Author: Kimberlyn David

Q&A: Leentje Visser

In response to an email proposal I sent her, Leentje Visser suggested we meet at a local café that makes its own chocolate and whose menu includes tropical vegan smoothies. As a big fan of scrumptiously nutritious goodies, I was in no way going to turn away an invite like that (heck no!) So Leentje (sounds like Lain-tya) and I met up to discuss the idea: Would she be interested in donating time in her yoga studio so I could create some yoga videos for the Metta Center’s Certificate in Nonviolence Studies course? Over a raspberry-coconut smoothie and tea, we talked about the Metta Center’s course, how I like living in Harlingen thus far (I recently moved from Amsterdam to this Dutch coastal town), and our personal yoga practices and teaching styles. Studio Hoog en Droog is a mind-body-spirit staple in our community of 16,000. When I spot people biking or walking by my apartment with a rolled-up yoga mat tucked under one arm, I know where they’re headed. Leentje generously donated many hours of studio time, for the sake of serving the nonviolence course. I therefore feel called to introduce Leentje and her studio, which is located near the intersection of Hoogstraat and Droogstraat in Harlingen, the Netherlands (also known as Harns in the local Friesian language). Photos are courtesy of Studio Hoog en Droog/Leentje Visser. What brought you to yoga? I first started practicing yoga when my sailing husband was far away, and I was at home a lot with my then-small children. I missed having some movement in my body, but I didn’t want to go to a gym—I’m not a gym person! I saw a TV show about a family with a similar background as my own family’s, but with a mother who practiced and taught yoga. She was my inspiration to go to the library and borrow a book about yoga, and then I was hooked. After I finished my yoga teacher training, I emailed this woman to thank her, and she sent me a lovely email back. When did you open Hoog en Droog? We opened the studio in 2013, with the intention of giving various teachers a nice space to teach classes and workshops. We now have five teachers offering several different styles of yoga for a wide variety of people. How do you approach yoga as a service? I think yoga is always serving. If you teach it, you do it for the benefit of your students, not for yourself. I see a tremendous need for peace and tranquility. People are so busy with their lives, that they forget to live. Our Yin and more relaxing yoga classes are filling up, while there’s less demand for power yoga. Some people don’t have access to a yoga studio and/or can’t afford yoga classes. Can you give them any tips on starting a home practice safely? It can be difficult to establish a disciplined home practice, as I’ve heard from my own students. I […]

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Yoga Day 2018: For Peace

Today is the fourth International Day of Yoga—June 21 was proclaimed as such by the United Nations in 2014. As noted on the UN site about this day, the purpose is to “raise awareness about the benefits of practicing yoga.” The 2018 theme is “Yoga for Peace.” Who would argue for less peace in the world (that’d be nuts!)? I sure wouldn’t. Yet I think this phrase deserves some critical discussion. But first, for self-reflective honesty, I should tell you about my motivations. I’ve been developing a home yoga practice for about 10 years and teaching small community classes for 7 or so years. And you know what? I can’t bring my nose to my knees in uttanasana, which in some circles means I haven’t accomplished much in all this time. A small part of this “failure” has to do with physical limitations, but mostly I simply don’t care whether I can reach the “full expression of the pose,” as I’ve heard myself and other asana teachers say. The point of yoga for me isn’t about the poses, even though practicing the poses really helps my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. Despite having a home practice, where it’s just me doing my thing in a comfy old pair of sweatpants, I find it really hard not to conjure up images of people in fancy Lycra twisting themselves like pretzels when I think of the word “yoga.” What associations come up for you? What is Peace? When we think about “yoga for peace,” we have to think about the effects these images have on our understandings of peace, and what makes peace possible. To get to peace in yoga, we must work past the saccharine references in glossy images. We can’t down-dog our way to peace, no matter how many 90-minute vinyasa classes we might fit in the week. I feel great after an asana practice. But that feeling is temporary, and just a feeling. Real peace comes from the practice of, well, peace—even when we feel angry or scared or incapable of challenging inhumane forms of power. Which goes far beyond sticky mats and chanting om. For this Yoga Day, I invite you to join me in discerning what peace is and how we achieve it. Below I share 6 resources that make me go “WOW,” plus a short yoga-inspired relaxation practice that I created for the Metta Center’s Certificate in Nonviolence Studies course (feeling good in the body absolutely matters; if our nervous systems are haywire, our minds will be haywire too). 1. The Problem With Wanting Peace in Baltimore Kazu Haga gets down to (nonviolent) brass tacks in his essay for Waging Nonviolence. His piece was spurred by events following the 2015 police killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland. The city erupted into protests, which prompted tone-deaf calls by authorities for people to be peaceful. Haga writes: “The biggest misunderstanding that exists of nonviolence is that it means simply to ‘not be violent.’” He isn’t advocating for […]

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A Yoga-Based Practice for Body, Mind & Spirit

This past Sunday, we wrapped with Week 3 of the 2018 Certificate in Nonviolence Studies course. Part of the week’s learning focus was observing our desires to do harm, for the purpose of eradicating these impulses.
Eradicating means to pull up b…

Q&A: Author Patty Somlo

Author Patty Somlo at Copperfield’s Books in Santa Rosa, CA. Photo courtesy of Patty Somlo. Where do art and literature fit in the broader picture of peace and justice? That’s a question I’ve been fascinated with since 2009, when I served as Co-Founding Editor for a small book publisher. Part of my work involved reviewing manuscripts, contracting authors, and directing the design process. That’s how I first met the author Patty Somlo—by signing on her short story collection, From Here to There and Other Stories. Since then, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Patty elsewhere, including here. Through my former Metta Center role as Editor & Creative Director of Nonviolence magazine, I selected a couple of Patty’s stories for publication, because they reflected the organization’s mission to advance a higher image of the human, not to mention a greater sense of justice and dignity. In Patty’s latest collection, Hairway to Heaven Stories, faith and spirituality play a key role. The 15 stories present a microcosm of many US neighborhoods in cities where people of different races, ethnicities, class and sexual orientation live in close proximity to one another, with neighbors being both strangers and friends. Hairway to Heaven was recently published by Cherry Castle Publishing, a black-owned press committed “to practice literary equality and to embrace work that is informed by the social, political and cultural vigor of our times.” So what do you think: Where do art and literature fit in the broader picture of peace and justice? Read on for Patty’s take. What’s the inspiration behind this collection of short stories? Hairway to Heaven Stories is a linked short story collection set in what had been a predominantly African American neighborhood that is now in the process of gentrification. The initial inspiration for the book was my desire to write about gentrification and the pricing out of low and moderate-income residents from many American cities. One morning, I heard a story on National Public Radio about a traditionally African American neighborhood in Washington, D.C. that was undergoing gentrification. A community leader who was interviewed said that many longtime residents of the neighborhood could no longer afford to live there. I was saddened by this news. I knew the neighborhood, because I had spent time there many years ago, observing classes at Malcolm X Elementary School, while finishing my bachelor’s degree in Art Education. I had also experienced the effects of rising rents on a more personal level. In San Francisco, where I had lived for 20 years, and where my husband was born and started elementary school, rents and real estate prices started soaring in the 1990s with the dot-com boom, and then just kept on climbing. People were being evicted all the time, including low-income elderly, from homes they had lived in for decades. Once evicted, there were no places in the city these people could afford. Like many moderate-income renters in San Francisco, I worried that my husband Richard and I would be next. Finally, […]

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The Metta Center at Google

Michael Nagler, our founder, and Stephanie Van Hook, our executive director, recently spoke at Google. Hmm… Any guess on what they might have spoke about? You guessed it: They talked about the transformational powers of nonviolence. In his main presentation, Michael outlines the principles of nonviolence and how we can apply them today. He also discusses: how nonviolence has developed since Gandhi and King, the forces impeding the progress of nonviolence currently, how to shift the paradigm so as to release the power of nonviolence, and how to find our unique roles in the process of shifting the paradigm. At the very beginning of his presentation, Michael shares a preview of the documentary we’re working on with Metta friend Lou Zweier (thanks for all your amazing work, Lou!). It’s called The Journey Home, and we think you’re going to love it. Check out Metta’s presentation—and enjoy the preview of The Journey Home.

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Poetry: Submissions Call from a Volunteer

Lamisa Mustafa is a Metta Center volunteer and a first-year student at Southern Methodist University, where she is double majoring in Human Rights and Sociology, and minoring in French. She is passionate about the power of narratives in social justice. Through her poetry project Voices of Resilience, she will be creating a print and web-based anthology. Voices of Resilience will celebrate human diversity and the human experience. Lamisa seeks poems on any theme, in any language, and in any style (form, free verse, spoken word). Submissions will be welcomed by new and veteran poets alike. To submit: Email up to 3 poems by December 17, 2017: This project began with Lamisa’s participation in the Pangea Network’s Young Women’s Leadership Conference and is funded by the SMU Caswell Leadership Program. Lamisa is a talented poet herself. We recently ran her autobiographical poem “See the Dignity in Them, in Us” at She’s one to watch! Download the call for submissions flyer

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Metta Center in the New York Times

Yesterday, the New York Times ran an op-ed about—get this—nonviolence. Published in the wake of the horrible expressions of white “supremacy” in Charlottesville, VA, the piece extols the effectiveness of humor and nonviolence principles/strategies to dispel displays of racist hatred. The op-ed, written by Moises Velasquez-Manoff, quotes two members of our Metta Center staff. Here’s the snippet featuring Michael Nagler, our founder and president: Violence directed at white nationalists only fuels their narrative of victimhood—of a hounded, soon-to-be-minority who can’t exercise their rights to free speech without getting pummeled. It also probably helps them recruit. And more broadly, if violence against minorities is what you find repugnant in neo-Nazi rhetoric, then “you are using the very force you’re trying to overcome,” Michael Nagler, the founder of the Peace and Conflict Studies program at the University of California, Berkeley, told me. The piece also picks up points from Stephanie Van Hook, our executive director. It references the noted scholars Maria Stephan and Erica Chenoweth as well. Check out yesterday’s op-ed and let us know what you think. Feel called to share it? Please do!

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Press Release: Metta Center at the UN

Metta Center Named a Special Consult to the United Nations Petaluma nonprofit granted status with the world body PETALUMA, CA, May 10, 2017 – The late peace researcher Kenneth Boulding once articulated a tongue-in-cheek theory called “Boulding’s First Law.” It states that if something can happen anywhere, then it is possible everywhere. As far as the Metta Center for Nonviolence is concerned, the most urgent and possible “something” needed today is nonviolence. The United Nations seems to agree: it has granted the Petaluma-based Metta Center special consultative status with its Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Consultative status permits the Metta Center to engage with ECOSOC, along with the United Nations Secretariat. The nonprofit may also participate in UN events and attend meetings at the General Assembly, Human Rights Council and other decision-making bodies. One task high on the nonprofit’s consultative priorities is linking with organizations striving for similar aims at ECOSOC. For example, the Metta Center plans to support the international NGO Nonviolent Peaceforce in advancing unarmed civilian protection, a peacekeeping strategy that has shown to prevent, reduce and altogether stop violence in conflict zones. Another top priority will be promoting a higher image of humankind, an image that values the true potential of every human being and realigns our social systems to work in harmony with the earth. “It’s not about putting the right person in power but about awakening the right power in people,” as Michael N. Nagler, the Metta Center’s founder and president, is noted for saying. Even with its new role on the global stage, the Metta Center remains committed to collaborating with area organizations and individuals on making nonviolence a reality at the local level. To make deeper inroads locally, the organization recently moved from a rural Bodega Avenue location to a downtown office on Keller Street (205, Suite 202D). “Petaluma, a town centered in family and agriculture, has everything it needs to build a nonviolent model for our schools, businesses, local politics and, most importantly, our interpersonal relationships,” said Stephanie Van Hook, the organization’s executive director. “Local economies and relationships of trust are grist for the mill of the nonviolence movement worldwide.” Area residents are encouraged to participate in the Metta Center’s community-building initiatives, from its monthly Family Program to its weekly meditation group. The nonprofit also organizes a monthly Hope Tank, a creative antidote to the think-tank model. To help promote its mission, the Metta Center produces its own media, the biweekly Nonviolence Radio show that airs on KWMR and the biannual print magazine Nonviolence. ### For questions about the Metta Center’s special consultative status at the United Nations, please contact our executive director, Stephanie Van Hook:

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In 2017, I resolve to…

I’m not one to make New Year’s resolutions, but I am a big fan of daily resolve. Each day brings the opportunity to reflect on where we’ve been, to renew our intentions and ideals. The Metta Center’s Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance offers a bold take on daily resolve. As the title implies, and as you’ll see here, the pledge largely centers on resisting harmful forces. The word “resistance” can trigger strong reactions like fear and anger for many of us. I find it helpful to work through these energies by remembering that resisting injustices, untruths and authoritarian styles of leadership is rooted in personal-societal transformation. We must be willing to confront, with all the courage our hearts and minds can muster, troubling realities. Without this willingness, there can be no transformation within ourselves or the communities to which we belong. Here’s another way of putting it, from Jack Kornfield: “We need to take an honest look and see what we are supporting as a society. And then we speak out truthfully, and stand up for what is wise.” How any one of us speaks out and stands up for what is wise will of course stem from our own interests, viewpoints, and dispositions. How might you translate the Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance so that it flows with your personal path at this time? My version of the 2017 pledge looks like this: In each day this year—and for as long as it takes—I resolve to use my creative strengths and inner capacities to: investigate more deeply the violent conditioning within myself so that I can better serve as a social bridge-builder when divisions arise. observe more sharply any patterns of prejudice, scapegoating and hatred within myself so that I can play a larger role in weakening our collective addiction to militarization, along with its correlating forms of violence, from the physical to the psychological. develop greater compassion for all beings so that I can act more lovingly in the world, especially if/when the moment calls for obstructive strategies. explore additional ways to live in good relationship with the earth so that I can participate more fully in non-exploitative means of meeting our human needs. See the New Year’s Pledge of Nonviolent Resistance.

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Spotlight: Miroslava Sobot

Currently dividing her time between Austria and Croatia, Miroslava Sobot is a multidisciplinary graphic designer. She has been working on Metta Center projects for the last couple of years, from laying out brochures to designing the cover and interior of Stephanie Van Hook’s Gandhi’s Search for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children. It’s simply too much for one person to both edit and design a 60-page magazine (I know, because I’ve been that said person), so we also brought her on board to take over the layout of Nonviolence magazine (stay tuned for our Winter/Spring 2017 issue—it’s coming soon, and it’s incredible!). Time and again, Miroslava goes far above our requests and expectations. As the creative director and editor of Nonviolence magazine, I’ve worked really closely with her to produce our next issue. She deserves some major kudos: In addition to seamlessly carrying over our original design, she fine-tuned every element, taking them to a new level. And on top of that, she contributed a lot of extra design time, without charging us. We highly recommend her services, which are highly professional and reasonably priced. To learn more about Miroslava’s work, please visit: What inspired you to become a designer? Well, it wasn’t actually an inspiration but a tendency to express myself visually since my early childhood. I was constantly full of ideas and creating something—drawing, painting, making collages, modeling clay, building things with LEGOs. In high school, when the time came for me to decide what to study and which university to choose, I tried to picture myself in the future and could only imagine myself doing something creative. So I decided to study design, and it has turned out as a right choice for me. Is there anything special we should know about the name you work under, Mika Art? When my nephew was a little kid, he found it hard to pronounce my name, so he gave me a nickname, Mika. Later, I decided that Mika Art would be a good name to work under. As you’re based in Europe: What might be some of the joys and/or challenges in working for clients with different cultural backgrounds than your own? For the last few years, I have been working with clients from all over the world, and it’s been a great experience for me. At the beginning, it was definitely a challenge for me to learn how to communicate effectively with people from different cultures and backgrounds. But I began to realize that there are numberless ways to observe (and comprehend) this world of ours, and numberless ways to live in it. Eventually, I started developing long-lasting work relationships with some really great clients and wonderful individuals. Your diverse work includes designing materials for campaigns against human trafficking, info booklets for migrant workers and various identity pieces for the arts. Does the design process work differently for social campaigns than it does promo materials for the arts? In general, the design process is always the same, […]

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