The Satvatove programs feature an approach to self-empowerment based on transformative communication. This model is founded on the understanding that our identity is fundamentally non-material. This identity beyond the physical body is indicated in spiritual literatures such as the widely known yoga scripture Bhagavad-gita, which states “As the embodied soul continuously passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death.” To be satisfying and complete, our self-help endeavors need to recognize this non-physical self. It is common to lose this awareness. Soren Kierkegaard once stated, “The greatest danger, that of losing one’s own self, may pass off quietly as if it were nothing; every other loss, that of an arm, a leg, five dollars, a wife, is sure to be noticed.”
Through the Satvatove system of transformative communication we create a sacred space, in ourselves and in relation with others, that links us with our spiritual nature. Consciousness is transformed as trust is developed, perspectives shift and possibilities expand.
Language reflects consciousness. Through transformative communication we become self-aware through language. This awareness is the basis for powerful personal change, which is then reflected in our thoughts, speech and activities. For example, I may notice that in my thoughts and words I frequently use “I can’t…” in circumstances where, in actuality, I could if I chose to. Realizing this I shift to “I am not willing to…” or “I am inspired to…” This is accompanied by a transformation from feeling powerless and down to experiencing vitality and confidence, and is evinced in potent action that generates fulfilling results in my life. Similarly, awareness of my tendency to prematurely give solutions, or probe with closed-ended questions, leads to discovery of an unhealthy need to control. With such self-realization I shift my consciousness to emphasize an attitude of wonder and discovery for life and each person I contact.
To effectively apply transformative communication it is important to distinguish between skills and substance. For example, there are skills for non-verbal attending behavior, such as:
Leaning forward slightly
These are mechanics intended to convey respect and sincere interest in another person. The mechanics themselves do not necessarily mean that we are attentive and caring listeners, and sometimes effective listening is best displayed without the elements of SOLE. Reflective listening is a technique to express empathy, though an accurate reflection on its own does not intrinsically communicate the quality of empathy. Empathy is the substance. Reflective listening is a vehicle to transmit that substance. We speak of potential roadblocks to effective communication, such as advising, warning and reassuring. While these types of responses to a person with an emotionally-charged situation can often be barriers to communication, they can also convey compassion, understanding and empathy when appropriately utilized. In self-expression, assertiveness is the essential quality, and strategies such as “I” statements and WIN (What happened; Inside feelings and thoughts; Needs and wants) facilitate the expression of that essence.
In the trusting space created with transformative communication, we can clear our hearts and activities of unwanted things, such as self-deception, limiting beliefs, and interpersonal games that sabotage relationships. Such clearing opens the door to fully express our being and actualize a life of fulfilling purpose.
Christian philosopher Paul Tillich once remarked “The first duty of love is to listen.” A powerful tool for listening and transformative communication is silence. Properly used, silence conveys a grasp of another person’s emotions. While we do not want to use silence to avoid intimate and meaningful conversation, neither is it helpful to avoid silence due to feelings of discomfort. Often we fill silence with empty talk, fearing the vulnerability of silent connection. An attentive, caring silence is sometimes a more powerful way to heal and connect than the most carefully chosen and well-intentioned words. Actual silence means that the mind is also still. Silence doesn’t mean “empty”. It is a gateway to and manifestation of spiritual presence. Bhaktivedanta Swami wrote “Silence means that one is always thinking of self-realization.” It is said that God has given us two ears and one mouth, because we are meant to listen at least twice as much as to speak. Bhagavad-gita explains that true silence is a reflection of the divine within us. In empathic silence we are listening to what the other person is saying, not to what we are saying about what the other person is saying. That is, we are attuned to the person’s words and the emotion and intention behind the words, not to our judgments, planned responses, or comments towards the expression of the other. We are deeply listening, receiving another person with full presence, intense interest and open-heart. Such listening expands the spirits of speaker and listener.
Michael Ende created the character of Momo, a young girl whose silent presence connected people with their inner truth and transformed their consciousness. Daily Momo received a stream of visitors, eager for her association. Ende writes “Was Momo so incredibly bright that she always gave good advice, or found the right words to console people in need of consolation,…? No, she was no more capable of that than anyone else of her age. … what Momo was better at than anyone else was listening. She listened in a way that made slow-witted people have flashes of inspiration. It wasn’t that she actually said anything or asked questions that put such ideas into their heads. She simply sat there and listened with the utmost attention…fixing them with her big, dark eyes, and they suddenly became aware of ideas whose existence they had never suspected. Momo could listen in such a way that worried and indecisive people knew their own minds from one moment to the next, or shy people felt suddenly confident and at ease, or downhearted people felt happy and hopeful. And if someone felt that his life had been an utter failure, and that he himself was only one among millions of wholly unimportant people who could be replaced as easily as broken windowpanes, he would go and pour out his heart to Momo. And, even as he spoke, he would come to realize…he was absolutely wrong: that there was only one person like himself in the whole world, and that, consequently, he mattered to the world in his own particular way. Such was Momo’s talent for listening………Those who still think that listening isn’t an art should see if they can do it half as well.”
Consciousness is reflected in language, and language is not only verbal. There is kinesic and paralinguistic language. We see in the example of Momo the power of deep listening to convey empathy, hope and caring.
Below are exercises to help you cultivate and integrate tools for transformative communication.
For a few days observe how frequently you use empathic understanding in your communication style. After a few days, without being inauthentic or preoccupied with the effort, increase your use of reflective listening. Notice the impact of your use of empathy on others and on the process of communication.
Identify an interpersonal scenario in your life. Imagine you are making a statement about something that is troubling you, and then, taking the role of the person you are speaking with, write three responses, using different roadblocks. Use the roadblocks to which you are most susceptible. Consider the effect of the responses, and identify how each roadblock makes you feel. Then, formulate an empathic response for the scenario.
Example: A course participant approaching her teacher about the behavior of a third.
“I really think you need to speak with him one-on-one. I think he’s doing things that are not conducive for a healthy lifestyle.”
Roadblock response 1: “I think that you should be careful about telling me what to do, or else you may be the one I will want to talk to.” (threatening, warning)
Roadblock response 2: “Oh, he’ll be okay. Don’t worry.” (false reassurance)
Roadblock response 3: “You just go and tell him what you think and how he has to change!” (ordering)
Empathic response: “It is distressing for you to see that he is doing things that may be harmful for him. I can see that you”re concerned about him, and you”d like me to speak with him.”