by Miki Kashtan
New to this blog? Read Miki’s Introduction to this series ‘All -in: fully committing to a life of nonviolence’ before getting started.
Whenever we make a decision, we are drawing an arc between the moment of deciding and the moment of completion. We are always faced with the choice: which of any number of active arcs in our lives are we going to prioritize in this moment?
It is particularly challenging to honor the longest arcs, those that extend to the end of our lives, those that come from adopting core values and commitments. This is why practice is needed: it creates shorter arcs that sustain us in upholding the longer arcs.
This difficulty is one of the reasons I chose the verb “want” in each of the commitments. I wanted a word that wouldn’t connote “should,” obligation, or duty. “Intention” was not strong enough to carry the unwavering force of staying the course even when the going gets hard while knowing that life is truly unpredictable. No matter how strong our determination, every single one of us at some point or another will not find sufficient inner resources to follow through on one or another of our core values. The word “want” also reminds us that we want a life of nonviolence, no matter what anyone else is doing, no matter what the structures of the world or the specific circumstances are.
The more we engage with these commitments, the more they are woven into the fabric of who we become, anchors of the grand experiment of nonviolence, of responding to everything that happens with love, courage, truth telling, and care for everyone.
Some people have put the commitments on display and review them daily; some have made small cards they carry in their wallets; some have done journaling about each of the commitments as another way to anchor them internally. Some have also used one or more of the commitments as the focus of meditation. As one example: Where does your being open in delight to the challenge and where is there tension, doubt, confusion?
Because the commitments stand in some tension with what we are culturally trained to do, some people have recognized they would need support from others to find strength and creativity to embody these intentions. They meet regularly to discuss and connect with others, to look at their challenges, to realign with their choice.
Resources to Guide Our Choices
Many people use the commitments as a lens to choose how to respond to challenging situations, knowing that relying on “Accepting What Is” would lead to a different response from gaining strength from “Authenticity and Vulnerability”, sometimes appearing at odds with each other. We always have choice, even it appears otherwise, and our options almost always are wider than we imagine. There is never one “right” way to respond, no matter how habituated we are to believe there is. There is also never a choice that has no consequences. There is no escape from our interdependence, from being part of life, shaping it and being shaped by everything around us.
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.