By Miki Kashtan
Many of us who practice nonviolence carry a vision of a world that works for all, where everyone’s needs matter and people and the planet are cared for. None of us know what will or could bring about our vision. Will it be a miracle of a single leader transforming the cultural assumptions and practices? Will it be a world collapse which will create a void and an opportunity to restructure society? Will it be a critical mass of people who inhabit different forms of human relationship? Will it be a nonviolent revolution? Will it be alternative structures that gradually attract more and more resources and people to them? Or will it be something else none of us can imagine?
Is “Being the Change” Enough?
Not knowing, how can we predict what actions that we engage in could potentially lead to social change? Here’s how one reader has expressed this challenge: “I don’t have the clarity I would like about your distinction between personal growth and social change work. Particularly within the NVC framework, where we intend to create change without coercion. We can model the values we want to see; we can invite, request, even try to persuade or instruct when the occasion seems appropriate, but we’re not forcing change on anyone. And so a big part of the force for social change that I am imagining comes from being the change that you want to see in the world, which to me sounds like personal development.”
Not knowing what leads to change, I am holding great humility regarding what I am about to say. I really don’t know…
Wanting Fully Without Attachment
Miki Kashtan (excerpt): “…Without the tools to keep our hearts open, many of us do, indeed, shut down and tune out the plight of the children so that we can even manage to continue with our own personal lives.
If, however, we remain open to the possibility that no solution will arise and at the same time continue to bring our heart and attention and action to working toward a solution, our work takes on an entirely different flavor. We work toward our dreams, we embrace the vision and our needs in full, and we remain open in the face of what is happening. In doing so, whether or not we have external success (and so far as I know, none of us knows how to move the world from here to where we want it to be), our work itself becomes a modeling of what the world could… (continues here)
Prior “street giraffes” blog posts, specifically referencing the climate crisis, can be found here:
I also intend to blog more deliberately about politics and our impending ecological breakdown here:
“Attention is the rarest and purest form of generosity.”
“The news should be a spiritual opportunity because we are confronted with images of suffering from all over the world like no other generation.”
Excerpt: “…But we’ve been here before, according to the late psychologist Marshall Rosenberg. As a communications coach and mediator for civil rights and student activists during the US civil rights era, Rosenberg developed a practical strategy for peaceful conflict resolution called non-violent communication. By focusing on language and process, the theory goes, injured parties can shift the tone of their communication and spur collaboration…” (continues)
(&/or short link: https://t.co/0opDyVTs54)
Follow Pushkin Square climate striker via @MakichyanA
Russian citizen/ice-skater Evgenia Medvedeva during European Championship, January 2017
Additional NVC & Politics Resources
Host Timothy Regan takes us into baseball practice to help us strengthen our catcher’s mitt to respond to intensity from other people around the topic of Climate and Extinction Emergency.
We detail some powerful choices that we all have in responding to whatever people express: anger, shame, denial, and more.
Kristin Masters joins us with her warm, authentic guidance to help us practice. She is also a Certified Trainer of Nonviolent Communication, a leader of “The Work That Reconnects” by local elder Joanna Macy, and a powerful force against oppression of all kinds.
For registration information, please click here
Why These Calls?
These calls are an opportunity for anyone to come engage with others who are, also, grappling with the overwhelming information and grim prospects that humanity is currently facing, most specifically with climate change, as well as a host of other severe crises…
Alternative “NVC & Politics” views:
By Miki Kashtan
Beyond Personal Growth
On the personal level, the practice of NVC supports the inner work necessary to maintain a stance of nonviolence even in difficult circumstances. However, personal growth, “being the change,” is only one aspect of the work. How do we work towards creating change at the structural level? However we conceive of leverage points for structural change, we would need to organize and act with others to create shifts. For that, we need concrete practices to bring our consciousness and practice of nonviolence to go beyond the personal, inner work. Their absence results in at least three interrelated phenomena:
- Organizations made up of people with a high degree of personal capacity are nonetheless mired in conflict, mistrust, and inefficiency.
- People with an understanding of and a commitment to interdependence are nonetheless operating as collections of individuals instead of a community of mutual support and effective feedback loops.
- Individuals committed to a vision of care, inclusion, and distributed power form and run organizations based on command and control practices, and others are unable to stand up to their leaders with love and clarity.
In my next post I address how the practice of NVC can address all of the above phenomena as well as offer a perspective that allows for envisioning, and eventually designing, social systems based on attention to human needs, care for nature, stewardship of resources, and respect for the interconnected web of all life on this one planet we all share.
Blog post, in its entirety, can be found here.
Excerpt from Miki Kashtan’s “Taking on the World”
“The path of vulnerability includes understanding what generates so much fear about stepping into more vulnerability in our lives: learning to sit with the discomfort to create more self-connection; finding ways of redefining vulnerability as strength; discovering an inner sense of safety; and securing support in inhabiting more authenticity. More than anything, though, the path of vulnerability is about choice: How can we muster inner strength to understand, face, and transform our fears so we can have the aliveness and authenticity that come from the willingness to share our truth?” ~ Miki Kashtan of thefearlessheart.org
Personal Practice: Self-Connection/Fear
A. Fear results from thoughts about the past or the future.
B. We can transform our relationship to fear by shifting from focusing on a future over which we have no control or a past we can no longer change to being with our needs in the present.
1. Please be ready with a situation in which you have experienced fear. Describe the situation or the inner experience using pure observation language, without any interpretations or ideas.
2. Write down your thoughts you have about this situation.
3. For each of the thoughts you identified in the previous step, identify a need that is giving rise to the thought.
4. Shift your attention back and forth between the observation, a thought, and a need you have connected with. When you focus your attention in each area, bring all of your attention to that aspect. Notice what happens to your emotions as you shift your focus. When do you experience more or less fear? When do you experience other emotions.
5. Bring your attention back to the situation in which you felt fear. How are you feeling now? If there is still significant fear, check to see if there are any other thoughts you haven’t worked with.
6. If you have gone back more than once, ask yourself what needs of yours are leading you to choose to respond with fear. Another way of thinking about it: what is the significance of this fear? To what essential needs of yours is the fear designed to bring into awareness?
7. As you reflect on all the needs you have uncovered, are you able to bring compassion and tenderness towards yourself? If not, what are the obstacles? Can you connect with the needs that may be keeping you from softening your heart towards your fear and your choices.
Miki Kashtan/Department of Peace Teleconference Training Call Notes:
A caller described a scenario is which he quarreled with a co-worker over a political issue. The caller was upset to suddenly find his co-worker passionately disagreeing with him. Later, when the co-worker apologized, he didn’t seem to know how to respond.
How to hear an opposing political position with compassion:
The first thing we’re likely to do is to depersonalize the other person, and make them a stand-in for a group.
‘He’s one of those ‘liberals’.”
‘She’s one of those ‘hawks.”
The first thing is to forget about all the other people that agree with that person, and think of this person as a full and rich person, 3-dimensional, just like me. (Have compassion.) Remember, another person may have a different opinion from me, but their core values may be no different from the core values that live in me.
Ask yourself, “Can I abstract the core value that they are expressing?” “What is their core value?” (A core human feeling and need.)
Take a breath. You are moving from the world of separation, to the world of connection.
As an exercise right now, think of the last political discussion in which you felt some discomfort. Notice the difference it makes in your emotions, to see the needs that you may have in common with your communications partner.
Go back and forth between these two thoughts.
§ when you think of them as a stand-in for what is wrong in the world, and
§ when you think of them as having the same value as you.
This opens your heart.
Feeling the connection with your conversational partner:
Pause before seeking to be heard, and really try to connect with what the other person is saying. After they feel heard, then you may choose to hear your truth.
§ Hearing the other person,
§ From what you want to say.
Because If I…
§ tell you that I feel connected to you because of our common feeling and need,
§ then, without any pause, tell you what I see as different from your view,
it tends to wipe out the connection.
Take a breath at the end of the connection. Check if you really got it. Mirror not only the thought they said, but mirror their emotional state.
Do not bring any “buts” into the conversation this soon.
Now, after they say, “Yeah, you get me,” then ask,
Would you be willing to hear what this topic bring up for me?”
(They may not be willing to hear you.)
Speaking what is true for you:
If they are willing to hear you,
Make an “I statement”. Instead of saying what should happen in the political arena, take ownership, and say “what I want to see”. When we say what should happen, we are making it about being right and wrong.
When you say your truth, chunk it up into small bits. Check out each chunk for the other person’s understanding and reaction. This way, they won’t be as likely to feel overwhelmed with information they want to respond to.
If someone attacks you, judges you, or swears at you:
A caller related their sadness when they met with their Congressman, who said, “Your legislation has no chance in hell of passing.” The caller was shocked and left feeling upset, judgmental and resentfuIf this happens, you could say:
1) “I’m a bit shocked.
2) “I’m wondering if you might give me a moment to recover.”
Then, work as fast as you can within yourself to release the hold that this feeling of shock has on you:
1. How do you feel? Sad? Frustrated?
2. What do you imagine is causing the other person to express what they are saying (what human need of theirs is motivating them to say what they are saying). What matters to them? What is the underlying message that they want you to hear? What is motivating them to say something that you are interpreting it as an attack?
Then you might be able to ask of them:
“Are you feeling like it would be too difficult to sponsor this legislation, because you have a need to sponsor legislation that has a good shot at passing?” or “Are you saying, you want me to be realistic about whether or not this legislation could actually pass?”
Our goal in any given lobbying conversation:
If you go into a conversation with your congressman thinking you are going to change them, you may have a difficult conversation, and may end up feeling very disappointed.
§ connect, from a vantage of mutual understanding.
§ consider: what can I learn from this? OK, so you don’t think this is a good idea? Tell me why.
Keep the focus on what they are feeling and needing. If you can do this for a while, the opportunity to tell them your opinions (without creating more upset) may come up later because they felt that their feelings and needs have been heard by you.
We might have other goals as well, that could be accomplished from the interaction.
§ Connect: To make a human connect with the person we are lobbying
§ Model Peace: To experience a small bit of world peace during the conversation, thus modeling the peace we are seeking to realize globally
§ Expand our worldview: To learn from the person. Our perspective is parochial and limited if we only are capable of preaching to the choir of fellow believers in the peace movement.
§ Learn to respond to objections: Perhaps we can learn from Congress members how the legislation might generate objections in Congress. This way, we can start to learn to answer those objections.
“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” ~Simone Weil
NYT: In a 1936 essay, originally titled “Let Us Not Start Another Trojan War” but better known by the title of its English translation, “The Power of Words,” Weil drew a relationship between the increasing abstraction of words and the pretexts used for war. “In every sphere, we seem to have lost the very elements of intelligence: the ideas of limit, measure, degree, proportion, relation, comparison, contingency, interdependence, interrelation of means and ends,” she wrote. “Our political universe is peopled exclusively by myths and monsters; all it contains is absolutes and abstract entities.” (via NYT’s The Stone)