We’ve all experienced our share of pain, loss, sorrow, uncertainty and anxiety for ourselves, the whole of humanity, our environment and our world this past year. These challenges certainly have exacerbated the stress load in our lives. Here are some thoughts on how to shift the paradigm and create the harmony that we want and deserve.
The spiritual practice of compassion calls upon us to be kind, due to the awareness that everyone carries some form of burden. One of my mentors, Deepak Chopra, says, “We’re all doing the best we can from the level of consciousness we’re in.” Everyone’s level of consciousness differs depending on life’s circumstances.
When you try to understand where someone is coming from, you become less judgmental. As you become less judgmental, you become more tolerant. When more tolerant, you’re better able to forgive or look beyond another’s transgressions (as long as it’s not crossing any important boundaries). And when you can forgive in this way, you have the capacity to love unconditionally. Compassion is a powerful healing balm for these turbulent times.
In one of the lessons about conscious communication at The Chopra Center Ayurvedic Lifestyle Program (Mind-Body Health), where I teach, we introduce principles from the internationally renowned Nonviolent Communication (cnvc.org) model founded by Marshall Rosenberg, PhD.
With Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also called compassionate communication, we learn to hear our own deep needs and those of others. We learn how to express ourselves without going on the attack, and how to accept criticism without taking it personally. Through its emphasis on deep listening—to ourselves as well as others—NVC helps us discover the depth of our own compassion, which serves as a primary motivating factor versus fear, guilt, coercion or shame.
The 5-step process
The 5-step process involves observing and describing a situation without blame or judgment, articulating the feelings that have been triggered, connecting this feeling to unmet needs, making a “specific, doable request” of another person using language that does not put one on defense or victimize, and being present to the gift and life enhancement this practice provides.
Use this process to gain clarity about how you feel, identify what you need, and take responsibility to consciously communicate your needs to another person.
1. What just happened?
Come into present moment awareness and maintain your calm. Observe and describe the situation without judgment. Distinguish between present moment observation and past laden evaluations (e.g. “You always react this way.”).
2. What are these feelings?
Articulate feelings the situation triggers. Refrain from projecting responsibility for your feelings onto someone else. Relinquish patterns of victimization, including the language you use. Describe how you feel, choosing words that describe only the emotion and avoid victimization words/phrases. For example, instead of “You always ignore me,” (which is a judgment), get at why you feel triggered—“I feel lonely.”
3. What do I need?
Consider fundamental human needs: attention, affection, appreciation, acceptance. Identify the need you have that isn’t being met. Be specific. Connect feelings to unmet needs and again, DO NOT project the responsibility for your feelings onto someone else.
4. What am I asking for?
Having identified your needs and the behaviors that will satisfy your needs, you’re ready to communicate them to increase chances of having them fulfilled. Make your request as specific and doable as possible with a level of respect, rather than a demand.
5. What is the gift or opportunity in this situation?
Observe what you benefited from through the practice of this process. Perhaps journal or meditate on this to fully bring into your consciousness.