Monday, December 22, 2008

Honoring Darkness and the Inner Landscape during Winter Solstice

Here is an excerpt from my Yoga class focus today, December 22, 2008, honoring Winter Solstice.

During this season of Winter Solstice, we celebrate darkness. Winter Solstice, which this year is December 21, 2008, is the day of the year when we have the fewest daylight hours.

During this time, we can harmonize with life’s rhythms and honor our connection with earth seasons by cultivating our connection with darkness. To paraphrase one of my teachers, Pandit Rajmani Tigunait, we can learn more and grow more spiritually by turning toward the darkness of our psyches than by turning towards the light. This is the perfect season for such a turning to our inner landscapes, often hidden from awareness due to a busier, more external focus. This season is an invitation to open to the darkness inside of us, knowing and trusting that beauty and underlying essence of life is omni-present.

For clarity, it may be helpful now to refer to a drawing of mind created by Swami Rama of the Himalayas. I invite you to draw this for yourself… He draws a large square with an ‘X’ from corner to corner. In each of the four triangles with the square are the four parts of mind: 1 – left side) Manas: the activity and movement of mind and the ever-present stimulation through the senses, 2 – top side) Ahamkara: the walls or structure of our identity formed by fixed concepts/ideas/beliefs about ourselves, others, and life, 3 – bottom side) Citta: the deep well which holds the seeds of all our thoughts, core beliefs, tendencies to act, and the potential of all humanity, sometimes known as the subconscious, unconscious and the collective unconscious; and 4 – right side) Buddhi: the ray or beam of deep intuition, the discerning wisdom part of the mind. To the right of buddhi is a big circle attached to the right side of the square. This circle represents Purusha, Jiva, also known as the individual soul. Gradually, through spiritual practice, the line between buddhi and the individual soul thins and disappears, so that buddhi is informed directly from the Soul. As Buddhi becomes more refined, it is known as Dhi. Around the whole picture is a larger circle, which is universal soul, or Atman.

Darkness is Citta, and aspects of Ahamkara which are unconscious to us. In our Citta lies the seeds of our Soul’s beauty and greatness, the seeds of destiny, as well as the seeds of the tendencies which cause us to suffer, and to hurt ourselves and others. Depending on our spiritual practice and life choices, some of these seeds will bloom, bear fruit, and manifest fully in our lives, and some of them won’t. The power and responsibility of which ones bloom and which one’s do not in your own life is up to you and chosen by you – either consciously or unconsciously. To me, this is one of the greatest gifts of being human – this freedom, this choice, and this creativity to determine which seeds we will water, and what and who we will become.

Today our yoga practice will include three approaches to darkness – utilizing three distinct Yogic paths.

From Raja yoga or Patanjali yoga, we cultivate steadiness and stability of body and nervous system, in order to align with our inner observer. From this ‘seat’ we can witness whatever arises in the psyche, unaffected by and unattached to what we are witnessing. When we witness and observe, the seeds from Citta do not root and grow in our lives. For those of you who practice the process of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), this approach correlates to one of the 4 components of NVC – observations. Wes Taylor, one of my favorite NVC Trainers, said, “observation is the doorway we pass through for any spiritual practice.”

Tantra Yoga is approach to working with life energy in a multitude of ways. In our practice today, we will work with energy in a particular way to facilitate lightening the grooves of our unconscious tendencies and emptying the deeper contents of mind (Citta) as well as releasing accumulated tension in the body and nervous system. Apana Vayu is the name of this letting go energy. With this approach, we focus on the sensations of energy in the body, rather than observing the contents which are being released.

In Bhakti Yoga, we recognize that all feeling and all expressions of life, regardless of how they appear externally, are actually manifestations of love and the divine. In this approach, all experience is openly welcomed, felt deeply through the heart and the body to the universal quality and essential energy of love which is at its source. This is an approach of love, feeling, trust, surrender and devotion to source. In the process of NVC, this correlates to the components of ‘feelings’ and ‘universal human qualities or needs.’

Blessings to you during this season. I invite you to gift yourself with some kind of ceremony or ritual to honor your own darkness and beauty, and to celebrate the gift of life.

I'd love to hear your comments about what I've written, and invite your feedback.

Lots of love,


Saturday, October 18, 2008

Community and NVC in St. Louis

Last evening, Kelsey LaPointe, Hillary Melechen and I co-hosted a St. Louis NVC Community Gathering to share food, connection, NVC learning and practice.

After receiving very few R.S.V.P.'s by mid-week (just one at that time) I decided to relocate the gathering to my home for ease and intimacy. By Friday evening, I had R.S.V.P.'s for 12 adults and 2 children (as well as my own) to attend the gathering. I was a bit nervous that everyone would fit into my small living room, but everyone did.

I feel so excited and happy remembering this event last night:
... the delicious food,
... the 5 newbies to NVC who attended,
.... the several who were more experienced with NVC
.... Hillary's courage and 'jumping into the pool' in facilitating our opening connection exercise,
.... the input from the more experienced NVC-er's contributing to learning for everyone,
.... the warm feeling I experienced seeing pairs practicing 'empathy' with each other spread all over the main floor of my home,
.... the celebration of hearing people's met needs
.... the guidance of one of the participants, Sherry Summers, to suggest I lead a 'living energy of needs' meditation, which to me was such a contribution to the evening,
.... the curiosity and desire one of the participants expressed to continue a conversation to continue learning about needs, NVC-style,
.... the sound of girls singing downstairs,
.... the support of my children to host the visiting children and share the space of our home with visitors,
.... the beauty of the NVC process to create connection and community, even when people meet for the first time,

My heart is filled with joy about community, shared learning, contribution and meaning. What a wonderful life!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Celebrating Community - NVC Style

This weekend, Jeff Brown and I co-led two trainings on Compassionate Nonviolent Communication (NVC) at the First Divine Science Church in St. Louis, Missouri. We led an introduction to NVC Friday evening, and an intermediate session Saturday morning.

I feel happy and warm inside remembering both events, and reconnecting with some people in the St. Louis NVC community I hadn't seen for a while.

Following the training this morning, we gathered for a potluck lunch, followed by a St. Louis NVC community organizing meeting, attended by me and five others. At that meeting, the group did some brainstorming for a mission for St. Louis NVC, and also began to explore some strategies about how we'd like to contribute to more NVC in our area.

Over the three years I've been practicing and learning NVC, I've been struck by the quality of connection I have experienced with others at NVC workshops and trainings. In my experience, practicing this process supports people to shift into a state of connectedness that makes relating very sweet. I'm hopeful about joining with others locally in St. Louis who wish to be part of creating NVC community here.

If that is intriguing to you, I invite you to let me know and to join us in some way, such as an NVC community gathering, a training, or an organizational meeting!

In heart,

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Body and Consciousness

As you may have noticed, the human mind tends to get in ruts, and to repeat itself. We can see this in the way that our patterns (some of them not so pleasant) tend to repeat in our lives. Many people utilize affirmations as a way to change, or attempt to change, these patterns that are not helpful.
In my experience, affirmations can be helpful. However, for me, affirmations have not been the most helpful way to create deep and lasting change. That is because, according to yoga, the spoken word affects only the conscious mind, and not the subconscious and unconscious, which is where these deep patterns (known as samskaras in sanskrit) actually reside.
When we want to make changes at this deeper level, there are several ways we may go about that. Some ways are yoga nidra, a very deep form of relaxation, which is what yogis practice, and which is why some yoga masters actually need very little sleep. Other more modern ways to access this deeper mind include 'morning pages' or stream of consciousness writing, which I learned about in the book The Artist's Way. There are very effective manifestation practices which exist in Tantric Yoga, some of which I have learned from my teacher Yogarupa Rod Stryker, which can be learned from someone initiated in this lineage. There is also the practice of writing your affirmation, followed by writing what thoughts immediately come to mind following that (which is your unconscious mind's way of telling you what you really currently believe), and which can start to dissolve, simply by your witnessing it. There are also practices involving art, and writing with your non-dominant hand. NVC, one of my passions, also includes processes to shift these deep patterns, or core beliefs.
My favorite, fun, quick and profound way to experience, feel, and shift deep patterns, is through movement. Gay & Kathlyn Hendricks have developed some ways to use natural body language and body gestures to help us uncover unconscious messages which surface, moment to moment. With this awareness, there are several oh-so-simple techniques, involving the body and breath, to shift to an experience of Essence (or is-ness, freedom from ego). They are so simple that I have shared them with my children, as play. Today, using these simple shifts, I played with my ex-husband, whom - if you know me well - you may know I have not played with in a very long time. I celebrate using this play to shift some patterns that I have been stuck in for over twenty years! I'd love to share it with you -- to learn more about what I'm doing with this work, contact me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Celebrating a NVC Dance Floors Training

Last weekend I was in Columbus, Ohio participating in a Nonviolent Communication training, which included two tracks: Developing Fluency with NVC Dance Floors and Facilitating with NVC Dance Floors.

This training was led by Gina Lawrie of the U.K., co-founder of NVC Dance Floors, and my partner, Jeff Brown, NVC Trainer and U.S. Distributor of the NVC Dance Floors. I am thrilled and grateful to have the opportunity to contribute at this training as an assistant trainer, and to support Gina, Jeff, and the participants in the training. I learned so much! As I remember this workshop, I am also celebrating creativity and effectiveness in the design of the workshop which had two tracks which participants could move freely between in each session.

The NVC Dance Floors include NVC processes (created by the founder of NVC, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg). Each step of the process is on a card laid on the floor in a specific order. People 'dance' through the processes, moving their body to the card which is the step of the process they are on. There is not a specific beginning or ending place in the processes--the dancer simply goes to the step which represents their present internal state. To me, practicing NVC Dance floors is a way to engage more fully and wholly in the process of NVC, using visual, spatial, kinesthetic, and auditory forms of learning.

In NVC, we are working with consciousness. A major part of this work is for us to differentiate aspects of consciousness, so we can connect with ourselves in the fullest and most life-affirming way. I love bringing the work of NVC to the dance floors, because for me there is even more clarity in differentiating [the parts of consciousness and parts of each process] by moving the body to the card which represents what's going on inside. And, similar to the yogic practice of Vichara (more about that coming soon), this differentiation or taking apart leads to a "wholling"-- a coming together and rejoining of all the parts in a way that is healing and beautiful.

Can you tell I like this approach?

At this training, I had the opportunity to see and to support dancers (and people who were coaching dancers) through many processes. I am struck by the healing quality of empathic presence which to me is made so clear in NVC. I had many experiences in this training of seeing others coach and support dancers in their process where the air was 'thick' with the tangible, healing quality of empathy and love. And to see people 'blooming' as they received that empathic presence and love. Wow.

I am so moved by this work!
I am grateful to Tom Carlisi for hosting me, Jeff, and Gina, and so, so deeply appreciate his welcome, generosity, sense of fun, and dance ability! I also celebrate the warmth and depth of the Columbus NVC Community, including connections I made for the first time, and people I had the pleasure to get to know better. Thanks, too, to Tracy Wimberly and Andy Workum of Compassionate Communication of Central Ohio ( for organizing and hosting the training, and contributing so much to the dynamic NVC Community in Ohio.
With love,

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Love and the Living Energy of Needs

A few weeks ago, my partner and I attended a weekend seminar at Unity Village near Kansas City, Missouri with Byron Katie.

Afterwards we were talking about how Katie seems to emanate love, even when she responds to people with words of praise or encouragement or labelling, such as "You're so sweet." (Which in the process of Nonviolent Communication--NVC for short--we often consider to be obstacles to connection, even if the words are positive, because when we say what we think someone *is* we in essence separate ourselves from them.)

This reminds me how people's intentions behind the words they say are so much more powerful than the words themselves.

I love how NVC is two parts (because the second part helps me with the first part!):

1) A consciousness of love, of interconnectedness, of beingness; and

2) A set of tools including observation, feeling, need, request which help us to focus attention on what goes on inside us, in ways that help us live in the consciousness. This is helpful, because often we are not aware that we are thinking or focusing our attention in ways that separate us from our essence, and from life. Using these tools helps us to become more aware, and to reconnect with the energy of life, through connecting with the Living Energy of Needs.

When we are living in the consciousness, the 'words as tools' become superfluous, as in Katie's example.

I am so inspired by her presence and her love! (In formal NVC, being with her and hearing how she responded to participants beautifully met my needs for presence, love, and wisdom!)


Friday, May 30, 2008


I feel so happy and grateful for what I'm learning by practicing and teaching Nonviolent Compassionate Communication.

I've been playing ... and would like to share with you this "NVC Overview Page" -- including NVC assumptions, intention, and spiritual practice -- which I put together. This page has been inspired by my own exploration of NVC, influenced mostly by Robert Gonzales and Susan Skye, and also Myra Walden, Jeff Brown, Eckhart Tolle, and integrated with my learning of Rod Stryker's Para Yoga (which I've been studying since 2003.)

I'd enjoy hearing what comes alive in you reading this!


NVC Overview Page


There is a consciousness that is recognized in NVC which is sometimes called NVC Consciousness, Universal Consciousness, or in the Supreme Reality. Some aspects of this consciousness are:

· Interconnection: Human beings are interconnected to each other to Life. All human beings have the same feelings and needs.

· Compassion: When our needs are met, human beings are compassionate by nature. Contribution is one of the most powerful human needs.

· Abundance: there is unlimited creativity, resourcefulness, and compassion possible in human beings, and in life.

· Awareness and Power: Human beings are more powerful that we imagine. Research shows that most human beings only use about 2% of our brain capacity. By growing our Awareness and Intention to have “power with” relationships with others, we can transform our lives and this world so that we hold everyone’s needs with loving care.


To move toward living in this Universal Consciousness in each moment. To do this by being connected to what’s alive in ourselves and others, and holding all needs with loving care. To this end, NVC has some tools available that apply to language, thought, and power.


NVC provides a map (tools and processes) to help us live in Universal Consciousness. Remember, the map is not the destination (intention). One of the pitfalls of using these tools is getting so involved in them that you forgot your intention and get caught up in the mechanics.

Obstacles / Opportunities to Grow Awareness:

· Thinking that Disconnects - Some kinds of thinking separate us from this Universal Consciousness, limit our experience in life, and limit our connection with others. When we become aware we are separating ourselves from Life, we can choose to transform this thinking to bring ourselves back into alignment with the flow with Life.

· Mechanical use of NVC tools – Remember that using the map or tools of NVC is not the same as the Intention to be in Universal Consciousness. Using the tools is a way to fulfill the intention.

· Demand, expectation or attachment to a certain outcome. When this comes up, it is an opportunity to observe & see what consciousness (thoughts, beliefs) is stimulating it. NVC helps us embody a consciousness of acceptance and peace about what is alive, unattached to outcome. Beyond acceptance is .. Enjoyment ….Enthusiasm

· Scarcity Mindset – thinking that there is not enough of something, enough time, enough money, enough love. When this comes up, it is an opportunity to observe and see what consciousness (thoughts, beliefs) is stimulating it. NVC helps us embody a consciousness of Abundance.

Moment to moment practices:

· Connection with myself: Perceiving my own needs and values and how they are being met or not being met.

· Connection with others: Perceiving the other's needs and values and how they might be met or not met.

Created by Rhonda Mills

Friday, May 9, 2008

What is Tantric Hatha Yoga?

Tantric Hatha Yoga is an ancient system of working with the body, mind, and heart to reduce suffering, enrich life, purify and revitalize the systems of the body, and ultimately, to remember and rest in your best self, the real you, an ever-lasting source of tranquility. Yoga is a ritual which we offer our body and mind to the flame of awareness that is our true Self. The highest state of yoga is self-knowledge.

Hatha Yoga is so much more than asana or physical poses. There are 5 sheaths, or coverings, of the Soul, and the body is one of them, known as the Anna Maya Kosha--or food body. Other sheaths include Prana Maya Kosha (energy body), Mana Maya Kosha (lower mind or sense mind), Vijnana Maya Kosha (higher mind or intuition), and Ananda Maya Kosha (bliss sheath), and finally - the Soul, known as Purusha or Jiva Atman. In Hatha Yoga, we may work at the level of any of the koshas, although generally we work from the most gross or dense (the physical body) to the more subtle (Vijnana Maya Kosha & Ananda Maya Kosha). Specific kinds of practices address each sheath.

According to the Hatha Yoga Pradipika, anyone who has been impacted by spiritual, mental, environmental, or physical pain can be helped by Hatha Yoga. If you are practicing asana (yoga poses), then according to the Yoga Sutras, you can judge the quality of your asana practice by how stable you remain in the midst of change in your life.

The reach and affect of Tantric Hatha Yoga include and consist of the following:
- The Physical Systems (muscular, skeletal, respiratory, circulatory, and the nervous system)
- Steadiness and stability of mind and body
- Balance of the mind - preparation for meditation
- Devotional
- As a tool for self-reflection
- Energy - 1) Undoing energetic blocks in the body and collecting and channeling energy, and 2) Chakras & Prana Vayus (awakening, purifying, and balancing energy)
Progress - physically, mentally, spiritually
- Awaken Shakti / Kundalini
- Care for the body as a fit vehicle for the Divine to shine through
- Tools and practices from Classical Yoga, Tantra, and Ayurveda* include:
Asana, Pranayama (breathing and breath retention), Relaxation and Yoga Nidra, Chanting, Meditation, Contemplation, Visualization, Kriya, Mudra (gesture),
Bandha (energetic seal), Bhakti (Love and devotion), Rituals to connect to self, others, earth, and the Divine.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What is Sacred Movement?

Movement and dance is one way to experience the truth, the beauty, and the fullness of who we are. It is an accessible way for people to experience themselves as alive--as pure, sacred energy. Dancing is cathartic on many levels, freeing emotions and energy which have become locked in the body, unexpressed.

All of our life's experiences-- thoughts, feelings, words, and actions--are recorded in the body at the cellular level, and layers of being that are even more subtle than the physical. Trauma (samskara) causes the flow of life to be dammed, and it can create illness, dis-ease, stagnation in life, and a drain of energy. Dancing, along with awareness and witness consciousness, unlocks blocked energy and emotion which was not expressed and released fully at the time it occurred. As we dance, we connect to all parts of ourselves, all the characters in our inner play, and to Soul Essence or Purusha.

The more connected we are to our essence, the more we are able to see and experience the inherent beauty in all beings. As we dance, our love unfolds--love for the sacred body, for the individual human soul (Purusha), and for all that is.

NVC in St. Louis, Missouri

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What is Compassionate Nonviolent Communication (NVC)?

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)
awakens empathy and honesty
and is sometimes described as "Compassionate Communication,"
“the Language of the Heart,” or “the Yoga of Communication.”

I’m not a violent person, so what can the NVC process offer me?
This is a common question when people read the term “Nonviolent Communication.”

The word "nonviolent" in Nonviolent Communication refers to the term as Gandhi used it when he spoke of the absence of violence in the human heart. In Nonviolent Communication or NVC, we recognize that certain language we use dehumanizes other people, or disconnects or dissociates us from those people. By using NVC, we seek to stay connected to the beautiful life-energy within us and other people.

NVC is both a spiritual practice that helps us see our common humanity, and a concrete set of skills which help us to live more peacefully. These skills apply to thought, language, and a commitment to "power with," rather than "power over/under." NVC is a learnable process for creating emotional freedom, self-acceptance, inner peace, and fulfilling relationships. It involves expressing ourselves honestly, listening with empathy, and developing a more compassionate inner relationship. People around the world are using NVC skills to transform conflict, create harmony in their relationships, and build a world where everyone's needs are met through natural giving and receiving, and without the use of coercion or violence.

NVC was created by clinical psychologist and international peacemaker Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, whose work is now supported and promoted by the global Center for Nonviolent Communication (CNVC).

NVC helps people to:

* speak in a way that inspires compassion and understanding
* initiate difficult conversations with more ease and confidence
* remain centered and peaceful while hearing difficult messages
* express anger fully, safely and respectfully - yet powerfully
* shift patterns of thinking that lead to depression, guilt, shame
* enliven yourself by expressing and receiving gratitude
* translate criticism, judgments and blame into life-serving messages
* resolve long-standing conflicts and heal painful relationships
* inspire others to change their behavior willingly.

NVC guides us to reframe how we express ourselves, how we hear others and resolve conflicts by focusing our consciousness on what we are observing, feeling, needing, and requesting.

NVC Workshops provide the opportunity to learn the process, and to learn practical tools which help to apply and integrate the consciousness into your life. Learning and practicing NVC in workshops often meets my needs for inspiration, learning, personal growth, as well as community, support, and play.