Shamelessly Alive: A Process Group for Personal Growth, Healing, & Loving

I am delighted to announce the birth of a new kind of NVC group. After several years of offering Nonviolent Communication (NVC) practice groups both in the San Francisco Bay Area and New Mexico, I've finally honed in on the pieces that appear to serve the most profound healing and transformation among participants, and what most brings me to life as facilitator... and put it all together in a magical new mishmash that has my heart on the very edge of its seat, just waiting to be given.

The result?

Shamelessly Alive: A Process and Support Group for Personal Growth, Healing, and Loving

I'll be offering my first process and support group in just a couple o' weeks here in the Bay Area. If this sounds like your spirit's cup of kombucha, don't wait to hit me up. Your shameless aliveness awaits you.


<3 <3 <3


Many of us are limited in life by a sense of shame, isolation, and a belief that “our needs don’t matter” in relationship. Speaking our experience within a safe, supportive community can be tremendously healing, allowing us to sense the fundamental innocence and beauty of our needs, as well as to redirect habits of self-sabotage into the practice of empowered communication, by which we are free to live more choiceful, vibrant, and empowered lives.


In this 8-week series drawing upon tools from both counseling and Nonviolent Communication (NVC), we will learn to heal the places where we have shamed ourselves and our voices into the closet, unearth the words to express what’s going on for us beneath the surface, hone our capacity for both honest and compassionate truth-telling in all of our relationships, and ultimately, re-wire ourselves for greater self-love and acceptance.


The first few sessions of our series will revolve around the cultivation of trust in the group, the dropping of barriers, and claiming permission to show up as we are in the moment. Whether we are arriving at the group heartbroken, scared, angry, or at peace, our focus is on cultivating self-awareness and self-compassion first and foremost, and from there, strengthening our capacity to communicate openly and honestly with others about our experience.

Where there is trust and a feeling of belonging in our circle, miracles can occur. We can learn to break through old barriers to intimacy and connection. We can heal old beliefs and habits that have kept us limited and without choice in various aspects of our lives. We can deepen our sense of self-trust, becoming more empowered to speak what is real, and in ways that contribute to connection, rather than rupture it.

Our group will primarily be guided by what is “alive” for the members, with teachings from Nonviolent Communication (NVC) interspersed throughout. You are welcome to bring up challenges from your personal life – whether in work, intimate relationship, or family – and to ask for support for healing, finding clarity about life choices, and navigating relationship challenges with both honesty and compassion.

You are also encouraged to speak to your experience of relationship within our group itself, giving us the opportunity to learn from each other in real-time. When challenging relationship dynamics that regularly occur in our personal lives appear in the group, we have the blessing of an opportunity to slow down, inquire into what’s really going on, and hold ourselves with compassion without making anyone wrong.

Through this process, we learn to become more conscious in moments of conflict and disconnect, aware of our limiting thought-patterns, able to identify and appreciate the feelings and underlying needs that are activated in us, and able to reclaim a fundamental sense of mattering, being valued, or at the very least, being “okay.” From this place of greater self-acceptance and compassion, we can communicate in ways that hold both ourselves and one another with care.


Monday evenings, 7-9pm
June 2 – July 28 (skipping the week of July 7)

Berkeley or Oakland. We need a host! If you have a comfortable home or work space that offers privacy, can fit eight people, and has available street parking, let me hear from you! Hosts participate for free.

$160 - $320, sliding scale.

*Limited Space*

This group will be limited to 7 people, to create a container that supports a high level of trust and intimacy, while allowing adequate time to focus on each person’s needs and requests over the duration of the series.


No prior experience with NVC is required. That said, I strongly suggest that participants read Marshall Rosenberg’s book, “Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life,” before the second meeting of our group. This book is available at your library, on Amazon, and by audio CD.

Otherwise, bring your body, your spirit, and open mind, and a willingness to speak and listen from your heart.


“I wanted to let you know how much I value your ability to be with me through life’s challenges, light up with me through life’s celebrations, and how you support me in living and loving fully…. Being with others in empathy is important to me, and I feel gratitude for your expertise in this area, your skill as a leader, and that your presence in my life meets so many needs.” – Gia P.

“Marina brings her whole loving, vulnerable self to create a loving healing space where each of us can explore our feelings and needs and learn new ways of moving from disconnection to connection. As a result of participating in Marina’s group, I am daily gaining a deeper understanding of myself, learning to love myself along with new ways to connect deeply with those around me.” - Celia Davis, Non-Profit Deputy Director

“Marina is the genuine article: authentic, vulnerable, compassionate and wise. She holds a solid space for others to move boldly forward and open their hearts to themselves. I adore her dedication to the simple idea that we are each precious beyond measure. Her work has opened my heart and allowed several miracles to happen in my life.” - Colleen Thomas, Writer, Voice & Multi-Media Artist

“Marina has helped me give voice to the wounded and shamed pieces of me through empathy and play, allowing me to be so aware of my own destructive self-talk. This woman has absolutely empowered me and inspires me to be the most open-hearted, uninhibited, and loving version of me. I hold so much gratitude for the gifts and tools she has brought into my life.” – Melanie Alejandra

“I’ve been really loving our practicing together and learning so much on a deep cellular level. I see real change in sight. You are an extraordinarily effective teacher and I continue learning from your gentle instruction and brave role modeling. I am sensing a deepening within our growing community of non-violently communicating women and I look forward to returning to practice and continuing to build relationships within this community.” – Rosemary, Sustainable Landscaper at Wild Rose Gardens

“I loved the vulnerability, the sense of trust and being seen, as well as the humor and playfulness of this group — it was so much fun!!” - Joni Loftin, Self-Love & Empowerment Coach at


Marina Smerling is a counselor who serves families, couples, and individuals in deepening into radical self-compassion and speaking our truth with heart. A former attorney, she is co-founder of WiseHeart Lawyering, coaching attorneys in the fine art of empathic, collaborative communication. Her work draws upon nearly a decade of training in Nonviolent Communication (NVC), counseling, and a wild love of honest self-expression.


I like to have a brief conversation with each member beforehand to make sure this group feels like an awesome fit to both of us.

Please email me at [masked] and include your phone number, or call 1-855-EMPATHY.

Let's talk!

I look forward to diving into this wild and woolly adventure with you, and unleashing a shameless heart or two in the process.

More info at

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  • Judith G.

    Sorry I meant near 35th Ave. If you are interested email me at [masked]

    1 · May 23, 2014

  • Judith G.

    Marina, I have a space in a cottage that is behind my house. There is a space to make coffee/tea and a bathroom. I wonder if you would consider holding the group at my house. I live east of highway 580 near 25th Ave.
    Affectionately, Judith Gottlieb

    1 · May 23, 2014

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