Thursday, August 31, 2017

Upping Your Gratitude Game

I spent this past week with my long time partner Steve.  Both SuperGeeks for Nonviolent Communication we tend to talk about and philosophize about how to be, do and teach NVC a great deal of the time when we are together.  A cool thing happened this visit.

We usually put together a list of things we might do upon my arrival.  After our trip to see the eclipse [a truly ecstatic experience], we chose to participate in more projects than we originally anticipated while I was in North Carolina.  It made for tight scheduling, lots of thinking, and lots of opportunity to be in distress. 

We began to notice our capacity to ‘forget to enjoy life’ and even drop into complaint (albeit only in tone of voice at times), with some regularity and we decided to support ourselves in finding joy!  Steve’s request was to support his return to joy by inviting him to share what he is grateful for if and when I noticed his grumpy attitude.  He was far grumpier than I, and more often than I, in my opinion (hehe).

What Happened?

What ended up happening was pretty amazing and fun!

Working on some hard, complicated projects late into the night, we had a few [read more than you might imagine] opportunities to implement our plan.  What ended up happening, is the both of us spontaneously just broke into gratitudes if the other had complaint energy. This happened instead of me reminding him…or him reminding me.  It seemed more efficient somehow – not that either of us thought about it – to just begin announcing our gratitudes.  Because of our competitive nature the other would then start calling out their gratitudes too! 

It was so much fun!  All of a sudden I would hear Steve scream out, “I love my knees!, I appreciate the sun!,  I am so grateful for my life!”  In an instant I knew I must have had complaint energy and broke out into my own shouts of appreciation, “I love my hair!, My body supports me!, I love my fingernails!”  And then we would laugh and laugh.   Instant energy shift.

More than joy.

While this new way of being was just delightful, we noticed something more.  Pretty much all the week something new happened consistently.

Here are a few examples. 

This same project we were working on late into the night.  We were putting something together that we bought online.  We were pretty certain that critical parts were missing.  As we got bummed out and found our joy again, we decided to just keep going until we could not continue without the missing part.  Our friend walked in to check up on our progress.  He was one of the people we were hoping to contribute to by doing this.   We told him of our dilemma of the missing pieces.  Instantly he noticed that two pieces were connected and in fact, not missing!  Not only were we able to celebrate his saving the day, we were able to complete the job that night!

It turned out that I needed to buy new tires while in Asheville.  This was very much NOT part of our plan and since I was driving home 600 miles the next day, my safety became the priority need.  We were also hosting an event that evening – just hours away that we wanted to create materials for.  We decided to work while waiting.  The tire place was in strip mall. 

Not wanting to sit inside and breathe the fresh scent of rubber tires in the store, we were looking to a teeny strip of green to sit on and get to work.  We had a few opportunities to shout our gratitudes – needless to say.  The most astounding part was how easy this was to do.

We walked toward the far end of the lot.  What did we find?  A park!  At a river’s edge.  With tables and benches.  Lots of green space and quiet.  Right there.  [Steve has lived in Asheville for close to 20 years, and been to that strip mall many, many times, never knowing it was that this park was tucked away in the back corner of the parking lot, just for context of the miraculousness of this].

We Upped Our Gratitude Game

Steve and I were crystal clear that staying in the gratitude consciousness ~ upping our gratitude game ~ allowed some kind of opening for us to create and/or to see what we were hoping for.  Consistently.  It was remarkable.

Say This Not That

I would like you to take my word for it, and just do this too.  And, it really doesn’t matter.  Don’t take my word for it and just do this.

Find a buddy, or do it on your own.  Commit to changing your point of view the instant you notice you want to complain.  Try it for a day.  Or better yet a week.  I will be curious to read your comments to hear what happens for you!

Friday, August 25, 2017

What Difference Does it Make?

While doing errands recently, I found myself behind an SUV on a fairly busy street.  I was talking with a good friend on the phone and I watched a wrapper (gum?  candy?) fly out the window.

I said to my friend on the phone, “Someone just threw a candy wrapper out the window”.  It was obvious to both of us that what I didn’t say was my thought, “What a jerk!  That person is the cause of many of the problems the world faces.  Litterer!”  I am fairly confident that in a span of 20 seconds, even more ‘jackal’ thoughts whizzed through my mind.

My friend said, almost immediately, “Oh, they must have precious needs for ease and cleanliness.”  In an instant I got that in 30 seconds the quality of my life changed.

The one thing we have control over is our thoughts.  And the quality of our lives is directly related to what we put our attention on.  In the minutes after I watched the wrapper come out of the auto in front of me, I became unhappy, feeling almost hopeless and helpless about the state of the world, and aggravated with the unknown person in front of me.

Certainly I have precious needs for care, compassion, beauty and a healthy planet.  So seeing the wrapper come out the driver’s window stimulated pain for me.  Had I focused immediately on these precious needs, a few things might have happened.  Those 30 seconds to one minute might have been less stressful on my body (stress state = physical inflammation, more on this in another blog).  I might have come up with a strategy to have those needs met.  For example, I might have immediately thought ‘I am going to plant something to offset the trash, or possibly decided that I am going to sweep up the trash from my street’.  Those moments of aggravation didn’t allow for the creativity necessary to meet my own needs. 

Had I connected to my own needs, and been curious about the possible needs for the person in the car, then had we somehow engaged in conversation, there would be an increased likelihood that I might say something that was connecting.  In my jackal thoughts, I think either my words or energy or both would have indicated to that person that I thought they were a jerk, and likely they would defend, get angry back at me, and you can imagine the rest.  Nothing inspiring to me.

So what difference does it make what I think?
1.  The quality of my health.
2.  The possibility of connection with another human living life here with me.
3.  Having the creativity to actually get my needs met.

Say This Not That. 

Read a few of these and notice how you feel (emotions and in your body) when each giraffe and jackal thought.  See if you can notice a difference.
1.  She is so selfish, and doesn’t care about anyone but herself.  vs.  I so appreciate that she is confident in her choices and has the capacity to ask for what she wants. 
2.  What a stupid question, why are they wasting my time in this class.  vs.  This seems so difficult for them, I wonder what is in the way of them understanding what is being taught.

3.  He always is taking over the meetings, talking too much.  vs.  He seems to care so much about our project.  I think I connect more to him to see what meaning it has for him.

Try this! 

Next time you find yourself judging whether someone or something is good or bad, or right or wrong, consider the impact on your life.   See if you can translate your judgmental thoughts into the precious needs that are causing your own distress.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

What is a Domination System?

One of the most powerful things I have read recently.

A short read offering clarity about how we are where we are culturally.   I also have some hope that we can indeed be on the long road back to our former coherence (as Thomas Berry wrote).

This comes from the book Humanizing Health Care, by Melanie Sears, RN, MBA.  (page 23).  Brilliant.

What is a Domination System?

Domination structures were developed thousands of years ago when our ancestors moved from small-scale gardening to larger-scale farming.  Because physical strength was needed to handle plows and other implements of mass food production, physically strong men found themselves increasingly in positions of power, and systems of domination began to evolve.  A cultural spiritual shift occurred at this time away from reverence fro live and pleasure and toward domination and pain.  In order to maintain rigid rankings of domination, violence and abuse became institutionalized and (as with unprosecuted mail violence of both warfare and the war of the sexes) bound up with gender-specific socialization processes.

In domination systems, there are two roles:  Those who dominate and those who are dominated.  Those on top control those below and benefit from their position at the expense of others.  Those who are dominated often come to believe that they, too, benefit from the perpetuation of the domination system--after all, "Father Knows Best."  The system is held in place through fear and force and through patters of thinking that polarize complex feelings and experiences into strict categories:  right or wrong, good or bad, us or them, punishment or reward.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Can you ever WIN an argument?

I did a bit of research on this.  I wanted to see if there are actual guidelines about this.  Whether I looked up how to win a debate, or win an argument, what is being offered is about keeping calm, use logic, ask questions.  I found an article that says, “Gather your thoughts before you deliver the zinger”.  Zinger? 

What I haven’t found in my research is the criteria that defines WIN.  Often subjective ~ as in our political debates, the press (and each candidate) announces the winner (based on some undisclosed, not so obvious and very biased criteria.)  Obviously in this case, each candidate declares themselves the winner.  Then we (the witnesses) either agree or disagree.  This might work in politics when the goal of the debate is to get votes.

In tennis as an example, there is a clear structure, an agreed to point system, an agreed to court size, apparel and racket constraints, etc.  In other sports there are always well-defined rules whether it is time, a court or field, a point system, conduct constraints.

Following this thought through, if you are going to have an argument with someone and you want to win it, it would be wise then to set up the structure that you both agree on about who wins.  Otherwise the argument continues until either one or the other or both declare themselves the winner. This can look like ending the relationship, allowing us to continue to believe we are right about what we think, and most often continue to be in some level of upset with the other person ongoing.  Possibly it dissipates in intensity over time, and more likely not.  Just notice how you feel the instant you spot this person a year later!

Make some rules.

So if you really want to win, rather than just declaring yourself the winner, get
with your conflict rival and set up some rules for winning.

Taking this step actually requires listening, connection, mutual understanding and agreement.  Part of what will need to become clear to you both is what is the purpose of winning?  What will be better in your life if you win?  Understanding?  More connection and shared reality?  

I am guessing you can see where this is leading?!

In the context of Nonviolent Communication and creating a quality of connection where everyone’s needs matter and get met, the very act of taking this step [reminder:  step = talking and making agreements] is how you win an argument!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Do You Know What You Mean?

I have been to workshops where they teach that everything is meaningless.  There is no actual specific meaning inside what happens, or what people say and do.  Is this true?  Well, yes. 

And…I might suggest this thought for people to consider.   Hearing that nothing has meaning often leads to all kinds of emotional distress.  Why?  Because the things people do and say have meaning to us.  Often super life changing, really deeply held meaning. And this is also true.

How is this possible?

Our filters make things mean things.  So when a thing happens (or someone says something) it means one thing to me, another thing to you, and yet another thing to our friend.  All the meaning is happening inside each individual. 

That is why when you believe what you think is true you are more likely to argue with someone.  Because they have the same belief, that what they are thinking is true.  If what you each think is not the same, and you both believe your thoughts as truth, there isn’t much room for understanding.  So we spend lots of time arguing about our beliefs as if the meaning we each make is the actual meaning.  And, as we know, there is no actual meaning.


So much distress and hours of unproductive conversations would be alleviated if we each understood that the meaning I make is important to me, and the meaning you make is important to you.  Acknowledge the difference and that we care, rather than try to convince the how wrong they are.

For example…

I like vanilla ice cream and you like chocolate.  If I insisted that you like vanilla and you insisted that I like chocolate we will be talking for a long time ~ with likely not much resolve.  I will still like vanilla, you will still like chocolate.

Instead if we chose to celebrate each other’s choices, discussed the pleasure you experience eating chocolate and my joy in eating vanilla, and make arrangements for us each to have those experiences we would decrease our stress and increase joy!!


Next time someone tells you their opinion and shares it as the truth, repeat it back to them with the words, “I understand from what you are saying that you experience what happened as this….is that right?”  Once they have responded, you offer, “I have made a different conclusion from what has happened, are you interested in hearing my thoughts?”

They may or may not want to hear your thoughts.  Whether they invite a conversation or they do not, you have saved many hours of arguing whose interpretations of the facts are the ‘correct’ ones!