Book Review: Completely Connected

Published on: January 25, 2016

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Completely Connected: Uniting Our Empathy and Insight for Extraordinary Results
By Rev Rita Marie Johnson, Reviewed by Rev Jane Simmons

Drawing from scientific research as well as experiential knowledge and anecdotal stories, Unity minister Rita Marie Johnson has written an excellent book documenting the surprising impact and extraordinary results of linking the power of empathy and insight in resolving conflicts and interpersonal difficulties.

The powerful Connection Practice, formerly known as BePeace, has been pioneered by Rev Johnson and consists of combining the simple skills of identifying and honoring feelings and needs, with creating heart coherence in order to bring forth intuitive insight. Although simple, these practices are nevertheless powerful when put into use. As eloquently shared on the back cover, “Stunning in its simplicity, revolutionary in its impact, Completely Connected is the profound made practical.”

The author is masterful in sharing personal stories of people—children and adults—with a variety of issues from many different cultures and walks of life who were able to make major shifts in their thinking, behaviors and outcomes after engaging the practice.

Stories range from the poignant moment when a young boy with bullying behavior tearfully discovers a need for belonging behind his violent actions, to a CEO’s ability to keep her job, stay connected with and regain support from an angry board of directors previously calling for her resignation. The soulful renditions of people’s experiences with the Connection Practice are heartwarming, inspiring and surprising. As one participant describes the impact—not a cure-all but a cure-a-lot.

One of the secrets to this book’s effectiveness is Rev Johnson’s ability as a masterful storyteller coupled with a discerning scientific bent. This mix of “head and heart” teaching style is very effective and offers something for everyone.

The Connection Practice in dealing with a challenge consists of:

  1. Describing the challenge
  2. Naming and feeling the feelings
  3. Naming and connecting with the unmet needs
  4. Guessing the feelings of others involved in the situation
  5. Guessing the unmet needs of others involved
  6. Accessing heart coherence by:
    • – Focusing attention on the area around the heart
      – Breathing deeply but normally as if the breath is coming in and out of the heart area
      – Activating a positive feeling 
  7. Asking yourself what you need to know and listening for an insight
  8. Deciding how you will act on that insight

Rev Johnson studied the science behind why this process works. In her research, she discovered that naming the feelings soothes and settles the amygdala (the “smoke alarm”) of the brain, effectively reducing the reactionary response. In addition, naming needs leads to empathy, as the person has a context for understanding one’s own and another’s needs. Finally heart-brain coherence leads to insight as the deeper intuitive intelligence of the heart is activated. This process has been tested with over 40,000 students in Costa Rican schools and is spreading into the arenas of businesses, nonprofits, universities and faith-based communities.

Although inspired by Nonviolent Communication and HeartMath, the Connection Practice is not defined as being a combination of the two since its focus is the synergy that is created when empathy is combined with insight. However, to delve deeper into either of these modalities, further training is greatly encouraged.

Giving oneself empathy and compassion is a key component of inner healing and social-emotional learning. This book is an excellent reminder of the powerhouse practice of combining empathy and connection. The key word is practice—it takes some work to move from a typically self-critical or judgmental frame of mind into one of empathy and compassion. The simple practices in this book can be easily replicated and adopted into part of a daily practice.

Peace begins from the inside out, and this book can be a wonderful stepping-stone into making that happen, as it links the inner life with the outer world. I highly recommend this book to learn a simple but powerful process that contributes to “living a joyful, engaged life.”

Jane Simmons
Senior Co-minister at Unity Spiritual Center

Rev Dr Jane Simmons is a senior co-minister at Unity Spiritual Center in Spokane, Wash., along with her husband Gary. Jane served for seven years as the International Teen Ministry Coordinator for Unity Worldwide Ministries.

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