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How it works

What does it take to communicate in your relationship in a way that connects, and is in integrity with your deepest values?

Meditation, prayer, and other spiritual practices can connect you to your values. Yet, when you step back into your daily life you can get lost in a swirl of criticism, doubt, and confusion. You don't always see how to really put your values into action in the situations you encounter, especially when it gets heated between you and someone close to you.  You need new tools to find and express compassion, love, and honesty.  

Mindful Compassionate Dialogue (MCD) can help.  MCD is a blend of Mindfulness, Hakomi (body centered therapy), and Compassionate Communication (NVC). The goal of MCD is to empower you to create the change you want in relationship. Mindful Compassionate Dialogue naturally supports you in creating a secure bond, while at the same time promotes healthy differentiation in your relationship. MCD can help you cultivate self-compassion and a confident relationship to needs. You can learn to stay grounded through reactivity and set clear boundaries. As you and your partner follow the structure of MCD, you will see unsupportive relationship dynamics through a practical framework and learn a set of skills that enables you to make immediate changes.  Let's look at these three aspects of MCD in detail.

I feel a deep appreciation for the presence, integrity, & skill that LaShelle offers and am so grateful to have experienced this work.
workshop participant, Portland OR

Mindfulness
It all starts inside of you. It’s about discovering what goes on in you from the moment you perceive something to the moment you respond. Though it might be just a split second, you cycle through a river of thoughts, impulses, images, feelings, and needs. Shedding light on this river helps you to connect to your heart and respond to what's true for you in the moment.

With more understanding and awareness, you get free from the trap of making decisions based on habits, assumptions, or what you think you “should” do. Confusion clears and you find yourself connected to your heart. When you’re connected to yourself, it's easier to stay connected to another in the way you would like.

Mindfulness was first described and taught in ancient India before the time of the Buddha.  Mindfulness is characterized by a wholesome state of mind, that is, one free from greed, hate, and delusion.  It is a kind and compassionate attention gently directed toward experience in the moment.  It is characterized by non-forgetfulness and the absence of confusion.  It arises from clear perception.  In sum, it is an enhanced presence of mind, a heightened non-wavering attentiveness, and a special non-ordinary quality of attention.

Relative to Hakomi, mindfulness of present experience, especially experiences of the body, is the primary doorway to bring unconscious core material into consciousness so that healing can happen.

Relative to NVC, mindfulness allows you to notice when you are connected or disconnected and helps you discern the five basic distinctions in experience and language named in the introduction to NVC.


Hakomi - Understanding your experience

Hakomi Therapy is a system of body-centered psychotherapy which is based on the principles of mindfulness, nonviolence, and the unity of mind and body. It was developed by Ron Kurtz and others at the Hakomi Institute in Boulder, Colorado.

Hakomi asks you to become ever more subtly aware of your experience and turn toward your experience with compassion and acceptance. It offers insight into universal patterns of reactivity and healing.

From the framework of Hakomi, you will recognize a set of core experiences or so called “core material” that may exert influence unconsciously, by directing how you respond to life.   

Core material is composed of conditioned relationships between various aspects of experience such as memories, posture, images, beliefs, neural patterns, thoughts, impulses, needs, feelings, etc.  Some core material supports you in responding to life in a satisfying way, while some of it, learned in response to acute and chronic stress, continues to limit you (e.g., reactivity).  

Hakomi offers very specific ways to use mindfulness to access core material.

As core material unfolds into conscious awareness it is met with empathy and nourishment, and transforms in the direction of integration and wholeness.  This then changes the way you respond to life or, in other words, changes your habits, behaviors, perceptions, beliefs, and attitudes

Compassionate Communication
Compassionate Communication, also called Nonviolent Communication (NVC), was founded by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960’s.  For more history and resources on NVC see the Center for Nonviolent Communication:  https://www.cnvc.org/

The purpose of NVC is to create a quality of connection that inspires a natural giving from the heart. The premise of this work is that our natural state is one of compassion and connection, even though our experience of life isn’t always compassionate or connected. For many reasons we find ourselves disconnected again and again.   In NVC, Marshall names particular forms of communication that reliably move us away from compassion and connection.  These include expressions of judgments, diagnoses, analyses, should’s, and the three “D’s”(demands, deserve, and denial of responsibility).

Any of these expressions can get confused for honesty.  For example, you might say something like this, "I just have to be honest with myself. I am a hot-tempered person." While there may be moments when you are hot-tempered, this judgment doesn’t open up a way forward toward compassion and connection.  It also doesn’t reflect the truth that hot-temperedness is something that comes and goes; it is not who you are.

A judgment labels others.  A diagnosis attempts to point to what’s wrong. Analysis is a more complex form of trying to figure out what’s wrong with someone.  When faced with someone else’s pain, you might be tempted to think that if you can determine what’s wrong with them, that will alleviate their pain or inspire them to change. Unfortunately, telling others what’s wrong with them usually triggers defensiveness, rather than providing relief. 

“Should’s” are a form of pushing against what’s happening in any given moment.  “Should’s” trigger guilt and shame, but don’t usually provide inspiration or clarity about how to create connection and thriving.  You can divide “should’s” into at three categories:  you should be more, you should do more, and you should have more.  Thoughts like these take you away from the present moment.

The three D’s make up other forms of life-alienating communication—demands, deserve, and denial of responsibility. Demands are anything that communicates that you are willing to meet your needs at the expense of others’ needs. Deserve is most explicitly found in the practice of reward and punishment. Deserve thinking sends the message that you only deserve to have your needs met if you behave according to some standard or rule or fit in a particular category (e.g., male, female, Hispanic, educated, etc.).  Marshall called deserve the most violent concept on the planet.  Denial of responsibility is found in ideas of obligation and duty and is characterized by phrases like:   "I have to."  "Those are my orders." "I am just following the rules." "It’s my duty to take care of my father."  

Overall, life-alienating language is characterized by attempts to push reality into static boxes of what should and shouldn’t be, what is right or wrong, what people are or are not. Life-alienating language also tends to point away from the life of the present moment toward the world of ideas and analyses, of past causalities, or ideas of what should be in the future.  

NVC helps to create life-connecting consciousness and communication. In NVC consciousness, the intention is to continually connect to what is alive in the present moment.  Then from a place of  compassion and acceptance of what’s true, take wise action.  

NVC proposes three basic modes of relating to experience: receiving with empathy, engaging in self-empathy, and expressing with honesty. When you are listening with empathy, you are listening for the speaker’s experience, especially feelings and needs, regardless of the words they are using. You remember that everything anyone ever says or does is an attempt to meet or be in harmony with universal needs. Learning to listen with empathy makes life a lot easier. You find that where you once heard criticisms or attacks you now hear someone expressing their feelings and needs. Even as you listen and help guess someone's feelings and needs that doesn't make you responsible for them. Empathy requires clear boundaries.

When you turn empathy toward yourself you learn to hear your own inner voices of doubt, judgment, and criticism as expressions of feelings and needs. With self-empathy, you can be released from the pain of self-criticism.  Connecting compassionately with your experience is the practice of self-empathy and can lead to agency and empowerment.

NVC honest expression means you are choosing words that reveal the contents of your experience in a self-responsible way. You are able to make five basic distinctions in experience and language and your communication reflects this understanding.


1.  Neutral Observations vs. Interpretations (or other types of thought)

You distinguish what actually happened from your interpretations of the event.  That is, you are able to articulate a neutral observation.  A neutral observation includes only what a camera could record.


2.  Feelings arise from Universal Needs

In NVC feelings are important messengers letting you know about needs met or unmet.  Naming and expressing feelings in a responsible way also contributes to shared vulnerability and connection.  NVC syntax reflects this understanding and responsibility around feelings by connecting the feeling to the need and placing both within the context of a neutral observation and a specific do-able request.


3.  Feelings vs. Interpretations

Building a feelings vocabulary helps you know the difference between feelings and interpretations. For example, you recognize that there are many words that get used as feelings but are actually interpretations of what you think someone is doing to you.  For example, when you say I feel "rejected" you are interpreting that someone is pushing you away out of dislike. While this may or may not be true, it’s not the end of the story.  When you interpret someone’s behavior in this way, feelings and needs immediately come up for you; perhaps feelings of hurt and disappointment and needs for acceptance and companionship.


4.  Universal Needs vs. the Strategies to Meet Them

Learning the list of universal needs creates space for creativity, flexibility, and compassion.  When you confuse universal needs with the strategies to meet them, you can easily become stuck. Problems and arguments become unsolvable.  Phrases like, "He needs to control everything," reveal this common confusion.  Control is not a universal need.  Control is a strategy, a pretty popular one, to meet needs.  All humans have the same needs and it is these universal needs that motivate behavior and help us find our shared humanity.


5.  Requests vs.  Demands or Vague Wishes

Lastly, in NVC you learn to express requests that are specific, do-able, and connected to needs rather than vague invitations or demands. For example, "I need predictability in our work together. Would you be willing to let me know a day in advance if you won't attend the meetings on Fridays?" states a need and a specific request. "Be more considerate" implies a need and doesn’t make a specific request.  “Be there, or else!” is a demand.

As a teaching device, Marshall Rosenberg, chose two metaphors.  He chose giraffe to represent life connecting consciousness and language and jackal to represent life alienating consciousness and language.  You may see and hear these metaphors throughout this course as a shorthand to refer to these two broad categories.

The most important thing to remember about NVC consciousness is that it is about creating connection by listening and speaking from the heart.

Gone are the days of compromise, giving in, or making demands. By naming and expressing universal needs in this self-responsible framework, you open the door to creative negotiation in which everyone's needs can be met.  This might seem unlikely now.  You might be saying, "Yeah but, needs are sometimes in conflict and one person just has to be flexible."  From this perspective, needs are never in conflict.  Conflict happens around the strategies to meet needs.  When you imagine your need can only be met at a certain time, with a certain person, and in a certain way, you will likely find yourself in conflict.  However, if you can separate your need from the strategy you have for meeting it, you open space for new and creative ways to meet your needs.

To get a taste of this work sign up for my Connection Gem of the Week, give me a call or email, or check out upcoming classes.