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Mediation Skills: Non-Violent Communication and Aikido

What is the relationship between Non-Violent Communication (NVC) and Embodied Compassionate Communication or Emotional Aikido?

The answer to this question begins by understanding that NVC is a language skill and does not encompass somatic training. Somatic attunement, however, can be put into words, and may result in expressing the fundamental concepts of NVC, but they are arrived at by different routes.

1. What are the somatic dynamics of empathy? 
(somatic (5 senses) awareness of self and another considering the following three questions)

2. How do you practice “somatic attunement?” 
(feel/sense three wisdom centers and ask:) 
                                                                                                What does the head want? 
                                                                                                What does the heart want? 
                                                                                                What does the hara need?

NB: NVC is a language skill set/training that seeks to accomplish the same objects, but does not train somatically, and for that reason is less effective under pressure. Pressure is key, because it is “felt,” not just understood as words/language/concepts. Thus somatic attunement may be easier to learn and handier to practice. (Yet, we are standing on Marshall Rosenberg’s shoulders.)

3. What are the obstacles to learning somatic attunement? 
judgments emotional charges passionate righteousness
righteous passions difficulty accessing embodied feelings

4. How do we overcome these obstacles? 
recognize our pre-disposed responses to pressure (push-back, cave, rigidify)
practice transforming pre-dispositions with grounding, centering and extension.

5. How may empathy encompass conflicting interests?

Being sensitive to three embodied wisdom centers (head/heart/hara) in one’s self and other will involve conflicting interests, or split attention. When we remove ourselves from the bodily sensations, we distance ourselves from the situation to which those sensations are related.

Disembodiment is a strategy that allows us to escape the pressure, feeling, or sensations of the present moment. When I have an immobilizing experience, I try to find out where I am split. In searching for splits, we can use a map with three centers: head, heart and hara, or belly. Splits commonly occur at the neck, separating the head from the heart and the belly, or the solar plexus, separating the belly from the heart and the head.

I can identify the preferences of my head with the question, “What do I think I want?” I wait for a sensory response. Then I feel into my heart, “What does my heart feel like it really wants?” Splits that occur at the solar plexus are more difficult to discover. In Western culture, we are not accustomed to viewing the belly as an intelligent power source. If we are not aware of the opposition within ourselves, we may find it difficult to understand why we cannot manifest something even when we have a clear idea of it.

From The Intuitive Body: Aikido as a Clairsentient Practice, by Wendy Palmer, North Atlantic Books.

This outline is drawn from a document entitled NVC and Embodied Compassionate Communication or Emotional Aikido, available at

NEW ONLINE COURSE takes the pressure and the worry out of NVC

Aikido taught me to feel the opposition. At times it felt harsh or frightening and I wanted to push back, cave in or run away. Accepting its nature was the only way I could feel my own pre-disposed response and adjust to harmonize without losing touch with my center and my core interests and needs. Aikido taught me that by connecting my center into the planet’s core, so I could handle more pressure because the Earth had my back. When we can relinquish our reactions to interest in grounded connection, we can “reconcile the world.” Morihei Uyeshiba 

The deeper this root is, the more powerful is the influence with opposing pressures. 

“Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Breathe deeply. Let the breath expand your abdomen, not just to the front but also to the back, the sides of the pelvis, the floor of the pelvis. Imagine a beam of ki/energy from the center of the earth moving straight up through your body, out of the top of your head, and upward to the heavens. Then imagine that beam coming down from the zenith of the heavens through your body, down to the earth’s center connecting you to the earth. Think of the earth as a battery of ki; the more firmly your feet are connected to the earth, the more ki is available to you. Now imagine there’s a strong wind of ki blowing down the sidewalk or trail you’re going to be walking on in just the direction you’re going.  George Leonard (From the course)

Marshall Rosenberg liked the ideas in this course and encouraged me to develop them. Now you can see why, learn them yourself, and perhaps even teach with this program.
Can’t always speak empathically when you are being criticized? Can’t access unmet needs when self-righteous passions are flying? Can’t identify choices when feeling attacked? Want solutions to frustrating and destructive applications of NVC?


It’s easy to speak proper NVC talk socially, but it often doesn’t work well under pressure. We have pre-disposed responses to pressure and they are embodied patterns. Unless we observe and learn from the embodied patterns, our verbal language skills will re-enact their conflict. 

Somatic attunement to the pre-disposed responses inspires their transformation, especially when studied in the context of center, ground and connection. These basic elements of Aikido apply in the body-mind interface, where they enable grounding our language and communication skills in the body; where the tensions reside. 



Jerry Green

Jerry A. Green graduated from University of California, Berkeley and received his J.D. from Boalt Law School. He defended holistic health practitioners in court and published and lectured on the health care contract. He specializes in medical and health care licensing and scope of practice matters, is a special consultant… MORE >

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