What I'm Writing About
© Copyright 2011-2016
All original content on this blog is copyrighted by Bobbi Jean Ewing.
reflections and insight into my healing, transformation, and journey of the heart <3
I am sitting in my office having my Monday morning cup of coffee and two apple-carrot-bran muffins that I made over the weekend. The sun is filtering through colorful fall leaves and shining through the window. I glance at my calendar – October 14, 2017. Today is the official publication date for my collection of personal essays. Hooray! I am filled with gratitude and joy as I reflect back on the last few very rich and nourishing years of my life.
I finished my master’s degree in counseling at the end of 2016. At the start of this year, I started a therapy practice with my friend and colleague, Jo. I met Jo through NVC (non-violent communication) and we went through the master’s program together. We co-facilitate a grief group. We also co-facilitate a community group for those who long to deepen connection with others. We model this group after the NVC learning community led by our revered mentor and teacher, Karl. I also meet one on one with clients who are going through life transitions, who are healing from emotional trauma and childhood wounds, and families who are working through discord. I am so grateful to have a partner in this work and the support of many dear friends.
I received my yoga teacher certification at the end of 2014. I was invited by my friend and peer, Erin, to teach classes at Awakened Heart Yoga. I have taught weekly yoga classes for nearly three years now. My favorite class to teach is a youth yoga class. I also teach free youth yoga classes at community centers around Seattle. I LOVE teaching youth – I am so passionate about inspiring youth to discover their power and access their well of strength.
As I gaze out the window on the sun filled landscape, my mind travels to the sunny island paradise of Maui where, along with dear friends and fellow yoga teachers, I have co-hosted three New Year’s yoga retreats. Maui is such a magical place. Each New Year we dance under rainbows, we swim in the sacred waters of the re-birthing pools, we moonbathe on the beach, we practice yoga in an open air pavilion, we meditate under a wise looking banyan tree. I send yet another thank you note via cosmic messenger to my beautiful friend Jessica for co-hosting with me that first year. We were so blessed by the outpouring of support from our community of friends and many of our dearest friends retreated with us.
I remain grateful for the cosmic unfolding that led me to my first retreat in Maui where, for the 2014 New Year I reconnected with the beautiful Shayna, a dear soul I met in Costa Rica during my 2012 New Year’s retreat. For seven years now a New Year’s yoga retreat has been a yearly tradition that grew out of my new life. You see, I had been in a long term committed relationship for nearly 10 years that ended in a giant “ka-boom” in 2009. I was devastated, hurt to my very core. Creating new traditions was an important part of my healing.
At my first New Year’s retreat in 2011 (also in Costa Rica), I discovered a new family, my yoga family. At this retreat and so many others, I have made a network of friends and some of my most cherished friendships. I also discovered how meaningful it is to start the year with intention, to plant seeds for qualities I wish to cultivate in my life, to plant seeds for things I long for and desire to grow in my life. Each year I come away with momentum that moves me forward along my path. Each year I see flowers blossom and fruit bearing trees sprout up from the seeds I plant in my heart.
I remember New Year’s Day, 2014. I planted a seed under the new moon for the family I longed for in my life. At 37, I had a strong desire and calling to be a mom, to create life with someone I loved, and to share the joy of raising a little being together. At the time I didn’t know what would happen, I didn’t know when someone who wore sturdy shoes, who gazed at the new moon, and who had an open heart would skip into my life. But he did. He showed up in my life and he gave me the powerful gift of his presence. Remembering the moment he skipped into my life brings a smile to my face and my heart fills with warmth as I hold him in my awareness. I feel love permeate my being. We had small ceremony in the woods. My sweet friend Katy wrote and read a poem. I remember so very clearly these words: “such bravery to hold out your hand to another person, one Life Line traced by another.”
I feel a kick that brings me out of my reverie and back to the present moment. I put my hand on my belly and feel the movement inside. I am pregnant. In just a few short months, I will give birth to a little bundle of joy, a bundle that I have a feeling is going to crack my heart wide open and out will pour love. I wonder if this baby will be a New Year’s baby. What a lovely thought. I will have to wait and see how the stars in the sky line up. However the stars line up, I already know I am incredibly blessed.
A little over a month ago I began taking a course in non-violent communication, also known as compassionate communication. When I share this news with folks who have not heard of or are unfamiliar with non-violent communication (NVC), I see confusion on their faces and/or hear confusion or curiosity in their voices as they try to understand what “violent” communication might look like or sound like.
“Violent” communication in this context does not refer to explosive or abusive language. Statements such as “you are making me angry” or “stop pressuring me” or “I feel disrespected” are examples of “violent” communication. In each of these statements the speaker is not articulating a feeling, but instead makes a judgement of another person veiled as a “feeling.” And by saying “you are making me angry” or “stop pressuring me” the speaker is deferring blame, creating a buffer, and/or not owing what he or she is truly feeling on the inside. I regard much of the language of “violent” communication to be passive aggressive.
What I’m discovering in this journey and practice of unlearning old communication patterns and learning and integrating a new, healthy, compassionate style of communication is how pervasive “violent” communication is in our society. I am sure many folks can recognize their patterns of using the language of “you are ____” instead of speaking from the position of “I feel ____” or “I need ____.” Furthermore, if we bring awareness to our collective patterns, we will hear how commonly people use the words “I feel” paired with a judgment or their perception of reality without even expressing a true feeling.
This journey is revealing to me how disconnected many of us are with our actual feelings and/or how challenged we are to actually speak to our deeper feelings. Using statements “I feel” paired with a judgment not only masks our feelings but further perpetuates our disconnection with our inner most selves. We become so accustomed to saying things like “I feel dismissed” or “I feel misunderstood” that we lose our ability to speak with fluency to our actual feelings; we are challenged to speak to or even name our actual feelings.
Feelings. What are feelings, exactly? Many of us associate a feeling with an emotion that stirs or resides in our inner landscape. But how do we know what a feeling actually is? How do we know what happiness is? gratitude? joy? exhilaration? What do we feel inside that tells us “this is happiness” or “this is gratitude” or “this is exhilaration”? How do we come to pair a body sensation with the word for that feeling? What signals or messages does our body give to us to help us identify or connect to that feeling? What stirs in our emotional landscape that informs us?
In NVC we cultivate self connection with our inner landscape, we cultivate a deeper listening. We listen to our thoughts and we listen to our bodies – both, not just one or the other – to help us identify and inform us of our deepest feelings. We use this listening to get underneath, to get behind historical statements such as “you are overwhelming me” or “I feel let down” or “I do not feel appreciated” to identify what we’re truly feeling and needing or to hear what others might be feeling or needing. Over time and with practice, we cultivate the skills to speak directly to our feelings and needs without falling into old, passive aggressive, judgmental patterns which very often alienate us from others. When we are more able to speak to our inner experience, we are able to own our feelings and needs.
I want to share and draw insight from a distinction that one of the members of my class shared that really resonated with me. He spoke to the ownership of feelings. He shared that to him the statement “I feel sadness” lacks depth of emotion. He articulated that “sadness” expressed in this way is like an object outside of ourselves and not something that is inside of us. He offered that when one makes the subtle shift and expresses, “I feel sad” or “I am sad,” there is a greater depth of feeling because the speaker is naming an emotional experience he or she is having instead of expressing something that could be perceived as outside of themselves. By expressing a feeling in this way the speaker not only owns the feeling, but truly inhabits the feeling.
When we “inhabit a feeling” we are fully present with that feeling, we stay with it, we allow it to fill our entire being, to permeate our inner landscape. Why might we allow ourselves to experience the fullness of a feeling? I can think of two very important reasons. One – happy and joyous feelings grow out of life’s gifts which, in my humble opinion, should be treasured and cherished; we choose to bask in happy feelings, to savor joyous feelings as these feelings are part of the gift. Two – mournful and sorrowful feelings grow out of difficult moments or tragic events that can be, if we choose, life’s greatest teachers; when recognize an opportunity for learning, we choose to stay, we choose to feel fully. When we stay with ourselves, when we “inhabit a feeling,” we develop greater authenticity. When we stay with others and receive their feelings, we cultivate harmony and connection.
“Learn to stay.” ~ Pema Chödrön
I bow to Karl, my teacher and model in NVC. I greatly admire and respect Karl’s exemplary skills and gifts.