Seven Practices for Deepening NVC

We have developed practices for deepening NVC Consciousness through self-connection.  We invite you to try these exercises for yourself to see if they contribute to meeting your needs for growth, integration, learning and self-connection.

1. Cultivating Gratitude
2. Stopping
3. Observing
4. Emerging
5. Savoring (an audio download)
6. Cradle of Compassion (an audio download)

7. Four Component Self-Connection (an audio download)


1. Cultivating Gratitude

1. Write down something specific someone did that made your life more wonderful. (This gives you practice making observations.)

2. Write down what need that action contributed to. (This helps build needs vocabulary and needs consciousness.)

3. Write down how you feel RIGHT NOW, as you write the gratitude. (This helps build feelings vocabulary and feelings awareness.)

4. Savor the feeling. (This helps you practice Presence and cultivates your vitality.)

5. Write down what you did that helped to make the action possible. (This gives you practice making observations and increases your awareness of contribution, sharing power and interdependence.)

We suggest you write and savor 3 examples per day, and that you commit to the practice for at least 30 days.

Please offer feedback after the 30 day practice to

2. Stopping:  Practicing Awareness of Thinking

In Marshall's suggestions for working with anger, his first step is to "Stop and Breathe". I have found it useful to practice this strategy when I'm feeling otherwise than angry. This has contributed to cultivating more awareness of my choices when angry feelings and thoughts become stimulated.  This is a simple variation of a technique that is at least 2500 years old, popularized by the Indian Master commonly known as the Buddha.  Millions of people practice it every day.

To practice, find a comfortable sitting position with eyes open or closed. Set an intention to connect with yourself.

I like to enjoy a few deep, conscious breaths; then focus on my breath, noticing the rise and fall of my abdomen or chest on the inhale and the exhale.  Sometimes I focus on the air moving in and out through the tip of my nose.

If I become aware of a thought, I "label" it, then let it go, returning to my breath and the feelings in my body. By labeling, I simply mean to notice the thought, then say "thinking" to myself. If the thought persists or returns, I label it again. It is not unusual to completely forget that you are doing this process, especially when you are first learning. We habitually become entangled in our thoughts in an unconscious way. This practice is designed to add more choice to the thinking process.
I continue like this for 5-35 minutes.
At the conclusion of the practice, I enjoy connecting with any needs met and savoring them and attending to any unmet needs.

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3.  Observing:  Practicing the distinction between "observation" and "observation mixed with evaluation"

Recollecting the Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti, Marshall calls the capability of distinguishing observation mixed with evaluation from observation, "the highest form of human intelligence." A useful exercise for me in practicing observation skills consists of mindful walking.

First, setting an intention to connect with myself, I begin walking, preferably with no set direction in mind.

Then I take turns opening to my senses, noticing what I see, hear, smell, taste and touch. I also notice thoughts and evaluations as they arise. The practice is to simply notice the difference between observing, which is a "thoughtless" reception of information from the world, and evaluating, which is the "play-by-play" commentary running in my mind.

I enjoy doing this for various periods of time.

I have also enjoyed this practice in places where many other human beings have gathered, like shopping malls, the beach, parties. 

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4. Emerging: Practicing Awareness of Emergence

An understanding of the concept of Needs in NVC usually includes the following basic distinctions:

1.  Needs are universal.
2.  Needs are the resources required to sustain or enrich life.
3.  Needs make no reference to a particular person doing a particular thing.

An underlying presupposition of NVC that I’ve never heard explored or challenged is that, “Needs are met or unmet,” and that the feelings we experience arise are based on the “binary” state of our needs.

For me, I’ve noticed that it is not so black and white.  I have found it useful to fine tune my own awareness about the state of my  needs and the feedback I receive from my body - my feelings.  This has resulted in contributing to my needs for autonomy, presence, creativity and fun.

I have identified four stages in the “Need Cycle”:

1.  Fulfilled:  This is what is traditionally referred to as a “need met”, and typically results in feelings of satisfaction, contentment, joy, appreciation, happiness, etc.  It is a transient state.

2.  Emerging:  Sometime after every meal, we can learn to notice a subtle shift from satisfaction to a feeling of slight discomfort, a niggle of the feeling of hunger.  Although we may recognize that we can still go for awhile without eating again, we nevertheless feel less than comfortable.  As time goes on, and the need is not addressed, the level of discomfort will increase until we feel pain.  Then, the need has become...

3.  Urgent:  Here our need has “fallen off the shelf”.  The pain motivates us to move toward fulfilling the need, sometimes without regard for the needs and feelings of others or our own best interest.
Although it often seems to happen in an instant, i wonder if as I become more mindful, if I will begin to notice the subtle shifts sooner?  Once a need becomes urgent, there seems to be less choice about strategies that might meet the need.  It becomes easier to move from request energy to demand energy.

4.  Satisfying:  Somewhere along the journey between fulfilled and urgent, I can make a choice to move toward satisfying a need.  The sooner I connect with the need (through the awareness of the feeling), the more choice I have about finding life-affirming strategies to contribute to fulfilling the need.
By the way, chronically ignoring the pain of an unmet need can stimulate a cycle of addiction and violence as one tries to address the pain by masking it (with addictive behavior) rather than contributing to the fulfillment of the need.  The addictive behavior “works” because the pain seems to disappear as we become temporarily distracted by the pleasure stimulated by the behavior.  Since the underlying need is not addressed, the addictive behavior must be repeated, often with ever-increasing dosage and frequency, in order to continue masking the pain.  This can cause serious, even life threatening consequences without an intervention that addresses both the underlying need and the seemingly positive benefits of the addictive behavior.

Consider your need for sustenance, right now.  Notice the feelings in your body.  Connect and identify where you are in the Need Cycle.  Remain mindful of the need for sustenance as you move through the cycle, noticing the subtle shifts in your physical sensations and emotions.
After practicing with sustenance for a period of time, pick other needs and follow the cycle in a process of ongoing self-connection and mindfulness.

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5. Savoring (click for an audio download)

6. Cradle of Compassion (Connecting with Request Energy) (click for an audio download)

Practicing the The Cradle of Compassion in the moment:

  1. Notice the experience of pain or discomfort.
  2. Lean in to your experience by cultivating a willingness to be present to your feelings.
  3. Gently inquire of yourself, what is important to me?  What do I need? What do I value?
  4. Savor the need that you connect to.  Move into a felt-sense of the dynamic energy of the need.
  5. Requests naturally emerge from connecting to needs, and this can be experienced as an intuition to act in a specific way or an image or idea may bubble into consciousness...
  6. If an idea to address the need has not yet arisen, consider, “What’s one step I could take right now that might contribute toward that need?”  Wait for an idea or an image to emerge, then move into action, fulfilling the step.
  7. Sometimes it may take time for an idea to emerge...cultivate patience and openness to possibility...and allow the ideas to emerge as you continue your activities.

 Cradle of Compassion Self-connection exercise:

  1. Find a comfortable posture to support relaxation and body awareness and allot 10- 15 minutes...
  2. Consider what need(s) you are hoping to meet by exercising in this way...
  3. Bring your attention to the present moment, following the flow of your breath, in and out through your body.  Notice the sensation of your chest rising and falling...or of your belly moving out and in....notice the air moving in and out of your body through the tip of your nose or your yourself to relax, to be here, to be now....
  4. Consider a specific situation in your life that you would like to practice with...this can be a situation from the recent past that you are still feeling unsettled with, or it can something more immediate.  Train your awareness to notice and observe what is actually happened, the observation....
  5. As you settle into the observation, notice the physical sensations and emotions arising in your body.  Lean into the feelings you are having.  
  6. When thoughts arise, acknowledge them, by saying to yourself, “thinking”, then gently coach yourself back to your physical sensations and emotions.......
  7. Gently inquire of yourself, what is important to me?  ....What do I need? .....What do I value?....Settle in to a felt sense of the dynamic energy of what you value...savor the need....
  8. Notice any ideas that come up that may represent request of yourself or others that might address your need....
  9. If an idea to address the need has not yet arisen, consider, “What’s one step I could take right now that might contribute toward addressing that need?”  Wait for an idea or an image to emerge, then move into action, fulfilling the step.
  10. Be gentle with yourself and cultivate patience...remember that sometimes it takes our heart and mind time to formulate a possibility...cultivate openness to possibility and remain alert to various sources of ideas, both internal (e.g. dreams, daydreams, eureka moments) or external (eg you pick up a book or magazine and notice an idea related to your need, or you ask a friend for their ideas or suggestions.
  11. Measure the effect of trying your request...notice whether or not acting in this way is moving you toward fulfilling the need in a satisfying way.


7. Four Component Self-Connection (click for an audio download)

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