Friday, December 24, 2010

From a Jew on Christmas Eve

by Miki Kashtan

At the last Tikkun gathering that I attended back in February one of the speakers talked about how Jews and Christians are united in their discomfort about the fact that Jesus was Jewish. So I laughed with everyone else, and have shared this insight with many others since, and still see that I personally love it that he was Jewish, because I feel a sense of connection with him that is rendered more meaningful this way. Which almost begs the question: how would a Jewish woman born and raised in Israel develop a sense of connection with Jesus?

Loving No Matter What
The year was 1991. I was having a fight with a friend during and after a back-packing trip. We were lying on my bed, facing each other, talking, and trying to get to the bottom of what was going on. We weren’t getting very far, though we were getting friendlier than before. Then my friend expressed an entirely new piece I hadn’t heard before: she was upset with me for not protecting myself at all. It drove her crazy, she said, that all through the trip I continued to reach out to her, extended my love and friendship, and tried to connect. I was distraught, to the core. I started crying, I just couldn’t contain my helplessness. I couldn’t fathom how someone could be upset with me for loving, for reaching out. In my agony I cried out that I didn’t want to learn to protect myself. I knew even then, before discovering Nonviolent Communication, that I didn’t want to learn to protect myself. And right there, in the midst of crying, I suddenly sat up, agitated and excited. I understood, intuitively, from the inside out, from within the despair, what Jesus was trying to do: he was trying to love no matter what. I felt an enormous sense of kinship with him. Not because I was anywhere near where I sensed he got to. That didn’t matter. I was on the same path, and I was not the only one. In that moment, without knowing hardly anything about him, I found peace and inspiration in this way of understanding his life.

The Revolutionary Defiance of Turning the Left Cheek
My second interface with Jesus came years later, when I read Walter Wink’s The Powers That Be. Page by page Jesus was being transformed back into what I believe he was: a revolutionary Jew claiming the power of love to transform the world he lived in, and willing to risk everything for truth. I understood the courageous wisdom provided in the Sermon on the Mount, where turning the other cheek thrusts one’s full dignity on an anonymous oppressor who would aim to demean by a common practice in Roman times: delivering a back-handed slap on the right cheek. If you want to hit me, says the man who turns the left cheek, hit me as an equal. There is no way I can do justice to the depth of analytic wisdom and historical scholarship that Wink calls upon to bring to light the message of full empowerment that had been masked as passivity for centuries.

On the Path of Nonviolence
In 1996, some years before reading The Powers That Be, I embraced the path of vulnerability which I have been on ever since. I didn’t know when I started that unprotecting myself would become a path of nonviolence. I only knew I wanted to reclaim every last bit of my vulnerability, just exactly the way I had it as a child. I started doing it for myself only: I wanted to feel more at home on this planet, more alive, without opposition to what I was experiencing, and with more trust of others and of life.

Little did I know that I was stumbling on a path that would call into question every small way that I responded to my surroundings. I would have been surprised. Now I am not. I am deeply aware how protection was completely woven into the fabric of my being. I have unprotected myself sufficiently to see the pull of protection and with it the contraction that limits the truly nonviolent options. My practice is strong. By day I find heart and inner sustenance enough to soften the contractions, to expose my heart, to find presence, to reach for connection. At night, however, when I fall asleep and my conscious practice is no longer present, the deep structure of protection takes center stage again, and my sleep is disrupted, vigilant, light. I have yet to make full contact with the deepest vulnerability hidden within the protection. I have yet to experience tenderness toward the act of protecting. I have yet to find understanding and peace about choosing to protect in the first place.

If I am to love no matter what, this means loving this fierce unbending protection in me, too. If I am to sink into the fullest of vulnerability, I will find the deepest place of love in me. When I can touch or imagine that love, I feel, again, kinship with Jesus.

In the name of his love untold numbers of people were killed, many of them my people. Not only in the 20th century. The Jews of Europe were outcast, castigated, attacked, and killed in large numbers repeatedly over the two millennia of Christianity. Speaking of love alone is not enough to prevent violence. We need courage in addition, the courage to face consequences, whether physical or emotional, so we can love fearlessly and remain soft and open enough to respond nonviolently to what we don’t like. This is how we can transform the legacy of separation, scarcity, and war we have been given into a future of love, generosity, connectedness, and the possibility of human co-existence with each other and the planet that so lovingly provides for our needs.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Receiving Feedback as Spiritual Practice

by Miki Kashtan

This week I finished teaching a 5-session phone class called Feedback without Criticism. The first 4 sessions were about giving feedback, and last night’s session was about receiving feedback. After last night’s session I have so much compassion for the untold millions who are regularly on the receiving end of both formal and unsolicited feedback which is so hard for them to receive. As a continuation to earlier posts on the topic of feedback, today I want to take a closer look at the role of self-acceptance in receiving feedback, as well as offer a few more tips to those who routinely provide feedback.

Conditional Self-Acceptance
In preparation for the class, I asked participants to read Overcoming Defensiveness, my earlier blog piece about the challenges of receiving feedback, which highlights the role of self-acceptance in being able to receive feedback effectively. With self-acceptance we are stronger, because our own view of ourselves is less dependent on what other people think or perceive about us. So it came as no surprise that people named the experience of someone catching them unprepared to give them critical feedback as being particularly painful. The deeper issue, as we learned together, is that very often our self-acceptance is conditional on being a very certain way. It’s as if we are telling ourselves: “I will accept myself for as long as I am always impeccable in how I do my work, or for as long as I always care about other people and the effect of my actions on the rest of the team members,” or whatever else you can insert there for yourself.

What would it mean to accept ourselves unconditionally, exactly the way we are? Imagine the freedom that can come from complete self-acceptance, without conditions, without having to be any particular way, without the pressure to be perfect. Imagine how much stronger we would become in facing whatever people say when we are not scrambling to hide the truth about ourselves. Working on accepting that which we don’t like in ourselves can reduce and ultimately eliminate the exhausting endless inner war in which so many of us live. With honest self-acceptance we come more fully into our place in the human fabric, alongside everyone else who’s also human, also glorious, also imperfect, also capable of making mistakes. We become less separate, and by extension more able to accept others, too.

How do we get there? By applying the core principle that whatever we do is an attempt to meet common human needs shared by all. Even malicious intent, however painful to acknowledge, results from some basic human need. Malicious intent arises when anyone is so caught in a desperate struggle to meet needs that they simply don’t see or experience any other way to proceed. Maybe it’s an expression of wanting to assert one’s existence in a situation of extreme powerlessness; maybe it’s an attempt to create justice (as violence expert James Gilligan demonstrates in his book on the topic); or maybe it’s an attempt to have one’s own pain understood in full. However unconscious these motivations may be, we can all understand them in others and in ourselves. The practice of self-acceptance is about identifying and connecting with the underlying needs that lead to any of our actions we are unhappy about, both at work and anywhere else. Doing this practice increases our self-acceptance and by extension our ability to make free and conscious choices about how to act.

Tips on Feedback Giving
Although harsh or critical feedback could potentially provide the gift of spiritual practice to the other person, providing feedback can be much more effective if we can provide it in a way that doesn’t require so much inner strength from the other person. I plan on writing a fuller piece about feedback giving in the future. For now, I wanted to share two specific and relevant tips. One is to ask, and mean it, whether our chosen time works for the other person instead of assuming that because we have something to say the other person is ready to hear it. The other is to do enough inner work before sharing feedback with another that we can truly imagine how much effort it would take of the other person to hear us. Then we can choose to express the feedback with complete honesty and yet with full care for the other person.

If you want to learn more about the art of providing feedback, you can still register retroactively to the 5-session Feedback without Criticism course I finished last week. If you want to learn more generally about using Nonviolent Communication in the workplace, you can get an MP3 of a class I taught on the topic a couple of years ago. Looking ahead, you may want to explore the MCR full yearlong program starting this coming May, and the MCR conference in March. If you are curious, you can get answers to all your questions in one of the informational calls coming up starting in January 2011.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Business Not as Usual

by Miki Kashtan

A week ago I wrote about facilitating a simulated City Council Meeting. That same day I participated in a real meeting that was very enjoyable and productive for those of us who were part of it. Sometimes I think that some people don’t even have an idea of how simple and easy it could be to function differently, and I want to offer, perhaps, some way of envisioning. I have a deep faith in the value of vision, especially practical vision.

This meeting took place as part of the Consciousness Transformation Community that I created last February. From the start, this community has been an experiment in doing things differently. I created a list of 17 commitments that together comprise my understanding of what living the consciousness of deep nonviolence means, such as “Assumption of Innocence,” “Openness to the Full Emotional Range,” “Risking My Significance,” “Generosity,” and 13 others. I invited people to join me in living these commitments and forming a community of learning and mutual. We have people in the group from North and South America, Europe, and Israel. I set up structures of support and decided for myself what I was happy to offer within the community. I created a gift economy structure, so that people who join are invited to contribute and are not in any way “required” or even subtly “expected” to contribute, either financially or otherwise. I had a very large vision for what we could create over time, and I was ecstatic to see the initial response.

Although vision comes easy to me, sometimes staying patient during implementation doesn’t. I confess to getting discouraged rather easily at times, which I am sad about because of the toll it takes on others around me. And here, too, as the first few months unfolded and I didn’t see the self-organizing happening, I became overwhelmed and worried that unless I did everything (which I was clear I wouldn’t do), the community just wouldn’t happen. As part of my own path of living these commitments I chose to share, in full, with the community what my experience was. I was deeply moved and amazed by how I was received. This initial reception turned into a structure that is now more aligned with my original vision than the one I initially created. Not only do I love the outcome, I also have been amazed at the process by which it came to be. In addition to my own coming forth, other people stepped forward and empowered themselves to make requests, offer themselves to the community, and express their longings, dreams, and concerns about the initial design. The new structure emerged from our collective engagement with all that was put on the table.

One of the elements of the structure we came up with was the establishment of monthly, open meetings for attending to community business. Anyone who is holding any responsibility for anything in the community (whether offering groups, or doing administrative support, or welcoming new members, or any other function, all of which are voluntary) is welcome to participate. In fact, anyone, even if not holding responsibility, is welcome to participate or submit agenda items. Our intention has been to have these meetings, themselves, be conducted in accordance with the commitments we have all embraced.

Last Sunday’s meeting had a number of agenda items. The one that engaged us for most of our time was the process for accepting new members to the community. I want to describe the unfolding of this discussion without getting into the details of the conversation, which would take many more words than I imagine people would want to read. At one point all but one of us were comfortable with the process as it has been so far. For a moment there seemed to be an impasse, because this person wanted something I was very much non-negotiable about. One of the commitments was primary in guiding our conversation: “Openness to Dialogue”. We engaged fully with attempting to understand the needs behind what this one person wanted. I was in awe at the care, the openness, and the presence. One by one the needs and their related strategies became known, until everything was heard. The result was a deeper understanding on all of our parts which led to a process of accepting new members that all of us liked better than what we have had. Along the way we discovered that one member was challenged at an earlier moment in the conversation and had lost trust, and we turned our attention to her. From this bit of conversation emerged more clarity about our process for deliberation and decision-making.

I am sitting here, writing this, and suddenly feeling almost inept at finding a way to describe how radical and hopeful this one meeting appears to me. I have been advocating that connection and effectiveness can go hand in hand and that full collaboration and inclusion do not necessarily mean loss of efficiency. Here, in this meeting, I experienced it in full.

Granted, we are not producing anything on which anyone’s life depends. And yet experiments like this can pave the way and show what’s possible. I am very hopeful and passionate about offering the building blocks of collaboration to organizations of all sizes that do have products and services on which others rely in a timely manner. Last May I co-led the first Making Collaboration Real (MCR) program, and wrote about it on this blog. The effects of that retreat were so powerful that we decided to make more offerings. We are launching an MCR full yearlong program starting this coming May, and an MCR conference in March. If you are curious, you can get answers to all your questions in one of our informational calls coming up starting in January 2011.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Simulated City Council Meeting

by Miki Kashtan

A couple of weeks ago I had the unusual honor of facilitating a city council meeting. The main item on the agenda was a proposal to build affordable housing right at the center of town. As you can imagine, the topic brought a lot of charge for many of those present, and people were polarized on the issue. At the end of the meeting we had a list of criteria for the proposal to address, and sent it back to the committee to re-work. No one got angry. Many shared they experienced much more hope than at the beginning of the meeting that a solution could be found that would address all or most of the criteria. I was, needless to say, overjoyed.

The only problem, though, was that this was a simulated exercise, not the real meeting with the real players. It took place during an advanced training for trainers in Nonviolent Communication that I led a couple of weeks ago. During a session on group facilitation skills, I wanted to demonstrate group decision-making, and asked for an example from the group. The affordable housing proposal was a real issue for the town where one participant was living. She presented the context for us, and then I asked each person in the group to pick a position on the issue that they could identify with. From then on, although this was simulated, people expressed a lot of passion about their position and it felt real as life.

Here are some of the facilitation guidelines that I used during that “meeting,” and my reasons for using them:
  • Reflect back everything that everyone says. This provides several benefits. First, it allows each person to have an experience of being heard (assuming that the facilitator has listening skills…), which contributes to a sense of inclusion, as well as to peace and calm, very useful resources when facilitating a group. In addition, this provides information for the facilitator about what’s important to different people, which is essential for creating a solution that works for everyone or close to that. Lastly, reflection also slows down the conversation and makes it more mindful.
  • Identify and record the core essence underlying what people say. This begins the process of de-polarizing. For example, one of the participants who was opposed to the proposal raised the issue of loss of property value. What we identified as the essential core of this concern was a wish for security for homeowners. Everyone in the room could line up around wanting security for homeowners, even though some people didn’t resonate with preserving property values. Recording each item also deepens the sense of being heard.
  • Create a shared ownership of the criteria for the proposal. Although this may seem small, I have found that having only one list of what’s important to people in terms of criteria/qualities/needs for the proposal makes a huge difference. If two lists are maintained, the polarity gets reinforced. With one list everyone is invited into a space of shared responsibility for the well-being of all.
  • Consciously invite people to only say what hasn’t been said before. Everyone needs to be heard. Not everyone needs to speak. Once a particular position has been heard in full, there is no need for anyone else to say it again. One of the reasons for recording all the needs. As facilitator, I make a point of asking specifically for only new pieces to add to the puzzle. From a certain moment on, when I already have confidence that the shared ownership is taking place, it no longer matters who has which position, and there isn’t even a need to ask for position. People grasp the concept easily, and can add directly to the list of needs/criteria.
  • Tracking and respectful transitions. To increase everyone’s trust that their voice and presence matter, it’s vitally important to track who has something they haven’t yet said, and also to explicitly acknowledge and get agreement from people before moving to speak with another person. This could look like: “I know you have more to say, and I would love to hear it. At this point I am worried about staying with you because so-and-so hasn’t spoken yet at all and wants to. Are you comfortable with me switching to so-and-so and coming back to you later?” Or, in a different context, “I see that your hand is up. Are you OK waiting another couple of minutes until I finish hearing from so-and-so?”
  • Transcend either/or proposals. Although sometimes the group may not have a say in the matter, whenever possible leave room for taking things back to the drawing board for re-doing a proposal. The more criteria and needs we want to include, the more flexible and creative the solution. Such flexibility usually transcends a yes or no to a fixed proposal.
At the end of the meeting we had the following list of criteria that everyone agreed were important in order to achieve a solution that’s workable:
  • Providing access to affordable housing
  • Ease of traffic (the proposed site would likely affect traffic patterns)
  • Security for homeowners
  • Fiscal soundness
  • Care for endangered species (the proposed site was habitat for some species)
  • Culture of peace in town
  • Creative use of resources
  • Creative reuse of resources
  • Consideration of town's infrastructure
  • Providing people directly affected by decisions a real choice in their future
The woman who brought the issue expressed astonishment and immense hope at what had happened, and was planning to meet with the mayor and propose some ideas to him. The overall feeling in the room at the end was one of elation and curiosity, with an opening to the possibility that this could be the way towns conduct business.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Recommitting in the Face of Grief

by Miki Kashtan

In the last several days I have had what I consider the amazing fortune of tapping into some areas in my life where I carry with me a lot of pain and anguish. I feel so blessed by what happened that I wanted to share it in the hopes that others may find meaning in it, and because I want my full humanity to be known. I imagine that the idea that experiencing grief can be a positive experience may be puzzling to some and possibly inspiring to others.

I am reminded of a line that inspired me many years ago, from R.D. Laing: “There is a great deal of pain in life and perhaps the only pain that can be avoided is the pain that comes from trying to avoid pain.” Although I have long accepted pain as an integral part of life, the organism still habitually resists embracing the experience of pain. Not much. Just enough so that when I succeed in opening my heart up in full to the wrenching experience, whatever it may be, I feel the difference and the relief of being aligned with life again.

For myself, and I know it’s not so for others, the only reliable way to release that last little closing of my heart is to be in the company of others whose love and presence I trust, either globally or at least in the moment. So the first blessing was having had the experience of trusting another’s presence so much and being able to rest in that trust sufficiently to release the last threads of tightness around my grief.

I was most conscious of that gift in the first instance of touching grief. It was about a fundamental way in which I feel alone in the world. I’ve been blessed with much that I want to offer, and I am receiving more and more encouragement from others that the gifts are wanted. I have many people who are passionate about supporting me and I know I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the ongoing flow of support I receive. At the same time, at the very core level, I lack a sense of anchor in the world, support in the day-to-day of my life, the kind of support that people share with each other when they are in a primary relationship or in a tight-knit community. When this first came up, the person I was with attempted to offer me suggestions for what I could do to structure life in a way that would result in more support for me. I engaged with that conversation without touching the grief that was there. I didn’t experience the suggestions as full presence with me. When I remarked on this to my friend, and when the energy shifted and I experienced her full presence, I was able to relax and in that trust found my way to the grief.

The second blessing was the gift of truth and acceptance. In each of these encounters I came to more clarity about something in my life that I don’t see a way of changing for the moment. In opening to the pain I am opening to acceptance. It’s as if the resistance to the pain comes from the unconscious idea that by not accepting it I can have more hope of changing it. Not so. In the acceptance I find peace, alignment, and the recognition that my choice is internal.

This gift was most pronounced in the second instance of grieving. I was able to share with another friend the pain of having had many significant and close friends exit the friendship, sometimes even disconnecting altogether, by their choice. In certain moments I found the pain so excruciating that it took a certain kind of effort to keep breathing. There was no accusation of others for having left, no self-blaming for not knowing how to show up in ways that people can relate to with sufficient ease over time. Just clean grief. I cannot change what happened, nor the fact that it may well continue to happen again and again. If I find acceptance, I can have more choice about how to meet my life. This has happened about 30 times in my adult life. The only chance I see for continuing to choose, again and again, to show up and keep my heart open to the possibility of being so attached and affected in a new friendship, comes from accepting that all this has happened to me, and letting myself grieve it.

And so comes the third blessing, the gift of energy and freedom. By finding a way to release the residue of visceral resistance to experiencing the pain, I lose my fear of the pain, and I gain back the energy, at times immense energy, that it takes to keep the pain at bay. Losing the fear means more choice, more freedom to be and live as I wish.

The last example of dipping into grief was the clearest to me in this regard. This time I connected with the familiarity and frequency of times of conflict in which I find capacity in me to stretch and open my heart to another until they experience themselves fully heard. And then, when I try to express my experience of the same conflict, the other person doesn’t find a way to be with me and hear me. This one comes to the heart of what nonviolence means to me: the willingness to keep showing up and acting in the world in integrity with who I want to be regardless of how others act. I need all the energy in the world to keep this commitment again and again despite all the disappointments. Grieving, letting myself cry and cry and rip my heart open without blaming, without grasping for change, and without contracting, frees up enough energy that I can keep my heart open.

This energy allows me to re-commit, freshly each time, and without reservations, to keep my passion for my work and plunge without knowing if there will ever be enough support or anchoring; to make myself available to love and be loved without knowing if anyone will ever stay; and to show up with compassion and integrity without knowing if I will ever be received in the way I long for. That, in a nutshell, is the power of grieving.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Is the World Perfect as It Is?

by Miki Kashtan

A week ago I finished leading a 6-day intensive training for people who are sharing NVC in the world. One morning I brought to the group my perspective and passion about using NVC to support creating change in the world. In particular, I shared the essential points I wrote about on this blog in a 9-part mini-series earlier this year.

As luck would have it, I was soon invited to practice what I preach – to make myself available to dialogue even when I feel passionately about something. The occasion: a comment/question from one woman in the group about why we would even want to seek change rather than seeing the world as perfect already.

I imagine that some of the people who are reading this would resonate with this comment, and others would resonate with the wave of anguish that arose in me as I heard it and thought of the billions of people on this planet whose plight is such that I can barely understand how they get through one day of their lives, or of the many thousands of children who die daily of preventable food-related causes.

Over the course of this conversation I felt many waves of that anguish, and the related fear about having so many people do nothing to alleviate this suffering and transform the conditions that I believe create it. Each time I experienced such a wave I took an inner breath and just let the wave pass, so I could be present for the dialogue, so that the connection could continue. I also noted the judgment that arose, and my joy at seeing that it didn’t stop me, as judgments had in the past, before I immersed myself in the practice of NVC. The thought kept coming up - “This kind of belief can only emerge from a place of privilege.” – And I kept putting it aside and showing up for the dialogue.

Not only was this tough emotionally because of the intensity. It was also tough because for that whole time I was letting go of specific pieces of teaching that I was hoping to share with the people in the room. I was able to do that, in part, because I was confident that we were right in the thick of a key piece of what I wanted to teach and want all of us all to learn: how to maintain connection, respect, and engagement in the face of intense and potentially irreconcilable differences.

And so I focused on understanding her, which became easier the more I did it. I was able to see that underneath her particular belief about the world she was speaking for values I also have. Primary among them is acceptance of what is, and celebration of and trust in life. The gap was closing already just from understanding her.

And yet dialogue goes both ways; it’s not only about listening. Full dialogue is ultimately an invitation for both parties to hear each other. And so I asked for the group’s support in finding what was under the judgment. I was particularly moved by the participation of the very woman I was judging. With everyone’s help I found a way to open my heart wider, and to have the full passion of what I wanted without the experience of separation and distance that the judgment generates.

What was important to me at bottom is that I am longing for companionship in a kind of courage that I treasure: the willingness to look at what is happening with openness to being touched, affected, moved, and possibly changed in the process. I am also longing for care in action, including the willingness to pay a personal cost and to give up comfort and convenience in standing up for the things we care about.

I was also able to see the difference between accepting what is and believing that everything is perfect. The difference, as I see it now after that conversation, is that accepting what is does not imply liking what is, or evaluating what is in any particular way. It’s simply a recognition that what is happening just is. It’s neither OK nor not OK, it just is. Saying that the world is perfect as it is, on the other hand, evaluates the world, and finds it “good” in some way. Meeting Rumi in the field that’s beyond “thoughts of right and wrongdoing” means letting go of thoughts of right doing, or of perfection, in addition to letting go of thoughts of wrongdoing. Understanding this increases my ability to live in the paradox of accepting what is at the same time of wanting things to be different.

I was able to communicate all of this to the woman who had initially challenged me about creating change in the world, and I trust completely that she was able to hear me. Did we reach an agreement? No. Am I disappointed about that? Not at all. Although I am, still, quite habituated to seeing agreement as a sweet accomplishment, and although disagreement continues to frighten me at times, I am more and more aware that disagreements, even major differences, are here to stay. History is too full of people killing each other because of not tolerating disagreements and differences. How can we, instead, live with disagreements without trying to make them go away? I want to continue to learn, with others, about finding enough curiosity and openness so that even when the going is tough we can hold jointly the gaps between us, because we remember, respect, and love our common humanity.

Monday, November 15, 2010

New York Snippets

by Miki Kashtan

I am writing from New York, a city I love, at the end of a 5-day visit. I lived in Manhattan for 6 years in the 1980’s, and I come back as often as I figure out how. Here are some moments that stay with me from this visit.

I’ve been walking around the apartment where I’ve been staying in short sleeves. I’ve been sleeping with only a light blanket. The windows have been open. The first night I ignored my friend’s advice and closed the window to block of the noise. This resulted in the temperature in the room rising to 80 degrees by morning. Since then I’ve left the window open while the heat is blasting. Talking to another friend, I learn this is common, all around town, in the older buildings. She tells me that because there are fewer cars than anywhere else, and because of the concentration of living spaces, NY actually uses a lot less energy than other cities in the US. Still, knowing the global situation of oil depletion and rising temperatures, I find it unbearable to settle with this widespread leakage of energy. Is there really no solution?

The following are not specific to NY. I have seen and heard similar exchanges elsewhere. In NY much happens in the streets, in public. There are so many people on the streets all the time, everything happens at once, intense, incessant. So all of these I saw within 5 days.

  • Two people walk toward me, clearly in a fight. I don’t know what it’s about. The man says something to the woman before I can hear them. As they walk by I hear her say, in a raised voice: “Don’t talk to me like that. I am not your child.” She is saying, and maybe she doesn’t know she is saying it, that it would be OK if she were his child. This statement suggests that talking “like that” to children, whatever it actually was, is acceptable, normal, routine. Why are we collectively assuming it’s OK to treat children in ways that adults would find offensive if directed toward them?

  • I am on the subway. A young man sits with an older man and an older woman on both sides, and a back-pack kind of contraption situated between his legs in which a little pre-verbal boy is perched. The adults are all talking adoringly about the boy. Probably father and grandparents. At one point, while talking, the older man reaches into the contraption and arranges something or another. His hands move, pull, push different bits of sweater and straps. The movement strikes me. There is no relating in that movement. The boy is handled, the way an inanimate object would be. Later the boy falls asleep, his head drooping to the side. They reach their destination, and the young man picks up the contraption, swings it, and puts it on his back. How I wished he would touch the boy’s face for a second, smile to him, wake him up gently, tell him what’s happening.

  • I am walking with a friend in the Upper West Side. A young girl, no more than 3, probably less, is walking in front of us, crying her heart out. Her mother, I presume, is speaking to her in harsh tones. Then she walks faster and ahead, and the girl’s crying intensifies. From eight feet away mother calls to daughter, raising her voice, telling her that if she wants to be with mother she better stop crying and walk faster. Girl is trying to run, still crying. I cannot continue to talk with my friend, as my own heart is crushed. What would have to happen to a person to get to a place where threatening a little one with leaving seems normal, familiar, common? What makes it possible for at least some adults not to see, feel, hear, experience, the anguish of the small person who knows nothing about continuity of connection unless it’s right there?

No Comment
I am at the Russian Bathhouse on 10th Street and 1st Ave (if you live in NY and don’t know about it, try it out!). This is a treat I give myself every time I come here. I am sitting with a friend, resting between one form of heating our bodies and another. A man speaks to us, with a big smile. “Ahh, I think I’m done, ready to go home,” he says. And I say: “Did you soak in all you could?” He smiles again and says: “No, I vented it out, all of it. Now I am no longer a NY statistic. I can survive another 24 hours in NY.”

Friday, November 5, 2010

Privilege and Needs – Part 2

by Miki Kashtan

What is it that we are taught we can’t have, and what is it that we are encouraged to pursue instead? Here are the pairs I have come up with so far. Can you think of any others? If so, I invite you to post them as comments.

We live in a society which provides a huge amount of convenience to those who can afford it. So much is available at the push of a button which makes life so much more convenient. Yet none of these things provide much joy. It is becoming more and more apparent that this level of convenience is numbing, and that many societies and groups, both outside the USA, and within some groups in the USA (not the dominant group) have significantly less convenience in their life, yet display in many instances a lot more joy despite the oppressive conditions.

Both individuals and groups try to establish for themselves a sense of security, both physical and economic, unsuccessfully. Yet societies exist in the world, or neighborhoods, where the sense of community has not died, and where people are not obsessed by security. Doors are unlocked, and people know that whatever resources exist in the community will be shared. Real security lies within a community, not in amassing fortresses and savings.

Individuals within this society (and others) are striving for success, and sacrifice years of their lives working hard in order to succeed. But their deep need for a sense of purpose in life is not at all addressed, no matter how “successful” they become. At the same time more and more people discover the possibility of experiencing a life away from the tension of success, which is at the same time filled with a sense of purpose.

Technology has made every aspect of our lives more efficient and productive, and that is offered to us as a substitute for exercising our creativity and being able to contribute our gifts in full to others and to life. We speed up to get things done, and we have more and more gadgets and “time-saving” devices, and yet fewer and fewer of us have a sense of meaning on a daily basis, or experience that we make a difference in the world.

The drive to accumulate money is fueled by the assumption that having a lot of money means being free to do what we please. And yet the true sense of freedom eludes most of us. No amount of money can buy internal peace, the ability to respond to situations freshly, and the transformation of debilitating internal messages and external pressures into clarity about what we want and how we want to move towards it.

Finally, having given up on the hope that we will have the power to have our life be the way we want it and have our real needs met, we seek instead to have control over resources and other human beings. Time and again it becomes evident that people's sense of power does not increase with the amount of control they are able to exercise over others. In fact, there is reason to believe that at least some of the time people’s sense of power actually decreases with more access to resources and is replaced by fear and isolation, which drive people to exercise even more control.

Learning about Privilege
The real question for me remains how to support learning about access to resources and privilege without guilt or shame. I do not pretend to know the answer. I only have some preliminary thoughts about this immense task. It’s clear to me that love is essential, so the landing into reality is cushioned, not harsh. I also imagine that rekindling the hope in having our real needs matter makes it more likely that we can open up to experiencing the longings we have. My goal, for myself and for others, is not to “give up” privilege. My hope is that each of us can wake up to the deepest goals and dreams that we have for ourselves and everyone else. When we can accept and celebrate both our needs and our resources, we can learn to use resources with conscious choice. That is my vision of true responsible freedom. I look forward to the many conversations that will support all of us in going in that direction.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Privilege and Needs

by Miki Kashtan

What is it that makes us so attached to privilege when we have it? I have seen a lot of polarity in discussions about privilege, with people who have little access to class, race or gender privilege often having disparaging views about those who do have such access, while those who do have the privilege feeling confused, ashamed or guilty, but nonetheless unable to make a decisive stand on it in terms of their own lives.

I remember in particular a striking example that happened in 1994. I was at the time part of a group of people who were very committed to a shared vision of a transformed society, similar in many respects to the vision that I am working towards these days. At one point in one gathering of the group, the person who was facilitating the gathering asked the people present what would get in their way of committing a significant portion of their income or savings to the joint project. As people responded to the question, I noticed the very vivid level of fear about having nothing left which leaked out of them. I understood then that the key to making sense of the difficulty lay in understanding the nature of the fear.

I have thought about that moment a lot over the years. The question seems even more pressing today, because our very survival as a species, it seems to me, depends on being able to reduce our consumption of resources dramatically. Because I am completely committed to doing so without coercion, I am called to find the root of the issue, so that letting go of privileged access to resources will be seen as attractive rather than a giving up.

These days, with my deep grounding in the centrality of human needs, I have an understanding that I want to put out in the hopes of generating further discussion. I am hungry for leverage to create a peaceful, collaborative transformation in how we live.
My understanding at this point is that privilege is a substitute for real needs. While I don’t believe that any explicit conversations take place about this with children, I have a sense that an implicit process takes place in which we are first cut off from the hope that we can get our real needs met. We are made terrified and hopeless, and actually give up any belief in getting our real needs met, often to the point of losing track of what those needs might be. This gets reinforced later by theories (such as Freud’s) that tell us that our true, unconscious drives are insatiable and can never be fulfilled. I know how often I meet people who dismiss the idea of the real possibility of having their needs met.

Then privilege is offered to some of us as something we can have. Although privilege is a very meager substitute for our real needs, it becomes the only thing possible to have. This is how I currently understand the sometimes desperate clinging to privilege: it looks to us as if giving up the privilege would amount to giving up everything, since the real needs cannot even be experienced. The fear of the void and the nothingness is so strong, that oftentimes it can obscure our own clarity of vision about how we want the world to be.

With this framework in mind, I have set out to identify pairs consisting of a real need and the privilege that's offered as a substitute for it. In each case, the privilege end of the pair supports the existing structure of society. I also like to believe that if more and more of us reconnected and reclaimed fully the needs that we gave up, by necessity this would make us subversive, agents of change. I see comfort as the cement that holds it all in place. Comfort when we have privilege, and comfort in the familiarity of the numbness and craving of privilege that we have when we are, like so so many people in this country and everywhere, without our real needs met and without access to privilege. This understanding provides some relief, some tenderness, lots of compassion for why change is so hard.

In my next post I plan to present the pairs I have identified, and explore what we might do to support ourselves and others in overcoming this key obstacle to transformation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Power of Dialogue to Create Change

by Miki Kashtan

Last Saturday I was invited to be a guest trainer at the BayNVC Immersion Program to teach about the use of NVC for social change. This piece contains three snippets from that day.

What Is Effective Social Change?
Early on one of the participants was taken aback by the use of the term “social change activist.” Her image of an activist was one of holding banners and shouting slogans, and in her experience she didn’t see that kind of action as particularly effective. She said she had been involved in humanitarian work within a mainstream organization and she thought that contributed to more effective social change than the activists she saw outside the building. When asked where she had worked, she said it was in the World Bank.

Immediately I took the moment as an opportunity to demonstrate the power of dialogue across disagreement. I was grateful for the years of practice that allowed me to hear her despite strong disagreement with her. We never even touched on the question of whether or not the World Bank contributes to reducing poverty. Instead, I focused on reflecting my understanding of what was important to her and keeping my reflection at the level that could stay common to both of us. I have been advocating openness to being changed through dialogue. And I had exactly that experience. What changed was not my opinion about the World Bank. Rather, what changed was my seeing it as possible and even desirable to work with people to create change wherever it would be effective, whether within or outside the mainstream. I felt relief, curiosity, and excitement at recognizing that I had been blinded by an automatic opposition, and that I was now open.

Taking Power by Making Choices
Kris Heydon (her real name), one of the participants in the group I was visiting, teaches in a public school, where many decisions are made by people in administration. She was confused, because she didn’t see how she could apply what I had presented previously given her perception of total lack of power to affect those decisions. She intended to go on from that statement to another part of her question, something about what she can do in her own classroom, within her sphere of influence. I didn’t want to leave the question of power so quickly, so I probed further. I suggested that she could, if she wanted, get support from others, both teachers and parents, and engage with the decision-makers. At first she didn’t see how, and brought up reasons for why this wouldn’t work. After hearing her challenge, I reassured her that I wasn’t suggesting that she was supposed to do that. It was clear that she didn’t want to, and it was important for me to respect that. My point was only that it was a choice she was making, and she could make it either way, if she wanted. Then she thought for a while, and said she wanted to recap what she had learned. Slowly and carefully she expressed her learning: “I can take power by making choices.” In few simple words she summarized a principle I consider deep and central to the entire project of nonviolence.

To George with Love
In another small group activity a woman, let’s call her Claire, wanted to find respectful ways of turning down invitations to participate in a demonstration, rally, or some other political activity she doesn’t want to attend. We set up a role play between her and a co-worker who urged her to come to a campus-wide protest against George Bush (this was an event that happened some years ago). Her struggle, as we came to see, was that she had been so deeply trained to maintain harmony, that even when she tried to express herself she didn’t really articulate what was going on for her that would lead her to this unpopular choice. She expressed only vague statements such as: “I am not really comfortable going to the demonstration.” In coaching her, I invited her to go deeper into her experience, to become vulnerable and assertive, both. Gradually her passion rose closer to the surface, and her reasons became clear. She was troubled by many of the policies that George Bush was putting in place. She did want to have her voice heard and for George to receive the feedback. Her real concern was that she wanted that feedback to come with love, so George Bush would be able to take it in. All of us in the room fell silent for a moment. Protest with love was a new concept, especially for the woman in the character who was inviting Claire to the demonstration. She seemed to change, even though she was only a character. Then she expressed, spontaneously, how she has had discomfort with the demonstrations, too, and was glad to have this new idea. For Claire to tell the full truth and remain open and unattached served to create space for the other person to change.

How can we engage in dialogue that transforms? Three key elements to focus on:
  • Stay open, curious, relaxed, and let go of changing the other. Be prepared to be changed.
  • Listen and reflect before expressing your point of view. Focus on reflecting what you believe is most important to the other person. Look for commonalities in your reflection, something the other person expresses in their position that you also want for them.
  • When expressing your position, link it to you instead of making it what should be. What is in your heart, what do you value, what matters to you that is expressed in your position? Articulate that, as vulnerably as possible, and the other person will have an easier time listening to you.
I would love to hear your stories of transformational dialogues, both about matters of social change, and about your own personal lives.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dilemmas of Leadership

by Miki Kashtan

Yesterday I came back from 9 days of teaching in a yearlong NVC leadership program. This was the last intensive of the year, and the 9th year of the program. As is often the case, I came face to face with the limits of my own leadership capacity. Specifically, I was grappling with my aversion to imposing anything on anyone, an ongoing challenge of significant intensity for me. Based on observing myself I am confident that because of this aversion I regularly involve groups in decisions that reduce efficiency of functioning without adding much empowerment value or meaning.

In one of those ironies of timing, this was also the week in which I read “Small Change: Why the Revolution Will not be Tweeted.” According to this article (and I confess not being deeply educated on the topic), the Civil Rights movement was heavily centralized in its leadership style. I found that fact disturbing, fascinating, complex, and provocative. Specifically, I find a generative tension in juxtaposing the effectiveness of the Civil Rights movement in its form of leadership with the anti-authoritarian ethos that came to prevail in many subsequent social change movements and lives in me in the form of this aversion to imposing.

Circumstances wouldn’t allow the topic to recede into the background. Yesterday I led a workshop at the Bioneers 2010 conference - Everyone Matters: Interdependence in Action, a topic which emerges directly from the core vision that inspires the work I do with Nonviolent Communication. The questions of leadership were once again prominent: What does this vision tell us about leadership? Is anti-authoritarianism the only way to ensure that everyone’s needs matter? What does all this mean in terms of our collective capacity to contribute to transformation on a significant scale, and to do it with love, courage, and creativity?

With those questions already on my mind, I went directly from my workshop to the Metta Center for Nonviolence for a viewing of a rare documentary about Gandhi made in the early 1950s. When Michael Nagler, founder and president of the Metta Center, initiated a conversation about the film, I raised the question that by then was already burning in me: Is top-down centralized leadership of the kind that both Gandhi and Martin Luther King apparently used absolutely necessary to have an effective movement to create significant change in society?

The conversation that ensued raised even more questions for me, and resolved hardly any. What does it really take for a group to function effectively in service to a complex task? Are emergent, self-organizing groups able to meet such challenges as mobilizing large numbers of people to create structural change using nonviolent methods? If strong leadership is indeed necessary (even Gandhi with all his charisma and willingness to sacrifice everything wasn’t ultimately able to prevent violence from erupting), where is the line between authority and authoritarianism? What can keep people empowered enough so they can entrust decision-making to leaders rather than submit or rebel? What can leaders do to avoid the abuses of power that stem from their own and others habits?

Precisely because I am so committed to transcending and transforming the deeply ingrained models of living and leading that we have inherited, I want to keep asking these questions. I want to think about them deeply, to learn more from what has happened before, to engage with others about them, and to experiment in my own small scale leadership. I have small scale evidence that efficiency is possible without compromising collaboration and empowerment. I feel completely humble about not knowing what’s really possible or necessary. This doesn’t stop me from cultivating the faith that collaborative, empowering, effective, and transparent leadership is scalable, and we can collectively meet the challenges of our time provided we have clarity of purpose, a deep commitment to nonviolence on all levels, and a rigorous personal practice. That is part of how I understand Gandhi’s legacy: an invitation to see means and ends as one, so we can live every moment, personally and as a leader, in courageous pursuit of love and truth.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Edges of Confidence

by Miki Kashtan

In my last post I alluded to having discomfort when asked by a group of people on a conference call to share my own vision. I said I was planning to write a post about the incongruity of that discomfort. Now, sitting down to write about it, I am feeling it.

I chose to write about this for a variety of reasons. Primary among them is the desire to make my humanity, fallibility, and limitations known to you who read this blog, so as to increase the possibility that you would trust yourself to take on more visibility. Another is to create companionship for me and for those of you who identify. Another is to continue and deepen the practice of exposing and undefending my own vulnerability for my own growth and inner freedom. Lastly, related to the previous one, choosing to be on the forefront of the epochal movement towards a different kind of leadership that’s more transparent and less idolized.

I am connected to all of these reasons. And I am nonetheless struggling with why I might want to write and then post something so personal that may, after all, interest only a handful of people.

This is where I stopped a few days ago. Now coming back I see even more clearly where and why the challenge arises. I lose my sense of something being of value to others when it’s about me, or when it’s very radical in terms of vision. The intensity of it is so high that often enough I literally can’t tell whether or not I like what I wrote until someone else reads it. The experience of having a blog and posting things without running them by someone else first has been stretching me considerably in this area. So far I have overall gotten enough positive feedback that I keep finding the inner resources to continue. And still the discomfort persists.

Why is this discomfort incongruous? Because it shows up when I want to share what is most precious to me, my biggest visions for the world, my hope and faith in the actual practicality of creating systems based on caring for needs, it feels absolutely tragic to me. I so much want people to know about it, I so much want companionship in holding a sense of possibility, I so much want movement in that direction – and still I lose my confidence when asked to talk about it. That’s the incongruity for me.

This speaks to me of the depth of the needs for belonging and acceptance, both in me and in others, and of the anguish in moments when they seem to be in conflict with authenticity. I know many people who choose to let go of authenticity in order to gain acceptance and belonging, and who nonetheless suffer because they ultimately don’t trust the acceptance. For as long as acceptance depends on hiding the truth about who we are it remains suspect, temporary, elusive. What if people found out the hidden truth? I also know the experience of losing belonging and acceptance because of choosing to be authentic in ways that can be challenging for others. This is still work in progress to me. I have the contours of a path, without full clarity on where it leads. I know I want to grow in my flexibility about what feels authentic to me. I also at the same time want to grow in my willingness to risk losing everything for truth. I know how to grit my teeth and express truth anyway. What I want to learn more and more is how to remain relaxed and soft in my expression when I am stretching my limits.

I see now that I am re-discovering an insight I had a few months ago that I wrote about (Making Room for Being Different). For a moment I felt a wave of embarrassment and an instant urge to delete all I have written above. Then I realized that this is just how life happens. We cycle and circle and loop and spiral, learning things again and again, falling and getting up, and eventually something gets fully integrated and becomes a seamless part of who we are.

Most of the time I both appear and feel relaxed and confident about what I have to offer. I can do public speaking often without even preparing much. I can work with individuals and groups and facilitate intense conflicts. I can easily share ideas, insights, and visions. Still, the discomfort in writing or speaking about me and my visions can get paralyzing at times. Even in the course of writing this piece, and surely as I get closer to the actual posting of it, I have experienced waves of profound uncertainty about the value of sharing all this. I am happy to see that I am willing to take the risk without contracting inside. I’d like to believe that in addition to my own strengthening, exposing my discomfort and trying to make sense of it may support you who are reading this in gaining more courage to move closer to the edges of your confidence, so that more and more of us choose to bring forth our gifts and vulnerabilities. I have no doubt they are all needed for the immense task of making the world work for all of us.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Personal Growth and Social Change Addendum: Real-Time Conversation and Comments

by Miki Kashtan

Last Sunday, October 2nd, I held a conference call to discuss my Personal Growth and Social Change mini-series. This was a total experiment that I had no idea how it would work. There was 44 people on the call for all or part of the time, and many more signed up and didn’t attend. The call was recorded, and anyone who wants to can listen to it. One exchange that was particularly moving for me was a conversation with a man who wanted to look at the question of privilege, and how painful he finds the idea of having to “give up” privilege in order to care for others’ suffering. When I shared with him my own faith that privilege is a poor substitute for real needs that we are told we can never meet, he felt much more hopeful about finding a way to move forward (I intend to post on this topic soon).

When we broke into small groups for in-depth exploration of some topics that came up, one of the callers wanted to hear from me about my own vision. To my astonishment, delight, and intense discomfort, an entire group of callers converged wanting to hear the same. (I intend to explore the incongruity of this discomfort in a separate post, hopefully tomorrow.) After I overcame my discomfort, I chose to focus my sharing on the vision of a global gift economy. This, too, is a rich vein, and I hope to revisit it again and again.

So, stay tuned. Based on the level of engagement and the unanimous vote of confidence at the end of the call, I am likely to schedule future calls on other topics that may be of interest to readers of this blog.

Meanwhile, on Tikkun Daily, where I am cross-posted, a small flurry of activity ensued when their managing editor, Dave Belden, issued an invitation to people to come to the call. In one reply to that article Michael Lerner, the founder of Tikkun, was immensely critical of NVC, which he sees as a generally useful tool that has the danger of turning people away from noticing what’s happening in the world and taking action to change it. In this comment he went further to say that NVC is “a stumbling block–they seem to think that the communication style is an end in itself. Unfortunately, NVC is compatible with what others have called ‘friendly fascism.’”

You can imagine this was not easy or fun to read. In the end, I wrote a new post called How NVC Can Help Progressive Politics. Even if you read the entire mini-series, that one piece is shorter and different enough in its focus that you may want to read it. (Of course writing it also meant that I wasn’t as available to write the next post for my own baby blog.)

I want to conclude with two invitations. One is for people local to the Bay Area, and one to people in many countries. The local is an invitation to Speaking Peace - BayNVC’s free annual fundraiser, during which I am doing an hour-long introduction to NVC (I rarely do those), and a rich program with music and celebrations and food. Yes, we ask people to contribute, and, true to our principles, only what people are moved to give freely is what we want.

The second invitation is to a new teleclass I am teaching next year through the NVC Academy. This is a yearlong class called Taking on the World: Learning to Become a Change Agent. My hope is to attract people who are serious about wanting to bring a consciousness and practice of nonviolence into the world at all levels. I hope to hear you there.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Personal Growth and Social Change (Part 7)

by Miki Kashtan

Part 1 of this topic was posted on Aug 8, and links are provided from there onwards to all the other parts of this mini-series. This is the last segment. If you would like to participate in a real-time conversation with me about these topics (this Sunday, 9:30 - 11:00am Pacific Time), click here for more details, or here to register.

I started this mini-series with noting that none of us ultimately knows what would (will? could?) bring about significant change, beyond our experiments with alternatives, beyond a vision absent material resources, beyond the smallness of our efforts. Before concluding, just a few comments about these unanswerable challenges.

Scaling up
To inspire confidence – both for ourselves and for others - in our ability to create significant change that affects large numbers of people, we need to find a way to continue to operate in radical, visionary, uncompromising ways while scaling up. We need to find ways to break out of the conviction that we can only do radical experiments with small numbers, and that becoming more visible, increasing our numbers, and gaining power and influence are bound to bring corruption, and/or bureaucracy, and/or inefficiency, and/or all other social evils. This conviction will either keep us small and ineffective, or become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I don’t know the answer. I am convinced it exists. I will continue to look for it, and to keep imagining and encouraging everyone I know, including myself, to move towards it without fear of falling.

Who is “we?” I use this word loosely to refer to everyone who is in the grips of the heartbreak about our beautiful planet being destroyed by the actions of human beings like us. After all, all of us, regardless of our beliefs and affiliations, are, ultimately, struggling to make sense of the world and attend to our own, our loved ones’, and others’ needs in the best ways they know how. All of us are implicated in the destruction, whether we want to or not.   

Building Alliances and Coalitions

"It is possible that the next Buddha will not take the form of an individual.
The next Buddha may take the form of a community--
a community practicing understanding and loving kindness,
a community practicing mindful living.
This may be the most important thing we can do for the earth."

Thich Nhat Hanh (Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, and peace activist)

The days of one-person operations appear to be largely over. The Lubavitchers, the largest Hassidic movement, now operate without a new Lubavitcher, because the tradition held that only seven generations of leaders would be guiding this movement, and now no one knows what comes next. This is not about giving up leadership. This is about many more people taking leadership all around them.

Working our way out of charismatic leadership will require us to work with others who are not members of our specific movement. As we reach out to create such connection, we will encounter people who will agree with us on some bits and not on others. And we will still need to work with them. If we are to be truly effective, we will need to work with people who are far from our positions. We cannot make significant change without connecting with people who are in fundamental opposition to what we are proposing (if we even propose anything rather than simply protesting). The Department of Peace Campaign has been working hard for some years now to support the establishment of a federal level Department of Peace in the US government. As of a few months ago, they still hadn’t crossed the Democrat/Republican divide. There will be no Department of Peace Legislation for as long as that divide is not crossed in the constituency that operates the campaign.

How? We need tools to dialogue, to come more present, to know to separate strategies from needs, to see the underlying vision of opposing views, and to know that more is in common between us at the level of vision than we may be comfortable admitting. We need to learn to listen with a willingness to be changed, and take on the hard and thankless work of listening to our ideological enemies, no matter where we are, so we can learn and grow, so we can create bridges, so we can find ways of collaborating, and thereby begin, now, the work of the future. Because in that future there will still, and always, be people that disagree with us. There will always be people who will see our implementation of our vision as an absolute threat to what they hold most dear. And we will need to include and embrace their needs and well-being in full if we are to operate with integrity.

What to do now
Since we cannot, as the Talmudic Jews said, “press the end” (meaning force things to move faster than they do), and since acceptance of what is is part and parcel of our work, we cannot escape the reality that, for now, we don’t know what will create change. In fact, taking seriously the fundamental uncertainty and unpredictability of life in part means that we don’t and can’t plan change. We can only be ready for it. Two years before the Berlin Wall was taken down no one would have predicted that outcome. And it happened. What might happen within the next two years that we cannot imagine now?

If we cannot predict, cannot plan, and cannot implement large scale social change, we can only keep working to be ready for opportunities when they arise. Every once in a while, we never know when, how, or for how long, the existing order of things is put on hold, and much more is possible. At such times many more in the world are hungry for direction, for hope, for tools, and for possibilities. I’d like to believe that we can use our small-scale efforts at obstruction, creation of alternatives, and consciousness transformation to get us all ready, so that when the window opens up, we will be available to respond to the call to lead and to offer inspiration and clarity that can make a decisive difference. I hope I am still alive when that day arrives.