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The Spirituality of NVC

Spirituality is a word that gets thrown around a bit. Tragically a disconnected calm can be mistaken for spirituality. In my own practice of Zen this is a common trap.

Again and again I have caught myself in the trap of living from an idea or ideal rather from what's real and alive in the moment.

Honoring life by experiencing what's alive in the moment fully in body and heart is the spirituality of NVC as I know it.

When I live from an idea of how I think life should be, I push life away – I push away my connection with the Beloved Divine.

When I am teaching Nonviolent Communication (NVC) I often speak of the importance of acceptance of what is as a doorway to connection. But when I say acceptance, I don't mean being a doormat for others' behavior, or to shut down your feelings and needs in order to try to maintain a fascade of calm "acceptance".

By acceptance I am talking about watching, but not buying into to the jackal show that says, "It shouldn't be this way. You shouldn't feel like that. It's not okay to get angry. You should change. I am right! Etc…"

And then saying, "This is the way it is right now." And then fully feeling the feelings that are alive in that moment and naming and experiencing the needs underneath them.

If you are truly accepting a tough situation, in all likelihood grief will flow through you for all the needs going unmet in that situation.

If you are operating under the idea of acceptance as maintaining calm in all situations, you will likely feel numb and eventually depressed.

Relating to my mom has been a lesson in acceptance for me. I want to see her healthy and happy and I have very specific ideas about what she should do to be healthy and happy. I spent years haranguing her with advice; "Mom, you need to exercise. Just start by walking 10 minutes a day. Watching so much TV is contributing to your depression. You need to get involved. What about volunteering at the humane society?" on and on I went.

It doesn't matter if I am "right" about what would help her. The message she receives is that I don't approve of her. That I don't accept her and her life as it is.

To move to acceptance, I stopped pushing for things to be different. I acknowledged that my mom is suffering and I let myself feel the grief and pain of knowing that. When it comes up for me, I express that to my mom now instead of giving her advice and pushing her to change. It sounds something like this; "Mom, when I see you eat ice cream for lunch and dinner, I feel sad because I care so much for your health. Could you tell me what you're hearing me say?" My mom hasn't changed her behavior, but I do feel a loving connection with her that wasn't there before.

Take a three minute time out today just to experience what's alive. Notice the sensations in your body, the sounds you hear, the way the light lands on what's in front of you. The state of your heart – is it expanded or contracted? Does it feel warm and light? Or is there a tension and darkness? Whatever it is just experience it for what it is.

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