a peaceful sunday

I spent the better part of my morning at church, digging out weeds, composting and cleaning up. I asked my self, how does manual labor interweave with spirituality, where do the two stand side by side, or cross paths?

For some reason Diego Rivera’s murals came to mind, as I began to see myself as a proletarian working hard in the fields. There is something deeply profound about how suffering and spirituality interweave, one brings the other closer. Suffering seems to serves as tool to ground us–into the dirt. Then we remember that some how this dirt is a part of us, and we of it.

I ask myself, are we designed with a fail safe switch to ground us back to the dirt, to remind us of both of mortality and interdependence. The symbolism of dirt, ground, roots, birth, growing and falling. It reminds us that we will return to the soil again, to moisturize and fertilize life. We live to cycle and recycle life–we compost back into each other–wasting nothings, using all.

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how personal growth is failing us

I am extremely stimulated when I see images, banners and statements like the one posted to the left. I’m deeply angry and hurt that people believe that all we need is personal growth and liberation to make the world a better place. I want a shared understanding  that the world needs much more. We need to look at the systemic issues that plague our society.

Below it a comment I shared with a friend:

This is a common theme I hear in the Nonviolent Communication network, if I change myself the world will be a better place. And this is perhaps partly accurate, and yet it’s only one step and definitely not the last. The following steps include looking at the conditions of oppression that govern us. This goes beyond personal growth, and self liberation. This is an invitation to explore and look at the core of social issues that are at the heart of psychological and interpersonal issues. This is the heart of social change, to identify the social and systemic issues, and work towards resolving them–not perpetuating this idea of personal enlightenment as the cure to a peaceful and abundant world.

I’m not interested in becoming an enlightened happy slave, while people in other countries (and in our own) suffer enormously because of the umbrella of privilege I (we) live under. I want to work towards identifying, naming and changing these issues. I believe that addressing these issues will change the conditions in which people live under, and changes the people as well.

Comments Please?

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slow down, be vulnerable and listen carefully

Just recently, I returned from Guatemala were I was part of a team of trainers that lead a five day intensive residential retreat. The participants consisted of health workers that provide education and food supplements to indigenous communities that suffer from malnutrition and high infant mortality. The goal of our training is to enhance the interpersonal and conflict resolution skills of the health workers in hopes that this will enhance there effectiveness.

This was part three of a three week series of retreats. Every time I left Guatemala I felt a deep sense of transformation. On the first trip, I came home faced with my own privilege. I’m an light skin American, born with ample opportunity in a highly nourishing and caring society. I was so moved by this realization that I ended my sixteen year strike with education and enrolled in Western Institute for social Research (WISR). I realized that I had nothing to complain about, and that there was no concrete reasons for me not to further my education.

On the second trip, I began to explore the social inequalities of people with in that region. I spent a great deal of time talking with Maria, a good friend and fellow trainer. She told me about the great injustices that took place amongst the wealthy and extreme poor. Again, I began to see the world differently, and took a deep look at myself. I began asking myself questions like, how am I participating in these injustices, both directly and indirectly? What can I do to make a difference? After much reflection, I decide that I wanted to spend the rest of my life working towards naming, advocating and helping to resolve these injustices. I walked away with a deep passion and sense of personal responsibility towards social justice.

On the last training I came back with deep sense grounding and self connectedness. I had found a deep sense of peace and understand that I had not felt in a long time. When I came home, I sat on the porch with my wife and watched my son play in the front yard. In that moment my world felt whole and complete. I felt a deep sense of gratitude for all the nuances in life, and every moment became a celebration. I knew that without conscious effort I would fall back into the American dream. Caught up in the latest mass media drama or focusing on latest gazingus pins―forgetting what was truly important. Time was running out, and I felt myself slipping back into the everyday hustle of life.

This morning during my daily sit, I felt my mind bouncing around as images flowed through my awareness nonstop, it was a struggle to bring my attention back to scanning my body. In the midst of a struggling meditation it all hit me, I need to slowdown, be vulnerable and listen carefully.

I have the power to slowdown and yet I don’t. I’m too conditioned by the social pressure to get things done, keep going and be successful. It seems like I’m always running, and yet in my stillness I can see this is just a facade. When I finally stop and begin to slowdown, I notice that I am not missing anything or at least anything important. In fact it’s more likely that I miss important things when I move at a fast pace. So now my daily mantra is to slowdown and take my time.

Being vulnerable is skill that has taken me a long time to understand, and even more time to integrate. It means feeling hurt when tragedy happens, rather than lashing out and blaming others. It means working towards justice, even when it feels hopeless, and feeling the despair when nothing changes. It means being ritualistic about life, and honoring transformation and transition. It means being real, not afraid to hurt, and not specious or hesitant about happiness. It’s about being fully human.

Listening carefully means learning how to be patient with my impulses, and focusing in on the people around me. It also means watching carefully when someone says yes, when they really mean no. It means slowing down to check-in, giving space and time for responses. Then allowing the responses to change me, penetrate me as I witness someone else’s experience. And most impotently having the confidence and trust, that I will have a turn to talk and express whats alive in me, but not attached that it will happen today.

Fuck, this is so hard to do.. and yet this is who I want to be.

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a place for principles of nonviolence

When we empathize with the story, it brings relief… when we empathize with the need, it bring healing… when we integrate principles in our empathy, it brings transformation. -Miki Kashtan

After eight years of practicing Nonviolent Communication, I have witness so much healing and transformation. I have seen this take place intrapersonally, in relationships between couples, friends and coworkers. I have even seen communities in conflict transform into mutually supportive communities. I would say that the primary ingredient in all of these situations is empathy, peoples ability to listen and acknowledge each others perspective.

Although, there has been situation where this hasn’t been one hundred percent true. I have spent countless hours listening to people and notice them walk away with a sense of relief and yet continue to hold on to some resentment. This leads me to believe that empathy isn’t necessarily enough, for true transformation to take place one must reframe their experience. They must walk away with a different understanding, perhaps a deeper understanding of their experience. Empathy sometimes offers this sense of depth but not always. In order for one to experience transformation  they must transcended blame into responsibility, attachment to outcomes to non-attachment and violent programing into nonviolence. I believe this is where having a firm grounding in nonviolent principles really makes a difference.

For example, if you take Martin Luther Kings principle that “Non-violence recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil people.” He implies that in order for someone to hurt another, they too must have been hurt. This principles invites us to a new paradigm shift from dualism and punishment to compassion and understanding.

When I lead groups in Nonviolent Communication and nonviolence, I make two promises. If you embrace these principles you will suffer less and experience more freedom. You will suffer less because you will learn to experience conflict differently. Rather than avoid conflict, you will embrace it as an avenue for growth and personal liberation. This way we embrace our diversity, and see our social, cultural and habitual programing as something to support each other in liberating, rather than to shame and guilt each other for our behavior.

You will experience more freedom, as you begin to see opportunity in the world that goes beyond our domination culture. My hope is that you will help in creating new system that honor human needs, rather than dominate structures designed to control us. Nonviolence invites us into compassion, it offers a new lens to see through. This is the ultimate gift and power of nonviolence.

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For additional material on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Principles of Non-violence, read “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence” in Dr. King’s Stride Toward Freedom, Harper & Row. 1958

Principle One: Non-violence is a way of life for courageous people.

  • It is active non-violent resistance to evil. It is aggressive spiritually, mentally and emotionally. It is always persuading the opponent of righteousness of your cause.

Principle Two: Non-violence seeks to win friendship and understanding.

  • The end result of nonviolence is redemption and reconciliation.
  • The purpose of nonviolence is the creation of the Beloved Community.

Principle Three: Non-violence seeks to defeat injustice, not people.

  • Non-violence recognizes that evildoers are also victims, and not evil people.
  • The non-violent resister seeks to defeat evil, not people.

Principle Four: Non-violence holds that suffering educates and reforms.

  • Non-violence accepts suffering without retaliation. Non-violence accepts violence if necessary, but will never inflict it.
  • Non-violence willingly accepts the consequences of its acts.
  • Unearned suffering is redemptive and has tremendous educational and transforming possibilities.
  • Suffering has the power to convert the enemy when reason fails.

Principle Five: Non-violence chooses love instead of hate.

  • Non-violence resists violence of the spirit as well as the body.
  • Non-violent love is spontaneous, unmotivated, unselfish and creative.
  • Non-violent love gives willingly, knowing that the return might be hostility.
  • Non-violent love is active, not passive.
  • Non-violent love is unending in its ability to forgive in order to restore community.
  • Non-violent love does not sink to the level of the hater.
  • Love for the enemy is how we demonstrate love for ourselves.
  • Love restores community and resists injustice.
  • Non-violence recognizes the fact that all life is interrelated.

Principle Six: Non-violence believes that the universe is on the side of justice.

  • The non-violent resister has deep faith that justice will eventually win.
  • Non-violence believes that God is a God of justice.
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the elephant perspective

“A number of blind men came to an elephant. Somebody told them that it was an elephant. The blind men asked, ‘What is the elephant like?’ and they began to touch its body. One of them said: ‘It is like a pillar.’ This blind man had only touched its leg. Another man said, ‘The elephant is like a husking basket.’ This person had only touched its ears. Similarly, he who touched its trunk or its belly talked of it differently. In the same way, he who has seen the Lord in a particular way limits the Lord to that alone and thinks that He is nothing else.”

-Ramekrishna

As I watch all feeds pile in from my facebook account, I can see the arguments posted regarding the Ohio University STARS Campaign (http://www.ohio.edu/orgs/stars/Home.html). Ironically enough both side of the campaign sounded similar, “fuck yah they are right on..” or “fuck no, this is a bunch of politically correct bullshit.” What I found most interesting is that everyone that posted seem to fall into the duelist notion that they had to either agree with it, or disagree. Where did this notion who’s right and who’s wrong come from? This notion alone, seems to create much of the self inflicting suffering on ourselves and our global community.

I propose another outlook, a non dualistic all inclusive side. And here it goes…

Yes, culture sensitivity is important, because it’s offensive and hurtful.

and

Yes, it’s just a costume and adding humor to sensitive situations can help defuses them.

Both of these statements are not in contradiction, even though they may seem like opposing arguments. We live on a planet with now 7 billion people that have many different perception and experiences. As the world shirks through cyberspace, we are naturally being pushed into an empathetic acceptance of each other. And being invited to come back to look at the bigger picture.

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wisr: where learning is realized and nourished

I had an incredibly heart wrenching week that nearly pushed me over the edge. In some ways I went over the edge by diving deep into some past emotional bruising. I’m fortunate enough to be part of  a learning community that supported me in getting re-grounded.

Two examples from this weekend:

11/12/2011 Saturday MFT Seminar with Carole Morton: 
I was able to share some of the struggles I was going through this week, with in the context of our discussion topic.  There I found solidarity, connection and support with the MFT students. I love the idea of mental health being learned and actualized in an experiential format.

11/13/2011 Sunday NVC Academy Course with Miki Kashtan:  
I am taking a six week course in teaching Nonviolent Communication(NVC) with Miki Kashtan, a veteran Certified Trainer for the Center for Nonviolent Communication. In todays course I was invited to work through struggles I was having that would prevent me from being present to my students. This gave me an additional opportunity to look deeper at what was bothering me all week and again walk away with a deeper sense of learning and healing.

Both of these courses are part of my academic portfolio at WISR.

This is what makes WISR truly unique. I have the freedom to create an ideal learning environment, where learning is nourished and realized… and i go back to work on Monday ready to nourish and contribute to the world.

This is why i love WISR.

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my first wisr conference

This was truly an amazing weekend! I never felt so deeply connected with a group of people in such short time. I just realized that I can remember everyones name and face. I also enjoyed the balance of heartfelt connections and intellectual stimulus… it was the best of both worlds.

I loved hearing about all the projects and peoples contributions to making our planet a little more humane. WISR is definitely a school in action and a great example of alternative education. My hope is that one day we won’t be regarded as alternative but primary. Where education is realized through experience and inquire rather than task and requirement. I walked away from this weekend feeling proud of being a WISR student… William

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social change, critical awareness and nonviolent communication

About two or three years ago I was the information technology coordinator for Center for Nonviolent Communication. I had the great privilege to sit in on many board meetings with one of my hero’s, Dr. Marshall Rosenberg. I was able to hear his insights and get a close look at the man. Looking back now, the biggest admiration I have of him was hearing his desire to see Nonviolent Communication taken beyond the realm of personal and interpersonal development. It took me many years to understand this message and see how it fits into the big picture. I often wonder if what Dr. Rosenberg was really desiring was for individuals practicing and teaching Nonviolent Communication to have a deep knowledge and commitment to critical awareness.

I define critical consciousness/awareness as a practice of being aware of the amount of suffering, injustice and oppression being inflicted on our world. I see Nonviolent Communication as a mental and emotional frame work that allows us to put into practice the skills that will create connections and relationships that can have a positive impact on these injustices; and there for reducing the amount of suffering and the oppressive behaviors instilled in us and in systems designed to govern us. I imagine that someone committed to critical awareness sees opportunities around him and acts as an agent of change. Rather than viewing social change as a task at hand, embraces it as a way of life.

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