Because Marshall Rosenberg’s ‘Nonviolent Communication’ (NVC) and Eugene Gendlin’s ‘Focusing’ self-empathy practice, have been such a strong influence on me, and have been so valuable in my understanding of the mandala wisdom of Buddhist tradition, I have incorporated these perspectives into several of my articles. References to NVC and Focusing can therefore be found in other categories on this website – especially the introductory series on meditation and self-enquiry, which can be found under ‘Meditation’ in the top menu.
I would very much like to find the time to write some articles focused entirely on both NVC and Focusing, and hope that those will more fully articulate my conviction that these models are enormously relevant to modern students of Buddhism. In the meantime, I have listed below some of the articles on this site that reference NVC and Focusing – with brief summaries of each, which are different from the summaries that I have written for these articles when they appear elsewhere. Click on any of the titles or images to be taken to the corresponding article.
Article 25 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series (Meditation and Self-Enquiry) – 06 November 2017 – 2200 words
This was an article (an article on the cognitive function of Feeling – which Buddhist tradition speaks of in terms of the samjñā skandha) in which I introduced the very illuminating connections that can be made between Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model, and the Buddhist mandala of the four brahmavihāras (Equanimity, Appreciative Joy, Loving Kindness, and Compassion). In my experience it is extremely helpful to recognise the NVC model as a mandala, and to recognise that the Rosenberg’s ‘four components’ of NVC correspond exactly to four of the five skandhas; to the four brahmavihāras; and to four of the Five Wisdoms.
In Buddhist self-enquiry, it is of great importance to be able to separate and reconcile the opposing principles of Thinking and Feeling. Buddhist tradition speaks of Thinking in terms of the rūpa skandha (the form-creating, or concept-forming, function of mind), and speaks of Feeling in terms of the samjñā skandha (a mode of discernment and decision-making which is inherently subjective – and therefore sometimes translated as ‘perception’). Marshall Rosenberg’s analysis of the way we unconsciously mix Thinking and Feeling in common language (“I feel you are judging me” – framing our thoughts as feelings; “I think you are an idiot” – framing subjective emotional evaluations as thoughts; etc, etc.), is of enormous importance if we are to bring Mindfulness to our language and communication.
The way in which NVC endeavours to train people to bring objectivity to their language by practicing objective ‘Observations’, has clear parallels in the Buddhist concern to dis-identify from the thinking, judging, rūpa function of mind; and to find the mental clarity of Equanimity in our responses – and ultimately to rest in the Mirror-Like Wisdom. This requires us to bring awareness to both sides of the mandala of the mind. What is needed in conscious communication is not a denial of Feeling, but full self-empathetic acknowledgement of Feeling, and then clear and clean sharing of that feeling in such way that we are being fully responsible for our feelings, while also being appropriately transparent and vulnerable. In this way we a likely to be much more fully understandable – and to avoid any sense of emotional manipulation, ‘dumping’, or projection.
This article is part of a group of articles which explore how we can use meditation to heal the Emotional Body – the residue of old emotional hurts, traumas and deprivations that cloud our judgment and obscure our true nature. The NVC discipline of expressing Feelings clearly and with objectivity, is helped greatly by our cultivation of what Buddhist tradition calls mettā, or Loving Kindness, both receptively (towards self) and expansively (towards others). Indeed, I believe that the receptive experience of mettā is our best point of entry into the experience of ‘resting as Consciousness’ through which we also become familiar with the objective, clear-thinking side of the mandala of the mind – and with the receptive and expansive aspects of Equanimity.
Article 31 in the ‘Meditation Guidance’ series (Meditation and Self-Enquiry) – 18 April 2018 – 2500 words
I take the view that the spiritual path of meditation and self-enquiry cannot be separated from the larger process of seeking psychological self-knowledge and self-empathetic healing by resting as Consciousness and working with the various ’empty’ identifications that arise in our experience. So, I give time in this article, to exploring the territory of self-empathy with psychological parts – a form of Buddhist self-enquiry that I sometimes call Mandala Innerwork. I also make reference to the contributions to this area of understanding that come from Eugene Gendlin and Ann Weiser-Cornell (Focusing); from Marshall Rosenberg (Non-violent Communication); and from Carl Jung’s mandala model of the psyche – all of these being modern frameworks for self-empathy and self-enquiry. Most importantly however, I return to the corresponding Buddhist teaching of the ‘Emptiness of the Five Skandhas‘ and the ‘Four brahmavihāras’.
21 July 2018 – 2250 words
Students of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) model who wish to learn about the parallels between that model and the mandala model of psychological functioning that evolved within Buddhism, may be interested in this article on the imagery and mythology of the asuras, who are extremely important archetypal figures in the collective psychology of humanity. They are especially important because they personify the psychology of violence and inhumanity.
One of my primary aims in creating this website has been to bring this profound Buddhist archetypal psychology of the duality of ‘war and peace’ to more people’s attention. To function consciously and compassionately, we need to grasp the culture-shaping power of the asura archetype and violent style of egoic functioning that it personifies. The collective archetypal psychology of the asuras is pervasive in human culture, because it is the psychology of social and political power, and ultimately is the archetype of geopolitics and war – an archetype that shapes human history very negatively, and perhaps more strongly than any other.
Located in the northern quadrant of the mandala, the asuras are presented as the egoic opposite of Compassion and of the All-Accomplishing Wisdom, which are personified by the beautiful figure of Green Tara, (a figure of both inner empathy and active compassion) and by the mysterious, powerful, and ‘intuitive’ figure of Amoghasiddhi. The Intuition-Volition aspect of mind (the samskaras skandha of Buddhist tradition), is the basis of empathy, but contains the potential for both Compassion and the great evil that the asuras represent – so it is very important for us to recognise its dynamics. When we learn empathy, either through NVC, or though the meditative cultivation of the brahmavihāra of karunā (Compassion), we are giving positive and conscious expression to this fundamental spiritual choice. At the level of the All-Accomplishing wisdom, we can learn to recognise that even apparently personal Needs arise from a beneficial, compassionate, and universal ‘Life Energy’ – the volitional, or ‘Life Energy’ aspect, of the universal Consciousness. The purpose of Needs is to create fulfilment.
More summaries of NVC-related and Focusing-related articles coming soon