Here’s the technique I enjoy for exploring art (and life!).

The three steps are:

1. Look at a picture (or make one)
2. Make 5 columns: observations, thoughts, feelings, needs, requests.
3. Scribble away! Work through one observation at a time until you feel inspired or bored by the activity. 🙂

For a creative adventure, after you’ve completed the observation exercise to see what “comes up” in you, you might want to write or draw or play in some creative way.

Wanting to know more?

Here’s a bit more about how I define each of the columns. Please don’t worry about “getting it right” though. Try to stay relaxed and have fun – it’s your time, and your adventure.

  • Observations (purely factual, what you see or hear, without subjective judgement or analysis).
  • Thoughts (questions or evaluations you notice in your mind, eg: ‘beautiful!’, or ‘that’s ugly’ or, ‘is he sad?’. Privately noticing your own judgements is very welcome in this model, because you can translate them into discernment, insight and new choices).
  • Feelings (body sensations and emotions, eg: ‘my heart starts to beat a bit faster’, ‘my fingers buzz’ or ‘bored’).
  • Needs (universal human qualities that we all need to thrive such as comfort, love, creativity etc. Here’s a handy list of feelings and needs, courtesy of Dian Killian at work collaboratively.com).
  • Requests (specific actions we can ask of ourselves or each other that could be done in this present moment such as taking a breath, going for a walk, asking a person how they feel about discussing a particular topic with you. The key is learning how to make it easy for the person to say “no” so that you can trust they’re only doing something because its joyful for them too. Yep, this is a big mindset shift and adventure! I reckon it’s also where the gold lies for living with freedom and having access to more love and support than you’ve ever realised was available to you before).

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Credits

I want to acknowlege the source of this particular exercise.

It’s inspired by Marshall Rosenberg’s book Nonviolent Communication (see http://www.cnvc.org for more information).

The idea of trying the nvc structure as a creative exercise came from experimenting with Rosenberg’s “language of life” at home and work.

Over the years, I’ve noticed how different people have applied this “language of life” model to whatever they’re passionate about. For example:

  • Workplace communication (Dian Killian, Work Collaboratively)
  • Self respect (Mary McKenzie, founder of NVC Academy and my favourite self-empathy teacher)
  • Organisational Development (Marie Miyashiro, author of The Empathy Factor)
  • Leadership and social change (Miki Kashtan)
  • Inner clarity, coaching and confidence (Martha Lasley)
  • Healthcare (Melanie Sears)
  • Nutrituion (Sylvia Haskvitz)
  • Education (Christine King)
  • Parenting (Inbal Kashtan, Sara Hart)

There are many more I could add!

In the same way, I found myself applying this structure to writing and art.

Why visual meditation?

I believe creativity, self-awareness and respectfully honest communication are keys to a safer world.

These qualities help me appreciate so much of what is “going well” in life around me, while still honouring my own pain when it arises, aching for how much suffering exists in our world and every community, and longing for the safety of all our children.

I believe we are safest when we know how our own power to be self-respecting, self-accepting and compassionately courageous about choosing to do what’s joyful for us.

I understand how hard it can be to shake off the sense that our life is in danger if others aren’t pleased with the choices we’ve made or what we’ve said.

I offer visual meditation as a way of supporting anyone who enjoys creativity and who’s interested in growing self-awareness, self-compassion and skill in communicating with honest care for yourself and others.

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Most of all, I love the way NVC reminds me to live with fun, curiousity and choice.  I know there are many other paths to joyful self-acceptance, peace and compassion. For example: I enjoy Pema Chodron’s teachings about learning to stay gentle and curious with our internal reactions, Raphael Cushnir’s guide to “surfing” the inner sea of our body’s responses and Brene Brown’s research about the pervasive nature of shame in popular culture and the benefits of building your resilience through self-compassion, creativity and supportive connections with others.

For a long time, it was hard to give myself permission to be creative. Now, I happily give creative play as a daily gift to myself that I also see bringing greater peace and connection to my family and workmates.

I offer this blog and the visual meditations for the joy of self-expression and also as a hope that it will contribute to other people enjoying creativity, self-acceptance and love.

If you’d like to learn more about the nonviolent communication skillset and mindset, I recommend starting with the self-empathy practices taught by Mary McKenzie or Sylvia Haskvitz’s introduction to NVC on NVC Academy.

Whatever you choose, I hope enjoy trying out this observation technique and the visual meditations. I trust your heart will lead you wherever it’s best for you.