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Although the world is full of suffering, it is also full of the overcoming of it. – Helen Keller

balance

I have been practicing Marshall Rosenberg’s seminal work on nonviolent communication for over nine years. Recently, I have been remembering his statement that every communication is an expression of either “Please” or “Thank you.” No matter how skillfully or un-skillfully the communication is delivered, all communications are either requesting something one needs or expressing gratitude. We don’t always get what we want or need from people, but we can always choose a response that is more conscious. A more conscious response will move the conversation closer to love and forgiveness; forgiveness of other, and more importantly, forgiveness of self. A less conscious, more impulsive reaction would likely keep the expression of pain going. It requires much skill to interact consciously with other human beings; I believe that is why we are here, learning with and from each other.

It is essential that we understand the feelings we are experiencing during conflict and that we understand the unmet need triggering the feeling. Identifying our feelings can take much spiritual maturity, because allowing oneself to be vulnerable during conflict is like what Stephen Levine calls, “opening your heart in hell.” Once one is feeling and need literate, conflict is easily reconciled. Here are some common examples:

Wife – You are always working, it’s like I’m a single woman in a marriage!

This is an expression of please. This is where the real work begins. The wife might only feel anger, but sadness or grief is always under anger. She might not even realize she is sad and missing her connection with her partner. In our culture, acknowledging our vulnerabilities is grossly undervalued, perpetuating an illusion that we are self-sufficient islands. Allowing one’s vulnerability, in my opinion, is how we can achieve world peace, one person at a time. At the core of this existential shift is the ability to find empathy for the self. To me, this is the prerequisite and the gift that neutralizes conflict and increases love of self and others. Once empathy is achieved, there is more self-reflection, and her communication might be, “My need for connection with you is not being met and I’m really sad about it. Would you manage your time so you can spend more time with me and the children? With practice, one can move more swiftly to vulnerability and affirming one’s love for the other can render more love.

Husband – I cannot do enough for you. All you do is nag nag nag.

This is an expression of please. It is important to hear beyond the pain. What he may be unable to express if he is not feeling literate is, “I feel so much pressure to provide financially, emotionally, and physically. I feel like I’m dying on the vine. I need some help here.”

The most difficult work is identifying the feelings and needs. Cultivating empathy for one’s self, leads to empathy for the other and will ultimately lead to feeling less isolated. This is the power of duality, or interacting intimately with others; the power of community.

Once self-empathy becomes natural, one can respond to these please requests with gratitude, rather than the automatic reaction of withdrawal or acting out our pain. Whether the communication is skillful or not, we can feel gratitude, because the other person is willing to express their unmet needs. Moving out of one’s own pain through self-empathy allows one to hear the other’s pain. Here is where love and connection can be restored and please can become thank you.

Recently, I reached out to a significant person in my life who has been disconnected from me, disconnected from my heart. As I move toward the end of my life, I know this is not truth. I reached out asking if we could reconnect. (Please.) I was met with a very cold, defensive response. I knew that we were not both in the place of reconciliation and I needed to honor that. In the past, I might have pushed for my needs to get met and it would not have ended well. I recognized the opportunity to honor where the other person was and more importantly, not to sacrifice my own well-being, knowing how open and vulnerable I am in my life right now. My reply was merely, Thank you.

And I meant those words, completely. “Thank you” to her for letting me know where she was. And, “thank you” to me for letting go, for having the wisdom to know that because we are disconnected on the physical plane, in another vibration where love is the only truth, we are connected forever.

All statements express please or thank you. Vulnerability is the key to open communication and inevitably leads to empathy. Empathy is the balm that changes poison (pain) to medicine (intimacy). You cannot give to others with an empty internal reservoir of love. This reservoir needs to be attended to constantly and consistently. This is the basis of most spiritual practices and the hope of heart-centered psychotherapy.

Marshall’s books can be purchased on Amazon, found in many libraries and YouTube videos are available online at no charge.

World peace can be achieved, one person at a time.

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Lynne Kaplan Artography

Lynne Kaplan Artography

“Love motivates service, and service gives form to love.”–Robert Schwartz

There is something that happens during a caregiving scenario, when the level of disability is so extreme, that the caregiver needs total focus for keeping the individual’s life from being in jeopardy. This is the quality that develops between myself and my caregivers. The level of disability I experience is profound. I cannot move a limb in order to avoid a potential catastrophe; my caregiver is vitally important for the most basic skills.

Fortunately, only a small percentage of people with multiple sclerosis ever experience my level of disability. I have come to believe that the degree of disability is not arbitrary, but it is commensurate with what is required for a necessary outcome, the evolution of one’s higher purpose. This understanding is not held by the majority of people, but I believe it is a necessary understanding when one accepts that the universe is perfectly safe. In order to accept this premise, one must subscribe to love over fear. In order to arrive at the state of Love, I needed to move through much fear. As they say, “the only way is through,” and this was surely true for me. Surrendering to this illness was a way for me to learn to accept being cared for on many levels.

Something magical can happen during caregiving when a certain level of oneness is achieved through this intense level of focus. The potential for this to occur became clear while I was being showered in my outdoor shower. Allison is my caregiver for this blissful endeavor, as we have been working together for over two years. The level of focus required to keep me safe is not a minimal feat. There is the full transfer to the shower chair, the slippery soap consideration, and the flying insects during the Colorado summer. Yes, we have an inundation of mosquitoes, gnats, noseeums, horseflies and any other bug you can imagine. Fortunately, my alkaline diet seems to provide a deterrent for the little ones, but not for the more aggressive types.

Contrary to popular understanding about multiple sclerosis, my body is not numb. When there is a fly walking across my skin I feel every sensation. When a mosquito stings me, I feel the intrusion. Actually, my bodily sensation is to a degree, heightened. When I felt the horsefly on my leg, without hesitation Allison swatted the bug full force. In the moment, the insect was as surprised as Allison when she didn’t feel the sting in her thigh. That is how heightened the caregiving symbiosis can become. It can be a curriculum in transcendence, or oneness. Once I was able to go beyond the profound fear of the illness, to understand the bigger picture rather than feeling victimized by the loss of body functioning, I was able to open to relationships where I could receive care on some of the deepest levels.

My ego would never have chosen this degree of vulnerability and from the ego’s perspective, these circumstances are a tragedy. From the bigger picture perspective, I am learning unitive consciousness, or Oneness on many levels. Loving interactions with my caregivers are some of the more significant teachings, for which I am tremendously grateful.