt when you said ‘I can not believe you fell asleep in class!’ ” This movement away from judging to observing can be a relief, because the yogi is letting go of expectations of how the world should be . We are taking responsibility for our emotions, needs and observations. This letting go of judgment is movement to safety and loving kindness for others and self. What changes do we notice in our tendency to judge? What have we determined is a great substitute for judging?
Our barometer for success will be how we are in community. This includes lovingkindness and close relationships. NVC is a great model of communication, for peeling the onion of the outer debris that hinders our closeness. Peel the onion, we find that it is our true nature to be close and to love all beings!
Leu, Lucy.. NonViolent Communication Companion Workbook. PuddleDancerPress. 2015
Rosenberg, Marshall. Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Compassion. PuddleDancer Press. 2002
Rothberg, Donald. “Wise Speech Practice 3- Mindfulness & Nonviolent Communication.” Dharma Seed.
Sofer, Oren. “Nonviolent Communication: An Introduction to Core Views.” Dharma Seed.
Sofer, Oren. Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication.Shambhala. Boulder, Colorado. 2018