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. If you feel called, please comment on posts and engage with one another.
Interdependence: even when I experience separation or deep isolation, I want to open my heart to the fullness of the interconnectedness of all life and to cultivate awareness of the countless ways that our actions and experiences affect each other. If I find myself retreating into self-sufficiency, separation, or mistrust in my own gifts or those of others, I want to seek support to remember the beauty and relief of resting in interdependence, including the many ways each of our lives depends on the gifts, actions, and efforts of others.
Interdependence is one of the biggest challenges for the modern sensibility of industrialized countries, where our dependence on each other is invisible. Even as we speak and value self-sufficiency, fewer and fewer of us even know how to grow the food we eat, weave and make the clothes we wear, build the houses we live in, or find water anywhere other than the faucet.
On the material plane we mask our dependence on others through the medium of money. Collectively, we uphold the illusion that with enough money we won’t depend on anyone, without realizing that our money pays for something we are unable to do on our own, thereby relying on others for surviving.
On the emotional plane we mask our dependence on others through pretending to be OK even when we are not, which leads most of us to living in profound isolation, the root of much depression, addiction, and even violence.
We also pretend that we don’t matter nor have an effect on others. Collectively, we lead reckless lives without much conscious concern for the cost to others and nature.
Interdependence is both an understanding of reality and a conscious choice about how to live in within that reality. Interdependence as a conscious choice means aligning our actions with a growing awareness of the multiple layers and forms of effects we have on each other and the intricate web within which we live. This means transcending our self-sufficiency without giving up responsibility for our needs, and taking steps to engage with others and with the effects of our actions. These are not simple or easy within our cultural context.
Overall, choosing interdependence means holding everyone’s needs with care and recognizing the uncompromising truth that every choice we make has consequences for us and for the rest of life. Transcending the either/or trap of self and other, selfishness or selflessness, we include ourselves alongside everyone else, with full care for all. Then we can become larger and larger agents of change, increasing our sphere of influence and power first within and ultimately around us.
Practice: Pick one thing to ask for each day, even when it’s scary. Asking provides opportunities for others to fulfill their need for contribution. Asking can support you in cultivating non-attachment as you practice making requests and letting go of outcome. Asking supports humility. Asking also supports power, and the possibility of having the life you want, for everyone.
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.