Body NVC

This morning I lay in bed, flooded with unbidden thoughts and feelings about a friend’s current health crisis. This was not the meditative start to my day that I had planned! Fortunately, I called on my Body NVC practice to help return me to equanimity: My arms started to make small, then larger circles; my legs followed with alternate gentle and staccato patterns. I noted my sensations and emotions, and then slowly matched these to qualities I was longing for: Ease. Choice. Peace.

Naming these missing elements paradoxically invoked them, and within minutes, I was more relaxed.  The stressful thoughts had shifted to a softer focus of gentle care for my friend.

Body NVC, created by Inbal Kashtan , is based on the Nonviolent Communication principles that emerged from Marshall Rosenberg’s civil rights work in the 1960s. Initially created for interpersonal peacemaking, NVC is also an internal practice for bringing compassion to oneself.

NVC teaches us to name what we are observing, distinguish emotional feelings from interpretive thoughts, and identify the universal values underlying our explorations.

From this clarity, we choose what to ask of ourselves or others that can bring more connection and compassion to otherwise daunting situations.

Many people study NVC to relate more effectively with others. I wanted to relate more peacefully with myself. Although I had made great strides in healing from decades of depression and compulsive overeating, I was still coping with debilitating self-criticism.

Deepening my reflective and verbal NVC practice helped immensely.  And when Inbal introduced Body NVC, something shifted dramatically for me. Body NVC seemed to give me reliable access to an ongoing body/mind partnership. In the midst of overwhelm, I can ask my body what it wants to tell me.

Conversely, my body is now so fine-tuned, it can start first and get my attention. The ensuing “dance” of mind and movement
makes the NVC practices more potent than when I’m only reflecting or speaking.

When using NVC as a meditative practice, I can start in any position, with presence and curiosity, noticing my sensations, emotions, thoughts and needs. Sometimes a tightness in my chest speaks first – longing for acceptance.  Movements or sound may start, leading me through an unedited dance-poem.  These sessions result in more presence, spaciousness and conscious awareness.

Throughout the day, I can also do impromptu Body NVC, as I did this morning in bed, or when I’m driving and notice a buildup of tension: I can wail, stomp my non-driving leg, sing, and re-evaluate: “What are these movements and sounds asking of me?” And because I’ve practiced listening, I can more skillfully translate the answers into insight and action.”

The healing experience is often made stronger when we are witnessed.  Yet I have become my own compassionate witness, as well. And that is a miracle for this “recovering self-critic”!