I was introduced to Non Violent Communication (NVC) in 2006 when I was a highschool student at the Woolman Semester. The Woolman Semester was a small semester long Quaker high school program located at Sierra Friends Center in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Nevada City, CA. That particular program no longer exists (though other wonderful youth programs there do), but in it's few years in operation, the school did amazing intensive work in infusing the students of their tiny cohorts (mine had 8 students and was the largest yet) with a critical understanding of the world through the lenses of peace, justice and environmental sustainability.
The Sierra Friends Center is the community that hosted the Woolman Semester. Their 275 acre property was mostly forest with a large communal area. There were several homes filled by the families and couples that lived and contributed to the work there. The local Quaker Meetinghouse was on campus where a large group of Friends (Quakers) met weekly on Sundays. Students and teachers of the Woolman Semester lived on campus, students in 2 person cabins with electricity and wood stoves which we fed with wood we chopped ourselves. We had bathhouses which we shared not only with each other but also with many frogs or toads that tended to be in the shower! Teachers either lived in cabins or homes with more modern amenities. There was a shared dining hall and kitchen where students and community members cooked and ate daily, largely from food that we grew in the garden and orchard as part of our Environmental Studies class.
Living and working the land collectively required mutual ground. There was some flexibility in the way people lived their lives and interacted since the community chose not to officially create guidelines for themselves, but there was a great deal of cooperation and communication required to manage the land and our lives together. We students only participated in that process for the single semester we were there, but we learned a lot from the experience and witnessing teachers and other community members who had been there longer. At a young age, I got not only a glimpse into the reality of shared communal living that many people dream of, but also a taste of it myself.
Those at the center of the community chose to use NVC to guide interactions, and taught a class on the practice that was required for us students. I remember using the technique well and thinking the class was nice in theory but that the language of it all was too particular. I did not even consider actually taking the practice into my life. I already knew I wanted to be non violent, why did I need specific communication skills for that? I guess I figured that if I just let communication flow fluidly between me and another person, everything would work out. I quickly forgot about the practice upon leaving the school and didn't consider it again until last year.
Last summer I met my dear friend and mentor Rob Greenfiled. Rob was already several months into his Compassionate Communication training (another term for NVC that is used more frequently in certain groups) and as our friendship developed, he offered me a space in a group studying the practice under the teacher Steve Torma from the REAL Center and Earth Haven Ecovillage in Black Mountain, NC. We covered 101 and 201 (with 401 being the highest level) in our 9 session class this past fall. Having much more life experience than I had last time I approached the practice, I immediately recognized the benefits of what I was learning and put it to work in my life and relationships.
I have seen the way I think and interact shift for the better when I utilize the tools of NVC. It is not usually my first instinct to turn to the practice. I have many years of interacting in the ways that seemed natural to me, but my experience has shown me that my natural way of interacting isn't always the most harmonios with others. I grew up witnessing and experiencing family violence and dysfunction. The communication patterns I picked up in that environment were often deeply combative and offensive to others. There was much to change in my style of communication.
I still have work to do. I want to become very skilled in having peaceful and loving commmunication with others. In other words, I want my interactions and relationships to be guided by compassion. As we say in NVC, I want my life to be more wonderful!
I'm planning to register for a 301 class in Compassionate Communication in the near future. I'll be paying by donation since I am unable to afford the whole fee. I would love to continue sharing this practice with others. I have recently presented on the practice at my local Quaker Meeting house and would love to continue in that direction of personal development and sharing of these invaluable skills.
I hope you will join me and support me in my journey into a more peaceful way of being in relationship with others and to the world! If this practice interests you, I hope you will take it up! Consider following Steve Torma for his classes both online and in person. Steve organizes wonderful training sessions and offers regular in person practice groups in the Asheville, NC area that are filled with love and joyous people. There are also other local teachers throughout the country that can be found online. I believe the more people who train in this practice, the more wonderful the world will be, so if you take it up, my world and community will be improved!
If you would like to further support this NVC journey of mine, please do so by sharing this blog post or a social media post of mine on the subject! You can also contribute financially to my journey allowing me to give a more significant donation to my teacher, Steve Torma, than I would otherwise be able. Just go to the Support page on my site to contribute.
In NVC, it is said that everything anyone ever does is a 'please' or a 'thank you'. This post is both. My words are a Thank You note, for your traveling with me so far down this path. They are also asking you to please continue with me on the journey! More people are seeking my guidance in the world, including my young children. This brings me feelings of excitement, anticipation and gratitude because my need to be seen and heard is being met. Please support me however you are able in my path towards sharing a more peaceful, wonderful way of life!