Thursday, January 30, 2014

Remarkable Conversations, Unexpected Outcomes

by Miki Kashtan

Perhaps because this year I am teaching a yearlong telecourse (in four independent parts) on The Art and Craft of Dialogue, I’ve been more deeply attuned to the largely unknown power of dialogue to create entirely unexpected results. In those moments, when the veil of separation drops, at least momentarily, and we stand in the magic of finding a path forward that truly works for everyone, I often feel both elated and profoundly sad.

The elation is directly the result of having visceral evidence of the simplicity and elegance of the path. Rosenberg, the man who created the practice of Nonviolent Communication that informs everything I do, says about this phenomenon: 

“So many times I have seen that no matter what has happened, if people connect in this certain way that it is inevitable that they will end up enjoying giving to one another. It is inevitable. For me my work is like watching the magic show. It’s too beautiful for words.” 

I confess that for years I was dubious – how could it be “inevitable”? I didn’t truly believe it, though I loved hearing it said. Over time, I realized that it is, likely, inevitable. The catch is more in the “if” than in the outcome. The question, for me, has then become simply about how to create the conditions – both inner and outer – that make it possible for people to connect in this way.

Which brings me to the sadness. I find it so tragic that so many people are likely to live and die without having access to this experience, without knowing it even exists, without trusting that such transformation is so possible and so simple. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Do you know Tikkun Daily?

by Miki Kashtan

You may not know that my posts here are also posted on the Tikkun Daily blog and on Psychology Today.  I am extremely happy to reach these quite different audiences - sometimes the comments on each of the three sites show how different they are. On this site more people already know about NVC. On Tikkun Daily more people are focused on social and political change, and how they connect with spirituality, and are often especially knowledgeable about Israel and Judaism (Tikkun Olam means to heal and repair the world in Hebrew). On Psychology Today, there is a more general audience who may only hear about NVC or its connection to social change through my posts.

While I was in Israel last month, Tikkun Daily ran an end-of-year fundraising campaign that I supported with the following words on their site. I would love it if some of my readers here would feel moved to support Tikkun Daily's campaign with a donation, especially since they did not yet reach their December goal. It's not too late to contribute! I wrote:
It’s hard to know what I most appreciate about the opportunity to blog on Tikkun Daily, because there is so much to it. High up there ranks my admiration for Michael Lerner’s editorial vision, which completely embodies the values and ideals I have come to associate with him. I know that I, and likely others, have regularly expressed opinions – both on Tikkun Daily and in the magazine itself – that are not aligned with Michael’s. That would never stop him from working diligently to create a platform that attracts a remarkable array of diverse writers and thoughtful commentators. I don’t know all of the bloggers, and still I trust all of us are drawn to his vision of what we and the world could be.

Although I am not a practicing Jew, I drink deeply from the well of Jewish values, and recognize them in Michael’s teaching and practice. Most moving to me is his ceaseless effort to remind us all to transcend the separation and scarcity that we have inhabited for millennia, to come back to welcoming the stranger and to collaborating for a future that acknowledges that we are all created in the image of God, or, in my own secular version, that we all have the same deep longings and a burning desire to make sense of the world and contribute to what we can. Nonviolence, my core value and practice, is a centerpiece of what happens at Tikkun. My own contributions mirror the foundational belief that the personal, the spiritual, and the political cannot be separated. I always attempt to dance on this intersection, and Tikkun feels home to these explorations like no other place.

I am hoping that many people will be drawn to the call to support Tikkun Daily’s continued existences. Michael has taken these values and exploration beyond the safety of theoretical discussion, and has dedicated himself, decade after decade, to engaging personally and publicly in the midst of fierce conflicts such as the perennial issues of Israel/Palestine or American politics today. Michael shows us both how to persist when we are perpetually criticized and how to remain open to others’ opinions in the midst of it all. It’s no surprise to me that Tikkun remains underfunded – I see it as complex, edgy, and challenging enough that mainstream funders might be reluctant to support it. I know that what will keep Tikkun and Tikkun Daily going are the people who read it and want to see this grand vision continue to unfold. They are currently in the midst of a fundraising effort specifically for the blogging site, and if you want to support it, click here.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Israel, Palestine, Home, Me – Part II

by Miki Kashtan

I know that Israel is home, even after 30 years, because when I landed, exhausted and disoriented by the bitter cold and fury of the worst storm in decades, all I wanted was to go eat the food every child in Israel knows, the food I thought was Israeli until I learned it was actually Palestinian, adopted and adapted by the Jews who came to live in that land. Going home, after millennia, to the symbolic land of their ancestors, in the process destroying and displacing the actual homes of others. 

I wanted to eat hummus, and tahini. So we went to Jaffa, still populated by many Arabs whose ancestry there far precedes the young city of Tel-Aviv which forcibly absorbed Jaffa. Jaffa is a site of an uneasy coexistence, eroded by the constant push of modernity and gentrification. We found the food, unquestionably what I had hoped for, in an Arab restaurant, or would they call themselves Palestinian? Did their ancestors?

I know it’s home because the sights and the sounds and the smells compel me even when I don’t like them. Because the intensity of stress everyone lives with feels like it’s just been yesterday even though it had been three years since my last visit. Because despite my distaste for the gruff mannerisms, I still love the immediacy, the unmediated access to people, the directness. Both this time and last time, my sister Arnina and I had post-movie conversations in the bathroom with total strangers, conversation that traversed meaning and slices of everyone’s personal lives. I still miss the particular brand of kindness and generosity that means anyone can ask anyone for anything and mostly they will just do it. I recognize the longing, unmistakable, for some way of being “real” that I simply don’t find in the US, the place I have made home and never feel at home in. A longing which surprised me with its intensity when a group of local Israelis in San Francisco started gathering once a month to sing the songs we grew up on. The first time I simply cried, in recognition, familiarity, and unbearable sweetness.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Israel, Palestine, Home, Me – Part I

by Miki Kashtan

I imagine it’s not just me; that visiting a country we’ve left would be a complex mix for anyone, regardless of reason for leaving, assuming we had leaving as an option. I am writing this piece on the airplane, going home, to where I live, from the place that still feels like home, the home I still wouldn’t wish to go back to. And I’ve been writing this piece, and the next one, inside me, in small increments, some of which I’ve already forgotten, since the day I landed, on December 11. 

Putting Meaningful Drops in a Vast Bucket

Shadow in Baghdad, a documentary movie I saw while in Israel, taught me much that I didn’t know about the life of Iraq’s Jews until the 1950s. The protagonist is looking to uncover what happened to her father who disappeared in Baghdad one day after the rest of the family fled and he chose to stay behind, trusting that the growing persecution and violence against Jews was only a temporary crisis. At one point she is talking with a contemporary of her father, who says to her that she is trying to empty a bathtub with a spoon, and yet she must, that we all must use what we have to do the work we do. 

This is how I feel about the 4-day Convergent Facilitation training I led in Beit Jala. Beit Jala is one of the few places that both Israeli citizens and Palestinians can legally come to, which is why I chose it as the site. It worked. We had people from Europe, North America, and even Thailand who came and studied alongside the locals. The group also included Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians, and Moslems, secular and religious. If I had any doubt left we are all kin, it is now gone, as so many in the room could “pass” as any of the others.

After thirty years, I finally came back to this land with something I know to do about the horrors. Like the woman in the movie, I have only a dropper, and the bucket is bigger by the day. I have no illusion I can personally create the change I want to see. Still, one of the many reasons I was crying at the closing circle was because finally I have something I know to do to contribute.