Take your connections up a notch this year!

Rita Marie Johnson, founder of The Connection Practice

Would you like to experience more rewarding connections with family, friends, co-workers? There is now an affordable way to get top-notch instruction in the Connection Practice, from its founder, along with personal coaching!

Here is a FREE introductory video with Rita Marie, called “A Simple Solution for Our Disconnected World.”

The Connection Practice increases your empathic communication skills–both for yourself, and with others–while developing your ability to calm yourself under stress and access your heart’s own insights.

The result is that you can move forward in your goals, and even heal damaged relationships. This social-emotional skill set, pioneered by Rita Marie Johnson, is being used in families, businesses, schools, nonprofits, and universities with remarkable results.

Now you can watch Rita Marie’s lectures and demonstrations to learn these transformative tools at your leisure, in your own time-frame, through a pre-recorded series of five webinars. To bring it home and help you with your personal challenges and skill-building, you can receive four hours of personal coaching from me via Skype or in-person. I am a certified coach and teacher of the Connection Practice, as well as a HeartMath coach. If you are local, you can experience biofeedback of your heart rhythms in order to learn and experience heart-brain coherence.

What people are saying about the Connection Practice: 

“This course brought me valuable insights, from my own heart, that changed my relationship to myself and my family. The depth of learning from the heart goes way beyond what is possible using only the intellect. Powerful and transformative life-changing experience; feeling the authentic empathy allowed me to process and gain a great measure of peace regarding traumatic issues recently experienced. Thank you for creating safety and supporting this journey of the heart!” – Kathy Austin

See more testimonials here.

Special offer

The regular price for four private coaching sessions with me, without the webinar, is $220-$320, sliding scale.

This special offer includes the five webinar sessions with Rita Marie, plus four private coaching sessions with me, for only $297!

Email or call today to schedule your FREE consultation. 828-545-9681.

 

The Connection Practice – at the Shift Studio

When: Saturday, June 9, from 10 am to 1 pm

Where: The Shift Studio, 708B Fleming St., Hendersonville

Come and learn how empathy and insight can transform your relationships!

  • Learn to be present compassionately with your own feelings and needs
  • Gain practice in giving empathy to others to build deeper connection and resolve conflict
  • Decrease your stress and enhance your resilience with heart-brain coherence
  • Access intuitive insights from your heart
  • Love offering

Compassion Camp, June 28 – July 1

at Earthaven Ecovillage

Black Mountain, NC

An immersive gathering for people interested in learning and living compassionate consciousness, building community, networking, and deepening our skills in compassionate communication.

A collaboration of the REAL Center, 10,000 Love Letters Project, Culture’s Edge, and the School of Integrated Living, organized by Steve Torma.

Relational activities including Open Space, interactive learning, singing, dancing, storytelling, and silence. The Connection Practice will be presented by Cathy Holt.

For more information, please click here.

Conscious Communication for Parents

Are you a parent who would like to communicate more effectively with your children? Frustrated with the lack of cooperation, or regretful at losing your temper?

You’re invited to a Parent Peer Support group with Cathy Holt, certified coach in the Connection Practice and HeartMath.  Love offering requested.

When:  Wednesday, March 21, 6-7:30pm

Where: Rainbow Community School, 574 Haywood Rd., West Asheville

We’ll work in pairs with the “Conscious Communication Cards” of Lori Petro (www.teach-with-love.com) and the Feelings and Needs cards, plus heart coherence from the Connection Practice. You will receive empathy from peers, and learn to give empathy to your kids, while holding boundaries.

Please let me know if you can come: cathyfholt@gmail.com, or 828-545-9681. Please visit my facebook event.

Digging deeper into the dirt

Digging deeper into the dirt

Sometimes I really slip up on my goal of regulating myself when I get into a bad mood. Usually that mood accompanies some judgment I am having.

We three housemates have a Friday night meal, and it was up to T. or me to cook. M. was working  that day and T. was busy on the phone and seemed content for me to cook the meal. I had hoped T. and I would be cooking together, and began to judge her behavior as “entitled.” M. came home from work and jumped into making a salad.

Some part of me is a really nitpicking score keeper, obsessing about fairness, and after dinner when M. was helping clean up, I said I thought she was helping T. too much–as if I was trying to even the score, for T. not helping us cook! In reality, we all have times when we are busy and do less, and times when we put in more effort on behalf of the household.

After dinner we were planning our gardens, and when T. started drawing the existing garden beds on the whiteboard, I thought I would contribute by adding a little piece, but T. erased it. This happened twice. I got triggered because I judged T. as “controlling” and left the room saying, “This is really annoying.” What I wish I had said was, “When you erased my drawing, I felt hurt and annoyed because I interpreted that as a lack of respect or negating my input. I was judging you as controlling. I value cooperation and collaboration, and I need to be seen and heard.” When I came back I played with my phone, not even looking at T.’s drawing. T. explained that it was easier for her to be the one doing the drawing and that she was open to verbal input. She acknowledged my discomfort and even came and rubbed my shoulders!

The next day, M. and T. got started digging out a garden bed to put a vole-barrier of hardware cloth into it. They had agreed to do that the previous evening and I was not actually asked to take part; however, I thought it was only fair for me to offer to help, so I started shoveling too. The hardware cloth needed to be bought, and that was easier than shoveling, so I volunteered but neglected to research the best place to find it for a good price. When I got to Lowe’s, the price seemed high so after phoning T. and M., I made several calls to other stores. I started feeling stressed that the cost was so high. M. had offered to help make calls and call me back, but I said it would take longer that way. She still offered to help, and I gruffly said, “Whatever,” and hung up. I had not realized how much time it would take to get the errand done and I was getting impatient, hungry, and hadn’t had lunch yet. Yes, I was “hangry!”

When I got home she expressed to me that she did not like how I had spoken on the phone, and especially being hung up on, and I apologized.

Later I wrote: “Were you feeling stressed, hurt and sad when I said ‘Whatever’ and hung up the phone, because you need respect, harmony, and consideration for how you’re trying to help? I’m feeling embarrassed and regretful because I didn’t self-regulate or attune to you.  Instead, I was out of control with my grumpiness! I did not mean it personally. I need more self-awareness and to walk my talk. I would really like to be more mindful and respectful with you.” She thanked me and forgave me.

When I have a day like this, I’m often hard on myself. I think, “Who am I to teach heart coherence or compassionate communication? I’m not practicing it when I hit a rough spot, and instead I vent my impatience and bad attitude on other people, the opposite of being compassionate!”

So I stopped myself, took a breath, and acknowledged that even though my behavior was far from my ideals, I had communicated in a better way afterwards and had been forgiven by both housemates. Going deeper into questioning my high reactivity, I was aware that I was feeling envious of T. for the important and meaningful work she is so deeply engaged in, and that I had been in a self-critical and financially stressed place over not having generated enough work for myself. I had been looking forward to an afternoon to nurture myself on Saturday, and didn’t like spending part of it shoveling and running errands, but imagined that there was peer pressure to do so…a story I was telling myself, since T. and M. said they did not have that expectation. The pressure came from my own desire to be seen as a collaborator, someone who does her fair share.

And so by writing this blog I am sharing with you the truth that we all struggle with our old patterns, I am not proud of my bad habits but they give me plenty of opportunities for growth and learning!

Resources for Parents

I’ve discovered a great resource for parents who are struggling to communicate in a compassionate way with their ornery children! (And they are all ornery sometimes!) It’s the website of Lori Petro, www.teach-through-love.com.

Lori has a series of brief YouTube videos in which she discusses how to give empathy to children when they are acting in ways you wish they wouldn’t– from fighting with siblings, to whining, to refusing to do a task, refusing to go to bed, hitting others… And she always gives great empathy to the parent, as well!

Lori also has a set of “Conscious Communication cards,” which I love, because they are organized by the typical words a parent might say, such as “Hurry up” or “Do your chores,” along with the frequently used guilt trips, demands, and judgments. Below that is a set of suggestions for new ways to approach the problem, using empathy, curiosity, validation, and compassion. Fostering connection!

Pathways to Peace

“Violence is a tragic expression of an unmet need.” – Marshall Rosenberg, founder of Nonviolent Communication

In a recent interview on the Shift Network, Roxanne Manning discussed the great need in these highly polarized times, to connect across our differences. Roxanne is a certified trainer in Nonviolent Communication, living in the SF Bay Area and originally from Trinidad.

“If we view everyone’s behavior as their best efforts to meet their needs, we can connect more easily,” she stated. When we are in anger or fear, our fight or flight response is triggered, which leads to demonizing and stereotyping the “other.” This can cause disconnection or even violence.

Instead, Roxanne suggests:

  1. Slow down, take a breath.
  2. Ask yourself, “What are my needs?” Our feelings can give us clues to discover our needs.
  3. Can I share that, or shall I find out what the other person’s needs are?

She offered an example of a time when her young daughter excitedly jumped on her when she came home after surgery. She was able to say something like, “Ouch, that hurt! I need care for my body. And I see you’re excited and want to connect with me. Please hug me gently.” (Notice that she shared her own feelings and needs, guessed those of her daughter, and made a specific request, all without any blaming.)

“We all need to know that we matter,” she continued. “When we say no, we can reassure a person: ‘I can’t do the specific thing you’re asking, and your needs matter to me. Let’s find another way to meet your need.'”

Shame, Roxanne believes, is one of the most excruciating and triggering emotions. When we go into shame, we lash out. Human dignity must always be tended to.

“Listen for a person’s needs, without an agenda, with your heart open,” she advises. “Hear what is real for the other. When your needs and mine are on the table, a solution becomes apparent.”

When speaking to someone across a political divide, it’s important to convey: “I know you want what is best for you, and I want to understand your perspective,” until they can say, “Wow, you got it, you understand me.” Then, they will be more open to hearing your perspective. You might be able to say, “I don’t agree with your strategy, but I’d like to know what’s behind that,” and look for their needs; notice which of those needs are also important to YOU, and join with them around those. “Here’s why I’m worried that that particular strategy won’t get us what we want and value… Would you be open to discussing other strategies?”

“Hold each person’s needs as universal, valid, and important,” she advises.

 

Connection Practice Free Webinar!

Learn from Rita Marie Johnson, founder of the Connection Practice!

Rita Marie Johnson, founder of The Connection Practice, Rasur Foundation International

Free webinar with Rita Marie on Thursday, Sept. 7, 8:30-9:30pm Eastern time.

  • You will hear how putting feelings and needs into words and creating coherence between the heart and brain reduces the reactions of the amygdala, the part of your brain that is associated with emotions, aggression and memory.
  • Listen to real-life examples of how the Connection Practice has been used to find creative, effective solutions to conflict and challenges.

Sign up here to access.

This free teleseminar will be followed by a series of six weekly seminars that you can enroll in, to experience the whole course. Learn the steps to growing your empathy and accessing insights from your heart. During the course, coaching with a trained mentor such as myself is available to deepen your learning. Write to: info@rasurinternational.org and you will receive all the details!

Rita Marie’s work has been recognized by the Ashoka Foundation Changemaker’s Award. She is the author of Completely Connected: Uniting Our Empathy and Insight for Extraordinary Results. The book has won the Nautilus award and is a bestseller in conflict resolution. For more on Rita Marie, go here.

Little Blue Flowers

Sometimes I look at my progress, shake my head, and find fault with myself.  I see myself as putting out inconsistent effort, procrastinating, playing it safe, shrinking, contracting. One class I taught went especially badly, partly because I did not see the people as my “target audience” and did not prepare with my usual attention and energy. The unconscious pattern I was falling into was that by focusing on what I’m doing wrong, and feeling inadequate, this leads to more of the same and I was going into a downward spiral.

Luckily for me, I have a housemate who is such a good friend that when she heard me starting down this path recently, she offered a corrective. Instead of saying, “No, it’s not true, you really have worthwhile things to offer, don’t feel so bad,” she gave me much more. “Cathy, remember how you were beaming the other day when you told me about going out in the morning to water those little blue flowers near the stairs, and how pleased you were when you saw a few more?” I agreed. Then she said, “What about seeing your work like those little blue flowers? Remember that class you taught for the Moms Against Gun Violence? That’s a little blue flower. Those clients you have are more flowers. Celebrate and build on your successes, and don’t dwell on the failures.”

She was reminding me that feeling gratitude for the small successes will lead to more progress than finding fault with myself for my shortcomings. Intellectually, I know this, but it takes a good friend sometimes to keep me on track because the old patterns still sneak up on me.

How about you? Do you know how to communicate caringly, yet old entrenched patterns surface and get in your way, leading to results you don’t want in your relationships? Do you find yourself in an anxious or stressed state frequently? Could you benefit from having a coach who, like a good friend, gently points out your strengths and helps you to build upon them?

I’m now offering a 4-session package of HeartMath Coaching for Resilience, in which you learn to get your heart and brain into “sync”, or “coherence.” Here’s what’s included:

1st session:

  • Mapping your stressors
  • Heart-focused breathing
  • Biofeedback – learn coherence in real time
  • Acknowledging your own feelings and needs
  • 2nd session:

  • From depletion to renewal
  •  Quick Coherence Technique
  • Biofeedback
  • Active listening and empathy for others
  • 3rd session:

  • Plugging energy leaks
  • The Inner Ease technique
  • Effective decision making
  • Gaining insight through coherence
  • 4th session:

  • Connection through empathy
  • Communicating your truth without judgment
  • 3 strategies for sustaining coherence
  • Action plans going forward

    Special offer

    This package of 4 sessions, regularly priced at $320, is now available for just $250. Meanwhile, I’m going to keep watering my little blue flowers!

“It is only with the heart that we can see truly.”

www.heartspeakpeace.com

828-545-9681

 

Our Hearts, Our Selves

heartekgOur Hearts, Our Selves

Did you know that the heart has its own “brain”? Yes, over 60 per cent of our hearts’ cells are nerve cells, and the heart has a brain with its own memories and preferences. The nun who received a heart transplant from a young man killed in a motorcycle accident was surprised to find herself craving Budweiser and chicken mcnuggets! And our hearts are sending messages to our brains more frequently than in the other direction. (Are we listening??) heartmath

HeartMath®: the rhythms of the heart 

The heart, according to the Institute of HeartMath®, is the “master regulator” for the whole body. As goes the heart, so go the nervous system, the digestive system, the respiratory system, the immune system, and the brain. The heart’s electromagnetic field is at least a hundred times more powerful than the brain’s, and it extends out beyond our bodies, subtly influencing everyone we encounter. Have you ever walked into a room where there has just been an argument, and felt the energy? Sometimes these energies are not so subtle!

Health benefits abound

When we are feeling peaceful, loving or grateful, our heart rhythms entrain all the other organ systems in our bodies to work at their best. This state is called “heart-brain coherence,” and it can be taught.  The Institute of HeartMath® has done extensive studies on the health benefits of practicing coherence. Some of the conditions that can be helped include: high blood pressure, digestive disorders, asthma, diabetes, insomnia, asthma, congestive heart disease, fatigue, PTSD, depression, and anxiety. HeartMath® has been used by health professionals, businesses, veterans, police, the military, schools, universities, nonprofits, and athletes.  (Please see www.heartmath.org)

It’s not just for adults. Students benefit because they can learn to diminish test anxiety and think more clearly, resulting in improved test scores. They also improve their social and emotional functioning in school.

Self-regulation skills

When I first encountered HeartMath® in the 1990’s, I was a biofeedback therapist. I was very impressed with their research, and hoped they would create a way to monitor and “feed back” the heart data so that people could learn these skills. And a few years later, they did! The Emwave® is a simple device that attaches to an earlobe and your computer and gives you information about your coherence level, and the Inner Balance® can go everywhere–it works with an iPhone.

This year when I became a certified HeartMath® coach, I was surprised and pleased to learn how to manage my own energy better using HeartMath® skills. Now if I am frustrated or worried or anxious, I pause and ask myself if I want to stay in that contracted state that is draining my energy. NO! It may take a few tries, but I can usually shift to heart-focused breathing and generate a feeling of appreciation or ease. At night if I am not falling asleep right away, I do my HeartMath® practices, and feel the bliss of deep relaxation followed by sleep. When getting ready for an important phone call, teaching a class, or meeting someone, my goal is to “get coherent” in preparation. These are the basics of self-regulation and resilience: taking charge of my own well-being.

Heart Insights

Best of all, I can frequently access intuitive insights that flow when my heart and brain are “in sync.” These insights can be as simple as “I could be taking better care of my health and slowing down more,” or they could be in response to a question I’m having about a relationship. When I first received a heart insight, it was in a class called “BePeace,” taught by Rita Marie Johnson, with practices for combining empathic communication skills with heart coherence and insight. The results were profound: I was able to heal a rift with a brother that had resulted in a communication breakdown, after having that insight!

Rita Marie trained me to be a teacher of her courses. Her new book, Completely Connected, just won the Nautilus award in psychology (an award previously held by the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Deepak Chopra, and Marianne Williamson).

Get the benefits…

You can receive the HeartMath® benefits by:

  • Taking the BePeace course with me on the weekend of October 15 and 16 at Unity of the Blue Ridge. Please see heartspeakpeace.com for more information.
  • If you prefer individual coaching sessions in HeartMath®, please contact me at 828-545-9681 or cathyfholt@gmail.com. Your first consultation is free!

 

 

 

 

Charles Eisenstein and “the space between stories”

charles eisensteinAccording to Eisenstein, who spoke last week in Asheville, we are transitioning from the “old story” of separation to the “new story” of inter-being. The “old story” was domination and hierarchy, competition, judgments, and war; the “new story” is interdependence, relationships, and empathy. “If we really understood one another’s worlds, we would not judge,” he stated. “We would see that our judgments are delusional.” As in the process known as Circling, the question we want to ask in order to inhabit each other’s worlds is “What is it like to be you?”

“Real stories can pierce ideologies like racism and homophobia,” he said, whereas simply attacking police as racists changes nothing. For example, in South Africa there were Truth and Reconciliation committees in which people told their stories of suffering to the perpetrators of apartheid; there was no bloodbath, because people were deeply heard. How can we create conditions for people’s stories to be heard?

Why do we judge?

“Judgment is a deficiency in understanding. Judgment is chiefly a pain avoidance mechanism, channeling it into hatred of others,” said Eisenstein. “So we must learn to feel the pain, instead of channeling it into judgments.” He added that our society does not provide channels for grieving properly. “Judging ourselves for judging does not solve the problem either.”

“What’s wrong with you?!”

Every child hears this growing up, from frustrated parents and teachers. Is it any wonder that most of us grow up feeling deficient, not good enough, and believing there is something fundamentally wrong with us. In the “old story,” goodness or virtue was seen as overcoming our basic nature – like the concept of “original sin.” What if instead a teacher gently asked a misbehaving student, “What’s going on for you?”  “From true understanding comes appropriate action,” Eisenstein emphasized.

Why not focus on what is “right” with a person? The story we tell ourselves about others does determine our behavior toward them, and often the outcome. Eisenstein told a story of a woman who held fast to her story that despite their early criminal behavior, “These boys just want an education.” The result was that their behavior transformed for the better!

 

 

What is the true cause of addiction?

In a Huffington Post article by Johann Hari, author of Chasing the Scream: The First & Last Days of the Drug War, a startling answer is given.

Why don’t hospital patients on morphine stay addicted once discharged? Rat studies showed that isolated rats used cocaine addictively, while rats in a comfortable, social cage did not, despite easy access.

“The street-addict is like the rats in the first cage, isolated, alone, with only one source of solace to turn to. The medical patient is like the rats in the second cage. She is going home to a life where she is surrounded by the people she loves. The drug is the same, but the environment is different…

“Professor Peter Cohen argues that human beings have a deep need to bond and form connections. It’s how we get our satisfaction. If we can’t connect with each other, we will connect with anything we can find — the whirr of a roulette wheel or the prick of a syringe. He says we should stop talking about ‘addiction’ altogether, and instead call it ‘bonding.’ A heroin addict has bonded with heroin because she couldn’t bond as fully with anything else.

“So the opposite of addiction is not sobriety. It is human connection.”

After describing the miserable future of imprisonment and joblessness that await addicts in our society, Hari comments:
“There is an alternative. You can build a system that is designed to help drug addicts to reconnect with the world — and so leave behind their addictions.

“This isn’t theoretical. It is happening…. Nearly fifteen years ago, Portugal had one of the worst drug problems in Europe, with 1 percent of the population addicted to heroin. They had tried a drug war, and the problem just kept getting worse. So they decided to do something radically different. They resolved to decriminalize all drugs, and transfer all the money they used to spend on arresting and jailing drug addicts, and spend it instead on reconnecting them — to their own feelings, and to the wider society. The most crucial step is to get them secure housing, and subsidized jobs so they have a purpose in life, and something to get out of bed for. I watched as they are helped, in warm and welcoming clinics, to learn how to reconnect with their feelings, after years of trauma and stunning them into silence with drugs.

“One example I learned about was a group of addicts who were given a loan to set up a removals firm. Suddenly, they were a group, all bonded to each other, and to the society, and responsible for each other’s care.

“The results of all this are now in. An independent study by the British Journal of Criminology found that since total decriminalization, addiction has fallen, and injecting drug use is down by 50 percent. Decriminalization has been such a manifest success that very few people in Portugal want to go back to the old system. The main campaigner against the decriminalization back in 2000 … offered all the dire warnings that we would expect … But when we sat together in Lisbon, he told me that everything he predicted had not come to pass — and he now hopes the whole world will follow Portugal’s example.”

https://www.heartspeakpeace.com/1209-2/

Monitoring your energy: what drains or replenishes you?

batteries1Energy and Choices

We all want to feel alive, energetic and vibrant.  An “energy gain” is an activity, task, or thought that makes you feel better and more alive—those things we want to or choose to do. An “energy drain” is something that leaves us feeling less alive and even depleted—those things we believe we have to or must do; often something that we do not want to do.  In almost all cases, it is not that we have to, should, or must do a thing, it is actually a choice.  Even though you may believe “I have to cook dinner,”  it is a choice.  You can choose not to cook, and instead eat a prepared food or restaurant meal. Our thoughts and perceptions of an activity can make a big difference in our energy. Simply feeling frustrated can deplete us, while feeling grateful can replenish our energy.

Energy drains and gains are always unique to the individual; what is a drain for one can be a gain for another.  Energy drains can be doing the dishes and feeling resentful that your partner or children are not doing them, or anticipating seeing a person whom you do not really want to spend time with. An energy gain can be meeting a friend you enjoy, going for a walk in the woods, or taking a relaxing bath.

So often our lives are filled with things that we believe we “should do” instead of want to do.  “If I did this, my family and friends won’t like me”, or “I am not sure I will be successful so I will do something that is safe.”  How well charged are your energy batteries?

 

Explore strategies to decrease the energy drains and increase the energy gains. Try the following to observe your energy fluctuations:

  1. For one week monitor your energy drains and energy gains. Notice the events, activities, thoughts, or emotions that increase or decrease energy at home and at work. For example some drains can include cleaning bathroom, cooking another meal, or talking to a family member on the phone, while gains can be taking a walk, talking to a friend, completing a work task. Be very honest, just note the events that change your energy level.
  2. After the week look over your notes and identify at least one activity that drains your energy and one activity that increases your energy.
  3. Develop a strategy to decrease one of the energy drains.  Be very specific how, where, when, with whom, and which situations drain your energy.  Anticipate obstacles that may interfere with reducing your drains and develop new ways to overcome these obstacles. For example, trading tasks with others (“I will cook if you clean the bathroom”).
    Develop new ways to increase energy gains – such as doing exercise outdoors, or even taking a few minutes to breathe deeply.
  4. Each day intend to reduce one energy drain and increase one energy gain– and observe what happens.

Initially it may seem impossible, but many people report that the practice made them aware, increased their energy, and they had more control over their lives than they thought.  It also encouraged them to explore the question, “What is it that I really want to do?”  So often we do energy draining activities because of convention, habit and fear, which makes us feel powerless.  In observing our energy drains and energy gains, we become aware of choices.  Sometimes, the choice is not changing the tasks, but how we perceive and feel about them.