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Daily Meditations for Living With Love, Healing, and Compassion
By Mary Mackenzie
PuddleDancer PressCopyright © 2005 Mary Mackenzie
All rights reserved.
Meditations for JANUARY
If we ourselves remain angry and then sing world peace, it has little meaning. First, our individual self must learn peace. This we can practice. Then we can teach the rest of the world.
— The Dalai Lama
Setting Goals for the New Year
What do you want to focus on this year? What are your goals, hopes, and dreams? It's important to make your goals concrete and specific. Don't just say that you want to be happier; consider how you would like your life to be different. What if your goal is to support world peace by living your own life more peacefully? Consider the specific ways you will do this, such as learning Nonviolent Communication, taking a course on anger management, working a twelve-step program, or seeing a therapist. If your goal is to contribute to world peace, your actions can be very specific and concrete. Avoid focusing on what you don't want, such as conflict at work. Rather, focus on what you want, such as harmony at work. When your goals are concrete and positively worded, you can begin to manifest them. This simple process can have a profound impact on your success.
Take a few minutes today to write down your goals for the year, knowing that the goal-setting process is the first step toward manifesting your dreams.
* * *
The Nonviolent Communication process strengthens our ability to remain human, even under trying conditions. It reminds us about what we already know — how we humans were meant to relate to one another — and assists us in living in ways that concretely manifests this knowledge.
— Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
Nonviolent Communication is a communication process and a model for living that was developed by Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. more than forty years ago. It is used in thirty-five countries worldwide. The two primary components of this process are: 1) a process for living that values everyone's needs equally, and that values connections with people more than being right or winning; and 2) a set of tools that helps us do this.
Most of us have been taught a way of living that promotes distrust and self-protection. In contrast, Nonviolent Communication teaches us that true safety lies in our ability to openly connect with ourselves and other people, to live authentically, and to respond to all situations with compassion and humanity. This process promotes peaceful living on a daily basis.
Be aware today of the times that your behaviors or attitudes promote distrust and self-protection, rather than compassion and humanity.
* * *
I saw my Lord with the eye of my heart, and I said: Who art Thou? He said: Thou.
What Is Nonviolent Communication?
Nonviolent Communication (sometimes known as Compassionate Communication) is a way of interacting that facilitates the flow of communication needed to resolve differences peacefully. It focuses on shared human values and needs, and encourages the use of language that increases goodwill, and avoidance of language that contributes to resentment or lowered self-esteem.
Nonviolent Communication assumes that enriching life is the most satisfying motivation for doing things, rather than being motivated by fear, guilt, blame, or shame. It emphasizes taking personal responsibility for choices and improving the quality of relationships as a primary goal. It is effective even when other people involved are not familiar with the process.
— Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.
The four components of Nonviolent Communication are:
Observations — observing a situation without moralistic judgment, or diagnosis.
Feelings — expressing to another how you feel without assigning blame.
Needs — expressing to another which of your universal needs are unmet or which you would like to have met.
Request — expressing a specific, doable request of another person in an effort to help you meet your needs.
For today, focus on making observations without moralistic judgment in at least two of your interactions.
* * *
I am not easily frightened. Not because I am brave but because I know that I am dealing with human beings, and that I must try as hard as I can to understand everything that anyone ever does.
— Etty Hillesum, Holocaust survivor
Improving Relationships as a Primary Goal
Compassionate Communication suggests that improving the quality of our relationships is a primary goal. Indeed, that connection with ourselves and other people takes a higher priority than being right, winning, making more money, or looking good to other people. If you focus on improving the quality of your relationships through deeper connections, you will improve the state of your life, enhance the peace and love in your life, and feel better about yourself.
I learned this through personal experience. I worked from time to time with a business colleague. Over the years, our relationship deteriorated to the point where we had no civil connections with each other. Our association was worst just as I was starting to look at how I contributed to the angst in my relationships. As a result, I started to focus more on my connections with people rather than trying to be right or to win arguments. Within a remarkably short time, my colleague was telling me how much she admired the changes I was making and how much she enjoyed her relationship with me. We both expressed our sadness for our earlier behaviors. Today, we are close colleagues who work together in a variety of projects and easily call each other a friend.
When you shift your focus to valuing your connection with other people, you improve the quality of your life and your relationships. Everyone who crosses your path will benefit from this shift of focus. It is inevitable.
Be aware today of the times when your priority is to win or to be right rather than to connect, then shift your focus to connection with others.
* * *
Try not to become a man of success, but rather, try to become a man of value.
— Albert Einstein
In Compassionate Communication, we use giraffes as our metaphor because they have the largest heart of all land mammals (forty pounds!). They remind us to connect from the heart. They also have long necks, a metaphor for seeing far down the road. So when we say or do something, it is important for us to be conscious of the potential long-range consequences of our actions. It's about being fully present to our actions and words, knowing that each action creates a reaction. When we consciously choose to respond to life with compassion, peace, and harmony, we meet our own needs for these positive qualities.
Be aware of your own or other people's actions that demonstrate a giraffe consciousness to you.
* * *
Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.
— Martin Luther King Jr.
The Jackal as a Teacher
In Compassionate Communication, we use the jackal as our metaphor for that part of us that is critical, judgmental, or self-righteous. We chose the jackal image because they walk low to the ground, tend to be more interested in satisfying themselves in the moment, and are less likely to consider the future ramifications of their actions. My inner jackal says things to me like: "Who do you think you are? You can't do THAT! You are too much — too intense, too demanding, too weak ..." Can you relate to this jackal? Or maybe you have your own version.
I used to ignore my own inner jackal because I thought it was mean and uncaring. Then, after much empathy, I started to realize that it holds wisdom for me. When it tells me that I'm too intense, I believe it is trying to protect me from rejection. When it tells me, "You can't do that!," I believe it is trying to protect me from the disappointment of failure. I may not enjoy its methods, but I now know that it has my best interests at heart.
Do not think that ignoring your jackal will be healing. The more you ignore your jackal, the louder and fiercer it howls! Your jackal truly cares about your well-being. Hear it, empathize with it, learn its intentions, and create more satisfying strategies to meet your needs. This journey is filled with self -care, love, nurturing, and healing for both of you.
Pay attention to what your inner jackal has to teach you today.
* * *
Speech is a mirror of the soul: as a man speaks, so is he.
— Pubilius Syrus
Tragic Expressions of Unmet Needs
Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D. who developed the Compassionate Communication process, uses the phrase "tragic expressions of unmet needs" to illustrate how often we do things that aren't likely to meet our needs. The copy machine doesn't work, so you hit it and scream at it. I'm guessing you're frustrated because you would like ease and predictability when using it. Will hitting and screaming help you meet this need? How about the ways that you communicate with other people? For example, your husband forgets to change the oil in your car for the third week in a row, so you say: "You haven't done that yet? Do I have to do everything?" I'm guessing you're angry and confused, and want relief, support, and fairness. In another example, you may feel angry, hurt, or scared when someone yells at you on the phone, so you shut down and don't say anything. Is it possible for you to meet your needs for understanding, consideration, and respect if you don't say anything? It's not that the way you communicate is bad; it's tragic, because it won't help you meet your needs.
This simple realization was transformative for me and it helped catapult me into changing my behaviors to better meet my needs. So, the next time you feel hurt, angry, sad, or disappointed, consider the potential results of the action you're about to take. Will it help you meet your needs? If not, consider a different approach that is more likely to satisfy you.
Today, notice how often you do things that will not help you meet your need in the situation. Make a different choice that will.
* * *
Nobody sees a flower — really — it is so small it takes time — we haven't time — and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.
— Georgia O'Keeffe
Empathy, a Potent Healer
I cannot say it enough. Most of us rarely feel truly heard and understood. Empathy, the simple act of hearing someone and focusing your attention on them, can be incredibly healing. Try to listen for the feelings and needs behind someone's words. This isn't always easy, but the results are remarkable.
Here's an example. One of your kids says, "We never do what I want." That might be hard to hear if you focus on the words he uses and if you think 90 percent of your life is focused on meeting his needs. Take a deep breath and listen for what they are; I'm guessing respect, and a say in decision making. You don't have to agree with him, by the way. All you're doing is trying to understand his view of things. You could respond with, "Are you frustrated and want more say in the family's decision-making process?" That's it! Now, carry the conversation through by listening for his feelings and needs and expressing your own. The whole conversation might sound like this, "Yeah, you and Dad always get your own way." "So, you think we're only doing what we want without considering what you want?" "Yeah." "I feel sad about this because I know I spend a lot of time considering your needs, and then often neglecting my own. I guess we both want the same thing, balance and respect. You and I would both like to know that the other one values our needs too. Do you agree with that?" "Yeah, I guess." "Would you be willing to talk about what we are both hoping for tonight, and maybe brainstorm ways we can both get what we want?" "OK."
If we focus on the words, we often miss the point. Listen deeply to the needs the other person is trying to convey. Once you understand each other, you will be ready to resolve the situation.
Empathize with at least one person today.
People are disturbed not by things, but by the view they take of them.
Stimulus vs. Cause
Feelings are a result of met or unmet needs, not the actions of other people. Hard to believe? Consider what can happen when a dear friend punches you in the arm as a greeting. You might be happy to see him and you enjoy the punch in the arm because your needs include fun, friendship, and connection. On another day, this same friend gives you a punch on the arm. You are still happy to see him, but your arm had been injured the day before, so the punch stimulates pain. In this case, you will probably be feeling concerned because you need protection and relief from the pain. Both instances had the same stimulus — a good friend punched you in the arm — but your feelings about it changed depending on your own met or unmet needs. Therefore, while what people say or do is the stimulus, the actual cause of our feelings comes from our met or unmet needs.
Notice how your feelings are the result of your unmet or met needs today.
* * *
The greatest deception men suffer is from their own opinions.
— Leonardo da Vinci
Moralistic judgments imply that other people are wrong or bad because they don't act in ways that are in harmony with our values. If you see someone driving faster than you think is safe, you might say that they are a maniac driver. If someone talks slower than is fun for you, you might say that they are boring. You may also do this to yourself when you think that you're fat because you don't weigh what you'd like to, or that you're a bully if you regret something you just said. Anytime you judge someone else or yourself as bad or wrong, you are expressing a moralistic judgment.
Another way of looking at things that allows you to evaluate your circumstances without judgment is to express how something affects you. For instance, when I see someone driving faster than I think is safe, I may say or think, "When I see that person driving that fast I feel scared and I'd really like the road to be safe." Or, if I'm discouraged with my weight, I could say or think, "Ugh. I am so frustrated with my weight. Losing twenty pounds would really give me hope that this can shift." Judging the situation only creates distance and additional hurt feelings. Acknowledging our feelings and connecting those feelings to our unmet needs (safety and hope) can help us to connect with ourselves and others, and to heal.
Notice how often you make moralistic judgments of other people and how you feel when you do this.
* * *
Do not consider painful what is good for you.
Losing Our Judgments
Have you ever noticed how one minute something can seem so utterly painful you're sure it must be bad, then, a short time later, the most amazing results happen, so then you think it's good? This has happened to me countless times.
Consider the time my car died when my finances were at an all-time low. That was bad, I thought. Then my dad called and offered to let me use his car because he had bought a new one. He said I could pay him for the car when my finances improved. His car was in much better condition than my last car and I was then glad that my car had died.
Another time, I wanted to hire someone who I thought would be a perfect fit in my organization. She accepted the position and then called two days later to decline. I thought that was bad. Then, two years later, I talked to the director of the organization she had chosen over mine. They were in the process of firing her and they were expecting a lawsuit. Apparently, her presence in the organization had stimulated pain for many people and office morale was at an all-time low. Then, I thought it was good that she hadn't accepted my offer.
Do we have to judge these life events as good or bad? Can't we simply acknowledge when we're feeling pain or happiness, connect to our met or unmet needs, and have faith that the Universe will organize the results? Judging life's events does not support healing, connectedness, or harmony; in reality, it only adds to confusion, pain, and worry.
Today, make a clear choice not to judge your day as good or bad. Instead, acknowledge the feelings and needs that are present, and leave the rest up to the Universe.
* * *
Sometimes a slight difference in where we stand can dramatically change how we see things.
— Melody Beattie
Do you harbor negative thoughts about others? Do these negative feelings affect your ability to enjoy those relationships or communicate effectively? When you foster resentment or anger toward other people, your focus is on your perceptions of the other person's foibles. Your ability to compassionately connect to them is severely limited. True healing comes when you acknowledge your unmet needs. You can achieve deeper compassion when you also acknowledge the needs that the other person is trying to meet with their behaviors. When you do this, you have a greater tendency to step out of judgment, which fosters resentment and anger, and move into understanding, which fosters compassion and connection.
Excerpted from Peaceful Living by Mary Mackenzie. Copyright © 2005 Mary Mackenzie. Excerpted by permission of PuddleDancer Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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