All-in: Fully Committing to a Life of Nonviolence

A METTA mini-series for daily living

Conceived and birthed by Miki Kashtan, Ph.D. 

Gandhi spoke about applying nonviolence in thought, word, and action.  I have found that applying nonviolence becomes progressively more difficult the closer it is to thought. Many more people can refrain from physically violent acts than from using the language of judgments, threats, or demands. Similarly, many more people can train their language than can train their mind and heart to hold the commitment to live through the powerful combination of compassion, fierceness, and courage, with an uncompromising willingness to stand for truth.

Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a process created by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960 while helping communities to desegregate peacefully, is designed to do just that: to help us integrate as far as possible our commitment to nonviolence all the way into the deepest structures of our thoughts; to speak in ways that carry this commitment forward into all of our relationships; and to apply this consciousness in all our actions, including our participation in the collective enterprise called social structures.

The Metta Center has been committed to providing education about nonviolence for three decades.  As a contribution to that work, this mini-series focuses on what nonviolence means in everyday life. As much as we want to take on the global challenges of our times and move toward transformation, unless we learn, in parallel and at the same time, how to live differently within ourselves and with each other, we run the risk of recreating the very structures we want to transform.

Embracing nonviolence as a deep practice is something many of us find daunting, precisely because we have all internalized the structures of thought, word, and action that have brought us to where we are. To move from where we are to what we want to embrace, we will need to overcome the fear and shame that get in our way of embracing love and truth as core principles of being; to welcome conflict and challenge as a path towards greater wholeness; to examine our assumptions about ourselves and others; and to move closer to the dream of Rumi’s field, where we can live beyond thoughts of right-doing and wrong-doing.

As I have been experimenting with how to support myself and others in doing this, I stumbled upon the possibility of creating a list of seventeen core commitments that can support our path by providing antidotes to the obstacles that keep us separate, desperate, and powerless. The commitments serve as a compass, a reminder, a scaffolding that can hold us in living by choice. They help us navigate the challenging struggles of everyday living so we can come to more and more integrity in how we live our lives, moving closer and closer to being aligned with our core values of nonviolence, and at the same time finding more and more gentleness toward ourselves when we don’t.

Each entry in this series will introduce one of the commitments and offer a concrete practice to help integrate it into your life. At the end, a final entry will reflect on the paradoxes raised by having “commitments” and how we can create balance and softness in our lives at the same time as we maintain our central focus on nonviolence.

Commitment #1: Openness to Myself

Commitment #2: Openness to the Full Emotional Range

Commitment #3: Risking My Significance

Commitment #4: Responsibility

Commitment #5: Self-Care 

Commitment #6: Balance

Commitment # 7: Loving No Matter What

Commitment #8: Assumption of Innocence

Commitment #9: Empathic Presence

Commitment #10: Generosity

Commitment #11: Authenticity and Vulnerability

Commitment #12: Availability for Feedback

Commitment #13: Openness to Dialogue

Commitment #14: Resolving Conflicts

Commitment #15: Interdependence

Commitment #16: Accepting What Is

Commitment #17: Celebration of LIfe

Commitment #18: Nonviolent Struggle 

Bonus Entry: Using the Commitments

About the author:

Miki Kashtan

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.