Thursday, March 28, 2013

Money and the Web of Love

by Miki Kashtan

It was only when I sat down to write this piece, some version of which has been brewing for some time, that I realized that it is, in some ways, a direct continuation of what I wrote about last week. It is a piece that’s about how we came to make money so central to our lives that it masks the fundamental dependence we have on each other. It is also about how our interdependence likely was and can become again fueled by a web of love and care instead of fear and separation, as it is now.

I get an inkling of this, in my own life, from seeing that, in some small and yet significant ways, I have exited the money economy. Even though I clearly have more money than the vast majority of the human population, I don’t have, and am unlikely to ever have, enough money to hire all the support I need in order to make my work possible. By necessity and by luck, I can only do my work because of the existence of people who, based purely on their love and the inspiration they get from my work, take on projects that would otherwise simply not get done. 

Moving beyond Relying on Money

The reality behind this privilege, namely my access to far more resources than the money I have could ever buy, is based only on love. In this way, I have joined the large web of sharing resources that, I believe, is the underlying truth of our humanity, where we started and where I want us to move toward (I will have more to say about sharing resources and about love in a moment).

While I rejoice, I also recognize that I am still quite limited in my ability to fully relax into this web and to make choices about what I do or don’t do that are purely motivated by the intrinsic meaning of the action, without taking into consideration money. I am definitely part way there, just not all the way.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Tanya: A Little Story of Hope

by Miki Kashtan

When an email was forwarded to me a few months ago about a woman who has been sharing Nonviolent Communication in the Middle East, I really didn’t imagine what it would lead to within weeks. I only knew that I was touched deeply and wanted to do something to support this woman.

Tanya Awad Ghorra lives in Lebanon. She studied Nonviolent Communication (NVC) for ten days in 2009 at Lebanon's Academic University for Non-Violence and Human Rights in the Arab World (AUNOHR) when doing a masters in nonviolent education and conflict resolution, with teacher François Bazier from Belgium’s Université de la Paix. 

Tanya caught fire and took it upon herself to spread the message of hope she received to people who she knew needed it. She has trained hundreds of people in a number of countries: including Egyptian and Lebanese NGOs; Ministry of Interior affairs employees in Kurdistan (after they signed a law protecting women from abuse, in order to help them understand nonviolence); students, parents and teachers in several schools; and the leading bank in Lebanon. As a coordinator on the national campaign to abolish the death penalty in Lebanon, she has introduced NVC to death row inmates. In addition to many media appearances and a talk about empathy with TedX Youth (video here), she has presented a weekly fifteen-minute segment for the last six months introducing NVC to the public on a TV station broadcasting to the Arab world, Europe and the USA. She is single-handedly continuing her efforts to respond with empathy, love, and determination to the plight of so many people in the region.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Sad Reflections about Work, Meaning, and Freedom

by Miki Kashtan

Although I have been writing some version of this piece in my head for some time, today is the first time I am venturing to actually write it. This is not a hopeful piece, and in this medium I usually shy away from sharing, in full, the pain that lives in me about people’s lives the world over.  I know that many people read this blog and come to study with me because they are longing for vision, for some way to imagine a better life for themselves and for the world. I am glad, most of the time, to be able to offer that vision, which I have in abundance. It’s easy for me to see what’s possible, and I derive great pleasure from weaving stories about what’s possible and from finding companionship for those images. This pleasure, and the care for everyone’s longing, keep me from speaking about the acute and persistent pain I regularly experience about the gap between vision and reality. Why would I want to bring despair rather than empowerment to people? Nonetheless, it is part of my work, part of my integrity, part of my calling, to share truth as it lives in me, even if difficult. So, today, as I am sitting in an apartment in Geneva overlooking a river and the mountains, I am writing a piece about pain, little snippets about the world of work. 

#1: About Menial Labor

Before embarking on my trip to Europe, I got some support from a local teenager who packed my impressive collection of supplements into little plastic baggies. This was work for pay, quite decent pay for a 14 year old. It took her four hours, and she delivered it almost flawlessly. She told me afterwards that it was really tedious and annoying. I asked her if she regretted it. She didn’t, she was glad to have the money, she said, though she wouldn’t do it again. Then she added: “I’m not cut out for menial labor.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do I Want It or Should It Happen?

by Miki Kashtan

A few years ago I published an article in Tikkun magazine called Wanting Fully without Attachment. In that article (an excerpt from a book in progress called The Power of Inner Freedom), I describe the foundation of what I see as the spiritual path underlying the practice of Nonviolent Communication. It is a passionate and courageous path that calls on us to keep opening our hearts wider and wider and wider to all that deeply matters to us, while at the same time developing more and more capacity to accept the possibility of not having what we want.
In the absence of developing this capacity, we tend to go in one of two directions: either giving up on what we want as the only way we understand of what it means to let go of attachment, or removing ourselves personally from what we want by claiming it to be bigger than ourselves, outside ourselves, because it “should” happen.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

When Collaboration Gets Hard

by Miki Kashtan

Collaboration, like empathy, is something we hear about more and more as a general abstract good, and yet are given so little by way of the how. What happens as a result is that we try to collaborate without knowing how, or we don’t even try because we are too consumed with fear, overwhelm, or outright judgment.

Collaboration is the purest antidote to either/or thinking because it rests on the faith that, in addition to a solution that works for all involved being possible, it is also potentially better. The biggest obstacle to collaboration is whatever commitment we continue to maintain to seeing our own needs as separate or even opposed to what someone else wants, even if we philosophically believe in collaboration. This is part of why I am so often suspicious when parents talk about “cooperation” as a need – it’s too easy for that to mean “getting my child to do what I want.”

When collaboration is challenging, often enough the form that this residual commitment takes shows up as speaking in the name of fairness. Two stories will hopefully illustrate this profound challenge.

The Supplier who Didn’t Provide

A manager in a company somewhere in Europe, let’s call her Agnes, paid a supplier to prepare a detailed proposal for a complex project. It took him much longer than he had estimated, and, when the proposal arrived, it didn’t have anywhere near as much information as Agnes needed. When confronted, all the supplier said was that he was really sorry, and wasn’t going to be available for another month. Meanwhile, the project was on schedule to start, decisions were waiting for this proposal, and Agnes was beside herself with frustration.