Notes – Day 2 Talk

The spirit of mutual open-heartedness

So I would like to introduce the focus for today, but before I do that,
there is something that I guess this song [There is a place … ] stimulated in me,
around the spirit in which we are doing whatever we do here together.

This is for me maybe almost the most important element
of what we are doing together, with each other, with ourselves individually and for each other.

What I think of is the context or the perspective of this gathering,
and the names that we give to it, the labels …
‘it’s a program, two-years, a retreat, workshops, we do exercises, we do processes …’
and all of this is very … kind of … not a reflection of the spirit, I think.

It’s certainly a part of of the structure.
And it’s a part of how we understand in this culture these kinds of activities and gatherings.

But for me it doesn’t touch the spirit of what we are doing,
the essence of what I see we’re doing …

and … and if I can even try to put it into words of what I think we’re doing
… some of the words, I don’t remember what they were in that song,
touch into what I think of as the spirit of what we are doing together here.

We are here for ourselves and for each other,
and we’re offering ourselves to each other.

When we sit in a group, when we sit in the circle,
when we sit in small groups, when we sit in pairs,
the living statement is:

‘I am here and I offer my life to you.
I offer those parts in me that have been difficult, that are tender
those parts of me where I’m scared, or on hold.’

‘I offer this to you.’

So this is for me a very important thing to recognize.

And that I offer to you … and the one that is receiving it:

‘I offer myself to you too.
I offer my presence.
I’m here to receive you.
I am not here to fix you,
I’m not here to make it better for you.
But I’m here to listen and being present as much as I’m able to.
Even though I can’t do it perfectly.
I’m here for the life in you, and I offer the life in me.’

And this activity is a human activity that at its very core is a sacred activity.

It is important to name it, because it easy to get caught up in –
this is an exercise we’re doing,
those are the steps to the exercise –
and I think those are important,
because the mind needs these kinds of tools or directives to be able to access certain elements of our experience, in ways we would otherwise not be able to do.
They are not unimportant, but they are only vehicles for the spirit.
They are only ways to direct the spirit.

And unless I am inhabiting the spirit,
unless you are inhabiting the spirit of this work,
then it is much more difficult to allow that something, that space,
wherein life can really emerge,
wherein our hearts can emerge,
wherein I can feel whatever the trust is that I feel
to go beyond I thought I was able to go, with myself and with you
it’s that spirit of allowing,
and it’s the spirit where we start to grow a part of ourselves,
that maybe we didn’t know that was there
we start to grow a part of ourselves,
that we didn’t had this potential in us

And so, I’m just saying this because I hold it as very important …
as the intent … the spirit … the holder of the space of what we are here for,
and how we are with ourselves and with each other.

So that’s the first point I want to make.

Attention, awareness is the seed of who we are

(5:00) … and the second point I want to make is:

What is – to ask and to name – what is that something
that is the most important element in all of this work,
the most important element in coming to our wholeness,
in coming to our true nature,
coming to the essense of spirit of life as somehow it is intended to be?

What is that most important element?

For me, right now, that most important element is that seed in us, that is a property of who we are.

It’s a property of our nature, property of the being, of the soul, of the self.

And that property is attention.



And so, this is something we are cultivating, we’re growing.

I had the seed of this many, many years ago, when I started out my own path,
that I discovered that all of life was a discipline of the attention, was mastering attention.

Q: Attention or Intention?
A: Attention … attending to … awareness…
I use attention and awareness synonymously.

So, all of life for me, if I can master attention, then I can master life.

And so, I’m saying it, because I think naming it is important.
I think it’s important to have an experience of self-recognition of what it is the element
that is actually
what is the nature of the power of life
and the seed of it, for me, is awareness and attention
and the seed of is …
to the extent that I can master it is …
I am mastering my agency with regard to attention.

Im not sure how this translates into German.
That means I am attending
I am the source and the cause
I am the agent of my attention.
Nothing else is the agent of my own attention.

Nothing else sources, creates my attention.

It’s not technique, it’s not following a method,
that is the source and the power of my transformation.

Any technique, any method, no matter what discipline
boils down to attention

So, how I attend
to my own inner experience
how I attend,
if it is other discplines
perhaps having to do with the movement of bodies
wether it’s dance, yoga, chigong, contact, improv, whatever it is
it all boils down to the attention that I address
and how I enliven my life with my attention

The quotation behind is the Viktor Frankl quotation that I often share
having to do with how …
it points to the importance of recognizing and finding
my agency or my power, with regard to my attention.

So it’s: Between stimulus and response …
(we can see life as a relationship, and life offers us a continual stimuli …
it’s coming into us, always, and we’re going out to it
but when we’re … between stimulus and response … response is …

What is my internal response in relationship to life?

In between how it comes to me and how I respond – there is a space.

This is the space of attention.

In this space, is our power to chose.

That’s agency.

How I chose, how I respond, is how I act and direct my attention …

perhaps through my thoughts
through my feelings
through my sensations
through my needs

and act.

And in our response lies our growth and our freedom.

So there is the center of this, the space.

The space is so central … to everything, I believe, human beings do.

It’s the space out of which creativity emerges.
It’s that space out of which the human heart emerges
with its sensitivity
with its feeling
with its aliveness.

It’s that space that allows me to see you in your humanity.
Without that space I can’t see you.

What I’m seeing instead is …
Instead of stimulus response, what’s the other option?

It’s stimulus-react, stimulus-recoil.
You say something … I feel hurt, angry or scared.

There is very little space here … or no space.
And this is the source of our suffering, it’s the source of our violence,

So much of this work is around the recognition of
there is this life, there is a stimulus
nvc points out , one of the pointing-out instructions is
Notice is … Observe.
Just the power of observation.

And notice how we tend to mix in our interpretations and evaluations and judgments.
This is basic NVC.
But I’m talking about a principle that is so simple and fundamental.

Observe. Stimulus. Space. Response.

There are three principles in the process I am going to be offering today.

I’m talking about the first principle.

And these principles build on one another.
So the foundational principle is what I call – Space.

When there is spaciousness
and I’m able to be conscious of what I’m observing
without mixing in my evaluation
and I can simply be present to it
then there is an inner clarity.

Spaciousness and clarity are synonymous, they are the same.

Without the inner spaciousness, what am I feeling instead? of inner spaciousness?
When you react, what’s going on instead?

Lack of control. Not knowing how to chose, or what to chose. (12:50)

All the various forms, that can be described as a kind of inner density.
Inner confusion.

Whenever I’m in reaction, there is no space.
All there is, is this turmoil that’s going on.
Even if it’s a minor bit of turmoil, it’s still turmoil.

And it’s not clear.
If I don’t have clarity, I not able to be present.
I can’t be present to my own inner life, and I can’t be present to you.

So clarity is one of the foundational capacities that we develop in this work.

Referencing fundamentals of nonviolent communication:
the ability to observe without mixing in my interpretations, evaluations, and judgments.

It’s a very incredibly powerful principle … to live into.

I believe everybody in this room has been exposed to it,
and I think everybody understands it intellectually.
Those first two steps.
But I’m not sure that everybody lives it.
Because, unless I’m able to cultivate and live into the space,
I’m not available to myself, and I’m not available to you.

What I do instead is:

I receive the stimulus (there might be something that I did, that is my own stimulus…)
But it brings me to the internal recoil, reaction, contraction
And out of that reaction I create my own world, I create my own fiction

And the fiction has the levels of thinking, cognition, emotion, and sensation;
but most of the fiction is the thinking part,
is the story that I make up.

I am sitting in a group, and I look at the group, and I tell myself:

I am too scared, this group is too big.
I can’t speak in a group, I’m afraid I’ll be judged.

I am not judging it, I just want to observe it.
This is the fiction.

Because when I see a group, I don’t see you.

I’m collapsed into the density of my own fears, that have their own source,
and we’ll get to that, probably tomorrow,
… but just to recognize it.

To the extent that I’m judging, reacting, recoil
I do not see you … I do not see life … I’m blind to it

What I see (16:00) as though I’m living in a sphere
and the inside part of the sphere is a projected screen.
I project my internal (glass falling, hello life! 🙂 ) world onto the screen.

And all I see are my projections of my fear.
See, with my fear all I see are people that will judge me
That’s what I see, that’s my fear.

Now the tradegy is that I believe it.

I believe it to be so.

There are so many believes that I project that I don’t have my freedom.
I don’t have the capacity, I don’t have the agency.
Because I have never learned how to do it.
There is no blame here, there is no judgment.

I have not yet learned how to liberate myself.

From the constant pattern of stimulus and response and judgment.

So this work is about beginning and continuing this capacity.

When I can begin to master my own responsiveness,
Then I become the master of my own life.

That’s what I call self-responsibility.
That’s what I call agency.
This is where my power is.

The most powerful thing I can do, is to master my attention.

But unless I know how to, I’m lost …
Because I don’t have the directives, the tools, the pointers, the map.

I am just talking about the first level here, clarity and space.
I’m not talking about the second and third levels, dimensions that grow from this.

It is, for me, an ongoing practice, to attend, to be present to life
being present to what I’m observing,
and to allow it into me as it is
not as I want it to be
to not resist it,
any judgment is a resistance
resisting life.

I let it in.

Because if I do let it in, what does that mean?

It means I’m vulnerable.

It means I’ve learned how to relax
and relinquish my defendedness,
and how I protect myself constantly.

I kind of have a question that has to do with …
trusting your instinct and your intution
but I’m not quite sure how to formulate it
but it seems the …
since your instinct comes from kind-of a cellular wisdom, almost
What if you are in a room of people, and there’s … everybody’s lying to you
and you are observing that …
but you don’t really quiet know that they’re really lying
almost believing they have an agenda to harm you
but your instinct, something inside tells you that,
like, what’s going on there?

// Have you had that experience? //Sure. Yes.// Ah. // I have.
Trusting my instincts, I was right. // Yeah. //
But everybody that I came like … everybody thought I was crazy.
But actually turned out to be …
// So what’s the question? //
So the question is, there seems to be an inconsistency
between trusting your instincts in those situations
– not situations of life and death, but in situations like that –
and what you are talking about.

I don’t see any inconsisteny at all. // Oh, ok. //
So, because the organ of perception that you call intuition, is a much more subtle organ.
It’s not the obvious.
People are saying words, that’s the obvious.

What you are sensing, is much more subtle
and so, what you are receiving, the observing mechanism in you,
is that part that you call intuition or gut.
You are feeling something, you are sensing something
You may not be able to name it or recognize it.
So, when you trust in that, you trust in something that is real and authentic for you.

Are you seeing, there is no inconstency?
// Yeah, right //
It’s just a different level of observation.
// Ok. //
And you trust it.

So, does that mean that intuition is not mixed up with the story-telling.

Oh, absolutely not.
Intuition is the part of our sensitivity
that we have not been able to cognitively recognize yet.
It is easy to cognitively recognize a visual observation … all the five senses

But we function much more on the other levels, that are more subtle
than we do on the more obvious levels.

We sense it, we pick up odd energies, feeling.
It is hard to name those, but we feel it.

Now, the problem is that I can mix in my stories with that
and then live in a world of confusion
Part of it is accurate sensing of what’s going on,
and the other part is the story that I lay on top of it.

I am in a room full of right-wing conservative people,
who think that the only way out of life is to dominate other people.
And I can label those people and say „That’s why I’m feeling the way I’m feeling.“

I mean, there is many examples, that may not be the best.

So our relationship to life, our relationship to what we observe
is a very critical part of how we take in …

and when I’m recognizing, that I don’t have the space
then this is where I bring my attention

the ability to recognize that what I’m observing, what I’m taking in,
that I am adding something to it,

I want to be able to name what I’m adding to it.

Name –
this is something where I’m feeling tense,
this is something where I’m scared,
and this is something where I find I’m telling myself the story.

I’m telling myself the story that this unsafe.
I’m telling myself the story that you are unsafe.

That’s a story, that’s not the observation.

I’m telling myself the story that you’re rude.
I’m telling myself the story that this situation is hopeless.

The ability to recognize that I’m thinking and evaluating and telling myself the story
is the key to my agency and to my freedom.

without that …

I am a victim of my own thoughts

not only that …

I’m a victim of it to the extent
that I blame the environment for how I’m feeling.

Blame is a function of not having my own internal freedom and space.

So, clarity.


Then … then. If I’m able to develop some degree of clarity in relationship to what I’m observing.

Someone says or does something.
There is an event.
I miss my connection at the airport. You know…

Something happens.
Somebody does something that is uncomfortable for me or doesn’t meet a need of mine.

Can I just allow the vulnerability of that in?
Then, only then, am I open to feeling what’s actually there in me.

Only then am I – this is a vulnerable space – then I’m open and vulnerable
to actually feeling the natural response of how life actually enters into me

Only then am I in the space, where it’s possible to experience compassion.

Robert, can you say again please the link between
the capacity to distinguish the observation and the story?

When I’m able to do that – distinguish the observation (and the story)
– to the extent that I can do that,
I have inner clarity, inner space, there is an openess
and then, when I have this inner space
then I can truly meet what’s coming to me
in an open and vulnerable way

but vulnerability means I am open to meet the pain of that unmet need
the pain of what didn’t occur, that I so value
and that’s what a part of me often fights against
because I don’t wanna feel the pain
I wanna feel angry and blame you instead
because that’s all I know …!

So then I have the space
Then there is the opportunity to feel, actually feel.

to actually get in touch with my heart,
which is to say, what I truly value in this situation
that’s what I feel something about.

Someone says something to me, that doesn’t match what my intention is.

So I can judge them and say:
They’ll never get me,
they don’t understand me,
they’re not at my level. (or whatever my story is)
All they care about is getting whatever their agenda met.

So, when I can clear that story, by recognizing that it’s my thought
then I have some clarity
then I can take in what they say or do
and then I can feel something more tender
because I’m able to feel something

then I can maybe start to feel shaken
tender, sensitive, the feeling state …
I can actually begin then to feel my heart, my feelings.

and generally speaking, maybe it’s just
I don’t know … it’s hurt, pain, disappointment …

and the feeling is an indication
that what I truly value,
is not being met here.

But the compassion comes in – the self-compassion
when I’m able to let myself feel.

I give the space – inner space – or I receive it from another
the space and the presence to allow
whatever I’m feeling, to be here, to be felt, to be expressed

Then I’m in the space of compassion.

So, clarity … and then compassion.
It can’t go the other way around.

There has to be some space in order to feel compassion,
in order to experience my authenticity.

Whatever that pain is …

And then, I let myself,
( even if it’s just a little, I don’t always feel the grief the mourning
but often it’s there, even if it’s just a little … )
then I feel the grief
of my value not being fulfilled, of my need not being met.
My heart is open …
I allow myself to feel it …
I dwell in this.
Before I jump into solution,
before I jump into something else …
I can dwell in the tenderness of my feeling state.

And … I feel the sadness – this is the principle of mourning and natural grief –
only because something is precious
there is something, there is always something precious, and beautiful
always …!
being seen, being understood,
being regarded with kindness and respectfull consideration
those are very precious qualities

that’s the beauty that my sadness takes me to.

Then it helps me to move into the third dimension,
which I call empowerment.

I mourn, I grief, I live in the tenderness of the hurt and the pain.

It connects me to what is precious.

Then, I can … not denying the pain, not overriding the grief,
I remember what is precious, and then I dwell in what is precious,

I dwell in the beauty of perhaps …
trust … or understanding …
that this quality is actually the heart of who I am.

This is what my life stands for
this is what I stand for
this is what I want to carry forth, in my life, in my relationships.

That’s when I’m in my true power,
in the power of life.

And this practice culminates, practicing it over and over again …
… developing clarity, and compassion, and then the power of my being, empowerment.

So those are the, what I’ve noticed, the developmental stages of this process of transformation, healing.

And there is a technical map for it, that we’re gonna practice today.
Many of you are familiar with it.

But I think it’s important to describe the principle underlying the map,
so we can follow the principles of it.

This process I developed fourteen years ago.
I remember the exaxt setting, because it was such an event.
It’s „Transforming the pain of unmet needs into the beauty of needs“

There is these steps to develop clarity.

And it’s on one of the pages in the handout, you can take a look at it.

As with many of the practices, we begin with an experience
that perhaps we have not fully digested,
That we have not fully experience
that kind of stay with us
the residue of pain or unfulfilled experiences.
These kind of stay with us.

So we use these experiences as an opportunity to enter into and develop these capacities.

It’s more about developing the capacities, rather than resolving this particular issue,
even though that happens as well.
So we start out with an experience that we have,
that we want to explore and take a look at.
We identify, what happened, what was the stimulus,
and write that down, we write it down, so we can have some clarity.

And then, we might be able to spend some time
looking at the observation,
and removing all of the parts of the observation that are actually evaluations.
So … and then we have a clear observation.

and then we take a look at

Reflecting on my experience,
what kind of thoughts and judgments arrive in me
are coming up into me now?

I need to be able to recognize my judgments
before I can have some sort of … it’s the space …
before I can have some sort of choice with regard to my own judgments.

So I identify my judgments, my evaluations
– whether it’s aimed at the other person or myself.

So that’s the first step in developing clarity.

And then I let myself really feel the feelings that are associated with these judgments
rather than just naming them
the experience of being in this judgment.

And then I differentiate.

This part of it can be very challenging for people.

I notice the observation …
‘This person said this to me after I said something to them.’

And then I notice my judgments:
‘They never listen to me.’
‘I’m not worth listening to.’
‘They’re rude.’
‘They’ll never understand me.’
These are all my stories.

Then I go through a process of owning my stories as stories, rather than believing them.

This is challenging …

because I might say:
I’m telling myself the story …

and notice the difference between that and the observation
simply name it.
This is what I’m judging about that,
and this is what the observation is …

Until I’m able to see more clearly, that I’m in this evaluative mode.

And whenever I’ve experienced
the actual direct experience of differentiating
between my story and the observation,
I always feel it in the body.

I always feel some kind of relaxation or relief.

Sometimes it’s described as:
‘Oh, now I have a distance. There is a distance.
Now I can really see what I’ve been thinking, and evaluating, and judging.’

So then I have some sense of freedom.

Then I would go to …
‘Now, can I put my attention on the stimulus of what happened again?’
so that I can have a more clear open space.
So what am I feeling in regard to this?
What am I needing? what is truly precious to me?
So I can receive it an undefended way, in a vulnerable way.

So then I can not only notice and identify,
but let myself feel … whatever feelings I feel,
and to discover the link to what I’m valuing and needing
– but experientally, so that I can actually experience it.

So the space that I’m in, is the space that allows a form of self-compassion
– authentic feeling and needing.

I’m just actually simplifying the whole process, just to give you an idea of it.

And then I stay in the grief, stay in the mourning.
And allow myself to feel the connection to
the value, the wholeness, the beauty of what it is that I care for
that is residing in my heart as a value
but it was absent in the experience.

If I can stay connect to that …
dwell in the beauty and the energy of that …
then that moves me forward.

So that’s the simple.

Every person’s experience is different,
because we run at different challenges, at different stages of this process.

Did you all get an opportunity to see the page in that. Could somebody tell me what it’s on?
14 …
The diagram is on page 14.

Page 15 is a description of the stages of the process.

And then page 16 + 17 are kind of a worksheet that would use,
if you are working it with yourself
or if you are supporting somebody else,
you can help guide them in the different stages of this process.

Does anybody have any questions about this?
We will be practicing it.

What I heard you say is
In the process to identify the judgments and the evaluations
and that is what I then explore.
So I take my attention away from the stimulus outside.
I go to the stimulus that I keep re-creating inside of me
through my judgments and evaluations.
And that’s what I stay with, and that’s what I explore.

we look at the three stages of exploration
number 1: mayniment(?)
number 2 is letting myself feel the energy, of what it feels like to be in that judgment
and number 3, to differentiate, this is my judgment and this is the observation

Now, there is an important … something to identify here
almost everybody can intellectually say – ‘this is my story’
it’s easy

But intellectually identifying it,
and differentiating it,
are two completely different things.

Because I can say:

Yes, I’m telling myself the story that ‘He’s an asshole.’
I’m telling myself, that’s alright. ‘He’s an asshole.’
Yeah, it’s a story.

But in my body and in my being, I still believe it, I still see:

He’s a fucking asshole. No question, everybody knows.

And if you don’t know, you’re an asshole.
(nervous chuckling of recognition?)

Believing in my judgments sometimes can have a very powerful grip on us,
and this is one of the biggest challenges with this step of differenting.

Cause it’s not enough to say – yes, I know this is a judgment.

I hear this all the time.
I’ve heard it for years in the NVC circles.

‘Yeah, this is a judgment.’
So what, does that help you to name it as a judgment,
because you are still in the judgment.

You know … (chuckling)

This could be … and this goes …
the extent to which I’m attached to my judgments
has very deep roots,
and we’re probably going to address that more tomorrow.

Because my experience is that every jugdment, no matter how small,
is sourced from a repository of pain, from my life history,
every judgment, there isn’t one, I believe,
that doesn’t come from my life experience.

And that repository, that store place of all my judgments,
is that place in my being where my core beliefs reside,
where my perspectives of how I’ve learned all the strategies to protect myself,
to defend against life, and to survive …

So these are very powerful energies that keep my core beliefs intact.

So, this process doesn’t necessarily address that element of it.
But at least if we run into a judgment that doesn’t seem to …
I can’t see to free myself from it, because … it’s just …
energetically it’s held in place so much
that I cannot cognitively differentiate from it. (John: experientially differentiate?)

If that’s the case, it’s important just to name it.

Snd then I might focus on a slightly different process within this process,
if that has so much energy,
that I cannot move forward.

Then that other process is around bringing that part of me, and it’s a part of me,
developing a compassionate embrace and relationship,to that part of me
because it’s always a hurt and wounded, scared part
that’s holding onto my belief.

So … I just wanted to just identify that in case anybody runs into that

So that was pretty long answer to your question.
Did that answer your question? (Yeah.)

So I just want to come back to the first words that I said.

Just to remember that I’m describing a kind of map to an inner territory,
but the spirit of this is something I want to remember:

That this doesn’t … that this map, this process …
has in no way the intention, or the communication
that this is something everybody should be able to do.

There is no ‘should’ in here.

It’s an invitation to try this out,
to do the very best we can,
because what we are accessing is our own internal life,
our own internal life,
the parts of us that we carry with us
perhaps, those parts …

I mean, there are certainly other parts that have served us
that allowed us to live in life fully, creatively, with love …

but there is these other parts, that haven’t
that haven’t received enough love and compassion
that still live in the wounded parts of us.

So, I want to remember that,
that whenever we are sharing this with one another,
whenever we’re exploring that,
that this is what we’re exploring,
this is what we’re bringing forward.

Are there any other questions?

I mean there is only so many questions that I can answer on this level,
because the more fundamental answers come from the experience, doing this process.

I wanted to show you what the process looks like.

So I would want to demonstrate the process in front of the group
with someone who is willing to bring a live experience that you have,
and I will support you through the process, so that other people can observe the process.

So, you’re volunteering, Nikolaas?

Let me ask you first, what … , just so that I have clarity about the process,
and it’ll be fitting for the demonstration.
Can you just share with me, what the observation, the stimulus is, that you’re working with?

The stimulus was that somebody said to me:
‘You are pressing me out’

You’re what?

‘You are pressing me out’
‘You are squeezing me out.’

And of course this created a reaction in you.
Pain. Judgments. Etc.
Ok …

So, I think, it’s a very good example. So … great!