A Turning Point

Journal Date: January 2, 2020

COVID is still very much a problem right now. It looks like we’re just past the peak of the most recent surge, and the two vaccines have been approved and are on their way, but it will likely be many months before anything begins to approach any kind of “normal.”

I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if it took all of 2021 for this to run its course.

But I’m not in a rush to return to “normalcy.”

Of course, I’m concerned for my health and that of everyone else, but I’m far from eager to return to what once was.

There’s a part of me that’s afraid for what will happen when this ends–I almost don’t even want it to.

There has been so much growth for me this year, and I don’t ever want to go back to the way things used to be for me.

But just because things will reopen, and I can go back to my same old patterns or lifestyle doesn’t mean that I should.

I can just decide for myself that I want to live a different kind of life from now on.

These have been difficult times, but I can take what I have learned from the depths, and return to carry this wisdom in my life from now on.

I really believe that things are going to be different from this moment forward. 

Just in the past year– it’s incredible how much I’ve changed.

I’m so proud of myself.

I don’t say that enough. I should. I’ve worked so hard for this.

The past year is just the culmination, it’s the work of many, many years coming to fruition.

This is the year healing happened.

There’s no going back – never – to the way things were before.

So many things came together this year to make it happen.

It was years and years of difficult work, but there’s also an element of it that I can’t explain – that I believe is only attributable to something higher than myself. 

We can call it grace.

I’m thankful for that, too.

These two things, persistence and grace, have made all the difference for me.

Other things that made the difference last year: Beso, my little doggie love; a regular meditation practice; my therapist; and Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts and all the beautiful women I met there.

Finally, I can thank an unflinching willingness to face my pain (and to do my best to hold it with as much compassion as possible).

This was it – this year was the turning point that made all possible.

We are often confused about what we must do to begin holding ourselves and others accountable.

We have this idea that in order to create change, we must prove how someone has been wrong and demand immediate punishment.

This is a roadblock to our change. This is what blocks us from being better people.

When we know that we will punish ourselves, or be punished, in a way that is unforgiving and without mercy, we become unwilling to look at ourselves and the ways in which we may have caused harm.

Instead, we cling to denial. We push away anything that would make us stop and pause to examine our behavior, for fear of the pain or destruction to self this would entail.

Compassion is NOT an avoidance of accountability. It is the the PRECURSOR to accountability.

When we are able to look at the ways in which we have harmed ourselves or others in a way that accepts the context of where we were at, that acknowledge our full humanity and the limitations of our perception, only then we have the capacity to do better.

You can create space for your full complexity to exist, even while acknowleging ways in which harm was done.

No one is ever entirely good or bad. No thing exists in a vacuum.

When we hold each other tenderly, it creates space for change. It nurtures accountability. It is a source of continual growth & evolution.

Today, you can practice seeing without rushing to judgement. You can practice understanding with care & concern. You can practice seeking justice without demanding destruction.

Justice without mercy is not justice. Accountability requires faith in our shared humanity. Let’s do this with care & concern, from today forward.

A Buddhist Approach to NVC

I’m grateful to have been able to attend a daylong program over at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in the Bay Area this weekend, “Skillful Speech in Difficult Situations.”

Essentially, it focused on a mindfulness-based approach to Nonviolent Communication skills. The speaker, Oren Jay Sofer, brought Buddhist principles to his knowledge of Dr. Marshall Rosenberg’s ideas regarding NVC through short lectures and transformative meditation practices that we then shared and reflected on with a partner.

It was very helpful for me to learn some of these ideas and skills at a time when I’m being challenged in certain key relationships. I’d like to share with you now some of what stood out for me, and hope that it can be useful for you, as well.

The first thing that caught my attention were the following fundamental principles underlying Sofer’s approach:

  • All humans share a set of fundamental needs.
  • Every action we take is an attempt to meet one of these needs.
  • Emotions are a response to our needs being met (or not).

Knowing these things, we can then begin to better understand other’s motivations and behavior. When we understand that their negative emotions and unskillful behavior is often a response to the pain and discomfort of unmet needs, we may be more willing to be compassionate and collaborative in our approach to them.

One of the practices that I found really useful were the 3 “Practices of Presence” that we later engaged in with a partner. We learned how to come back to the present moment through focusing on the breath, grounding in our bodies, and orienting ourselves to the wider space around us.

Other valuable skills mentioned were active listening, reflecting, and how to skillfully interrupt or pause a difficult conversation.

I was able to get myself a copy of Sofer’s new book, “Say What You Mean: A Mindful Approach to Nonviolent Communication.” I’m excited to get back home to LA and spend some time with this book, I can’t wait to learn more.