Coming back to the Heart!

Over the past year, I've noticed how frequently I'm triggered by the man who is now the president of the United States..........I've had a very strong enemy image of him. 

From time to time I'd think how much more beneficial it would be to send him love and compassion and energetically give him empathy.  Then the jackals would say, in a sarcastic tone, "Well, that's a noble goal!" I just wasn't able (or willing?) to go there! 

I needed some major encouragement and inspiration and it came from an unexpected source...........

Recently I watched a documentary on a young Canadian man who spent 10 years in the US military prison at Guantanamo Bay. At 15, Omar Khadr was the youngest person ever to be sent there. 

One of the stories Omar shared about his time there was about a guard who was particularly cruel to him, Omar tried to imagine ways he could get even with the guard. After some contemplation, Omar realized that if this guard was causing him pain, the guard must be in pain himself! 

I was dumbstruck when I heard this...........imagine finding compassion for one's "tormentor" in circumstances of such profound duress, distress and pain! 

What a gift it was for me to hear this! If this young man, in such dire circumstances and a teenager at the time, could find it in his heart to have compassion for this man, perhaps I could find compassion in my heart!

Since then, I’ve been able to send love and compassion to the US president and to imagine being in his presence and offering him empathy. I'm not yet able to do this all the time and I'm celebrating the times that I can!

Thank you Omar for raising the bar and bringing me back to my heart! Anne Walton, Aug 11, 2017

Here's the link to the documentary if you'd like to watch it, it is painful to witness at times and very insprational.




A Passion for NVC

I notice a tingly-ness around the edges of my eyes, the warmth of the tears running down my cheeks, a bursting sensation in my chest, a fluttering in my belly – it is summer 2004 in Calgary and it’s the first time I’ve been on the CNVC website! I’m taking in what’s written there and it’s touching my heart so deeply I’m in tears. And serendipitously it was incredibly similar to something I had written a few years previously about the kind of world we’d all like to live in.

This visit to the CNVC website came 3 years after I’d first heard of NVC. Over the course of those 3 years I’d travelled, each spring, to St Petersburg, Russia to presemt at the annual conference on Conflict Resolution. Each year someone at the conference would say something like “Anne check out NVC, you’ve got to see this guy Marshall Rosenberg in action, he’s masterful!”

My initial reaction was “well that’s not for me, it has the word violent in the name, besides I’m not violent!” Finally after the 3rd time of hearing the message, I went home and checked it out and right then and there, I vowed to myself that I would learn and teach this process.  

Over the course of many months, I searched the website for opportunities to learn NVC and set my heart on attending a 9 day residential training in California. Since I didn’t have the thousands of dollars for tuition, accommodation and travel, I summoned up my courage and sent out an email to friends asking if they’d support me in learning NVC. With astonishing ease I raised about $1000 – exciting and validating yes, hardly sufficient for the 9 day training!

Undeterred, I checked further on the CNVC website and learned that Marshall was going to be in Ottawa that fall (2005) offering a 3 day training. Again serendipitously the cost of the air fare plus the training happened to be almost the exact amount I had raised!  I had friends and family in Ottawa and was past due for a visit; everything was coming together!

The session with Marshall brought even more joy and commitment; I was so moved and inspired to hear his stories about his work in the Middle East, in Africa or in numerous other places on the planet. And his sense of humour, what fun!

So there I was 6 months later, standing in front of 15 people offering my first NVC workshop! The only thing that gave me the guts to stand up in front of this group of participants that day was my passion for NVC and my intense desire to connect with other NVCers in Calgary!

I was grateful for the hum of the heating system and the whir of the fridge in the kitchen next door, surely these background noises would keep participants from hearing the sound of my knees knocking, my heart beating wildly and the chatter in my mind – the voices inside my head about how I was doing it all wrong were so loud I was certain they were audible from the outside! Later when I poured over the feedback forms, the lines that popped out at me were those that reflected the jackal voices in my own head! Surely the “NVC police” would be after me any day now!

That was more than 10 years ago now and my journey with learning, teaching and living NVC has brought a depth of richness and joy to my life that I could not have imagined previously. I feel so blessed and grateful to be part of this NVC community. Thank you so very much Marshall Rosenberg for your wisdom, insight and courage! Anne Walton, CNVC Certified Trainer


To Boldly Go!

I love and appreciate how learning and living NVC is an ongoing process of deepening and integrating my understanding of this profound process.

Recently I’ve been contemplating requests and realizing that requests has 2 aspects to it – the asking and the receiving – I sense that for years I’ve been sort of OK with the asking part but when it came to receiving, that’s been much more challenging for me!

This challenge with receiving has really come to the fore front of my awareness this year and one way it’s been showing up is that attendance at my NVC sessions has really decreased. Given how much I love sharing NVC, I’ve found this distressing especially as it also impacts my flow of financial resources!

Recently, with the support of my NVC women’s group SAGE (Sharing Aging Gracefully and Exuberantly!), I was able to delve more deeply into this and acknowledge that I don’t value what I have to offer! On further exploration, this relates it to a life alienating belief about not being worthy of receiving love, support, money, participants attending workshops, you name it!

And I’m celebrating that shifts are taking place! This year I’ve had a number of experiences that allowed me to begin the process of opening to receiving love, support and acknowledgment, to really let it in.

One aspect of this adventure, which some of you may know, occurred in February when I spent 2 days in a hospital in California. Since the problem related to a pre-existing condition and I live in Canada, the bills which amounted to about $24,000 US were my responsibility. Given that I didn’t have even have a small percentage of that $24000 US, I spent some time just plain freaking out!!

Thanks to NVC, after a few days and lots of empathy, I thought of a strategy – I could raise the money thru crowd sourcing. A wonderful idea no doubt AND that meant I had to ask for help, YIKES!!  

It took me several weeks to muster up the courage to create a “Go Fund Me” campaign - I felt humiliated, embarrassed and vulnerable “what would people think of me??” the jackals were saying!

Finally I did it and not only did money flow, many tears flowed as well - I got to receive support in the form of love, prayers, healing energy AND money – people actually gave me money! I cried buckets full of tears just taking in that people do love and support me even financially!

I also asked the various medical organizations, which had contributed to my care, to give me a discount. As a result I got the bills down to about $4500 US and I raised enough thru Go Fund Me to fully pay the bills – what a celebration!

It would be fun to say that was the end of story…………..well there’s more on the path to receiving love, acknowledgment and appreciation……………

I’m part of the organizing team of an annual NVC conference which takes place north of LA, I usually offer some sessions and this year, at the end of one of my sessions, when some participants came up and offered me feedback, I asked them to email it to me. One person, Dan, did this very soon after the end of the conference. When I first received it, I perused it and told myself I’d get back to it “when I have the time!”

Now, 3 months later, I read it fully and cried reading what Dan had written – I have a deep sense of being “seen for who I am” and “gotten” in a really meaningful way. And everything he said, I have been able to get that about myself which is even more profound in terms of “taking it in”.

Today I saw an old Star Trek poster reminding us to “Boldly Go” – to boldly go where we have not gone before; this was Star Trek’s challenge and now it’s my challenge to you – is there something you’re longing to receive and are you willing to boldly go where you have not gone before, make a request and open yourself to receiving?

I look forward to hearing about your adventures with this!

With love and gratitude, Anne Walton


The Transformative Power of Being Heard!

Anne Walton, June 11/16 

In the past week I've had 2 very powerful experiences of what a difference it makes when we feel heard - the first was an interchange I had with a health care professional. In that instance I came away with a deep desire to be heard plus a sense of regret and embarrassment that I'd not been able to access my self-empowerment which may have led to me experiencing what I was yearning for!

The other instance was in a Staples store - my attention was first directed to the sounds of very loud screams coming from within the store - I looked over and saw that a conversation was going on between the customer and what I took to be a manager. I was about to leave the store when an inner prompting encouraged me to go over and see if I could be of assistance. 

The customer had come to pick up a cell phone charger she'd left there a few days before – she had called ahead and learned that it had been found. The manager said several times it wasn’t in the safe and that he couldn’t call all staff who’d been on duty to learn where it was. Each time he said this, she became more upset – her face was flushed, she was crying and speaking at a volume much greater than her usual speaking voice.

I said I'd like to help and then for while I stayed present, witnessing what was happening and giving silent empathy.  After a few minutes, the manager walked away and directed a staff member to call 911.

At that moment another manager arrived with the cell phone charger in his hand. He’d heard her screams and come to help. This manager listened in way that gave her the space to express all that had happened, from time to time, I added in some empathy. It was amazing to the see the shift in her as we listened.

At one point the first manager came back and she immediately got more upset: crying and saying “you just stood there and stared at me, why didn’t you help?”. He left after a few moments and once again calmed down and spoke at a usual volume.

What was interesting to me is that she was still really upset with the 1st manager even though she now had the charger in her hand. She shared even more about how stressful her life has been lately; I was really touched by how much insight she had into herself and how triggered she’d gotten.

 It was such a powerful reminder to me about what a difference we can make when we really feel heard!  


7 Ways Sharing Can Make You Happy

--by Jill SuttieOriginal Story, May 21, 2013 

Though it might seem that there’s not much in the way of silver linings in these dark economic times, there is at least one: as people learn to make do with less, they are discovering the many benefits of sharing. Car-sharing, babysitting cooperatives, and tool lending are just a few of the many creative ways people are eschewing ownership and learning to share the goods and services they need. But sharing can do more than just save you a buck. New psychological research suggests that sharing fosters trust and cooperation in the community and contributes to personal well-being. Here are some of the ways that sharing can boost your happiness levels and help your community thrive:

1. Sharing involves reciprocal giving, and the research is full of the benefits of giving, from greater physical health to personal happiness. A 2008 study by Harvard Business School professor Michael Norton and colleagues showed that giving a sum of money away to someone else lifted well-being more that spending it on oneself. In his book Why Good Things Happen to Good People, Stephen Post, a professor of preventative medicine at Stony Brook University, writes that giving to others has been shown to increase health benefits in people with chronic illness, including HIV and multiple sclerosis. And Sonja Lyubomirsky, a happiness researcher at the University of California, Riverside, argues that giving can become contagious, moving from the personal to one’s community. “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” she writes in The How of Happiness, and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence and cooperation in your social community.”

The molecular structure of oxytocin.

2. Sharing can cause the release of oxytocin, a hormone that increases feelings of well-being.Paul Zak, founding director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, studies the effects of oxytocin in social exchanges. His lab has found that when people share and experience gratitude, or any sense of connection, their brains will release the hormone oxytocin. Though more commonly associated with breast-feeding, oxytocin is also known to relieve stress, improve immune function, and foster trust in human interactions, all of which contribute to greater well-being and happiness. In laboratory studies, Zak has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathic towards others they come across, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” he says. Surprisingly, even when sharing involves an exchange of money or where communication takes place over the internet––a common situation with commercial sharing sites––oxytocin is still released. In one study, Zak found that 10 minutes of tweeting induced a spike in oxytocin and a reduction of stress hormones in his subject, a reaction similar to what one might experience during in-person communication. Many sharing sites, he argues, do double duty, connecting people on-line and then having them meet in person to exchange goods or services. “This suggests why sharing is so ‘sticky,’” says Zak. “It makes us feel good in two ways.”

Credit: Rishi Menon

3. Sharing builds trust, and trust is highly correlated with happiness. When people share personal possessions with a stranger, they are taking a chance on that person’s trustworthiness––hoping the person will pay on time, return items in good condition, etc. If expectations of both parties are met––which, fortunately, usually happens in share situations, according to Paul Zak––trust will naturally develop. This experience of trust leads to more personal happiness, according to John F. Helliwell, Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of British Columbia. Helliwell, who studies the social contexts of happiness, has found that “trustworthiness and trust…appear independently and robustly related to happiness and life satisfaction”, and as we experience trust in more domains in our lives, the happier we are. In fact, trust is so important for happiness that when researchers at the University of Cambridge looked at which countries in the European Union scored highest on measures of well-being, they found that it wasn’t the countries one might expect––the ones with great weather, beautiful beaches, or the best cuisine––but the countries where there are high levels of trust among the people. “Trust is a prerequisite for happiness,” writes Eric Weiner inThe Geography of Bliss. “Trust not only of your government, of institutions, but trust of your neighbors.”


the dance

Credit: Leanda Xavian

4. Sharing increases positive social interaction with others, which can prolong your life. Sharing can bring people together who in other circumstances might not meet. According to Paul Zak, humans have an innate need for social connection, and participating in sharing sites like SnapGoods or Groupon can help people broaden their base of friends and acquaintances. “Sharing helps us to reach out to others,” he says. “It’s an excuse to engage with someone whom you’re helping at the same time.” And research has shown that having positive social interactions is central to good mental and physical health. In a 2010 meta-analysis of previous research, Julianne Holt-Lunstad of Brigham Young University and colleagues found that having stronger social ties and less social isolation significantly prolonged one’s life. As researcher John Cacioppo writes in his book Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need for Social Connection, “The more extensive the reciprocal altruism born of social connection….the greater the advance toward health, wealth, and happiness.”


5. Sharing invokes gratitude, and gratitude is highly correlated with happiness. Not only is giving beneficial, but when one feels grateful for the exchange––a natural consequence of receiving help in the form of sharing––this also increases personal happiness. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, co-directors of the Research Project on Gratitude and Thankfulness, found that teaching college students to “count their blessings” and cultivate gratitude helped them to exercise more, be more optimistic, and feel better about their lives overall. Barbara Fredrickson, one of the pioneer researchers on the roots of happiness, suggests that cultivating gratitude in every day life is one of the keys to increasing personal happiness. “When you express your gratitude in words or actions, you not only boost your own positivity but [other people’s] as well,” writes Fredrickson. “And in the process you reinforce their kindness and strengthen your bond to one another.”


6. Sharing can decrease the disparity between “the haves” and the “have nots,” which increases well-being. When resources are shared, more people can get access to the goods and servicesthey need without having to spend a lot of money, and that can reduce economic inequality. In a 2009 study of 71 countries by Economics Professor Friedel Bolle and colleagues, researchers found that the highest levels of happiness are found in countries where the gap between rich and poor is the smallest. In his book The Empathic Civilization, Jeremy Rifkin writes, “Living in a society where the essentials for a comfortable life are met but where the gap in wealth and income between people is relatively narrow is likely to produce the happiest citizens,” because a more even distribution of wealth leads to “a furthering of selfhood, greater connectivity, the extension of empathy and expansion of consciousness.” Though sharing would have to spread far and wide to seriously impact the inequality of wealth one finds in the USA, it certainly moves us in that direction.

Credit: Shira Golding

7. Sharing involves cooperation, and cooperation has been essential to human flourishing. The urge to cooperate goes way back in human evolution, according to primatologist Franz de Waal, author ofThe Age of Empathy. Early humans banded together for hunting, collecting food, caring for offspring, and warning off predators, which increased their chances of survival. Even Charles Darwin, often credited with promoting “a survival of the fittest” worldview, wrote extensively on the benefits of cooperation in the animal world. We humans care about the welfare of others almost from the day we are born. As Alison Gopnik of UC Berkeley writes in The Philosophical Baby, researchers have found that even children as young as 14 months old will try to lend a hand to an adult without being prompted if they perceive that the adult needs help. Sharing and cooperation are natural aspects of human behavior, and the more we engage in them, the more we are being congruent with our biological inheritance.

So, if you want to have better connections with others and contribute toward a better society, start sharing what you can with others. You might find yourself benefitting from a big dose of happiness in the process.


Related articles on Shareable:

Six ways to start sharing 

Top ten ways sharing can save you money 

Top 20 how to share posts 



This article was copied from Shareable -- an online magazine that tells the story of sharing that covers people, places, and projects bringing a shareable world to life. On their site, you can also read more articles by Jill Suttie.