7/3/16 ~ Gross Happiness


What’s Up Next?

Sunday, July 3, 2016 ~ Gross Happiness

Inquiry:  How do you measure/promote happiness (whether intra/interpersonal)? And/or honor pain?


Toolbox:   Gonzales:  Preparation for Authentic Dialogue

I was first introduced to Harriet Lerner’s notion of the conversational/relational “dance” in my early twenties and, since that time, have often found her strategic (dialogic) considerations thought provoking:

Harriet Lerner on Acts of Change


So whether opting to prep, in advance, for authentic communication (or merely to bite one’s proverbial tongue, in the moment), how does one tactically maximize one’s (and another’s) prospects for ‘gross happiness’?

In choosing to apprentice to the study of Nonviolent Communication, I’ve often noted that there are several elements that seem just too idealistic (almost to the point of naivety) to be taken seriously.  (One such notion is that of holding-everyone’s-needs-with-care and/or equally-valuing-all-the-needs-on-the-table — see near bottom of:  NVC’s Key Assumptions & Intentions.)

Of course, one could point to contemporary ‘real world’ correlaries such as Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness (or GNH), Joseph Stiglitz‘s Mismeasuring Our Lives:  Why GDP Doesn’t Add Up or the United Nations issuance of a World Happiness Report.

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   In Bhutan, Gross National Happiness Trumps Gross National Product


“Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product”

– His Majesty Jigme Singye Wangchuck, the Fourth King of Bhutan

The Story of GNH | GNH Centre Bhutan

However it’s tempting to dismiss such things as a contemporary utopian fad, out of step with harsher, crueler realities.  In contemplating harsh realities, there is nothing more mind-blowing, at least for me, than to confront the immovable geophysics (not to mention the ever acceleratingly/harrowing & crunched time tables) of climate change — hence, as one book title aptly puts it, This Changes Everything.  No longer does the notion of our (undeniable, planetary) interdependence seem the purview of bell bottoms and peace signs; it necessarily includes pin stripe suits calculating comparative advantage .

Adrienne Rich

“Re-vision – the act of looking back, of seeing with fresh eyes, of entering an old text from a new critical direction…”

Adrienne Rich, On Lies, Secrets, and Silence: Selected Prose 1966-1978

So, for the upcoming 4th of July holiday, I opted to crack open a dusty old tome and transcribe several quotes from the dawn of enlightenment towards a re-visioning of the ‘pursuit of happiness’…

Garry Wills, Inventing America:  Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence:

Wills, “We shall consider, later, the theoretical basis for Hutcheson’s formulae.   Here it is important to notice what emerges from them, almost as an afterthought, to become one of the most powerful concepts of the Enlightenment.  The equations were set up to measure in quasi-Newtonian fashion the ‘moment’ (motive force) of B, Benevolence; and since Benevolence is defined as the desire to promote happiness in others, the moment of virtue gives us the amount of happiness spread around in society.  The concept of distributable quantity of happiness is born of the numbering urge:”

Francis Hutcheson:  “In comparing the moral qualities of actions, in order to regulate our election among various actions proposed, or to find which of them has the greatest moral excellency, we are led by our moral sense of virtue thus to judge:  That in equal degrees of happiness expected to proceed from the action, the virtue is in proportion to the number of persons to whom the happiness shall extend (and here the dignity or moral importance of persons may compensate numbers); and in equal numbers, the virtue is as the quantity of the happiness or natural good; or that virtue is in a compound ratio of the quantity of the happiness or natural good; or that virtue is in a compound ratio of the quantity of good and number of enjoyers.  And, in some manner, the moral evil or vice is as the degree of misery and number of sufferers.  So that, that action is best — [here comes the momentous formula] — which accomplishes the greatest happiness for the greatest numbers.”

Adam Ferguson:  “Men are really cheated of their happiness in being made to believe that any occupation or pastime is better fitted to amuse themselves than that which at the same time produces some real good to their fellow creatures… If the public good be the principal object with individuals, it is likewise true that the happiness of individuals is the great end of civil society…If the individual owes every degree of consideration to the public, he receives, in paying that very consideration, the greatest happiness of which his nature is capable.”

Adam Smith:  “The happiness of mankind, as well as of all other rational creatures, seems to have been the original purpose intended by the Author of Nature when he brought them into existence.  No other end seems worthy of that supreme wisdom and benignity which we necessarily ascribe to him; and this opinion, which we are led to by abstract consideration of his infinite perfections, is still more confirmed by the examination of the works of Nature, which seem all intended to promote happiness and to guard against misery.  But, by acting according to the dictates of our moral faculties, we necessarily pursue the most effectual means for promoting the happiness of mankind.”

Depth Garry Wills | Video | C-SPAN.org

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Given that the Declaration of Independence, beyond (merely) the “pursuit of happiness” clause, also contained an itemized list of grievances…

An example of ‘Honoring Our Pain – For the World’:

Chief David Brown, “We’re hurting…We are heartbroken.”

NYT:  Dallas Police Chief David Brown, a Reformer, Becomes Face of Nation’s Shock

Police Chief David O. Brown of Dallas at a prayer vigil on Friday. Credit:  Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After the killings in Dallas, David O. Brown, the city’s police chief, became the face of the nation’s shock.

At multiple news conferences, he sorted through a jumble of reports, some of them wrong, as he narrated the standoff between his officers and the gunman. But he also offered simple, emotional words: “We’re hurting,” he said on Friday morning, in a moment of shared public grief.

His appearances may also have evoked a more personal grief. Just weeks after Chief Brown became the leader of the Dallas Police Department in 2010, his own son fatally shot a police officer and another man before being killed in a confrontation with the police.

“My family has not only lost a son, but a fellow police officer and a private citizen lost their lives at the hands of our son,” he said in a statement at the time. “That hurts so deeply I cannot adequately express the sadness I feel inside my heart.”

Since taking over the Dallas department, one of the nation’s largest, Chief Brown, 55, has earned a national reputation as a progressive leader whose top priority is improving relations and reducing distrust between the police department and the city’s minority residents…  (continues)

See also:

CNN:  Dallas police chief’s storied career marked by professional, personal tragedies

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6/5/16 ~ Integrating NVC


What’s Up Next?


Sunday, June 5, 2016 ~ Integrating NVC

“NVC is simple, but not easy.”

– Ike Lasater

Inquiry:  How do you integrate NVC?

Flowers, Tears & Lightbulbs Journal


Four inquiries:
  • What is working about your NVC practice? (gratitude)
  • What gets in the way of communicating with compassion? (honoring our pain)
  • What is your vision for speaking and listening with peace? (seeing with new eyes)
  • What next step(s) can you take, right now, to enhance the quality of connection you seek? (going forth)

(Borrowed from Taste of Compassionate Leadership Free Teleclass – NVC Academy)

Celebrate, Mourn, Learn Process


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5/1/16 ~ Personifying Beelzebub (On Dehumanizing/’Otherness’)


What’s Up Next?

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Sunday, May 1, 2016 ~ Personifying Beelzebub
(On Dehumanizing/’Otherness’)

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Inquiry:  How do you gauge your level of enemy imagery — a.k..a. your point-of-view circa the ‘beelzebub personification spectrum’ (see below) — towards another?  And then how do you go about transfiguring your perceptions (if/when you opt to)?

The Connection Continuum:
<<< You and me (always moving back and forth) >>>continuum-connection

rage, disconnection and violence                                    connection, compassion, peace

On “SNL” Dana Carvey’s Church Lady Returns To Interview Trump and Cruz

Puppetmaster Rosenberg

We’ll be practicing with awareness of — see:  Dynamics of Self-Connection — and working with our Enemy Imagery on the call.


Reptilian Brain & Mindsight

 The Exercise – Shifting Toward Compassion

Even though this is an online exercise, you still need a pen or pencil and a piece of paper with a blank side. I created this exercise so people can have what I call a “Shift”. By that I mean experience a “shift” in what you are thinking about and a shift in how you feel. Read More …

The Connection Continuum:
<<< You and me (always moving back and forth) >>>continuum-connection

rage, disconnection and violence                                    connection, compassion, peace

Dr Daniel Siegel presenting a Hand Model of the Brain

Dan Siegel: Name it to Tame it

Amygdala Hijack & Emotional Intelligence

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Recently I noticed, on the political scene, Lucifer has gotten quite a lot of press:


“An unconscious relationship is more powerful than a conscious one.” ~ Soren Kierkegaard

Image courtesy of wikimedia commons

Human beings, as they evolved, didn’t lose the fight or flight response; they just built on top of this “reptilian brain.” The new layer was the “cerebral cortex,” which allowed us to reflect on experiences and develop ideas rather than just act out instinctual responses.

~ David Rickey

Quilt, Hissing My Plea

Enemy Imagery processes are commonplace, in NVC apprenticeship certainly, however while witnessing this most recent spate of Lucifer-themed current events and noting the apparent ubiquity of our tendency towards demonic attributions of our fellow human beings (conceptualizing how we characterize those, both domestic and abroad), I became a bit more curious to understand the Judeo-Christian origins of this tendency, the ethos in which we swim, that seems to act upon us regardless of any belief system or lack thereof.


There is real pain in America, and where you sit along the ideological spectrum dictates whom you see as your Satan and whom as your savior. ~ 

Origin of Satan

Quotes beneath taken from The Origin of Satan by Elaine Pagels

These book passages, which are taken from Elaine Pagels introduction and conclusion, I found rather illuminating and opted to quote from — in bulk — in case others might too…


The moralizing universe in which we operate…

“The Jewish theologian Martin Buber regarded the moralizing of the universe as one of the great achievements of Jewish tradition, later passed down as its legacy to Christians and Muslims.  The book of Genesis, for example, insists that volcanoes would not have destroyed the towns of Sodom and Gomorrah unless all the inhabitants of those towns — all the inhabitants who concerned the storyteller, that is, the adult males — had been evil ‘young and old, down to the last man ‘ (Gen. 19:4).

When I began this work, I assumed that Jewish and Christian perceptions of invisible being had to do primarily with moralizing the natural universe, as Buber claimed, and so with encouraging people to interpret events from illness to natural disasters as expressions of “God’s will” or divine judgment on human sin.  But my research led me in an unexpected directions and disclosed a far more complex picture….

As I proceeded to investigate Jewish and Christian accounts of angels and fallen angels, I discovered, however, that they were less concerned with the natural world as a whole than with the particular world of human relationships.

Rereading biblical and extra-biblical accounts of angels, I learned first of all what many scholars have pointed out:  that while angels often appear in the Hebrew Bible, Satan, along with other fallen angels or demonic beings, is virtually absent.  But among certain first-century Jewish groups, prominently including the Essenes (who saw themselves as allied with angels) and the followers of Jesus, the figure variously called Satan, Beelzebub, or Belial also began to take on central importance.  While the gospel of Mark, for example, mentions angels only in the opening frame (1:13) and in the final verses of the original manuscript (16:5-7), Mark deviates from mainstream Jewish tradition by introducing ‘the devil’ into the crucial opening scene of the gospel and goes on to characterize Jesus’ ministry as involving continual struggle between God’s spirit and the demons, who belong, apparently, to Satan’s ‘kingdom’ (see Mark 3:23-27).  Such visions have been incorporated into Christian tradition and have served, among other things, to confirm for Christians their own identification with God and to demonize their opponents — first other Jews, then pagans, and later dissident Christians called heretics.  This is what this book is about.

To emphasize this element of the New Testament gospels does  not mean, of course, that this is their primary theme.  “Aren’t the gospels about love?” exclaimed one friend as we discussed this work.  Certainly they are about love, but since the story they have to tell involves betrayal and killing, they also include elements of hostility which evoke demonic images.  This book concentrates on this theme.

What fascinates us about Satan is the way he expresses qualities that go beyond what we ordinarily recognize as human.  Satan evokes more than the greed, envy, lust and anger we identify with our own worst impulses, and more than what we call brutality; which imputes to human beings a resemblance to animals (“brutes”).  Thousands of years of tradition have characterized Satan instead as a spirit.  Originally he was one of God’s angels, but a fallen one.  Now he stands in the open rebellion against God, and in his frustrated rage he mirrors aspects of our own confrontations with otherness.  Many people have claimed to see his embodied at certain times in individuals and groups that seem possessed by an intense spiritual passion, one that engages even our better qualities, like strength, intelligence, and devotion, but turns them toward destruction and takes pleasure in inflicting harm.  Evil, then, at its worst, seems to involve the supernatural that we recognize, with a shudder, as the diabolic inverse of Martin Buber’s characterization of God as ‘wholly other.’

…What interests me instead are specifically social implications of the figure of Satan:  how he is invoked to express human conflict and to characterize human enemies within our own religious traditions.  In this book, then, I invite you to consider Satan as a reflection of how we perceive ourselves and those we call ‘others.’  Satan has, after all, made a kind of profession out of being the ‘other’ and so Satan defines negatively what we think of as human.  The social and cultural practice of defining certain people as ‘others’ in relation to one’s own group may be, of course, as old a humanity itself.”

Introduction, xvi-xviii

Dehumanizing otherness is too often the (subconscious) rule, rather than the exception…

Elaine Pagels:  Yet this virtually universal practice of calling one’s own people human and ‘dehumanizing’ others, does not necessarily mean that people actually doubt or deny the humanness of others.  Much of the time, as William Green points out, those who so label themselves and others, are engaging in a kind of caricature that helps define and consolidate their own group identity:  “A society does not simply discover its others, it fabricates them, by selecting, isolating, and emphasizing an aspect of another people’s life, and making it symbolize their difference.*”

*William, Scott Green, “Otherness Within:  Towards a Theory of Difference in Rabbinic Judaism,” in Neusner and Frerichs, eds., To See Ourselves As Others See Us, 46-49.

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The (subconscious) water that we all swim in, however secular/atheistic/agnostic one may consider oneself to be…

“Many religious people who no longer believe in Satan, along with countless others who do not identify with any religious tradition nevertheless are influenced by this cultural legacy whenever they perceive social and political conflict in terms of the forces of good contending against the forces of evil in the world. Although Karl Marx’s extreme and resolutely materialist version of this apocalyptic vision is now nearly defunct, a secularizing version of it underlies many social and political movements in Western culture, both religious and antireligious.”  Pagels, p. 182

How NVC’s aspiration towards adopting a nonviolent state-of-mind (ahimsa/agape) is similar to that preached by Christianity, at its best:

“…This vision derives its power not only from the conviction that one stands on God’s side, but also from the belief that one’s opponents are doomed to fail.  The words Matthew places in Jesus’ mouth characterize his opponents as people accursed, who the divine judge has already consigned ‘into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.’

Yet among first-century Christian sources we also find profoundly different perceptions of opponents.  Although Matthew’s Jesus attacks the Pharisees and bitterly condemns them, and John at one point characterizes Jesus’ opponents as Satan’s progeny, the Q source that Matthew uses also suggests different ways of perceiving others, in sayings attributed to Jesus that urge reconciliation with one’s opponents:

If you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift (5:23-24).

Or Matthew 5:43-44:

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your father in heaven.”

To pray for one’s enemies suggests that one believes that whatever harm they have done, they are capable of being reconciled to God and to oneself.  Paul, writing about twenty years before the evangelists, hold a still more traditionally Jewish perception that Satan acts as God’s agent not to corrupt people but to test them; at one point he suggests that a Christian group “deliver to Satan” one of its errant members, not in order to consign him to hell, but in the hopes that he will repent and change (1 Cor. 5-5).  Paul also hopes and longs for reconciliation between his “brothers, “fellow Israelites, and Gentile believers (Rom. 9:3-4).

Many Christians, then, from the first century through Francis of Assisi in the thirteenth century and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the twentieth, have believed that they stood on God’s side without demonizing their opponents.  Their religious vision inspired them to opposed policies and powers they regarded as evil, often risking their well-being and their lives, while praying of the reconciliation — not the damnation — of those who opposed them.

For the most part, however, Christians have taught — and acted upon — the belief that their enemies are evil and beyond redemption.  Concluding this book, I hope that this research may illuminate for others, as it has for me, the struggle within the Christian tradition between the profoundly human that “otherness” is evil and the words of Jesus that reconciliation is divine.”  Pagels, p. 183-184

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Trump and the Lord’s Work – The New York Times

San Fermin – No Devil

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Overcoming Enemy Images – Irmtraud, Hagit, Joshua, Amos, Jo

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Dalai Lama – The New York Times

The Dalai Lama spoke about the Atlas of Emotions study at the Wilson House on the Sisters of St. Francis’ Assisi Heights campus in Rochester, Minn.

Inner Peace? The Dalai Lama Made a Website for That

The Dalai Lama has commissioned an Atlas of Emotions to further a lofty mission: turning secular audiences into more self-aware, compassionate humans.

Daniel Siegel discusses Mindsight with the Dalai Lama Center

Siegel: Time In: Reflection, Relationships and Resilience at the Heart of Internal Education

Learning to Express Anger Fully

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Becoming a bit more ‘impeccable’ (without sin) with our words…

NVC: Dealing with Enemy Images

Downshifting the Beelzebub Personification Spectrum:

The Connection Continuum:
<<< You and me (always moving back and forth) >>>


rage, disconnection and violence                                    connection, compassion, peace

Some possible steps towards making shifts on our Beelzebub Personification Spectrum, (whether our enemy-imagery is directed at ourselves or others):

  1. Intention:  Become mindful of your anger-warning signals/dashboard (witness your greek chorus narration of events, a.k.a. watching the ‘jackal show’, especially any movement on the enemy-imagery continuum — a.k.a. the ‘beelzebub personification spectrum’);  see:  Reptilian Brain & Mindsight &  Linnaea Marvell’s  Dynamics of Self-Connection
  2. Observation:  Just the facts m’am —OFNR:  sticking to the ‘who, what, when and where’ of identifying, observationally-speaking, the stimulus for our current upset;
  3. Feelings:  Track the blame game by becoming increasingly Self-Responsible — noting how our interpretations blend in with how we feel and both are invariably rooted in what we are valuing (needs as causal, in NVC terms), and what we are ideally wanting (our preferred strategies) while scrupulously avoiding the habitual/culturally-inculcated propensity towards an entirely external attribution for our current agitation (as is the case of for others:  extrapolating how the acts of others are rooted in their own interpretations/feelings/needs as well);
  4. Needs:  Wanting Fully Without Attachment – Empowerment through more expansive brainstorming of the potential variety of alternate strategies that might be deployed towards attending to our own needs while simultaneously honoring the needs of others, whenever possible;
  5. Requests:  Practice with articulating clear action requests (both of ourselves and others).  See:  Requests-4-Connection & Dwelling in Request Consciousness

The Difference Between Cause and Stimulus

Taking responsibility for our feeling

Guided Meditiation with Dan Siegel (Wheel of Awareness)

He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But Love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle that took him in!

“Outwitted” by Edwin Markham

Mix – Tom Lehrer – National Brotherhood Week

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One approach to transforming enemy images that are especially challenging — as with a political figure with whom you have a great degree of wariness — is to approach it as one might a loving-kindness meditation, for example:  by choosing someone that you are more motivated to soften towards (for example, a friend or family member who holds differing political views than your own):

Overview of Loving-kindness Meditation

How to do it . . .

The practice always begins with developing a loving acceptance of yourself. If resistance is experienced then it indicates that feelings of unworthiness are present. No matter, this means there is work to be done, as the practice itself is designed to overcome any feelings of self-doubt or negativity. Then you are ready to systematically develop loving-kindness towards others.

Four Types of Persons to develop loving-kindness towards:

• a respected, beloved person – such as a spiritual teacher;
• a dearly beloved – which could be a close family member or friend;
• a neutral person – somebody you know, but have no special feelings towards, e.g.: a person who serves you in a shop;
• a hostile person – someone you are currently having difficulty with.

Dan Siegel: The Neurological Basis of Behavior, the Mind, the Brain and Human

Via the Garrison Institute‘s 2011 Climate, Mind and Behavior Symposium: Dr. Dan Siegel of the Mindsight Institute discusses the neurological basis of behavior, the mind, the brain and human relationships. He explains one definition of the mind as “an embodied and relational emergent process that regulates the flow of energy and information,” and describes the role of awareness and attention in monitoring and modifying the mind. Dr. Siegel puts forth a method of expanding the sense of identity so as to include other people, species and the planet and proposes the concept of “we maps.” He recommends using the notion of health as a means of linking individual, community and planetary wellbeing. To learn more about the Garrison Institute’s Climate, Mind & Behavior Initiative:  Visit its website: https://www.garrisoninstitute.org/cli… & Twitter: https://twitter.com/climatemind


Fossil Fuel Billionaires Kill Children

Rather than personifying evil (as in our enemy imagery towards a discrete person/individual), it might be worthwhile to take a more panoramic view…

Leave Fossil Fuels in the Ground

John Oliver exposes how the media turns scientific studies into “morning show gossip”

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See also:


NVC Certified Trainer Miki Kashtan’s take on the Trump phenomena…

Blog | The Fearless Heart | Inspiration and tools for creating the future we want.  Courage to live it now.

What Will We Do if Trump Is the Next President?

By Miki Kashtan

What Will We Do if Trump Is the Next President?

Dorothy Thompson in 1920

In late 1931, Dorothy Thompson, then one of the US’s most respected foreign correspondents, interviewed Adolf Hitler. She spoke of “the startling insignificance of this man.” Although she could foresee the possibility that he would create a coalition government with centrist politicians, she nonetheless said: “it is highly improbable that in this case he will succeed in putting through any of his more radical plans.” Within a year of the article’s publication, he began doing exactly that. In 1934, after writing many articles against Hitler and exposing the reign of terror he instituted, she was the first foreign correspondent to be expelled from Nazi Germany. [Source] …  (Continues)


To discuss this and other of Miki’s blog posts (with both she and other readers of her blog), check in to her free Fearless Heart Teleseminars.
Next dates:

Sunday May 8, 10:30-noon
Monday May 9, 5:30-7pm

And last but not least:

Jon Stewart is back with some strong words for Donald Trump

Posted in Arts & Literature, Enemy Imagery, Giraffe Consciousness, IPNB, NVC & Other Modalities, Self-Responsibility, What's Up Next? | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

4/3/16 ~ Conversational Flow (On Being Cheeky)

What’s Up Next?

Sunday, April 3, 2016 ~ Conversational Flow (On Being Cheeky)

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Inquiry:  How do you gauge your level of cheekiness (a.k.a. receptivity versus nonviolent resistance), conversationally-speaking?

Hart’s Communication-Flow-Chart

ZENVC’s Communication Flow Chart

First, a confession…

Sometimes I use this blog as a convenient log for recording lessons worthy of remembering and further practice (especially given that my mind too oft seems like a sieve).  One such example occurred during a recent teleclass with Jim Manske (see:  Taste of Compassionate Leadership Free Teleclass – NVC Academy).  In it, he spoke of how to be non-defensive in our communication with others by listening and then first replying with the phrase, “So, for you ____ is important.”  He cited an example of someone recently approaching him with a sense of having woken up irritated with something he had said and wanting to talk about it more with him.  By beginning with the word ‘so’ and then a comma, he suggested that we slow down and remind ourselves of an intention to lean in a bit towards the other (and their stated dilemma) than we otherwise, more reactively, might have.  Then by prefacing ‘with you’ next, we can wholly focus on what matters to the other, rather than how we ourselves might again be reacting to (internally).  He also suggested that instead of a perfunctory plunking in a garden-variety ‘need’ word, we could experiment with a variety of other kinds of empathic guesses/reflections — such as observations, feelings, wishes, and so forth (as detailed with his ‘three layers of empathy’).  The context in which he placed this skill, was that of John Gottman’s notion of ‘softened start-ups’ where we approach others in ways that may be more conducive to collaboration and dialogic flow.

Template for Softened Start-Ups:

Practice:  “So, for you, ______* is important…”

*insert a reflection/empathic-guess here — see:  Three Layers of Empathy

One tweak that I might offer, along street giraffe lines, is that instead of routinely stating the phrase — ‘So, for you, ____ is important’ — one might instead contemplate it silently (somewhat akin to the NVC concept of ‘silent empathy’ — by internally guessing feelings and needs prior to opening one’s mouth).  Thus this phrase offers a kind of contemplative template encouraging greater receptivity within and priming the vocal chords pump for how one might then opt to externalize or word our reply more creatively/improvisationally).

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Note the ‘deeper layers’ (of values/needs) that conflict unearths:

John Gottman: What We Really Fight Over

Weekend Homework Assignment: Softening Startup – The Gottman Institute

By: Ellie Lisitsa

Excerpt:  “…As Dr. Gottman’s research has revealed, discussions invariably end on the same note they begin. If you start an argument harshly by attacking your partner, you will end up with at least as much tension as you began with, if not more. Softening Startup of your conversations is crucial to resolving relationship conflicts. If your arguments start softly, your relationship is far more likely to be stable and happy. Here are proven skills Dr. Gottman suggests for softening your startups when bringing up an issue of disagreement with your partner… (continues here:  Softening Startup)

Practice Softened Start-Ups – YouTube

See also:

Diffusing Difficult Conversations with Love | Dr. Julie Gottman

Gottman Method Couples Therapy: The Softened Start-up Technique – YouTube

The notion of a ‘softened (rather than hard/harsher) start-up’ brought to mind this passage from the Tao Te Ching:

Tao Te Ching 8: Be like water



The supreme goodness is like water,

nourishing all of creation

without trying to compete with it.

It gathers in the low places unpopular with men.

Therefore it is like the Tao.


In dwelling, live close to the ground.

In dealing with others, be gentle and kind.

In speaking, stand by your word.

In governing, lead with integrity.

In making a move, choose the right moment.


One who lives in accordance with nature

does not go against the way of things.

He moves in harmony with the present moment,

always knowing the truth of what must be done.


“Lao Tzu likens the Tao to water. The paradox of water is that although it is the softest of substances, it’s also one of the most powerful. Whilst yielding, it is also powerful enough to cut through rock and shape canyons and mountains. This is to say nothing of its essential life-giving properties. All forms of life are completely dependent upon it; without water, there would be no life upon this planet…” ~ Blogger Rory’s commentary continues here:  Beyond The Dream

By being receptive to another, we are embodying the reflective, mirroring qualities of water thereby fulfilling the two criteria that Carl Rogers highlighted as crucial to any truly empathic gambit:  1) empowering what is alive in another (rather than in ourselves) and 2) coming from unconditional, positive regard.  By saying, or thinking, ‘so, for you…’ — we discipline our focus to be on that which is ‘alive’ in the other and then by also emphasizing what they see as ‘important’, our attention is on what they may valuing in the moment (cultivating greater spaciousness/openness and, hopefully, less myopia/self-centeredness).

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This effort towards an unguarded (non-defended/non-defensive) stance evokes the consciousness of nonviolence, as epitomized in leaders such as Gandhi/MLK.

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Philip Yancey on what living out the instructions of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7):

“The movie Gandhi contains a fine scene in which Gandhi tries to explain his philosophy to the Presbyterian missionary Charlie Andrews. Walking together in a South African city, the two suddenly find their way blocked by young thugs. The Reverend Andrews takes one look at the menacing gangsters and decides to run for it. Gandhi stops him. “Doesn’t the New Testament say if an enemy strikes you on the right cheek you should offer him the left?” Andrews mumbles that he thought the phrase was used metaphorically. “I’m not so sure,” Gandhi replies. “I suspect he meant you must show courage—be willing to take a blow, several blows, to show you will not strike back nor will you be turned aside. And when you do that it calls on something in human nature, something that makes his hatred decrease and his respect increase. I think Christ grasped that and I have seen it work.”

Gandhi’s Philosophy – YouTube

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For more, see post on the Seeds & Roots of NVC

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in his own words:

“Gandhi was probably the first person in history to lift the love ethic of Jesus above mere interaction between individuals to a powerful and effective social force on a large scale. The intellectual and moral satisfaction that I failed to gain from the utilitarianism of Bentham and Mill, the revolutionary methods of Marx and Lenin, the social contract theory of Hobbes, the ‘back to nature’ optimism of Rousseau, and the superman philosophy of Nietzsche, I found in the non-violent resistance philosophy of Gandhi.” ~ MLK, “My Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”


Tribute to Mahatma Gandhi by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on the Tenth Anniversary of the Anniversary of the Assasination of Mahatma Gandhi:

“Mahatma Gandhi has done more than any other person of history to reveal that social problems can be solved without resorting to primitive methods of vio­lence. In this sense he is more than a saint of India. He belongs – as they said of Abraham Lincoln – to the ages. In our struggle against racial segregation in Mont­gomery, Alabama, I came to see at a very early stage that a synthesis of Gandhi’s method of non-violence and the Christian ethic of love is the best weapon avail­able to Negroes for this struggle for freedom and human dignity. It may well be that the Gandhian approach will bring about a solution to the race problem in America. His spirit is a continual reminder to oppressed people that it is possible to resist evil and yet not resort to violence.  The Gandhian influence in some way still speaks to the conscience of the world as nations grapple with international problems. If we fail, on an international scale, to follow the Gandhian principle of non-violence, we may end up by destroying ourselves through the misuse of our own instruments. The choice is no longer be­tween violence and non-violence. It is now either non-violence or non-existence.  Oppressed people can deal with oppression in three ways. They can accept or acquiesce. Under segregation they can adjust to it. Yet non-co-operation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is co-operation with good. The minute one ac­cepts segregation, one co-operates with it. Oppressed people can, on the other hand, resort to physical violence, a method both whole nations and oppressed peoples have used. But violence merely brings about a temporary victory and not permanent peace. It creates ever new problems. Gandhi has come on the scene of history with still another way. He would resist evil as much as the man who uses violence, but he resists it without external violence or violence of the spirit. That is what Gandhism does. It is a method of the strong. If the only alternative is be­tween cowardice and violence, it is better – as Gandhi said – to use violence, but there is another way.  I myself gained this insight from Gandhi. When I was in theological school, I thought the only way we could solve our problem of segregation was an armed re­volt. I felt that the Christian ethic of love was confined to individual relationships. I could not see how it could work in social conflict. Then I read Gandhi’s ethic of love as revealed in Jesus but raised to a social strategy for social transformation. This lifts love from individual relationships to the place of social transformation. This Gandhi helped us to understand and for this we are grateful a decade after his death.”

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Lastly, why mention ‘cheekiness’ as a kind of barometer, or continuum, for our conversational conduct?  Along with the spiritual roots that inspired a nonviolent ethos is also the sense that nonviolence isn’t about passivity any more than it is about aggressivity.  It’s a kind of counterintuitive [Taoist watercourse way] assertiveness that has to be calibrated in accordance with circumstances as they present themselves (see two ‘cheeky’ examples by noted religious figures in the clip beneath).


  1. impudent or irreverent, typically in an endearing or amusing way.
    “a cheeky grin”

Fr Bob on Turning the Other Cheek – YouTube

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Water is a force-to-be-reckoned with — just ask the rocks of the Grand Canyon — so whether one opts towards the more genteel or turns the faucet on full blast is always a calibrated judgment call…

It is better to be violent, if there is violence in our hearts, than to put on the cloak of nonviolence to cover impotence. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

See also:   October 7, 2012 ~ Ahimsa?

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Gandhi has said that he preferred to teach a violent man nonviolence than a cowardly one, as such (nonviolent) resistance entailed both the capacity for courage (the ability to bravely strike out instead of cower) coupled with a discernment as to when and how to refrain from this option.  This is reminiscent of Taoist sayings about ‘knowing how to yield’ — see:  Tao Quotes about yielding — which in the context of NVC could be analogous to another distinction, that of ‘thresholds’.   Knowing one’s given threshold, in any particular circumstance, means knowing how much one can bend — how flexible one can be — until there is a breaking point.  With more grave matters, the threshold would be higher (less willingness or flexibility in accommodating another).

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3/6/16 ~ Being in the Moment?

What’s Up Next?

Sunday, March 6, 2016 ~ Being “in the moment”

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Inquiry:  What is your experience of ‘being-in-the-moment’?

This weekend, I lost my elderly cat Totem, and in those final moments with her, I was acutely aware of how the past/present/future intermingled within my mind’s eye.  In other words, my memories of a past that was retreating with accelerating rapidity from my experiential grasp, the gravity of the present moment (and decisions to be made), and my anguish in anticipating a future devoid of her presence.  In a moment, while gazing upon her, I realized that I could no more extricate my thoughts from any of these past/present/future tenses as I could choose not to breathe or not to feel in a state of profound grief.  And suddenly I remembered that I don’t truly believe in linear time, at least not exclusively, but have had a lifetime experience underscoring what Borges would refer to (and perhaps Einstein, too?) as time’s more circular path.

Anyway, this recalled the concept of spiritual materialism that I’ve recently been introduced to by a wise/spiritual writing teacher (in my sort of shaking my head in disbelief, chiding myself of a kind naive, rather ‘egoic’ investment in a simplistic expectation of being able to neatly delineate my experience of time somehow, as just one plausible example of ‘spiritual materialism’).  Something we may explore a bit more, whether this month or on some future occasion…

 Spiritual materialism

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“Enlightenment is like a wisp of smoke. Spiritual materialism is the ego trying to clutch at that smoke.” ~ Michael J Formica MS, MA, EdM via Cutting through Spiritual Materialism | Psychology Today

Top 10 Traps of Spiritual Materialism

By Elizabeth Lesser:  “Walking the spiritual path can be a tricky adventure. Sometimes we make progress and become more free and loving and wise; sometimes we may think our meditation or prayer or ritual is leading toward enlightenment, but really we’re just treading water or even going backwards. The great Tibetan meditation teacher, Chogyam Trunpa, wrote that we are often “deceiving ourselves into thinking we are developing spiritually when instead we are strengthening our egocentricity through spiritual techniques.” He called this kind of self-deception spiritual materialism. We all deal with spiritual materialism; here’s a list, from my book The Seeker’s Guide, of 10 common pitfalls of spiritual materialism you may encounter on your spiritual journey and the key signs that you’re on the path of progress.”  Continues:  Top 10 Traps of Spiritual Materialism


 See also:



My 10 Favorite Books: Simon Critchley

“Time Lived, Without Its Flow,” Denise Riley

I recently lost my mother and have been reading a huge amount about grief, bereavement and mourning. This is the only thing I have read that gets close to the experience of loss and the way in which it suspends our entire, usual understanding of time. A wonderful piece of work from the English poet.

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2/7/16 ~ Breath, Body, Illumine/Inquiry

What’s Up Next?

Sunday, February 7, 2016 ~ Breath, Body, Illumine/Inquiry

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Inquiry:  What is your self-empathy/connection practice (of choice)?

I once attended a class, taught by Jesse Wiens – CNVC certified trainer and founder of ZENVC (which blends traditional Zen Buddhist teachings and Nonviolent Communication), in which he stated that one doesn’t have to enroll in yet another course nor study yet another book to deepen as a practitioner.  Instead he proposed taking the mindfulness training that we’e accrued off the meditation cushion and out onto the sidewalk, as we engage with life.  Then Jesse offered a suggestion that has always stayed with me.  One way to take your NVC practice out of your head, he recommended, is to cultivate a sense of present moment awareness and gratitude.  Simply by taking a breath and bringing our awareness to how our life is supported by the oxygen that we breathe (not to mention our interdependence with other life forms on this planet, such a trees), we become more present.  To complement the breath, he also guided us towards sensing into ones body, notice how it intersects with the earth, and how this, too, is an omnipresent source of support for our life (when I saw the film “Gravity” – it brought the point home a bit more).  This is a practice, taking a breath and sensing into the body while bringing an awareness to the constancy by which our ecosystem supports our life, that can be done in mere seconds.  Additionally, bringing attention to our five senses during this process can similarly engender greater present moment awareness.  In this way we can practice presence almost anytime, anywhere.  That’s the short version of a potential self-connection practice that can be readily accessed in a way that may enhance our sense of well-being and equanimity.  An alternative process, one that starts of much the same but then may be explored at a more leisurely capacity, is one that I’ve come to think of as ‘breath/body/illumine’ (shedding light on what’s within myself and others) which was inspired by John Kinyon and Ike Lasater’s ‘breath/body/need’.  It begins much the same as has been noted above, but when you tune into your body, you also notice other cues, blending into the mix what Gene Gendlin has termed a ‘felt sense’ (in the modality of focusing).  From this attunement to our interior state, we may draw some useful, even animating, insights.  Below offers a taste of some of the ingredients that go into this more elongated self-connection process which we’ll explore in depth on the call.

Setting a Felt Sense Daily Intention:  Tara Brach, “In some way, every day, I’m going to come into stillness.” (it doesn’t matter for how long, nor necessary to evaluate the quality of the effort)

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These self-connection processes are the cornerstone to a foundation that can then embolden our ‘surfing’ heightened waves of emotion, within ourselves and others…

“And, for me, when you’re empathizing with someone, it’s almost like you’re riding the wave of their experience.  And you’re staying with them, just in the same way a surfer stays with a wave.  And you’re doing it for the joy of doing it; for the joy of connecting with another human being…Sometimes, there are some waves, which can be a little hard for you to ride.  And if your surfing is not up to that particular wave it’s maybe a good idea for you to go back into the beach and let someone else surf that wave.  And that is an additional part of the metaphor that I like.  You surf when it’s enjoyable for you to surf and if it starts to feel dangerous or scary or uncomfortable for you to be empathizing with that person, riding that wave, then you stop.” ~ Newt Bailey


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John Kinyon on Breath/Body/Need (NVC-Mediation)

Self-Connection Practice (SCP)
Breath (present moment)
• Focus attention on your breathing, following the in-flow and out-flow.
• Let go of thinking and gently return to the breath.
• Observe your sense perceptions without thinking, labeling, etc.
Body (acceptance of what is)
• Put attention into your body, “inner body.”
• Feel your body sensations and emotions, especially FFF reactions.
• Feel the underlying energy and aliveness animating and flowing through your body.
Needs (nonattachment/synchronicity)
• Say need words to yourself that create a positive “shift” in your body and mind.
• Say the needs by themselves separate from any strategies.
• Feel your body’s response to needs connecting you to life within and without.


Embodied Situated Cognition /The Felt Sense

Gendlin’s notion of the felt sense emerged from his empirical research (in association with Rogers) into the frequent failures of psychotherapy and why it works when it does (Gendlin, 1981: 3). Those who were successful in therapy came to an inner knowing which Gendlin called the “felt sense”, “a special kind of internal bodily awareness … a body-sense of meaning” (Gendlin, 1981: 10) which the conscious mind is initially unable to articulate… (continues here)

See also:  Eugene Gendlin’s Approach to – The Focusing Institute

When Your Felt Sense Speaks to You…What to Say Back by Ann Weiser Cornell, PhD

NVC & Inner Relationship Focusing


“Felt sense” and “felt shift” (via Wikipedia entry on Focusing)

“Felt sense” and “felt shift”

Gendlin gave the name “felt sense” to the unclear, pre-verbal sense of ‘something’—the inner knowledge or awareness that has not been consciously thought or verbalized—as that ‘something’ is experienced in the body. It is not the same as an emotion. This bodily felt ‘something’ may be an awareness of a situation or an old hurt, or of something that is ‘coming’—perhaps an idea or insight. Crucial to the concept, as defined by Gendlin, is that it isunclear and vague, and it is always more than any attempt to express it verbally. Gendlin also described it as “sensing an implicit complexity, a wholistic sense of what one is working on”.[4]

According to Gendlin, the Focusing process makes a felt sense more tangible and easier to work with.[3] To help the felt sense form and to accurately identify its meaning, the focuser tries out words that might express it. These words can be tested against the felt sense: The felt sense will not resonate with a word or phrase that does not adequately describe it.[3]

Gendlin observed clients, writers, and people in ordinary life (“Focusers”) turning their attention to this not-yet-articulated knowing. As a felt sense formed, there would be long pauses together with sounds like “uh….” Once the person had accurately identified this felt sense in words, new words would come, and new insights into the situation. There would be a sense of felt movement—a “felt shift”—and the person would begin to be able to move beyond the “stuck” place, having fresh insights, and also sometimes indications of steps to take.

Six Steps (en) – The Focusing Institute

What follows is a lightly edited excerpt from The Focusing Manual, chapter four of Focusing.

The inner act of focusing can be broken down into six main sub-acts or movements. As you gain more practice, you won’t need to think of these as six separate parts of the process. To think of them as separate movements makes the process seem more mechanical than it is – or will be, for you, later. I have subdivided the process in this way because I’ve learned from years of experimenting that this is one of the effective ways to teach focusing to people who have never tried it before.

Think of this as only the basics. As you progress and learn more about focusing you will add to these basic instructions, clarify them, approach them from other angles. Eventually – perhaps not the first time you go through it – you will have the experience of something shifting inside.

So here are the focusing instructions in brief form, manual style. If you want to try them out, do so easily, gently. If you find difficulty in one step or another, don’t push too hard, just move on to the next one. You can always come back.

Clearing a space

What I will ask you to do will be silent, just to yourself. Take a moment just to relax . . . All right – now, inside you, I would like you to pay attention inwardly, in your body, perhaps in your stomach or chest. Now see what comes therewhen you ask, “How is my life going? What is the main thing for me right now?” Sense within your body. Let the answers come slowly from this sensing. When some concern comes, DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back, say “Yes, that’s there. I can feel that, there.” Let there be a little space between you and that. Then ask what else you feel. Wait again, and sense. Usually there are several things.

Felt Sense

From among what came, select one personal problem to focus on. DO NOT GO INSIDE IT. Stand back from it. Of course, there are many parts to that one thing you are thinking about – too many to think of each one alone. But you can feel all of these things together. Pay attention there where you usually feel things, and in there you can get a sense of what all of the problem feels like. Let yourself feel the unclear sense of all of that.


What is the quality of this unclear felt sense? Let a word, a phrase, or an image come up from the felt sense itself. It might be a quality-word, like tight, sticky, scary, stuck, heavy, jumpy or a phrase, or an image. Stay with the quality of the felt sense till something fits it just right.


Go back and forth between the felt sense and the word (phrase, or image). Check how they resonate with each other. See if there is a little bodily signal that lets you know there is a fit. To do it, you have to have the felt sense there again, as well as the word. Let the felt sense change, if it does, and also the word or picture, until they feel just right in capturing the quality of the felt sense.


Now ask: what is it, about this whole problem, that makes this quality (which you have just named or pictured)? Make sure the quality is sensed again, freshly, vividly (not just remembered from before). When it is here again, tap it, touch it, be with it, asking, “What makes the whole problem so ______?” Or you ask, “What is in this sense?”

If you get a quick answer without a shift in the felt sense, just let that kind of answer go by. Return your attention to your body and freshly find the felt sense again. Then ask it again.

Be with the felt sense till something comes along with a shift, a slight “give” or release.


Receive whatever comes with a shift in a friendly way. Stay with it a while, even if it is only a slight release. Whatever comes, this is only one shift; there will be others. You will probably continue after a little while, but stay here for a few moments.


See also:  Solo Focusing by Kay Hoffmann

See also:  How to Use Focusing to Release Blocks to Action by Ann Weiser Cornell

The Seven Secrets to Getting Unblocked By Ann Weiser Cornell

Ten Ways to Use Focusing in Daily Life by Ann Weiser Cornell (PDF 520 KB)

For more:  Focusing Resources – Our Library

There’s a YouTube, somewhere on this blog, in which the four components of NVC are paralleled to the opening of a door, interpersonally-speaking.  Observation as the peep hole, let’s say.  Feelings as the archway.  Needs as the threshold.  And requests as the door knob (towards interactive, even interspecies, compassion).

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Grist:  Vatican light show illuminates the pope’s climate message

Illuminating the Vatican

Vatican Holy Door Opening Day Light Show

Fiat Lux: Illuminating Our Common Home

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Posted in Focusing, NVC & Other Modalities, Practice Resources - Kinyon's NVC Mediation, Practice Resources - ZENVC, Self-Connection/Meditation, What's Up Next? | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

1/3/16 ~ On Possibility


What’s Up Next?

Sunday, January 3, 2016 ~ On Possibility

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Inquiry:  How do you shift from a probability vector (familiar patterns unfolding indefinitely, one might even say ad nauseum) to one of possibility?

Robert Gonzales on the Beauty Of Needs

One plausible option ~ tapping into the ‘beauty/living-energy of the needs’ as a source of our conduct (being influencing doing)…

Robert Gonzales Guided Meditation: “Compassionately Embracing”

See also:  Introduction to Awakening and Living our Passion: Living with Compassion

I recently heard something that seemed timely, perhaps especially given the advent of a new year.  Someone posed the difference between fact (read ‘2015’) and possibility (read ‘2016’) as akin to that of crossing the hall from a biology class (envision a dead bird dissected, a factual reality) to that of an english class (imagine the following, inspirational poem being read):

To a Skylark

By Percy Bysshe Shelley

         Hail to thee, blithe Spirit!
                Bird thou never wert,
         That from Heaven, or near it,
                Pourest thy full heart

In profuse strains of unpremeditated art…

Poem in its entirety continues here:  To a Skylark by Percy Bysshe Shelley


(In this context, the facticity of the inert carcass gives way to the poetic realm of possibility, of unpremeditated art.)


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Possibility sings, where fact lies as a deadened reality.

A distinction between being and doing has often been considered; however what I often find much more thought-provoking is the interrelationship between the two.

In NVC, for example, a shift in our capacity to communicate differently (a kind of doing) is often attributed to being skillful at attending to all-the-needs on the table (as when one taps into the living energy or beauty of the need – a kind of being – that is longed for rather than getting stuck in the rut of lack).

My NVC coach, Aya Caspi, recently offered that doing can sometimes precede an expansiveness of being, as when one stretches beyond one’s comfort zone and, in the process, finds that one’s capacity for leveraging influence expands in the process.

In another modality, derived from ontology, there is a notion of past, inert (communicative) constraints falling away in the presence of an inspirational quality of generative being that touches, moves and inspires; this lively authenticity derives from a three step process of: 1) identifying that which is lifeless (or inauthentic); 2) getting the impact of being burdened by this deadweight; and instead 3) inventing a new possibility (somewhat akin to shifting from the lack to the beauty of a need).

On Sundays call we’ll experiment with the above…

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Diary Entry:  I especially like this passage from St. Francis de Sales: “I am like a bird singing in the thornbush.” So I will speak little about my own sufferings; I will be restrained…” ~ Overlook Much, Correct a Little: 99 Sayings by John XXIII


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