Non-Violent Communication: Subversive Skills of Lovingkindness
by Carolyn Heineman
Some years ago I was at Spirit Rock north of San Francisco on an extended silent retreat. I was over-the-top fortunate to have Jack Kornfield as one of my individual teachers. Near the end of the retreat, I began to have a buzz of anxiety about going back ‘out there’ and rejoining that harsh world of oblivious humans. Jack spoke simply, as Buddhist monks are wont to do, “Just remember,” he said, “even one mindful breath changes the world.” Huh. What was I supposed to do with that?
In the years since, I’ve learned to apply those words in so many ways. Those words have redirected my thoughts and efforts from ‘how can I change them’ to ‘what can I do?’. And most of the responses to that question have turned out to be about strengthening my own self-awareness and skills. My mindful breath is what he was saying—not someone else’s.
Do you know about the practice of metta? It’s the Buddhist practice of developing and extending an attitude of friendliness and lovingkindness. To everyone. As in, no exceptions. Not just learning superficial polite words, but deeply connecting with a felt sense of lovingkindness. In this practice, one learns to hold the wish of safety, health, and happiness for all beings. Even the ones I can’t stand to be around or listen to. Can you call to mind someone that has done you harm? Can you imagine extending your deep heartfelt wish for their happiness? It may just be one of the most important mindful breaths that I can take. And, it’s SO much harder than it sounds. And, I’ve needed all the help I could find on the journey.
One place I found support for metta is in the skills of Non-Violent Communication (Rosenberg). This skillset was specifically designed to take us outside of the language and right-wrong attitude of the culture of domination and control. An approach of quiet subversion. It teaches us to see the ‘other’—all others— as human beings who are just trying to get their needs met. Think maybe Emma’s Revolution and “Swimming to the Other Side”. Think maybe Audre Lorde and “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” We need new kinds of tools.
Whether you are interested in enhancing your antiracism work, social justice, political activism – or your personal relationships – the skills of NVC can help us change the system, not just the topic.
We have an unusual opportunity to learn the skills and approach of NVC at no charge. Rev. Gy Ludvig-McCartney at UUCC in Portage will be offering an 8-week class on Thursdays beginning January 26. Please join us! For more details and to register: call Jacquis at UUCC (269-324-7262).
May all beings be safe
May all beings be happy
May all beings find peace
Carolyn Heineman/ARAOMC Committee