Yesterday I facilitated for my first time in our Women's Medium security class. It was quite empowering and inspiring to be up there - Below are some reflections as to how our "Communication" Unit went.
We started off with a simple "get in your body" meditation - which always seems welcomed in such a place. The women in the class join us from a place most of us could not really imagine: A prison. Once they all took their seats we began to experience what our feet feel like resting against a floor. We started to touch into what our breath feels like when we inhale deeply into our belles. We began to simply notice what it feels like to 'be' in a body. I heard quite a few deep in-breaths and the subsequent out-breaths with a clear sign of release. Success!
Next we started to introduce the various way we "listen." Or don't. According to our Path of Freedom book there are 6 types of listening: Cocoon Listening, Daydreaming at the Edge of Cocoon Stepping with Motive out of the Cocoon, Listening and Empathic Listening.
It's some kind of perfection that when I introduced these various styles of 'listening', most of the women seemed like they has heard this before - and I don't think it was simply from reading the material. It seemed to come from a place of innate knowing.
I asked them: "What do you think Cocoon listening means?" Before I could count to 5, there were several hands shooting up in the air and a look of knowing in even more eyes. They knew. "It's like when your not really listening at all, it's like your totally stuck in your own mind..." Ummm. Yep. Each time I began to introduce a new style of listening, they seemed more and more engaged and interested. When I finally got to the "Empathic Listening" some interesting questions were raised that I wasn't really all to sure how to answer myself. "So, we're in prison, and most of the girls in here just walk to talk about stuff I just don't care about. At all. They want to talk about their boyfriends or when they are getting out, or something else that everyone else is talking about! I actually want to tell them to stop talking sometimes. But I also see that empathic listening is important. So am I supposed to just kind of "fake-it-till-I-make-it" type thing? And what about being genuine - If I'm really not interested in their story?"
Well...great question I thought. I deflected to Rebecca who hit the nail on the head by going with intention. Yes. It is all about intention. And building relationships. And creating boundaries.
So, as you can see, communication is not as simple a listening or talking - and it took the women in our class yesterday, to be real enough, to ask some real questions to bring something fresh to the surface.
The questions led us into a deeper discussion about Marshall Rosenberg's famous saying "Everything anyone does is to make their lives more wonderful."
We sat with that for a few moments and after some reflection, I heard things like "That makes a lot of sense" or "Even in a place like this, we all want to feel better" or "It makes me think of the person who someone else hurts, they only did something like to make themselves feel better..."
Yea. There is a lot of insight in such places. There can also be a lot of resistance. The one thing that really struck me was how engaged and interested the women were in actually listening. We did some modeling of the various styles and even something as simple as "Tell me about your breakfast this morning" can turn into the woman saying "I felt so heard! I felt seen!" when she was reflected back her own words through empathic listening.
I love this unit - it's one of my favorites, and clearly, there is always something new to learn about communication.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,