For the past four years, I have been learning about and practicing Marshall Rosenberg’s “Nonviolent Communication.” The compassionate way of communication that Marshall teaches offers very specific methods for the flow of the communication. Before we enter into the practice of the methods, Marshall reminds us that, “the mechanics have power only when they’re used in the service of the spiritual purpose of the process, which is to create a connection so people can respond out of divine energy, the joy of compassion, the joy of giving. If we do not have that intentionality, we’ve missed the whole thing.” (from his book, “Speak Peace in A World of Conflict“).
This intentionalilty is the key that unlocks the door to true meeting. Without it, meeting will be blocked by whatever obstacles I have chosen consciously or unconsciously to place between myself and the other.
As I have reflected on this idea and experience the lack of this intention in my interactions with others (both on my own part and on the part of the other), I have come to value this “intention for connection” very much.
This invites me to turn to my heart and ask, “do I have an intention to connect with the person I am about to communicate with?” If, upon answering that question, I feel resistance or antipathy or a total lack of interest in connecting because I discover something else is there, that is an invitation for me to pause and go even deeper into my heart to explore what truly is present within me in relationship to this potential interaction. This involves being honest and authentic with myself.
When I am honest, I may find that my intention is actually to prove a point or to defend myself, rather than to truly enter into the communication with a desire to connect. An intention to connect means I will be open to the meeting, willing to listen and receive, to be present and to express myself in response to the other. Many of us communicate to express an opinion, criticize an action, offer our advice, blame someone for a misfortune, or demand a response. None of these expressions invite connection between us.
How do I know that the desire to connect is present? What does it look like? How does it feel? What is a connection and how do I intend for it to happen?
As I ask myself these questions, I also invite Connection to speak into my heart. If Connection were a spiritual reality speaking its truth into my heart, what might it be saying about the experience of this reality?
Connection: I am the energy that bridges, the experience of meeting, the joining of two or more into a unity or community which reflects the individuality and diversity of each member of the whole. I am the power of relationship and inter-being, the gift of interdependence, the invitation to encounter the presence of another. I am openness and trust in the unknown as it reveals itself moment by moment. I am interest and curiosity that draws me toward the meeting.
What has your experience of Connection been like? How would you describe it? What does it look like? Can you “see” it if it is described as an energy or quality abiding in the heart? What helps me to see and notice its presence?
For me, taking a walk around the lake offers many images of its presence. I notice children playing with each other, couples walking together, a circle of people around a ballfield, dear friends engaged in conversation on a swing, and, of course, birds soaring and singing all around, flowers blossoming and the fullness of green leaves present to receive the summer sun. I experience harmony and joy when I am witnessing the flow of connection. (What might I be experiencing when I witness “disconnection”?)
How does it feel for me to be “in connection?”
I feel warmed and alive, stimulated, interested, sometimes excited, sometimes calm, sometimes scared by the unknown of the next moment. I am engaged with it, present to it and open to the other. If I am not open, I am probably not “connected” to myself or to the other.
Connected or not connected to myself? Yes, connection begins with knowing myself. Being self-connected is about aligining with the awareness that paused to explore what was alive in my heart. There is a consciousness in that observing self that checks in with itself. The same consciousness will observe what is alive in the other and may need to check in with the other to inquire about what isn’t always clear. The light of clarity accompanies the exploration that moves into honest, authentic expression of what’s alive both within us and between us.
Is my heart open to connection with you?
I invite you to ask yourself this question, too. When my heart is open, I am warm and welcoming and you are drawn to the meeting. I have an awareness that I am ready, receptive, present and awaiting the next moment of life to flow through our meeting. Sometimes, simply taking a deep breath to clear away any other intentions is enough preparation for our connection to occur.
Exercise: For the next few days, simply be aware of the state of your heart in connecting and in disconnecting. Notice the sensations of connection. Notice the presence of obstacles preventing connection from happening. Be honest with yourself and be aware of the feelings that arise when you are authentic about what is alive within you. If you choose, record these awarenesses in a notebook or journal, draw cartoons depicting the exchanges you’ve had, imagine what color or symbol might depict the moments of connection and the moments when it did not happen. Share your awarenesses, your observations, your self-connections with me or a dear soul friend. Listen for what arises within your heart as intentions for your connections. Notice how your relationships shift when you show up with the intention to connect.
For further exploration, check out Marshall Rosenberg’s books, Nonviolent or Compassionate Communication workshops and trainings, and the Center for Nonviolent Communication at www.cnvc.org