According to former psychologist Marshall Rosenberg, needs are never in opposition—only our strategies for meeting them are. A number of dharma teachers are finding that Rosenberg’s methods can serve as a support for the Buddhist practice of Right Speech.

It is a midsummer morning and I am meditating with my parents in their living room. At my back my father sits in an armchair, his right shoulder slumped from the stroke that threw him to his knees six months ago. My mother is upright in front of me on her seiza bench, her white hair falling over her shoulders.

I breathe in, making my whole body calm and at peace. The dial of the kitchen timer at my knee turns almost imperceptibly toward zero.

In front of us, sliding doors open onto a deck. Beyond the deck lie the white birches my parents planted thirty years ago and the sloping green Connecticut lawn. My parents are struggling to decide whether to stay here or move into assisted living, and most of my visit home has been spent on the phone with doctors, physical therapists, and lawyers expert in Medicaid and elder law.

Breathing in a long breath, I am aware that I am breathing in a long breath. Breathing out a long breath, I am aware that I am breathing out a long breath. Blessed silence. A fly rock-climbs up the screen door, halts, shifts a front leg, then a back one. My mother suddenly strips off a black flip-flop and lunges forward. Slap! Her flip-flop hits the screen door like a fly swatter. Bzzz bzzz. Slap.

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