Phases of the Moon, the newsletter of the Maine NVC Network
Issue Twelve: Choice From Self-Awareness

Our newsletter appears once a month around the time of the new moon. Our purpose is to contribute to the NVC learning of people who have taken at least an NVC Level 1 workshop, and help us stay connected as we endeavor to deepen a culture of peace within ourselves, our families and the world. We believe a Level 1 offers so many new ways of thinking that additional support for learning and integration could be helpful.

We endeavor to make each edition informative, connecting, inspiring and fun. Please let us know how the newsletter might contribute to your NVC well-being.

The theme for this issue is Choice From Self-Awareness. NVC can bring us more awareness that we have choice about how we receive messages from others. Often our reactions happen so quickly that we may not even be aware that we are making choices. Slowing down, pausing, accepting with loving-kindness how we are viewing each moment is a way to increase access to our range of choices.



Where am I?

by Peggy Smith, CNVC certified NVC trainer

four empty chairs in a grassy field, all facing the same way

Whether my NVC experience is based on having attended a 1- hour presentation, a 12-hour introductory workshop, or years of intensives, in each moment the starting point of nonviolent consciousness is the same:

Am I aware in THIS moment how I am receiving the messages around me?

NVC brings me awareness that I have choice about how I receive the messages life delivers. Often my reactions happen so quickly that I am not aware that I am making choices. Slowing down—pausing—accepting with loving-kindness how I’m viewing each moment is the way to increase my range of choices.

You may recall the "Four Chairs" demonstration many of us saw in our NVC introductions. When something happens I have four ways (exemplified by each of the four chairs) I can react.

The first two ways are cultivated in our culture based in right/wrong thinking: there is a problem and the most important thing is to find out who is at fault.

Chair #1:

Whatever is happening is definitely YOUR fault. When I sit in this chair my mind is busy telling myself YOU are the problem. Thinking from this chair may sound something like:

"It’s because you did ___________ that I feel _____________."
Or "If only you weren’t so _______________ (passive-aggressive/mean/bullying/over bearing/wimpy), things would be better around here."

Chair #2:

Whatever is happening is definitely MY fault. When I sit in this chair my mind is busy telling myself that I am the problem.

Thinking from this chair may sound something like:

"Oh, if only I could be __________ (more organized – efficient –smarter – kinder –tougher – compassionate – assertive – creative, etc.). I’ll never get this right! If only I could change. . . things would be better."

The third and fourth ways to respond are based in the options NVC offers… connecting feelings to needs. The most important thing in each moment is self-awareness and loving self-connection.

Chair #3:

Moment to moment I sense what emotional reaction I experience, either as sensations in the body or with descriptive terms, (happy, sad, annoyed, joyful, etc.) AND I connect those feelings to the needs within me that are stimulating them. (see Newsletter edition 2 for more about Needs.) The focus when I am sitting in Chair #3 is self-empathy, connecting my feelings to the needs that generated them.

Thinking from this chair may sound something like:

"When I see the backyard with old furniture scattered around, I feel annoyed arising from needs of ease and beauty."

Chair #4:

Moment to moment I am curious about what emotional reaction you are experiencing and what needs are stimulating those emotions. The focus here is empathic guessing about YOU, wondering what feelings YOU may be experiencing and what needs may have generated them.

Thinking from this chair may sound something like:

"Oh, their check didn’t come when they hoped. I wonder if they are feeling anxious arising from the needs of honoring agreements, ease, and support?"

It is important to remember, it’s not the words we speak on the outside, but the thoughts we have on the inside, that determines which chair we are operating from. I might be saying the perfect NVC dialogue phrases but inwardly thinking judgments of myself or the other person.

To develop this compassionate consciousness, the first step is to pause long enough to check inside and see which chair is supporting my thinking. If I find myself operating out of Chairs #1 or #2 and I grasp that this way of thinking is unlikely to get the connection I am yearning for—connection with myself and the other person—I can use the NVC process to shift to either Chair #3 or #4.

The key to the shift is EMPATHY. Taking the time to accompany the parts of me that use judging and interpretation to call out for my attention. Empathy is a fundamental need that is often not well nourished in modern culture. Working with skilled trainers who can help us develop our empathy skills is of great value to developing peace within ourselves and the world.

Peggy Smith is co-founder of the Maine NVC Network and founder/principal trainer with Open Communication
Contact Open Communication for a presentation on NVC for your organization or business.

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Suggestions for Practice:

  1. Have a deck of Feelings and Needs cards and for 21 days use them to connect feelings to needs. Here is one way to do that:
    1. Try taking 10 minutes to remember something that happened in the past 24 hours.
    2. Make an observation.
    3. Ask yourself, "Thinking about this observation NOW, what feelings are stimulated in me?" Lay out those cards.
    4. Slowly go through the needs deck and lay down the cards that connect to each feeling.
    5. Take time to connect to each Need card you lay down with the thought, "I have the beautiful need of _______ flowing within me."

  2. For one week, 6 – 8 times during the day, pause and ask yourself with loving curiosity – "Which chair am I thinking from in this moment?"

  3. Plan on taking an NVC workshop that will strengthen the need of empathy that flows within you – such as the Maine NVC Integration Program or a Level 2 workshop.

  4. Schedule an NVC coaching session with a certified trainer.



~ Poetry Corner ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Mother-of-us-all prays to free us
from our image of perfection
to which so much suffering clings.

When in the shadowy mind
we imagine ourselves imperfectly,
praying to be freed from gravity
by enlightenment, she refines our prayers.

Putting her arms around us
she bids us rest our head on her shoulder
whispering, Don't you know
with all your fear and anger
all you are fit for is love.

- Stephen Levine

the hands of a baby and a group of women rest in a circle on a pink crocheted blanket  


Gathering of the Maine NVC Network
January 7, 2011, 10am-2pm
Unitarian Universalist Community Church
69 Winthrop St., Augusta, ME

The purpose of this gathering is to take time to look deeply at what the Maine NVC Network is, and if
the stakeholders would like it to evolve into something else.

Anyone who supports the current Mission & Vision of the Network as written on our website is considered a stakeholder.

ALL are welcome and encouraged to attend.

The request is that attendees do the following things before arriving at the meeting.

  1. Completely read the current Maine NVC Network website, with special attention to the Vision & Mission page.
  2. Be prepared to respond to:
    • Is the Vision & Mission still alive for you? If not, how would you suggest it be changed?
    • How is the Network serving you now?
    • How would you like the Network to serve you in the future?
    • What are you willing to offer to the Network to support the Vision & Mission?
    • Does the current structure serve you?  If not, what structure would you suggest and how would you support that changed structure?

Currently we are a loose group defined as those people who support the Vision & Mission. There is no official membership or list of stakeholders and no bank account. All work is done on a volunteer basis; any expenses are covered by voluntary donations at the time of service.

If you have specific items you want included for discussion that are not connected to the questions above please email them to Peggy.

The gathering will be facilitated by Deb Austin and Brenda Mitchell, NVC practitioners from Community Partners, Inc. and strong supporters of NVC in the Maine community.

Those who are not able to attend can share their responses to the questions by emailing them to Peggy.

Please RSVP

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Upcoming Trainings

Dec. 18, Sadhana, South Portland, ME
Day on Empathy in NVC

This day will be theory and experiential exercises practicing the Art of Empathy in NVC led by Gina Cenciose
FMI: websiteemail / 207-772-6898

Jan. 8-9, 2011, Camden, ME
Introduction to NVC & IR Focusing
(combining NVC with Focusing)

This is 2 days to delve and explore NVC self-empathy and working with what is alive in us in deeper and deeper ways, always using NVC as our main guiding principle. Led by Gina Cenciose / FMI

January 15-16, Arundel, ME
Level 1

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration

Jan. 29-30, Camden, ME
Introduction to Restorative Circles
(based in NVC)

This is a 2 day introduction to the skills and theory of Dominic Barter's method of restorative circles, which combines Restorative Justice principles with NVC principles. Led by Gina Cenciose / pdf icon FMI

January 29, Portland, ME
1-day Introduction to NVC as a fundraiser for MOFGA-El Salvador Sistering Committee

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration

February 5-6, Falmouth, ME
Foundations Of Open Communication:
The Basics of NVC

Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration

February 19, Camden, ME
Day of Empathy in NVC

Led by Gina Cenciose / FMI

March 12-13, Norway
Speaking Peace In A World of Conflict:
The Basics of NVC

Taught by Peggy Smith / pdf icon details and registration

March 26-27, Bangor, ME
Level 1

Taught by Peggy Smith / FMI



Maine NVC Intergation Program:
Opening My Heart - Opening Communication, An Intermediate/Advanced NVC Experience
April to November 2011 - 9 Months of Deepening NVC Consciousness; 17 Days of Workshop
with Gina Cenciose & Peggy Smith, CNVC certified trainers

photo of the participants in the 2010 Maine NVC Integration program

17 days based in integrating empathy at deeper and deeper levels,
as well as strengthening ease and fluency with NVC dialogue. This program focuses on

"I found the experience incredibly rewarding. Having the opportunity to work with the same group helped me to develop levels of trust and comfort that I have not experienced in any other NVC training. The steady growth of each person worked as a ‘greater than the sum of its parts’ dynamic, deepening my experience and helping to gently nudge me into greater connection with myself. I would also mention that Gina, Peggy and Norman were a constant source of guidance and encouragement which I found incredibly nourishing throughout. I highly recommend the experience." - Harri Sterling
"This program offered me an opportunity to make a commit- ment to deeper self awareness and ACCEPTANCE. I have been introduced to new wonder, with the magic of gentle inquiry. Within the container of these sessions, I have strengthened the ‘muscle’ of BEING, now practicing to embody my deep- est values in my relationship with self and others." - P.C., 2009 & 2010 participant

pdf icon details and registration

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