Communication Breakdown, It's always the same...
I'm having a nervous breakdown, Drive me insane..."
- Chorus, Led Zepplin's "Communication Breakdown"
As the song's chorus aptly states, the breakdown of effective communication can cause us to believe we are truly going insane. Why?
We must begin to recognize that clear communication, that results in 100% understanding and comprehension, is a fallacy.
Initially, you make think to yourself that this isn't correct. You may say, "I know exactly what I mean when communicating my thoughts, feelings, and desires/requests to others."
That is exactly where the problem begins. We assume that because we know what we mean, that others will innately know, too.
Let's look at some ways to improve our communication skills so that we can avoid going insane by making an ass out of a u and me (assumptions):
Birds of a feather, flock together.This old adage has relevance to our topic. Birds know one another. We don't see red-breasted robins flying with cardinals or geese flying with ducks. In the same way, we tend to be around (and flock with) people that are quite like us. Oftentimes, with the people we're closest to, we have the uncanny ability to almost know what they are about to do or say.
This seeming feat of telepathic premonition is acquired simply by being on, or around, the same mental wave or space. By liking the same things and generally being interested in one another as people, we begin to intuit their thoughts and behaviors. It is this intuition that allows us easier communication to be had than if we were total strangers.
When speaking with someone new, or someone you may be at disagreement with, try this:
Put yourself in their shoes. Go ahead, try it. First, remove any judgements you have about this person. See them clearly in your mind as they are; be open and receptive to the human that lay under the labels our minds place on people and things. Tap into your empathetic eye by acknowledging your own feelings, emotions and personal needs. Then, step into their perspective as best you can.
Be mindful. Observe. Watch facial expressions and body language. Compare your facial expressions and how your own body language reacts to theirs. Are you leaning in? Crossing your arms? Looking to the left or right? Up or down? There is a hidden world of communication happening beyond words. Here's an article to learn more, especially for the business world.
Think. Before you speak. Take your time to think about how to present your thought or idea. The way in which things are said, the semantics, and how, the syntax, reveal a lot about our state of mind and consciousness. As you observe other's speech, observe your inner voice and dialogue. Speak with clear intention.
Practice makes perfect (well, almost).Practice a technique. A great technique for clear, empathetic conversing is Non-violent Communication. Pioneered by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s, the Center for Non-Violent Communication has been promoting clear communication through a simple and effective model.
There are four parts to expressing and listening: Observations, Feelings, Needs, and Requests.
State what you observe, without evaluations or judgements. Be as precise as possible. "I saw clutter on the desk this morning." "The car tire was flat as I walked out from the house." "The flowers are blooming."
State how your observations make you feel. "Seeing the sunrise with you makes me feel happy." "I feel content knowing that my report was posted in time." Surprising to me when I learned about the NVC model was a limited vocabulary for my feelings and emotions. The CNVC has a great list of both positive and negative feelings.
Usually when we are content, we don't need anything. However, when we are upset, it's probable because a need of ours is not being met. "I need some space and independence." "I need closeness and support." Be careful! We can mistake a need for a feeling! Check out some needs here.
Making a request of someone can be mistaken as commanding or demanding. However, when we identify our feelings and unmet needs (positive or negative) in a neutral and non-blaming manner, it becomes clear why we are asking for certain things. Example: "Hey John, it really makes me happy to see the aisle clear. I am responsible for everyone's safety. Aisles free of things allows a safer exit in especially during an emergency. Thanks for moving your bag."
When communicating, especially emotions, needs, and making requests, Non-violent Communication is a great way to get the message across. For more formal information, check out www.cnvc.org.
It's been awhile since someone that I've known passed on. This time around it was one of the hospice clients on my list. She left this morning.
When I decided to take on the task of volunteering with individuals whom are on the verge of transition, I knew that surely someone would take that step. Since this is the first person, and a while since I have been close to human death, it is an interesting time to reflect.
A simple statement: We take life for granted. When your daily activities consist of waking, performing some work, or task, consuming and entertaining, and resting, day in and day out. It's hard to contemplate any stop to the cycle. Even more so when our friends, family, and everyone around are doing the same. Non-stop, here we go. We live forever, don't we?
This first passing has opened my eyes and senses more to what, at first, was an intangible goal: to learn more and become intimate with Death. I now am one step closer to knowing who She is, Death, and what She is like. My first impressions are that She is covert, hidden, transparently fixed within our daily moments. At first, I found Her to be scary, feeling that She was lurking and stalking weak and diseased prey like a black jaguar of the jungle, waiting to pounce when we least expected.
The practicality of the first five start to come more apparent as the days move on. We feel honest, integrous, compassionate, and relieved. Adopting a set of moral and ethical guidelines for oneself is more liberating than binding because we are not creating constraints, rather defining our borders. There are rules and natural laws that operate within each and every system. Computer code, DNA, physics, linguistics, nutrition, etc...all have some sort of process of occurrence to exist. Nature Herself follows these laws and rules, from which we can see the success of all other creatures and things. When we begin to recognize and intuit the natural rhythms of life, we allow ourselves to open up to our natural state of being, less stressed and happy.
The first 5 of Patanjali's guidelines are called 'Yamas' and refer to how someone would act if they wanted to avoid creating any situations that would cause stress. They would be kind, honest, reserved, modest and noble.
The final 5 of Pantanjali's guidelines are more introspective. Turning the mind within and creating boundaries here, too, helps to reduce the creation of new stress within conflicting mental / emotional juxtapositions and helps to resolve embedded memories. They are as follows:
Similarly, we should focus on our body and mind. The physical space and environment should be clean. Cleanliness keep you organized, keeps potential hazards from happening. While we work to keep our personal space clean, we also think about our bodies and keeping them pure and clean. Cleanliness of the body reduces the chances of illness. Mentally, focus should remain on the task at hand. Extraneous thoughts and fantasies should be avoided so that the mind stays sharp and firm, not soft and dull.
2) Equanimity/ Even-mindedness: When someone needs help or to talk something out, they usually ask a friend or seek professional guidance. Why? We go outside of ourselves to get an unbiased opinion (we hope). Even-mindedness/ Equanimity is a mental stance we take to be as unbiased as we can to our perceptions. Sometimes this might seem difficult, especially if the situation is emotionally intense. For this, we practice simple mindfulness meditation. Twice a day, once in the morning, once in the evening, start by sitting comfortably a observing the breath and your breathing. Make no judgements, simply watch and wait. Set a timer for a few minutes and practice until you can feel calm. Then, increase the duration.
This exercise will allow you to remain mentally and emotionally removed from the external, giving you better judgement and a clearer sense of perception.
3) Devotion: Simple. Love what you do. Do what you love. Find something that interests you and see where it leads. When we are feeling passionate about something, we are more effective. If your heart isn't in it, your actions will more than likely lack and fall short of excellence.
4) Self-study/ Learning: Cultivating the desire to know "who am I" and thoroughly investigating the question leads to profound insight and discovery. We've all heard of Cause and Effect, or Karma. Who we think we are is really the result of many causes and effects over the course of our lives and into the past. Our families, friends and societies influence who we claim to be. Our interpretation of the past influences who we think we are. Knowing why do you things a certain way or have particular likes and dislikes open us up to seeing our own programming, allowing and affording us the ability to make changes that have positive impact.
5) Surrender: Quite possibly the hardest thing to do; Just let go. It doesn't help when we have almost instant communication globally now, or multitudes of external distractions. Let go....
A farmer can do all that he might to ripen and harvest his crops, however, there is a process to life that even he cannot change. So, he must perform his essential farm duties, have faith and wait things out. Likewise, when we practice releasing and surrendering, life is allowed to ripen around the situation. Slowly loosen any fear of losing control and allow life to work itself out.
2014 Vibrant Life. Quiet Mind.
Yoga has been an increasingly hot topic (in the West) these past few decades, with its roots being established in the early 20th century and growing into the multi-branched tree we see today with its various limbs: Ashtanga, Hatha, Restorative, Yin, Hot, Iyengar, Anusara etc etc. Unfortunately, however, there still is a large misconception on what 'yoga' really is.
Let's take a simple and practical look into what it really is.
Yoga, simply put, is a system to living life that allows each moment we experience to come completely from the heart. There are traditionally 4 ways that someone can practice 'yoga' according to the Bhagavad Gita: Karma Yoga, Raja Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, or Jnana Yoga.
Patanjali was a sage from long ago in India that is attributed to the Yoga Sutras, which stems from the Raja Yoga path. The Sutras are simply an instruction manual for this system. Within the Sutras, Patanjali outlines 10 behavioral and mental rules. It is these 10 rules that have an everyday application.
1) Harmlessness/Non-violence: Fairly straight forward? Not quite. This calls us to think about what exactly is harm? What is it when we are violated, or we violate some other living organism? The simplest place to start (with all of this, of course) is with ourselves. If we can take a moment to sit back daily and reflect on those instances in our lives that we felt harmed, or violated, then we can begin to get a sense of what/how others my perceive our actions and words.
2) Truthfulness: Being true comes from seeing the world 'as it is' without labels. This, like harmlessness, is tougher than it seems. As we grew up, we were exposed to the world through the use of labels. These labels, adjectives/ modifiers, came from how others perceived their own reality, not our own, yet we tend to adopt them unknowingly. To begin practicing truthfulness, we must begin observing how we use adjectives and modifiers to paint a picture of the world that isn't really true. We'll come to notice that many of the observances we have are riddled with poetic deception. Our preferences are what filter out the true word before us and it was the preferences of those that taught us that started the whole process.
To remove the tendency of experiencing the world through our filters, we practice simple observation of the facts. "This morning is cool." "The flower is yellow." "The coffee is hot." vs. "This morning was really nippy." "The flower has a horrible yellow hue." "This coffee is too bitter." Notice that the second set of simple statements contain preferences.
3) Non-stealing: This guideline is pretty straightforward, however, as you analyze it, subtler and subtler levels reveal themselves. This sort of plays into the idea of violation, doesn't it? If we are to take and use the things that don't explicitly belong to us, then we are potentially violating someone, or some being's space and use. Typically, for most of us, we mentally debate what impact will be had if we perform some action with someone else's stuff ie: 'My roommate left this pizza, I wonder if he'll be upset if I eat the last slice?' or 'I couldn't find my hair brush, so I hope Suzie doesn't mind I brushed my hair with it' etc etc. Our own internal prompt to question indicates an innate knowledge that using that which isn't ours should be avoided.
4) Conservation of Vital Energy: Yet again, this is subtler than originally thought also. Vital energy applies to everything, really. All things are resources; our thoughts, physical bodies, emotions, money, land etc etc. Applying this broadly and allowing us to categorize, we can reflectively view each area of our life as reservoirs in which we draw energy. As we continuously draw upon a resource, it diminishes. This is said about fossil fuels, our forests, potable water....so is it any different within our bodies, minds and emotions? Perhaps even extending into our relationships with people and things? Adhering to a regular review of how our energies are being expended (mental, money, physical etc) we can become more aware of imbalances. Correcting imbalances improves the overall environment.
5) Non-avarice/ Absence of Greed: Imagine that you have a bag for picking apples and you set off for the apple grove. You get to the grove and start your task of picking apples for home and begin to think of all the delicious things that will be made of them. Apple pie, tarts, candied apples, stewed apples, apple butter and apple jam! Yum! Eagerly, the bag gets fuller and fuller and, before you thought you even arrived, the bag was full. Walking back through the grove, past all the ripe and delicious apples left unpicked, you begin to feel sad that such a waste they'll become. So, to remedy that dilemma you decide to pick more apples, overstuffing the bag, filling your pockets, but manage to fill over max. Stumbling home and almost there, your arms are so full you can't see the little rock in your way. A simple trip and now you've fallen, the bag is spilt and bruised half the apples. Grandma surely is going to be mad!
In this story, it's the greed of that child to desire more apples, however well intentioned, that resulted in an accident. Don't worry, you didn't get hurt, just had to clean up the mess and fetch more apples. Had you stuck to what you could feasibly manage, perhaps there wouldn't have been such a fuss? So in this way, our desire to have more than what is provided for us can put us out of balance and obstruct our path forward in life.