A Time for Courage and Resourcefulness

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I believe this is the time to develop our courage and resourcefulness. Modern life is changing more and more rapidly. Ways of thinking from the past are re-surging and trying to hold on with all their strength. What has been stable now feels tenuous and uncertain, ready to fall apart. There is much fear. 

In what is there to put our faith and trust? Certainly not in government, although there are some bright, hopeful lights; and the same for corporations. Religion is losing its hold, and for many the conception of God as well. Belonging in family/community is essential, yet there is often polarization and conflict. What is left to ease our anxiety and fears of the unknown? 

It takes great courage to face our deepest fears of vulnerability and not enough — not being enough, not having enough — and tap into new inner reservoirs of resourcefulness, resilience, and adaptability. It takes tremendous perseverance and not giving up in the face of challenges and failures in the grit of our daily lives. And it takes great compassion, towards all of us, especially towards those whose strategies are most tragic and destructive! 

Let us put faith in ourselves, in our capacity to connect with what is unfathomably deep and whole at the source of us. We have the power of awareness, growing rapidly inside ourselves and collectively; and we have the power of language and action that flows from awareness. With this ability we can, as my mentor Marshall Rosenberg would say, focus our enormous power on the joy of compassionately enriching life and well being for all of us on this beautiful planet. With this power we can do what seems impossible and insurmountable. 

Empathic Communication: An Essential Part of the Health and Wellness Movement

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I believe the heartbreaking and devastating violence we see in the world comes from people not experiencing the nourishing waters of deep connection, care, and belonging of community. Without this we lose our sanity, health, and well being. At my 4-day intensives I see over and over the power of this kind of community experience and the great need we all have for it as society is changing in so many ways and so rapidly.

I believe that the skills and practices of empathic communication are key to creating the safe space for trust, authenticity, and the nourishing richness of belonging to flourish. My vision is that the health and wellness movement that is now rapidly spreading in the world (e.g. diet, exercise, yoga, mindfulness, meditation) includes the skills and practices of empathic communication. Thank you for what you are doing to support this movement.

Social Inequality and A Circle of Safety: The Need for Empathic Community


I recently went to a local town hall meeting put on by two U.S. House representatives in my area. The topic was A Conversation on Race. There was a panel and maybe around 500 highly engaged people who showed up to listen and ask questions. I was deeply moved by how much empathy, care, and passion there was to address social and structural inequalities, and I was also so deeply saddened and pained to hear what I knew but can easily forget living in the world I inhabit. I heard not just through a screen or device, but live, about the injustice and suffering that has gone on for so long and is still with us to such a degree, despite all the progress. And it is still happening not just in parts of my beloved country, it happens right hear where I live. 

It was heart-breaking, and I felt myself having a shared experience of heartbreak together with this group of us in the auditorium. I think about experiences I've had recently at the 4-day intensive trainings I lead. The feeling of community, care, and support is so deep and powerful. I realized more than I have before that this is the deeper reason why people come, and it is what we need so badly right now — the experience of caring community in which everyone, everyone feels safe to be themselves, and be seen, heard, and valued. I call this the Circle of Safety. It is a need that goes to the core of us, back to our beginnings as human beings living in hunter-gatherer tribes. Now is the time to come together as one human tribe, and respond together to the dangers we face.

The Self-Connection Process and "Taking the 3rd Chair" in Difficult Conversations

In our Mediate Your Life training, we offer what is called a Self-Connection Process. This process integrates components of Compassionate Communication (Nonviolent Communication/NVC) with mindfulness and a 3-chair mediation framework that provides different "maps" to navigate life's challenges and difficult conversations, and collaborate based in giving and receiving. 

The first map is the map of the Self-Connection Process, which gives you the ability to anchor yourself in the inner "3rd chair" perspective of awareness and consciousness. This is not just connection with your individual, personal, separate sense of self, but with a larger, more expansive and interconnected experience. From this perspective, you are the awareness that observes the conversations of thoughts and feelings, connects with underlying commonality and universality, and effectively navigates the storminess and rough terrains of inner and outer conflict in a way that leads to well being and new possibilities and solutions. 

The Steps of the Self-Connection Process: Breath, Body, Need 

Breath. Observe your breath, following it in and out in the present moment. As you observe the breath, observe the conversation of thoughts in your mind — the consciously talking to yourself thoughts, words, beliefs, and the automatic, habitual thoughts that pass through: perceptions, images, stories, evaluations, judgments of others and yourself. With the breath as your anchor, over and over stepping back into the inner 3rd chair of awareness, witnessing and observing the thoughts in your mind: Past, future, "self" coming and going, arising and dissolving like shadowy, misty phantoms, potential not actual. Sense perceptions come alive — sights, sounds, smells, touch, taste! 

Body. Feel your body. Feel the sensations and emotions, especially the difficult ones: the fear, anger, hurt, suffering. Shift from thinking, such as who or what's to blame, to feeling and experiencing. Slow and deepen the breath, relaxing the body with each out breath, shifting from the body's fight-flight-freeze threat system to the relaxation response of the parasympathetic nervous system. As you deepen into presence with the body, feel the underlying energy, aliveness, life force animating and flowing through you.

Need. At the source of thoughts and feelings are needs — human and universal — a language of life, of connection and commonality: safety, love, freedom. And need, the essence of needs, is life itself, the wholeness, universality, and interrelatedness we are part of, the source of creativity, evolution, and emergent possibilities. From the inner 3rd chair, a way to connect with need is to focus on space, the space between, surrounding, connecting thoughts and feelings and all we perceive into one boundless whole. Bring attention to the space that holds everything you perceive in your field of awareness. 

From this place, the light of empathy shines on self and other, and you see with compassion the underlying commonality and connection that transforms and liberates. Everything, everything is dancing the dance of need meeting needs. Thought and action arise as natural giving and receiving, the desire to contribute to one another's needs. And there is a new sense of choice — no demand, have to, or should — just kindness in service of well being.

For information on public training see mediateyourlife.com. For more information on organizational training and support for difficult conversations see johnkinyon.com.

Building a Culture of Empathy in Your Life & Work

This blog post was originally published as a guest post on the yogatailor blog here

Physical exercise for decades now has been popularly accepted as important to healthy living. Yoga and mindfulness/meditation have recently become commonly accepted as beneficial practices for health and higher functioning. Similarly, the many benefits of emotional intelligence, particularly empathy, are talked about and written about often these days. However, structured giving and receiving of empathic listening and speaking with one another is not yet commonly practiced in people’s daily lives. I believe a certain kind of structure is needed to reap the benefits of empathy and develop skill utilizing it. 

By empathy as a skill, I mean how we communicate in conversation, how we listen and talk with others, and with ourselves. "Doing empathy” creates connection. It takes us out of the thinking that creates problems and into creativity that solves them in innovative ways. In this article, I offer some elements of empathy from our Mediate Your Life training. These elements incorporate and integrate mindfulness into communication skills, and give practical ways to use the skills in your daily life and work. 


The first element is presence. This element is about resting your full attention on the other person while you are speaking or listening. It is present moment awareness that is not thinking or "efforting." As listener, it is listening in mindfulness, being present with them, not getting absorbed in your own thinking. It is paying attention to things such as the speaker's rhythm and tone, the spaces between the words, and visually taking in their nonverbal body language. As speaker, it is letting your words flow from awareness and presence with the listener. 

The second element is understanding. Understanding is different than agreement. Many people don’t have clarity on this distinction. When listening to someone, you can let them know what you hear them saying even if you disagree with it. The person may want you to agree with them, but empathy, as I am defining it, is about trying to see how they see things, how they are feeling, and what they want or don’t want, separate from what is true for you. You can reflect back to the person what you hear them saying, or offer silent understanding. Similarly when you are speaking, empathic understanding is communicating how you see things from your perspective and how you feel about it, without trying to get the listener to agree with you. You are simply asking to be heard for your experience.

The third element is needs. In listening or speaking, we can connect with universal needs at the core of thoughts, feelings, and actions. Needs are what all of us humans need to survive and thrive, qualities such as love, safety, freedom, trust, support, empathy. But notice that these words are not about anyone doing anything. We don’t need anyone or anything in particular. Needs are qualities that human beings universally need and value, that are essential to well being, happiness and fulfillment. The reason to get to the underlying needs is that it connects us at the level that we all share the same humanity, where we experience being part of a larger whole together. There is a peace and sense of connection that comes with this, and a much greater ability to then find new creative solutions and work together to get everyone’s needs met. 


These elements of empathy — presence, understanding, needs — create connection and working together to find creative solutions to problems. I have found that it’s not just knowing how to use these skills. It’s about developing a regular practice in which you take turns speaking and listening, and intentionally use the skills. This can be done at work as well as in personal life. It is in the daily and weekly routines that habits form that then become part of the culture we live and work in. If we can create cultures of empathy in our own lives and organizations, we can build a world culture in which compassion and collaboration is the norm.

For information on training see johnkinyon.com and mediateyourlife.com.

Originally published on yogatailor. For more articles on mindfulness and yoga, visit _yogatailor.com/blog_ 

A New Life


Authentic Self-Expression

This is a story about following the heart and the courage of authentic self-expression. It is a returning to the truth of something elemental and essential inside. I hope this post supports and inspires you to take courageous, authentic steps in your life.

Beginning in 1998, I worked closely with Marshall Rosenberg, creator of the international work of Nonviolent Communication (NVC), for over a decade until his retirement. Learning from him was one of the most profound and life changing experiences of my life. I learned how language and communication skills can be doorway to universal connection, compassion, and social change. 

Mahatma Gandhi & Carl Rogers: Pioneers in a new force for personal and social change.

Mahatma Gandhi and humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers were the two guiding lights of inspiration who led me to finding Marshall Rosenberg. Both Gandhi and Rogers were pioneers, in different realms of application, of a new force for creating liberation and change in relation to repressive systems and structures, internal and external. That new force was the ability to create empathic connection with another who is acting in ways that we disagree with, sometimes very strongly disagree, behavior that violates our deepest values. This kind of empathy is not just feeling another's feelings. It is the ability to create mutual understanding for one another's perspective and experience, and to connect with the underlying universal and shared commonality and relatedness that leads to care and wanting to contribute to each other's well being. It is the power of compassion to reconcile and heal when there is conflict, violence, hurt, and suffering. .

With other luminary social leaders too since the last century, there has been this application of empathy to social change: People such as Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, the Dalai Lama, and Thich Nhat Hanh. This force for social-political-cultural change seems inextricably intertwined with spirituality, spirituality that is about a quality of connection between us and with all of life and the source of life.

Exercises, practices, and skills matter. But so does social change and spiritual connection.

Over the past number of years the focus of my training work had become more about exercises, practices, and skill development, and losing the larger perspective on social change and this spiritual connection. As much as the focus on tangible skills has contributed to participants, I realized I had lost something essential and precious to me. I had lost my way from what so strongly called to me when I found Marshall.

I think it happened gradually over time, from a combination of dealing with the daily stresses and responsibilities of having a family and co-founding and running a training company. It was probably also the piling up of life experiences, the at times overwhelming fear and heartbreak of witnessing the intensity of people’s suffering and the problems of the world, including my own. And then there were the thoughts and doubts of people around me who questioned spirituality as "magical thinking," and "saving the world" as naive idealism or a savior complex. Gradually, the feeling of magic and the sacredness of life receded from me. 

A return to trusting my passion and "following my bliss."

As I reflect on this, I see what looks like the stereotype of growing into middle age and losing the idealism and passions of youth. I just never thought it would happen to me (I guess that’s what we all say). Another thing is how much stronger the fears get once you have a family or other “adult” responsibilities. Wow, it’s amazing the gravitational force field of these concerns, particularly the fears of what people might think and worries of not having enough money. It’s such a cliché, but it really happens!

So, I now choose to follow my heart and find the courage and determination to express my authentic passions for social change and universal connection and consciousness, but now in a new way, with the wisdom of more life experience and the ability to work effectively with structure, form, and skill development. 

I see humanity racing toward a crisis point, and what gives me great hope for how we meet the challenges ahead personally and globally is the power of empathy, and for each of us, as mythologist Joseph Campbell famously emboldened, to courageously “follow our bliss.”


Follow your bliss.
If you do follow your bliss,
you put yourself on a kind of track
that has been there all the while waiting for you,
and the life you ought to be living
is the one you are living.
When you can see that,
you begin to meet people
who are in the field of your bliss,
and they open the doors to you.
I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid,
and doors will open
where you didn't know they were going to be.
If you follow your bliss,
doors will open for you that wouldn't have opened for anyone else.
––Joseph Campbell