Nonviolent Communication with Karen Starz

March 8, 2022

The Unity of Roanoke Valley community has a golden opportunity, which I hope and pray many of you will take advantage of.

Baseball Hall of Famer and former New York Yankee catcher Yogi Berra once said, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Maybe a more fitting line for this occasion comes from the poet, Robert Frost:

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

So what is this fork in the road – this golden opportunity? It is an online Nonviolent Communication class that will start on Wednesday, March 23rd, at 7:00 pm.

What is nonviolent communication (NVC), you ask? It is a way of speaking and acting with empathy that can resolve and heal even the most challenging problems. It is the brainchild and gift of the late Marshall Rosenberg, a very talented and noted psychologist. His work has really moved me.

Karen Starz will teach the class. She spoke to URV this past Sunday, March 6th. I’ve been having coaching sessions with Karen, and she is a compassionate teacher. All I can say is that several months ago, I called Unity Worldwide Ministries (UWM) and asked for their recommendations for an NVC teacher. UWM’s number one recommendation was Karen, and I now know why! She truly embodies nonviolent communication!

I think the back page of Rosenberg’s book does a wonderful job of explaining NVC:

“NVC is the integration of four things:

– Consciousness: A set of principles that support living a life of compassion, collaboration, courage, and authenticity;

– Language: Understanding how words contribute to connection or distance;

– Communication: Knowing how to ask for what we want, how to hear others even in disagreement, and how to move towards solutions that work for all; and,

– Means of influence: Sharing ‘power with others rather than using ‘power over others.’”

So why is this NVC class so important now? A recent New York Times article reported that automobile-related deaths have skyrocketed in America. The article said that the primary cause of this trend was increased “road rage.” The New York Times then pointed to statistics that show a recent and significant rise in hostile incidents in US stores and airplanes. The pandemic has done more than attack people’s lungs. It has also helped erode civility. We are in a time of increased polarization.

It has also impacted Unity of Roanoke Valley. I have not seen road rage in the URV parking lot, nor have I seen incivility during URV’s Sunday fellowship. But I believe that during the pandemic – mainly when the buildings were closed – there was a decreased sense of community at URV. It is not easy to rebuild that sense of community.

In the forward to the Marshall Rosenberg book, Deepak Chopra gets to the heart of why NVC is so important for our spiritual growth. Chopra writes, “Aggression is built into the ego system, which totally focuses on ‘I, me, mine’ whenever conflict arises. Society pays lip service to saints and their vow to serve God instead of themselves, but there’s a huge gap between the values we espouse and the way we actually live. Ahimsa (i.e., an ancient Indian principle of non-violence to all living beings) closes this gap by expanding a person’s awareness. The only way to resolve all violence is to give up your story. No one can be enlightened who still has a personal stake in the world – that could be the third axiom of Ahimsa. But this seems like a teaching as radical as Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount when he promises that the meek shall inherit the earth.”

The URV staff is taking this NVC class to increase our sense of teamwork and camaraderie. This class can help all of us move in the direction of “ReUnity.”

If you are interested in taking the class – and I hope you are – please register here.

That great Unity minister, Jim Rosemergy, wrote a book entitled, Even Mystics Have Bills to Pay: Balancing a Spiritual Life and Earthly Living. Somehow we have to cover the cost of Karen Starz’s class. So we encourage everyone to give a love offering to help defray the expenses. We feel this class is incredibly important, and we want everybody at URV to attend.

Jesus put it so well, “To whom much has been given, much is required.” We suggest a $25 or more love offering for taking this class for those who can afford it. However, we appreciate any size love offering you can make! Please do not let money stop you from taking this valuable class. URV is a blessed and generous spiritual community.

We are now in the Season of Nonviolence (SNV), which was started by Arun Gandhi, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. It started on January 30th (the anniversary of Gandhi‘s assassination) and ends on April 4th (the anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.‘s assassination). SNV remembers and commends the values and missions of Gandhi and King. I can think of no better way to celebrate and honor SNV than by taking Karen Starz’s nonviolent communication class. I believe this will help URV take the ‘right fork in the road’.

Many blessings,
Rev. Rick

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