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The Path of Nurturing Yourself in Conservation

You are a manuscript of a divine letter. You are a mirror reflecting a noble face. This universe is not outside of you. Look inside yourself; everything that you want, you are already that.

If you are irritated by every rub, how will your mirror be polished? - Rumi

Both empathy and honesty are foundational in Compassionate Communication (CC), Nonviolent Communication (NVC), and Emotional/Social Intelligence (EI/SI). Compassionate Communication/Nonviolent Communication are both a spiritual practice and communication art tool at the same time. Both rewire our brains so that we embody compassion for self and others ever more quickly and automatically, and under times of greater duress and ambiguity. This certainly describes the field of conservation, where there are so many challenges and where over half of conservation projects have been shown to fail due to the lack of interpersonal skills.

Nonviolent Communication was founded by Marshall Rosenberg and is international in scope ( NVC, CC, and EI/SI are frameworks help us develop connection to self and others, in part because we see how others are so much like us, and also so much different. No matter the difference, we are all connected to the beauty of life. Developing our emotional intelligence helps us achieve greater connection to self and other acceptance, and achieve greater results in conservation.

Empathy for others and self-empathy are interconnected: each facilitates and reinforces the other. The beauty and needs we deny ourselves we will end up also denying to others – and what we deny to others we will end up also denying to ourselves. The more "we shine our mirror," doing our work of seeing our own inner beauty, the more we are able to reflect the beauty of others and bring peace and possibility into the world.

Love the world as yourself, and you will be able to care for it properly.

- Lao Tzu, The Tao Te Ching

If we don't love and care for ourselves fiercely, we cannot be fierce advocates for this wondrous world and her beings. Taking time and energy to understand oneself, and to then to manage the outcomes of this understanding is not a selfish act, but a self-full blessing that nurtures us, and hence the many others to whom our souls are deeply connected.

Self-Empathy: Deep and compassionate awareness of one’s own inner experience

-Marshall Rosenberg

Self-empathy means identifying and considering our feelings and needs without judgment, and it is no easy task. We all grew up in a culture where blame, domination, judgment, bullying, and power over others were the methods that were modeled for us as ways to meet our needs. If our needs were not being met, it was surely the fault of someone else – someone fundamentally wrong, at least in some aspects of their being. The tools we have for thinking about others are also the tools with which we think about ourselves; so we also see ourselves as basically flawed and lacking. These negative judgments harm our well-being, sap our energy, divert us from our goals and dreams, decrease our happiness and effectiveness, and affect our health.

But the irony of affective empathy is that it requires being really good at listening to one’s self. A person has to be able to identify his or her own feelings to notice how they’re resonating with someone else’s. - Andrew Price

Self-empathy is necessary for our individual flourishing, and is a hallmark of emotional intelligence. Emotional intelligence is the awareness of one's emotions and the ability to manage them. While a person’s emotional intelligence is influenced by genetic predisposition and by encouragement (or discouragement) in the early years, almost all of us, whatever our genes or age, have the capacity to increase, at least a little bit, our emotional intelligence – and thus our self-understanding and care.

As animals, we have emotions. Almost constantly, we are having one or more emotions. The fact that we are having them, though, doesn’t mean we know we are having them. Nor does it mean we know which one(s) we are having. - LoraKim Joyner

We have to bring to higher consciousness the emotions, feelings, moods, and body states our mind and body are communicating. The limbic system, the location in our brains through which emotions communicate to our mind, body, and higher cognitive functions, is a slow learner. It takes repetition and practice to grow awareness of emotions and to manage them. If we can do this, we have greater choices as to how to think, feel, and act. Nonviolent communication is not about "getting it right" or "getting rid of uncomfortable emotions," it is about increasing our choices. To be fully alive means feeling everything – the comfortable, the uncomfortable. Don’t push any of it away. Whatever you’re trying to ignore or deny or suppress, that’s what you’re dead to. Life isn’t about what you like. It’s about what you can open yourself to – attend to, learn from, love.

The more honest you can be with seeing yourself for who you are, which means not suppressing your feelings, the more tenderly honest you can be with others. You can also more clearly communicate what you really mean to in a way that helps build connections and trust with another, and be precise, open, and curious about requests you have of others and how they respond to you. If you suspect that your honest message will be painful, be ready to offer empathy to the receiver. Also, couple your honest messages with clear and doable requests in the moment.

Being honest with others helps us live authentically and be more deeply connected to life, not matter how the other people around us react. Honesty, authenticity, and connection most likely communicate self- and other-acceptance, which in turn are more likely to result in being listened to and understood.

In summary, honesty and empathy help us live better with ourselves and our world. In so doing, they nurture our relationships and communications, so that all have a greater chance for flourishing through our skills and our deep connection to the beauty that connects us all.

Beyond our ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing, there is a field. I’ll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase ‘each other’ doesn’t make sense anymore. - Rumi

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