Why we call this Nonviolent Communication – 2

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication

Can you even imagine the complete absence in you of the intention to inflict violence? Last time I wrote of how nonviolence is so much bigger than ‘not violent’. Today I’ll say why I think that matters within NVC.

Seeing NVC as ‘not violent’ often promotes a culture of trying to do something – to be kind, to be compassionate, to avoid violence and so on. When we can’t keep it up from sheer determination and willpower, we judge ourselves. In the trying there’s a tyranny, a litany of ‘shoulds’ that we inflict upon ourselves. Is it even possible or desirable to try in this way? I think not.

Marshall advised instead listening to ourselves with compassion, accepting all of ourselves. Be nonviolent to everything, not just the nice things. If you are angry and grumpy, be angry and grumpy. Welcome the darkness in ourselves and in others; welcome the people and things that challenge us. That is why listening to jackals is so important within NVC. Our judgements are part of life and they tell us what’s important to us. They connect us to a part of ourselves. They help us live according to our values.   

imagine we can live from our values of compassion

In showing a way for us to accept all of ourselves, NVC is accessible for everyone. It isn’t only for those who are nice, kind and compassionate. Nonviolence is a lifelong process of gradually stepping into a different worldview, a transformed state of mind. It’s a willingness to get up each day, recognise that we’ve messed up, and start afresh.

And here we come to a current challenge within NVC, which I will talk about next time: if NVC is for everyone, why does it seem to appeal more to those on the political left? What is getting in the way of including those with more conservative or right wing perspectives? And, more generally, how do we have conversations with people with very different political views? 

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication – 1

Why we call this Nonviolent Communication
‘But I’m not violent,’ people say, assuming NVC is not for them and instead is for those who shout, threaten and fight. So why do we use this term if it creates a barrier? Surely that’s the last thing we’d want to do! It doesn’t help that in English, we tend to hear it as ‘not violent’ as if it involves simply avoiding physical violence. And that is very far from what Marshall intended…so Why do we call this Nonviolent Communication? Marshall Rosenberg was very clear: he wanted to honour the tradition of radical nonviolence and those who espoused it, such as Martin Luther King and Gandhi. ‘Nonviolence’ is a single word with no hyphen, a specific thing. It is a translation of the term ‘ahimsa’, which Gandhi borrowed from writers of ancient Indian texts. These writers wrote of the near God-like state of being in which a person is so connected to their compassionate nature that they cannot even imagine doing harm. They considered their fellow humans too puny to understand this concept, so, instead of creating a new term, they took the word for the deliberate infliction of violence (‘himsa’) and used the prefix ‘a’ to create its opposite. ‘Ahimsa’ – the complete absence of intention to inflict violence.  So, ‘nonviolence’ is a translation of something that is not really the thing itself. It points to something that we don’t have words for… yet. In following the tradition of ahimsa/nonviolence, Marshall aimed to develop a method of communication that allows us to access that state of being where to do harm is unthinkable. He believed that this was our true nature, that what is needed to is to ‘get out of our own way’ by taking responsibility for our own feelings and needs. Buddhists might call this ‘the Buddha nature’, Christians, ‘the mind of Christ’, others might describe it as ‘being in the flow of life’. Whatever the term, when we are in that state, all our actions contribute to our lives and others’ – we can’t help it.  All of this is so much bigger than ‘not violent’ and I think that’s important for NVC. In the next episode, I’ll say why.

Adventures in Spirituality

tea lights

Similarly to many others bought up in England, I had an upbringing on the edges of The Church of England. As a family, we didn’t attend church and I wasn’t christened. However, schools in England and Wales are asked to hold a daily assembly with a Christian basis and this together with the Brownies was a grounding in the Anglican tradition. My grandfather was a Methodist and his funeral was a moment for me when I understood his deep faith in nature and human beings.

During my twenties and thirties, I joined a Buddhist lay community and enjoyed mediation and rituals. This attendance and daily practice fell away and I stopped enjoying the communication of the Buddhists around me. I found myself deep in Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a moment to moment spiritual practise. Returning to meditation now as I walk in nature or as I pause and check in with my feelings and needs. I have attended Quaker meetings and really enjoyed the regularity the pause, once a week. I could really sense why and how a weekly check in with oneself was beneficial psychologically and spiritual.  Poetry and some music can transport me to touch something larger than myself.

In addition, and incredibly nourishing for me, are the moments of heart connection in an empathic dialogue. Usually in a 1 to 1 session and  also in groups that I facilitate. People become to me ‘as one’ there is no giver or receiver no fixer or healer and no wounded person. Time stands still and I touch something beyond myself.

I’m enjoying reading this blog by Jules Evans, I sense some overlap in our journeys and in fact he is inspiring me to step up and name my spiritual yearnings, leanings and adventures. I agree with him it’s not so easy to do in our culture without being accused of being ‘deep’. Also I want my spiritual life remain mine and I don’t want to impose my beliefs on others. Especially as an NVC trainer.

So I’m dipping my toe into Christianity again. With some nudging from an NVC trainer colleague and a talk she directed me to on reform in the Church of England and  I found Jules’  blog a reference to Rupert Sheldrake’s initiative about where to find Choral Evensong.

This is a totally new idea for me … but I’ve put my postcode into the search and found out where I can go and when. Here is Rupert Sheldrake talking about Choral Evensong, its history and why this website might be useful.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6pXt5Bm7LP8[/embedyt]

I’ve got no idea if it will ‘work’ for me, I’m not even sure what that means. But I do have a thought that re-occurs that something is not in balance within me and I’m wondering if I am neglecting my spiritual life? What are the ways you explore your spiritual needs?

Celebrating Entanglement

couple on upturned tree roots

Listening to a talk given by Bayo Akomolafe earlier this month on overcoming our whiteness I enjoyed his use of the word entanglement and was reminded of the research about trees and their ability to communicate and connect via their roots. The forests show an interconnectedness which shows how much the system relies on support and interspecies support at that.

And what if being entangled with one another is our natural way of being? Boyo talks about a piece of paper… it’s a cloud, it holds the rain and the soil of the tree which made the paper and the people worked and made the paper and the paper came to you. We are entangled with each other and with our planet. This is not a new idea for me. I give thanks for the water as it comes out of my tap- to my ancestors who built this city and the water pipes and the people who keep things working and then marvel that it pours out. I live with gratitude. And Boyo’s talk made me think again… Can I let myself fall into even more entanglements with others… let myself open further to love from my partner, get even more open to love from others? Can I let go and allow the natural entanglement the earth is calling for? Can I feel the trees as they are being cut down? The cry of the earth as pipelines are built? Feel the pain of the child miner or the mother putting her children onto a refugee boat?

My online dictionary has entanglement offered with three definitions, only the definition quantum entanglement* has a positive slant, the other two definitions are negative- caught up, ensnared, difficult, awkward to sort out. And this is where modern psychology seems to have taken us. We shouldn’t be entangled, enmeshed with one another- we should be separate and relationships which are entanglements are ones to get out of. And yet we are entangled. I want to see it and live it and make choices from there. Sure I’ve been in relationships where I was entangled- but I couldn’t see it. That’s what made it messy and unhealthy for me- not the entanglement itself. That I couldn’t see it. So now I work from the starting place that we ARE all entangled- work out how and where and find myself and my needs from that place. Rather than trying to avoid entanglement I want to see it as part of being human. The trees, plants, animals other humans including you, we are all part of a messy whole. I’d like to celebrate this and walk towards it rather than try and avoid it. In THIS place I hope to find deeper connections and a place to live more fully human.

Another piece of research let me to this article- exploring the entanglements we have with things– that’s maybe a post for another day…

“We often manage to live relatively unaware of the full complexity of what and who provides for us, but we are nevertheless deeply entangled in the vitality of things and the assemblages of their relations “- Ian Hodder

*Quantum Entanglement  is beyond my little brain today…but it sounds like the secret of the universe- particles spatially apart act in correlation… seems like teleportation is possible… well that’s what I learned.