Assume Nothing!

Global NVC ambassador, Shammi Nanda

Don’t Judge A Book …

How often have you met someone and had them completely “figured out” before either of you has even said a word? How often have you had a pre-conceived idea of how an event will unfold? A recent experience of doing just that taught me so much about myself in one short evening ☺…………………

Not long ago I had the honour of meeting Shammi Nanda, a truly inspiring guy, Indian film director turned NVC (Non Violent Communication) global ambassador and facilitator at a “Conscious Kitchen” event in my home town organised by a fellow yogi.

When I received a follow up invitation from Shammi to sign up for the “Great Food Debate” at Embercombe in Devon, I have to confess that I was excited; an opportunity to participate in a discussion on such weighty matters as Fighting Food Waste, The Paleo Diet, Building Relationships With Our Food, Eating Choicefully and Compassionately and The Fast Food Nation, was too good to miss. I had never been to Embercombe so my imagination immediately took me on a flight of fancy to a stage, PowerPoint presentations and break-out sessions. How wrong could I have been?!

More than 20 years in the corporate world had conditioned me to arrive early (after all I wanted to get a good seat so I could fully participate in the debate!) only to find some very relaxed individuals clearing up from the last event of the afternoon to make way for the evening’s Great Food Debate programme.

Not a PowerPoint slide or stage in sight, but several very large comfy sofas, a beautiful wood-burning stove, home-made flapjacks and tea on arrival – what a fabulous, warm welcome.


Nevertheless, my organised, conditioned mind soon went into overdrive. Here I was on a dark, damp autumn Sunday evening, in what is to all intents and purposes a large barn, notebook and pen at the ready, waiting to voice my views on matters of great importance to me only then to be invited by Shammi to adopt an “Open Technology Approach” to the evening – i.e. “without any formal agenda beyond the overall purpose or theme”. Interesting, I thought to myself – is it possible to have a productive evening without an agenda? Surely chaos would reign with such an unstructured approach!

However, I reminded myself of my Zen teacher’s words about being present to what is, and not trying to predict the outcome (I paraphrase, but you get the sentiment) and in an instant I relaxed. We were invited (not directed, you notice) to go to whichever corner of the room we felt moved to, talk to whoever was there, share thoughts and ideas as well as eat lovingly-prepared food.

Then something lovely happened. For the next hour and a half the energy in the room was palpable as we went from each “topic area” sampling some wonderfully nourishing, home-grown food prepared by the Embercombe team and Shammi’s own delicious vegan Indian fayre. It was an opportunity to learn more about our relationship with food and to better understand the motivation of the speakers behind their subject matter.

After much conversation and sharing, the comfy sofas beckoned and we were invited to an open fireside chat. It was time to reflect on the last couple of hours. As I sat there listening to others’ reflections, it gave me time to reflect on my own experience so far that evening: complete turnaround of my pre-conceived view of how the evening would evolve. I found myself laughing inwardly at how wrong I was and yet how joyful the evening had been. What really struck me was not only the passion and enthusiasm in the room for the subject matter, but the way in which vegans, vegetarians and omnivores alike were able to voice their thoughts in a wonderfully non-judgmental way.

My take home message and “call to action” ☺ was to leave my pre-conceived ideas at the door, allow things to unfold in a non-judgmental way and to experience the joy of being able to relax in the moment!

I guess that’s Non Violent Communication in its purest form and I am exceedingly grateful that I had the opportunity that evening to witness it. I loved the philosophy behind the Embercombe project and look forward to participating in future events.

Learn more about Embercombe at

For further insight into NVC, check out Marshall Rosenberg’s book – “Nonviolent Communication – A Language of Life”.

And for more about Shammi Nanda and his work, visit his website and blog at

With love and wellbeing wishes,