This is the third of a series of articles about my personal experiences of how an NVC International Intensive Training (IIT) comes together. The article is about the IIT we are hosting in Romania from 20-29th October 2015 and my hope is this will also be of interest and support to participants and organisers of past, present and future IITs.

Find out more about what an IIT is HERE  .

caraimanIn Sinaia you will get to experience a little of how Romanians spend their leisure time – at a mountain resort not too far from Bucharest with skiing in the Winter and hiking in the summer. I remember being in the area one October and was quite amazed at the Autumn colours – a rainbow of yellow, orange and brown spreading up the lower hills getting browner the higher the tree line crept.

Our choice of Sinaia and the hotel took us about 3 months to reach last winter.

I had in my mind a picture of what ‘perfect’ would look like. Somewhere not too far from an international airport, close to nature, secluded, enough rooms of an acceptable standard, a level of care and understanding of our needs from the staff and meeting facilities for up to 60 people – all combined with a manageable cost.

When we started visiting possible venues I had a hard time letting go of memories of places I had attended long workshops and retreats. My standards were high and specific and after a while I felt somewhat depressed and hopeless. I started to doubt we would find even an adequate place, let alone a perfect place.

The moment Mona and I walked into the Caraiman Hotel in Sinaia I think we both knew this was it – without even exchanging a word.

My first impression was of a faded gem that had been lovingly cared for through years of decline. It was this loving care that drew me.

The hotel has seen better days. In its heyday (100 years ago) it was one of the most exclusive and luxurious hotels in the country. Close to the Royal Palace at Peles, it would have attracted the nobility of the day and their entourages.

After the fall of the monarchy I guess the hotel fell out of use – but I still feel the echo of that long lost grandeur. Dreaming of socialist equality such luxury would not have had a place. Yet someone, and I hope to discover more about how this happened, kept the grandeur alive in small ways. The wooden carvings, wood panels, many small touches here and there. Not so obvious to a casual observer but definitely there for those who look below the slightly tatty surface.

We checked the rooms – clean and adequate with refurbished bathrooms and non-intrusive decor. The conference facilities are in the attic and have a unique character to them with wood everywhere. The staff assured us about flexibility of the menu though I confess I feel a little uncomfortable we didn’t check out the food. At the same time I trust we will manage to cater for all diets and appetites without being at the top end of the gourmet spectrum. If you are coming I suggest not to have too high expectations about the food and then you can be pleasantly surprised.

The hotel is in a public park – plenty of trees and space and that time of year will not be crowded. It is also close to the town and a short walk to the restaurants and small stores so if the going gets too intense there is an easy escape into the ‘real world’  for a short reality check or a trip up the mountain in a cable car.

Two important criteria for us is that it is reasonably close to Bucharest (1.5 hours) and as we are booking out of season, we were offered a very good price.

It is not perfect but it as close to it as I could have wished for and I’m very excited about the time we will spend there together.

So we wait for you and Sinaia waits for you.

 

This is the second of a series of articles about my personal experiences of how an NVC International Intensive Training (IIT) comes together. The article is about the IIT we are hosting in Romania from 20-29th October 2015 and my hope is this will also be of interest and support to participants and organisers of past, present and future IITs.

Find out more about what an IIT is HERE  and find out about our Romanian IIT HERE.

I’m often asked why, being British, I live in Romania – especially when many Romanians dream of living in keep-calm-and-love-romania-51Western Europe. My response is always that I’m here because of love. While this doesn’t tell the whole story, it is the truth.

My love affair with Romania started when I first visited in 1995 to run management training for a large corporation. At the time I was fascinated by the contrasts such as the beauty of the countryside and the ugliness of so many of the post-war buildings. Or the obvious affection for children and their neglect in the state institutions that came to light after the revolution. Or how a nation of dog lovers lives with packs of stray dogs roaming the streets. Or how the charm, warmth, generosity,  openness and hospitality I experience so often in the people I meet, seems to disappear the moment they are in a position of authority.

I visited the country regularly over the years since 1995 and this fascination gradually changed into love. It took an unexpected turn when I met Mona, a Romanian, in 2006 and we fell in love. It seemed the hand of fate was somehow guiding me to live here – and indeed Romania – and more specifically, Bucharest, is now my home.

Marshall, Valentina and Mona (2006)

Marshall, Valentina and Mona (2006)

Mona was active spreading NVC when we met, inviting NVC trainers to Romania (including Marshall among others), publishing NVC books and writing articles in the press. A mutual desire to learn and share NVC brought Mona and I together in the first place and is still a core part of our lives.

Our NVC Association was incorporated in 2007 at about the same time I finished my Certification and Mona shortly afterwards. We started reaching out with NVC on a bigger scale and now this International Intensive Training in October marks an important step up for us in the work we’re doing here.

Why Come to Romania for an IIT?

Practically speaking Romania is easy to get to as it’s well served by the major European airlines (regular and budget) and it’s relatively inexpensive compared to the rest of Europe, which means the accommodation costs for the IIT are not so high.

Despite this, unless  you have a personal connection with Romania, it may not be an obvious location for someone considering an IIT.

I would like to offer some personal perspectives and some dreams for this IIT in the hope there is something that inspires you – or at least attracts your curiosity and wish to discover more.

Healing and Letting Go

_59749595_rom_uprising_1989Bordering Ukraine and the former Yugoslav countries, Romania is no stranger to proximity to recent conflicts and violence. The Romanian revolution of 1989 that overthrew and executed Ceaușescu was the only violent one of all the regime changes that year and the revolution came after decades of a political order based on fear, distrust and control over people’s lives.

The post-war regime in Romania is often regarded as the most oppressive of all former Soviet Bloc countries. To give a few examples:

  • Romania maintained zero foreign debt mainly by exporting basic provisions needed by Romanians, resulting in mass shortages, rationing and impoverishment of an already poor country.
  • A brutal and pervasive system of secret police, informers and bugging in public places was designed to suppress any and all dissent.
  • A policy to increase population removed birth control, outlawed abortion, taxed childless adults and forcibly examined working women for signs of pregnancy – pregnant women were then placed on a watch list to ensure they went to full term.

I have no doubt that for most, life was challenging and difficult and given this I’m surprised by how little it is talked about. I imagine there is a lot of untold trauma and unhealed pain from those times and its aftermath.  I would add to this reconciliation still needed between the different players in the old regime and between the younger generations and their parents who lived through it.

In the context of an NVC Intensive Training I see plenty of rich opportunities for healing, empathy practice, reconciliation and letting go of the past – whether you are Romanian or not.

Creating the Future

Although the revolution was over 25 years ago, in my opinion the country is still in the process of finding itself.

No clear, visionary leadership has emerged in the political sphere and politicians generally are distrusted and believed to be corrupt and self-serving. Many of the changes in the country have been led by foreign investment, chiefly multi-national corporations. Shopping malls and fancy office buildings are everywhere without anything to identify them as especially Romanian. The stores are at least now full of food but there is still widespread poverty and even the basics of life are a struggle for many.

While it may be ambitious to believe a single IIT can make much difference to shape the future there are already many people who are creating the future – through raising children – and many of them are involved in NVC and already signed up to come to the IIT. These are parents, educators, school directors and those working in humanitarian NGO’s supporting children at risk or in dire situations.

There is a compelling reason children are the focus for the future here.

Romania made international news in 1990 after the revolution when it was discovered how children in state institutions were being treated. The laws of the Ceaușescu era designed to promote population growth had resulted in many parents effectively forced to produce children they could not care for. Many of these were abandoned to severely underfunded ‘orphanages’ or hospitals and later on abandoned to the streets. This was horrifying to those outside Romania and equally so to Romanians themselves.

Now we have many parents and educators coming to our workshops and conferences determined to raise their children in compassion and respect and change many of the ‘traditional’ approaches to parenting and education that are still sadly all too common.

I’ve been very touched by those who choose something different and they find in NVC both a set of principles to help guide them and practices to help live those principles. We have reached thousands, if not tens of thousands, of parents through conferences, workshops, radio, TV and magazines.

If you have a passion for raising children compassionately whether as a parent, educator or as a fellow human being, at this IIT you will find community and plenty of opportunity to share and learn from each other.

International Healing

In Europe and beyond, Romania is regarded on the whole in a negative light.  A land of beggars and thieves who cannot be trusted and who abuse their children. The countryside is poor, backward and full of vampires (literally). The cities are dirty, crowded and dangerous.

A few years ago I was working with some employees at the European Commission in Luxembourg. I remember one lady, a senior Civil Servant from Romania sadly telling the story of an encounter in a local grocery store. The shop keeper had started a conversation and been very friendly and helpful until she asked where this lady was from. On hearing ‘Romania’ she suddenly became very cold and refused to serve her. I believe most Romanians living abroad will have experienced similar reactions.

Whenever I hold a stereotype in my mind I believe I fail to see the human being in front of me. When this happens I not only de-humanise the other but I also de-humanise myself.

I see this IIT as a unique opportunity for those outside Romania to get in touch with the beauty and depth of people we might initially discount as beggars or thieves.

8cdd3909734d2bab54d3569e98851b3fIt is also a chance to taste a different culture. One with a long history of art, folk tradition and simple living combined with a love of music, poetry and story-telling.  A people who long to play and to laugh and be loved and to love. Who care deeply for their families, sometimes struggle to make ends meet and have a resilience to cope with adversity.

And maybe those who come to Romania from abroad will take home with them stories and experiences that will start to change how the country is perceived and reduce some of the distrust and fear that only comes from ‘not knowing’.

Find out about our Romanian IIT HERE.

Read the previous article in the series HERE.

 

This is the first of a series of articles about my personal experiences of how an NVC International Intensive Training (IIT) comes together. If you would like to find out more about what an IIT is, click HERE

I will be writing specifically about the IIT we are hosting in Romania from 20-29th October 2015 and my hope is this will be of interest and support to participants and organisers of past, present and future IITs.  Find out about our Romanian IIT HERE.

The Seeds of a Dream

340px-Marshall_RosenbergThe IIT is still 6 months away but the journey started years ago for me in 2002 as a participant at an IIT in Hungary. I had first heard NVC at a conference a year earlier where Marshall Rosenberg was one of the keynote speakers. Right from that first contact I felt deep inside that learning NVC was a path I wanted to follow and immediately set about discovering all I could about it.

In those days I was living in Poland and working as a business trainer. NVC was not well known at the time but I managed to find a few people who were organising trainers from abroad to come and run workshops.

Signing up to go to the IIT in Budapest was a big step both in terms of time and money but I had no hesitation when I discovered there was this possibility virtually on my doorstep. It was a truly amazing and deep experience learning directly from Marshall and a team of trainers who were, for me, role models in living and teaching NVC.

I remember dreaming that one day I might have integrated NVC to the extent that I could be part of a trainer team in some distant, imagined future.

I attended a second IIT in 2005, this time much closer to home just outside Warsaw and again the experience was very powerful and rekindled my dream to be part of an IIT from the inside. 9 years later the dream finally came true and I was invited to the trainer team for the IIT in Germany which happened in 2014.

In the meantime, I met Monica Reu as part of the growing community of people in the region committed to learning and spreading NVC. One thing led to another and I fell in love (I think she did too), moved to Romania and then got married and started a family (Emma, aged 5).

Mona (who is now also a Certified Trainer) had organised Marshall to come to Romania some years ago for workshops and TV interviews to coincide with the launch of his book here. She had also attended an IIT which had sparked a dream in her to organise one here in Romania.

Are We Ready?

When CNVC requested input from the trainer network in July 2013, Mona and I asked ourselves if we were ready to host an IIT.

roineurope

… in case you are not sure exactly where Romania is

First thing to consider – would enough people want to come to make it feasible?

In Romania we’ve been active over the last years building awareness about NVC through conferences, social media, mass media and running workshops. As a start, three people we know of had been to IITs in other countries and we have a handful people working with us with an intention to teach NVC themselves. Our best guess was that we knew around 12 to 15 people who would want to come and probably a few others we didn’t know about. This gave us some comfort.

In Europe especially, Romania has been the subject of a lot of negative publicity, especially in the popular press.  First things that spring to mind for many people in relation to Romania are tragic orphanages, beggars, poverty, horsemeat scandal, dictatorship, corruption and the Transylvania of Dracula folklore. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-21550768

For myself, I saw an IIT here as a chance to make a small difference in changing this perception and show the beauty of the country and warmth and hospitality of the people. I had huge faith in those attracted to NVC to want to see beyond the negative stereotypes and see a lesser visited country as it really is.

Second thing to consider was the organisation.

Royal Palace in Sinaia

Royal Palace in Sinaia

Over the years I had got some glimpses into what might be involved in hosting an IIT. As a participant it was clear to me there is a lot to organise for 40 to 60 people and trainers and support team to come together in one place for 9 days.  Could we find a venue that would give us the possibility and care we knew was needed for such an undertaking?

We also recognised these 40 to 60 people are not just any people. They are learning NVC and learning to speak up when some needs are not getting met (and not simply shut up and smile politely). While this is indeed a powerful manifestation of NVC, for an organiser of a retreat this represents a big challenge. Were we ready to take on this challenge and do our best to keep everyone happy and attend to the needs of all?

And finally – were we personally ready?

Our idea was that Mona would be the main organiser and I would be on the trainer team. Knowing each other quite well, we recognised our willingness to offer each other support and care by jumping in and giving advice to each other. Perhaps not the best strategy, but in daily life we manage. Taking on a project of this scale might well stretch our relationship and bring unwanted tension. We shared how this might be for us and got some reassurance that, even if some tension does result, we have the strength of connection, awareness and skills to deal with it.

Looking at all these factors, our conclusion was that we felt ready to take the leap so I contacted CNVC in July 2013 to express our wish to have an IIT in Romania sometime in 2015.

The Ball Starts Rolling

And so it began with an early response from CNVC to my contact and we started to develop a relationship with Elin Searfoss as the CNVC person who would be taking care of us.

My first impressions were quite different from what I had expected – in a very positive way.

My expectations were based on my 2 IITs as participant and another IIT in Poland where I knew the organisers very well and heard frequent updates (complaints!) on how the experience was for them.

The picture I had in my mind was that we were to expect a long list of very precise requests that would be held more as demands  (‘we know what we’re doing and we’ve been doing it for years so follow our detailed instructions about how an IIT should be run’).  I expected little or no adaptation for local conditions and I was prepared for a detailed programme and curriculum to be presented to us.

In reality I found the complete opposite of this.

I heard from Elin a few suggestions about things we might want to consider when for a venue (for example, distance from airports, room arrangements, preparing for fights over food). I heard lots of questions and interest in how we saw things, what we wanted from an IIT and how she could support us. And it was all offered with humility, a smile, a desire to support and a huge amount of flexibility. The best way I can describe the relationship is one of mutual support and partnership.

Looking back I guess things changed (and still change) when Marshall stopped running IITs a few years ago.

Back then Marshall was travelling extensively, living out of a suitcase and going to places with hugely varying conditions. I can imagine how important it was to have his basic needs taken care of and provide a certain level of comfort to help him sustain his energy and passion for this work.

Back then the support trainers kind of turned up and, as I understand, had little opportunity to prepare together but rather fit in around Marshall’s structure for the IIT. I guess this gave efficiency, stability and consistency when Marshall was the common link and lead trainer on all IITs.

It seemed to work. And now it also seems to work but with a very difference approach.

After these initial conversations and with our excitement growing we started to get ourselves ready, think about possible locations and continue our day to day work of spreading NVC. I was also invited, as part of our preparation, to join the trainer team for the IIT in Germany in May 2014.

Board approval came in October 2014 for an IIT in Romania one year later – in October 2015. So after over a year of building a relationship with CNVC and preparing ourselves we had 12 months to plan, mobilise, organise and make it happen.

The next steps were to decide the venue and get a trainer team together.

Next Article : Romanian Love Affair

 

This is an exercise I use a lot in my workshops. It’s not only a great workshop exercise but also excellent as a regular practice for deepening any relationship. It takes 20 to 30 minutes and is set up to allow each person time to express themselves and be really heard. The beauty of the process is that a safe space is created for the speaker because the listener is not allowed to respond and must remain listening in silent empathy.

First time you do it you may find it hard to keep complete attention (when listening) or to find things to express (when speaking). Second time, you will probably find both easier. Third time, you’ll may start to experience the incredible transformative power of complete, non-judgemental attention with another human being.

Used as regular relationship practice, the process builds deeper and deeper layers of connection, trust and mutual understanding. If you choose to build it into your life as a regular practice with, for example, your intimate partner, then I would recommend at least weekly, though you could even make it a daily practice. My personal preference is to do this 2 or 3 times a week with my intimate partner. It can also be very effective as ‘one-off’ to help resolve a conflict with someone because it allows both sides to express freely.

All it requires is a quiet place, a person with whom you have a relationship (partner, friend, family member, colleague), a mutual willingness to do it and … a timer (one that makes a sound when the time is over). I’d like to take credit for the exercise but I couldn’t do so and keep my integrity intact. I’ve seen it used by several trainers and believe it’s been adapted by NVC trainers from a standard marriage counselling process. I don’t really know where it first came from but I’m grateful nevertheless.

The Exercise

Find a quiet time and place and remove all possible disturbances such as phones etc.. Sit facing each other at a comfortable distance and in a relaxed position.

Decide who will start (Person A) and set the timer for 10 minutes.

  • Person A talk for 10 minutes – share whatever is alive and comes up for you. Whatever comes is ok – there is no right or wrong. These could be random thoughts, current situation between you and B, hopes, dreams, fears. Do NOT cut the time if you run out of things to say. If nothing comes – then hold the silence until something does.
  •  Person B listen in complete silence and attention. Listen for what is alive in A, the observations, feelings and needs.There is nothing to give except complete attention and this is a great gift. Notice if your attention drifts to your own thoughts or judgements .. and gently bring it back to A. It is most important that you say nothing .. including non-verbals.

When the timer sounds … set it for another 10 minutes and repeat with person B now speaking and A listening.

Variations

Here a few adaptations you might try:

  • Increase the time to 15 minutes each
  • Add a 5 minute space after the two parts to give a chance to share and exchange how it was
  • Do the exercise outside in nature
  • Do the exercise while walking side by side.

Why does it work?

I find this a deceptively simple exercise that works because of the silent space and attention we are offered by our partner.

It is hard for most of us to fully express ourselves when we know we will hear a reaction.

Requiring the listener to stay silent gives more freedom to say what is really going on for us. In ‘normal’ conversation, when we speak there is a part of us wondering how the other person is reacting and how we will deal with it. This is especially true when what we express is painful to us or we imagine it might be painful for the other to hear. We may be faced with a defensive reaction or an aggressive response. We may be faced with sympathy (’Oh, how terrible!’) or advice or an attempt to ‘fix-the-problem’. All this guess work interferes with our self connection and self expression.

 

As you’ve maybe noticed if you’re a regular visitor, my writing and posting schedule is sporadic and doesn’t fit into any discernible pattern. If I’m honest with myself I have yet to find my writing voice on this site and as money is not flowing as easily as I would like right now I’m putting energy into other things. The two may well be connected – the result is I’m not developing the site as rapidly as I would like.

So I’m going off on Summer Vacation for the next 4 weeks and plan to leave the site alone. I would like to spend some time reconnecting to the needs I’m trying to meet with NVC World and also how I might add more value in a way that brings something back to me. The site isn’t sustainable yet (far from it) and to continue to put energy and time into it does mean it needs to become so.

In other words it’s going to be quiet around here for the next month and then back in action in September – hopefully with more focus and enthusiasm.

Starting Monday next week I have a series of articles being published in Not Easy To Be Green – do pay a visit over there.