Linda Hillyer, student of Marlena's for 2 years, 5 classes + weekly practice group:
"Marlena teaches with great compassion, generosity, and wisdom. Her 'way' -- her teaching style and presence -- has made NVC come alive for me."
Andrew Lovett, student of Marlena's for 2 years, 3 classes + weekly practice group:
"Marlena's classes have been my primary source of psychological support since I became disabled three years ago. She combines deep spiritual awareness and extensive experience with a kind and warm heart. In everything she does, Marlena does more than impart skills -- she creates community."
Anonymous, student of Marlena's for 1 1/2 years, 4 classes:
"Marlena's wonderful, generous, kind, and very giving. I was suffering from slow, long-term starvation and had no way to get food, and Marlena brought me food. Not just food, but cooked, nutritious food that was compatible with my dietary requirements. I don't even know how to put into words what that meant; it meant everything. It meant the world. In my experience, the people who have the least amount to give, give the most. The people who are the most disabled and injured have been the most willing to help others. Marlena epitomizes that. She has been a lifeline.
"The fact that Marlena's made NVC available in this format, that she's created this community for us -- in her group, you don't have to explain your chronic illness or your disability, everyone just 'gets it.' Even in other groups for people who need services, they don't 'get' chemical sensitivity or many of the other issues we all deal with. Marlena has created a place of understanding and compassion where we all just 'get it.'
"The kindness of strangers has always made a big difference in my life. Since I've become this disabled, there are so many people who have never met me, but with whom I've just spoken on the phone, who have done so much for me. Like Marlena who had never met me except once, then brought me food. And someone from our class, who had never even met me, contacted my assemblyman to prevent my being evicted after I asked for reasonable accommodation to my disabilities. This class started out as a group of strangers, and now Marlena has created this place for all of us to come together to have companionship and connection with each other and to help each other."
Ellen McDonald, student of Marlena's for 2 years, 5 classes + weekly practice group:
"Marlena's classes seem really well suited to people with chronic illness and disability not just because everyone 'gets it,' but also because of the pacing and spaciousness of [how she teaches]. There's a lot of acknowledgement and more gentleness in how we learn NVC, more acknowledgement of having limitations. And in the kinds of issues that we deal with, sometimes putting emphasis on self-empathy and self-care, because we -- as people with chronic illness -- can beat up on ourselves a lot, and get discriminated against and things like that that others might not be.
"It would be very easy for me to see NVC as requiring a lot of high ideals I can't live up to and to feel a lot of despair about that, especially when I'm just trying to get through the day. But in our classes with Marlena, it's easier for me to have self-acceptance of doing what I can."
Vicki, student of Marlena's for 1 1/2 years, 4 classes + weekly practice group:
"Marlena has taught me how to get in touch with my deepest emotional needs. Coming from an abusive family, I was taught that my needs didn't matter. I grew up wondering why others were able to get out of situations that were bad for them while I remained stuck. I learned through NVC that uncovering and acknowledging my emotional needs is the only way to create happiness and peace in my life.
"Disabled people often have to rely on others for help. How we communicate our needs makes all the difference in whether or not we get the assistance we need. Through Marlena's NVC classes, I learned to ask for what I want in a non-confrontational yet direct manner, which makes it much more likely that people will listen, empathize, and help. I have used NVC with medical professionals, caregivers, friends, and my partner, and it has made a tremendous difference in my daily interactions.
"NVC stresses that all human behavior is a result of needs (met or unmet). My family taught me that if someone said or did something unkind to me, it was my fault. Because of Marlena's NVC classes, I have stopped taking everything personally and have begun to see that people's actions come from their own unmet needs. If someone treats me badly, I assume that they are frustrated or angry because there is something they need that they aren't getting. It has been incredibly freeing for me to realize that I'm not responsible for other people's actions."
Sharon Wachsler, student of Marlena's 1 1/2 years, 2 classes + weekly practice group:
"I first heard of NVC when there was a class being offered in my area. I was interested, but it was in a non-MCS accessible space and up a flight of stairs. When a friend told me about Marlena's classes -- taught by telephone, for and by people with disabilities and chronic illnesses -- I was really excited. Not only was I was interested in learning a new skill, but more than anything else, I was extremely lonely and isolated.
"I liked Marlena right away. It's no small feat to take a class when you have cognitive issues; it's even more complicated to teach with cognitive impairment, especially when most of your students have some form of cognitive impairment, too! Marlena was endlessly kind and patient and kept her sense of humor, and by having compassion and forgiveness for herself, was a role-model for me and others in choosing not to self-judge.
"I cannot overstate what a big deal it is that Marlena offers these classes by phone, in a very accessible way, and that she makes them affordable to all, with a sliding scale that goes down to zero. Since many of us have MCS and/or are on bed rest, it would be impossible to do the classes in any other way. Also, everyone is on disability and can't work; most people are barely managing to scrape by. However, in making the choice to use her limited energy to teach classes to people who can pay very little, as opposed to teaching in the general population, Marlena -- who is scraping by on disability, too -- is struggling to meet her own basic needs. There are many people who would not make this choice.
"All of my new friends are people from NVC. I don't feel so alone anymore. There is always someone to call or email who understands. It's a relief to talk openly in a group where everyone struggles a lot day-to-day, where coping with crisis and despair is given loving space and tenderness, because we all have been there. It might sound like it would be depressing, but it's not. It's a joy to be able to share, where nobody pities or tries to 'fix' you, but you just feel community, companionship, acceptance, and love. Marlena has created this space for us while also sharing her amazing store of knowledge and wisdom.
"Now I am in love with NVC. I'm getting to know people in the larger NVC community. I feel so much more peace and happiness in my life. I've found new ways of connecting to myself by understanding my own needs, and now I can really hear others with my heart more often, which requires more skill than I ever realized, and which is such a gift for me and for the people with whom I interact, I think, too."Anonymous, student of Marlena's weekly practice group for 1 1/2 years:
"Marlena's presentation of NVC has helped me get to know parts of myself I didn't even know I wanted to know. She's helped me name my values. One of my primary values in life is choice, which I already knew. She helped me see that the other half of my most important priority is community. Without community there is no meaning or freedom. That's huge to have that named for me. Choice and knowledge go hand-in-hand. Without the knowledge that she helped me gain, I could not have made my choices nearly so effectively.
"The enhancement of my sense of choice is something I especially appreciate as a disabled person. In contrast to the losses I've experienced since childhood due to my disability, what Marlena continues to reveal to me opens up a counterpart of tremendous empowerment.
"It has also improved my marriage of over 30 years!"