by Pam Orbach

Eyes closed, I concentrate on my breath, wanting calm self –connection. I hear the vibrant drumming as strangers gather around me to start the opening circle of the January 2014 Leadership Program retreat. I have taken time away from my work supervising a Citywide Parent Teen mediation program in Bellevue Washington that supports families in crisis, and from my own family. I am yearning for personal growth and concrete skills. Specifically, I am hoping to create a realistic career vision and to move forward in starting my own business. I am also driven to share with others the impact of NVC as I have experienced it. My mouth is dry – there is excitement and expectation, anxiety too. Will I know enough NVC to hold my own? Am I capable?  I am longing to step up, and at the same time, there is an inner voice saying: “I am too big, I fill the space, if I lead, I will crush others- if I am fully myself, I will be rejected”. In this moment, I have no concept of the magnitude of transformation that awaits me.

My initial questions are business related. I wonder about support and learning around structuring a business plan, sales and marketing, more in depth structure around how to create and deliver an NVC workshop program? I expect there will be space for internal processing and growth. What surprises me is how beautifully the layers of structured learning and internal growth all weave together dynamically in the learning sessions. The relationships and interpersonal dynamics continue in, around and after learning sessions. Immersing myself for a week in an environment where everyone is striving to hold each other with NVC awareness allows safety for me to be vulnerable. Safe enough to let others to see the internal places that scare me. Safe enough for me to work on them while experiencing nurturing support.

The first retreat I struggle with my place in the group – balancing how much of myself I can expose and feeling a loss of self connection in order to be part of the group. Gratefully, the period between the retreats offers integration and growth. I begin to trust this consciousness, holding others and myself with open warmth and care. I begin to say “yes” to whatever comes, knowing that the learning and growth will move me forward.

Spontaneously things begin to happen. Two schools invite my work partner and me to run NVC communication workshops for groups of students, teachers and parents as well. We plant seeds of NVC consciousness. I am invited to facilitate interfaith dialogue for adults and integrate interfaith dialogue and compassionate communication skills for teens in a supplementary religious school program. At the same time, I begin working with Kids4Peace on their programming as they establish a new Middle East peace camp chapter in Seattle.

As the second retreat approaches, I realize that my ability to be vulnerable and open to challenge will directly impact my growth. The LP trainers scaffold more structured learning. It leads me to an open door of looking fully at my inner self- past, present and future. I am envisioning what I am capable of becoming. My personal work focuses on integrating all my internal voices that previously held me back. As my relationships deepen and trust increases, I begin to peel back layers of protection and reclaim my authenticity. I am also learning about NVC processes of aligning my life to create energy flow. I am learning how to balance all needs when facilitating groups. In each moment there is so much learning that I think I cannot hold the knowledge. Yet again between retreats, I experience shifts in how I show up in the world. This engenders more trust from others and more requests for me to share this consciousness. I leave the second retreat feeling ready to lead a forty hour mediation training at City Hall in June, and following that a ten day dialogue at a peace camp with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim children from Jerusalem and Seattle. This is the first real experience of truly knowing I’m enough. I find myself fully available to meet exactly what is needed in each moment.

flockofgeeseThe third LP retreat creates space for stepping into leadership. The calmness I feel on arrival comes from the year’s learning that safety relates to trusting my own self-connection. I enjoy a freedom of expression and a confidence that I can hold everyone’s needs with care. I experience how others experience me. Stepping into the edge zone of leadership and succeeding is one thing; receiving affirming feedback when I do is grounding and self-connecting. It is encouraging and reassuring. It feels emergent – a whole new beginning. I am filled with a sense of gratitude.

I am leaving LP with deep connections to a community that will give me ongoing support, and most critically a whole new relationship with myself. I have a clear vision of the possibilities ahead, and believe that everything I dream is possible. Since returning home two more schools have asked for workshops. My partner and I are beginning to collaborate with the school district on funding a k-12 Social Emotional learning curriculum. I am also excited to start talking to schools about restorative justice. I have begun to put together my own website to work with parents and children in mediation, advocacy, coaching and workshops. I experience a welling up of gratitude for the richness that is my life.

Rumi’s words resonate with me:

“The inspiration you seek is already within you,
Be quiet and listen”

Thank you LP for the gift of learning and listening to self. It’s been transformational.

I welcome hearing how this landed for you, or if you would like to connect for more detail, please contact me at: