Creating fulfilling relationships

Author Archives: eric

Making the Most of Nonviolent Communication

In April I had one of the best birthday parties of my life thanks, in part, to two of my favourite features of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), getting deeply connected to my needs and making specific requests to meet those needs. As my birthday approached, I considered my options. For several years now I’ve had a deep longing to share my music with others, and that longing has led me to put on concerts for some of my past birthdays. As I thought about putting on another concert for this year’s birthday, I felt apprehensive. It’s a vulnerable thing for me to perform my own music, and my concerts have not always gone so well. Juggling my Road to Compassion counseling and workshop business, my Abundance Community Farm community-building and farming life, and my The Golden Repair artist life, makes it difficult for me to create opportunities to perform my original music. Therefore, it’s a big deal for me to put on a concert and a tough loss for me when a concert doesn’t go well.

There are 2 main things for me that make for a successful concert.
1. I’m happy with how the music sounds: I play and sing well; those playing with me play well; and the sound system and acoustics are good.
2. I feel a connection with the audience: Ideally, the audience is so moved by the music that they want to give it their full attention, either by sitting still or by dancing.

There are other important factors, such as the venue, but those 2 pieces above are the most important to me. The experience that those two pieces give me is one in which my whole-hearted, creative, and deeply personal expression contributes to a soulful aliveness and connection for everyone at the concert. In NVC terms, I would say that the needs that I want to meet are shared aliveness – a co-created intimate and passionate aliveness – and meaningful, joyful contribution – my unique, personal, creative expression of art moving, expanding, deepening, and turning on the hearts and souls of the listeners.

As I reflected on these needs and felt into their energy, I considered what to do about the fact that my musicianship is not yet at the level where I can turn on the hearts and souls of listeners to the point where they can’t help but give the music their full attention. That self-assessment doesn’t come from my inner critic; it’s simply an honest appraisal. I adore all of my songs and have a great appreciation for my songwriting efforts and hours of practice, but I need consistent performance with skilled musicians and some more healing for my voice to get to the next level. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get to that level, but there is an energy that comes alive when we connect with our needs, and the energy of my needs was hopping. And then, a plan for meeting those needs started coming together.

One of the keys to fulfilling your needs is making specific requests. It also helps to tell those to whom you are making the requests what needs you want to fulfill. When others feel connected to your needs and understand the specific things they can do to help fulfill those needs, magic can happen. And, it is immensely helpful if those receiving your requests feel free to say “no.” However, when it comes to vulnerable territory, such as putting on a birthday concert, it can be scary to put out a request with an assurance that a “no” will be received with understanding and care. Marshall Rosenberg, the founder of NVC, encouraged people to not do anything if they couldn’t do it with the joy of a child feeding a hungry duck. He suggested that, if after connecting to the needs of all parties involved, you couldn’t do what was asked joyfully, you continue dialoguing and searching for other strategies that you could joyfully do. Sometimes, I’m good with a genuine willingness, if joy isn’t there. For my birthday concert, I wanted my friends to feel really good about saying yes. I felt confident that what I probably couldn’t pull off on my own, we could pull off together if their hearts were all in.

The rest of this post is the email I sent to my friends, which outlines the plan for the night and, with my version of naturalized NVC, lays out my needs and requests. To see the result of my process of connecting to my needs and their powerful energy, formulating requests, and sending the email, watch this video from my birthday concert of my song Across Deserts and Plains and this video of my song Closer.

Hello dear friends,
Please read the information below first before letting me know if you want to join me. If my birthday concert plan isn’t for you, please be honest. I only want you to come if you feel good about coming. Please let me know either way as I will invite others if any of you don’t come. I’m keeping it to 12-15 people.
If you decide to come, thank you! Please make it a high-threshold decision to come, such as a Some other really cool event or party couldn’t change my mind threshold. I don’t get to perform enough, rarely with other musicians (see below), to not make this a big deal for me.
The Plan for the Night
If you’ve ever performed something original and personal to people who are chatting away and not paying attention, you’ll know that it’s not very fun. Conversely, we all know that sitting attentively through a concert you don’t like is also not very fun.
I think conscious dance can be a game changer, a bridge, a magic potion, a deal maker, an ace in the hole, a compost pile for the soul.
What I’d like for my birthday concert is to have a vibe similar to a conscious dance practice – 5 Rhythms, Ecstatic Dance, etc. What would be such a sweet bday present for me is to have friends who are willing to be with my music similarly to how they would be at a conscious dance class. For me, this means that your primary intention is to relate to your body and to the music as you feel is right for you. This might mean that you sit or stretch for a long time or the whole time, or you leave the space and take a break, maybe you do some contact dance with someone, maybe you make some sound or sing along with a song, maybe you curl up and take a nap in the other room. The gift that I’m asking for is that we create the energy and vibe together. I’m not asking you to watch me play music and give me your attention. I’m asking you to help me create a sweet vibe, a connected zone of moving, musical energy, whatever that might look like. And I’m asking you to save chatting and socializing for the post-concert snacks and cake.
If the above isn’t your thing, please know that I love you all the same. You don’t need to come and suffer to support me. We’ll connect another time. I’m confident others will come.
The Band
I’ve hired Jeff Childz to play percussion and Andrew Kim to play his tennis racket violin (if you haven’t heard him play his tennis racket cello, it’s awesome; I’m not joking; it really is awesome) and hopefully his banjo too. I’m excited to have skilled musicians to help with the vibe. I’m confident we will make music your bodies will enjoy.
Doors open at 630, the concert starts at 7.
Please arrive before 7.
Snack Potluck at 830.


A Healing Work of Art

You likely won’t be surprised that many of my close friends are therapists. What might be surprising for you is how we sometimes spontaneously do our healing work in the middle of a visit, and not always in the most private of places. Case in point, the following account of a hike with my friend… Continue Reading

Don’t Just Feel Your Emotions

Isn’t it astounding that feeling emotions is so fundamental and essential to our humanity and well being and yet few of us were taught how to feel? Few of us were guided to notice the sensations in our bodies related to our emotions. Not many of us were shown how to use our breath to free our emotions and help them… Continue Reading

When the Fetus Feels Fear

As an NVC Trainer and practitioner, I’ve explored many alternative models of healing that complement and deepen my NVC practice. Not long ago I was a participant in an Ayahuasca ceremony and asked the consciousness of Ayahuasca to teach me more about the fear I carry from my past.  During a pre-ceremony preparation session, one… Continue Reading

The Wounded Butterfly: An Ongoing Transformation

This article is written with They, Their, Them pronouns out of respect for those who don’t identify with a particular gender. With a supportive enough environment, children become adults who can create lives of their own. They find a career, a home, and manage their responsibilities. No matter how successful someone becomes at creating such… Continue Reading

Get to Know Your False Ego and Take Back Your Life

Try this experiment: Choose your top three distractions, the things you turn to for comfort and entertainment but don’t feed your soul – social media, TV/movies, comfort food, alcohol, extra hours at work, shopping, etc. – give them up for a month, and replace them with activities that truly feed your soul and let you… Continue Reading

The Ultimate Romance

When most people think of romance, they think of flowers and chocolate, candlelight dinners and sunset walks, dancing, poetry, and diamond rings. These types of romance happen most consistently during the falling-in-love phase of a relationship. Further into the relationship, once childhood wounds begin to surface, the romance often dwindles, and conflict fills in the… Continue Reading

A Story of Successful Relationship

Imagine you are born into a small community in which everyone knows each other. Your parents are valued in the community and are well supported. As a baby and young child, you are often held, carried, or wrapped against your mother or father, and they are very responsive to your cries for connection or comfort.… Continue Reading

Working Successfully Through Difficult Dialogues

A Structured Dialogue Process for Working Through Challenging Issues Inspired by Restorative Circles – This process is designed to build understanding and collaboration while working through important or difficult issues. Practice it with easier issues so that it is easier to learn. This process works best when you are as interested in the other’s… Continue Reading

Somatic Self-Empathy

SOMATIC SELF-EMPATHY If you are aware that your amygdala is activated, that you are in fight/flight or freeze and struggling to stay connected and compassionate with yourself or another, You can connect to your prefrontal cortex, regulate your upset, and find a healthy response to the situation by observing your breath, thoughts, and sensations; feeling… Continue Reading