Commitment #1: Openness to Myself
Even when I act in ways I really don’t like, I want to keep my heart open to myself. If I find myself in self-judgment, I want to seek support to reconnect with myself.
It is not humanly possible to live all of the commitments 100% of the time. They can point to different directions for stretching our emotional and spiritual muscles; and after all we are complex, rich creatures, and it’s unlikely that we could do anything all the time. Because of this and the paradoxical idea of “commitment,” “Openness to Myself” could be viewed as the foundation on which the entire practice of the core commitments stands; it is both a method and a goal in itself.
Unless we explicitly cultivate this openness, we can have bouts of self-judgments when we don’t act in line with our values. We can focus on “correcting” our actions to make ourselves acceptable to ourselves or to others instead of being motivated by the easeful flow of energy that comes from desire, longing, and love of where we want to go. We are very unlikely to sustain the motivation to do the hard work of changing our habits of thought and action to align with a principle or a goal, no matter how wonderful they sound, when we’re in such an internal landscape.
The times when we don’t live up to our own commitments to nonviolence, can, instead, be the occasion for nonviolence towards ourselves. This is a path of freedom that comes from identifying and connecting with the reality of human needs that gave rise to the misaligned action, uncoupling the action from the need, and holding the need tenderly. This is not about making the action OK; it’s about moving beyond assigning ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ to actions altogether, softening towards ourselves, and regaining a sense of full choice about how to attend needs without engaging in harmful action. Touching the pool of longing that lives in all of us and bringing tenderness to it is an antidote to the shame that keeps us locked in actions we don’t like. Each of the commitments calls on us to seek support, and how would we ever seek support without openness to ourselves?
Pick an action of yours that you don’t like and reflect on the needs that gave rise to that action, independently of the results, meditating on the needs, as it were. Bring your attention back to gently accepting and embracing the needs that led to the action whenever you drift into focusing on what didn’t work, on judging the need, or on fighting the desire. Grant yourself the freedom to want what you want. If, for example, you yell at your children, you can open yourself to the intensity of trying to navigate challenging moments, embrace the deep wish for flow, for cooperation around tasks, respect, or whatever it is that would lead you to yell at your children and allow yourself to experience in full the depth of these longings.
About the author:
Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication (BayNVC). She is inspired by the role of visionary leadership in shaping a livable future, and works toward that vision by sharing the principles and practices of Nonviolent Communication through mediation, meeting facilitation, consulting, and training for organizations and for committed individuals. Miki blogs at the Fearless Heart. Her articles have appeared in Tikkun magazine (e.g.Wanting Fully Without Attachment), Waging Nonviolence (e.g. Pushing the powerful into a moral corner at India’s Barefoot College), Shareable, and elsewhere.
New to this blog? Read Miki’s Introduction to this series ‘All -in: fully committing to a life of nonviolence’ ,