Author: Stephanie Van Hook

“Walk Alone”–Daily Metta

June 9 “There are moments in your life when you must act, even though you cannot carry your best friends with you.” –Gandhi (The Monthly Review, Calcutta, October, 1941) One of Gandhi’s favorite songs was Ekla Chalo Re, a Bengali hymn translated as “Walk Alone.” Written by the famous Rabindranath Tagore, the lyrics are as follows, translated by Tagore himself from Bengali: If they answer not to your call walk alone If they are afraid and cower mutely facing the wall, O thou unlucky one, open your mind and speak out alone. If they turn away, and desert you when crossing the wilderness, O thou unlucky one, trample the thorns under thy tread, and along the blood-lined track travel alone. If they shut doors and do not hold up the light when the night is troubled with storm, O thou unlucky one, with the thunder flame of pain ignite your own heart, and let it burn alone. Gandhi is known to have drawn from the power within this song, singing it as he traveled alone into violence-rife villages toward the end of his life, in an effort to get the bloodshed  between Hindus and Muslims to cease.   Experiment in Nonviolence: Learn the words of Ekla Chalo Re by heart, as Gandhi did; or at least let’s take them to heart.     Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.

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“Everyone is a Peacekeeper”–Daily Metta

March 2:  “Democracy and dependence on the military and police are incompatible.” -Gandhi (Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 347) Inspired by Gandhi’s vision of personal empowerment, in the pre-school classroom where I work with three to six year olds, we do not designate only one or two people to act as “peacekeeper” for a day. Instead, we discuss together how everyone is a peacekeeper at all times, and we work individually on our skills to become more effective at it day by day. To this extent, we are creating the microcosm of a truly democratic society. What does this look like outside of our school and in the “real” world? It begins with individuals becoming trained in the tools of nonviolent conflict de-escalation: mediation, restorative justice, compassionate communication and listening, empathy, and other nonviolent skills necessary to work out our conflicts without relying on someone else to do it for us. The moment we give away our capacity to handle conflict creatively and constructively, we invite in power abuse and violence in those who take up the job for us. It is too precious a capacity, and too instrumental to true democracy, to give away.   Experiment in Nonviolence: What skills do you feel you need to work on in order to feel more confident in handling a conflict in your life? Find a resource today that is meant to help you strengthen that capacity nonviolently.   Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.  

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“Penance not Punishment”–Daily Metta

March 1: “Experience gained in two schools under my control has taught me that punishment does not purify; if anything, it hardens children.” –Gandhi (Mahatma, vol. 2, p. 218) (Pictured: Gandhi’s wife Kasturba, and their four children)   One day, Gandhi’s grandson Arun was in Johannesburg with his father, Manilal, getting their car fixed. While his father went to an appointment, Arun was to wait for the car and pick him up when it was ready. However, he decided to go into the theatre and watch some John Wayne films. He watched a double feature, and suddenly realized that it was way past the time to pick up his father.  He decided to make up a story about the car not being ready earlier, to avoid getting in trouble. To his surprise, when he told his father what “happened,” Manilal told him that he had already called the garage, and knew that the story was not true. Disappointed that his son would choose to lie to him, he decided he would walk home to the ashram, over 18 miles away! Arun drove behind him, at a snail’s pace, for hours.  The result was that Arun learned a very important lesson no punishment could have conveyed: in his words, “That made me decide never to tell a lie. If he had punished me, I would have taken the punishment and decided not to get caught the next time.”   Experiment in Nonviolence: Instead of punishing someone close to you, consider taking some act of penance (not as extreme as walking eighteen miles!).   Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher.  

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“Nonviolence as an Evolutionary Force”–Daily Metta

January 12 “Non-cooperation is a process of evolution: it has most aptly been described as Evolutionary Revolution.” –Gandhi (Young India, February 23, 1921) Gandhi understood that nonviolent non-cooperation against a State, aka civil resistance, meant a closer form of cooperation among people. Assured that such actions would not lead to disorder or chaos, he put his faith securely in the hearts of people as well as in the principles of nonviolence itself. It is revolutionary. Violent non-cooperation, by contrast, most often lacks vision, unity and strategic thinking about “what next,” not to mention that it denies people’s desire for peace which goes much deeper than their desire for vengeance and retaliation, however intense those may feel. So what does it have to do with evolution? Whenever we non-cooperate with individuals and systems in the spirit of nonviolence, we show with our lives not only that another world is truly possible, but that we desire that world and are willing to withdraw our support from what is no longer working. And we become empowered in the process: the more we become aware of our underlying unity that is so foundational in nonviolent action, the more we realize that we are not required to obey when misguided leaders, ideologies and institutions try to run the show. It’s an intentional shift from unconscious passivity to conscious action. This is why Gandhi maintains that nonviolent non-cooperation can become a force of evolution; instead keeping us locked into the destructive cycle of violence, it releases us and enables us to moves forward toward unexplored frontiers of the human mind, body and spirit.   Experiment in Nonviolence: If you were to non-cooperate with one violent institution, which one would it be? What would replace that institution? Research one new nonviolent institution, such as unarmed civilian peacekeeping.   Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher. Sign up to receive Daily Metta in your inbox!

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Humility and Nonviolence–Daily Metta

January 11 “The spirit of nonviolence necessarily leads to humility.” -Gandhi (Young India, January 12, 1921)  Humility is one of those delicate virtues that disappears the moment we think that we have attained it. If Gandhi was a humble man, it was not because he lived frugally or because he wore only home-spun khadi, or cotton cloth. Even if he chose to walk barefoot instead of on home-made sandals, that would not be the source of his humility. Humility is a state of heart–a willingness to see oneself as one relates to the whole, instead of using personal changes to draw attention to oneself.  His goal in life, as he clearly states time and again, was “to make himself (and his ego) zero.” Few of us can say we have done this.  But it’s open to us to try.  This is a matter of degree, there being a long stretch between where we presently are (present writer included) and zero. If nonviolence is the path that makes us humble, it is because it turns our world upside down. Instead of working for one’s own gain, or even the utilitarian notion of the “greatest good for the greatest number,” the nonviolent spirit seeks to find the solution that works for everyone, win-win, or what Gandhi calls sarvodaya, the uplift of all. Instead of believing that we have the whole truth–and nothing but the truth–nonviolence requires of us to admit that we can only see part the picture. Every individual holds one part of the truth. Instead of changing others first, we realize we have to examine our own motives, and change those where needed. Instead of thinking that we can go at it alone, in nonviolence, we glimpse at how small we really are, and with detachment, we see a power moving through us, and it affects us deeply–we are not the “doers,” as Gandhi might say.  This allowed him — and could allow us — to enjoy what’s sometimes called the “proud humility” of realizing that while we are nothing by ourselves, we’re not by ourselves. So the next time someone offers you a book on Humility and How I Got It, (the humorous title proposed by our friend Richard Deats) tell them that you don’t need it: You’re practicing nonviolence every day. Well, on the other hand…you might go ahead and take the book, thinking to yourself, “maybe there is something I can learn from even this.” And, more to the point, you don’t want to humiliate your friend…   Experiment in Nonviolence: The next time you catch yourself thinking ‘I did this great thing’ — or, for that matter, ‘what a colossal failure I am’ remind yourself that strictly speaking it’s circumstances, and the support of others, that act through us or at least give us possibilities to act.   Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in […]

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Dr. King on Loving Enemies- then and now (PPR podcast)

  “Nonviolence aims at the restoration of relationships.” -Michael Nagler on this week’s episode of Peace Paradigm Radio! In this week’s show, Stephanie and Michael get into a passionate discussion on nonviolent strategy in our bi-monthly nonviolence in the news report and both emerge with new insights about this great power. As January is the month in which we celebrate Dr. King’s holiday in the United States, they have dedicated a portion of each show this month to King’s work. They discuss King’s 1957 sermon on “loving your enemies” and its relevance for then and, most importantly, today. You can read that sermon here.    

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Self-Discipline and Nonviolence–Daily Metta

January 10 “Violence like water, when it has an outlet, rushes forward furiously with an overwhelming force. Nonviolence cannot act madly. It is the essence of discipline.” –Gandhi, (Harijan, 3-21-1939) A friend recently confided in me that if he had not had the nonviolent mentorship of an adult in his life at a key moment, he would have easily been persuaded to join the military. He now runs an organization called the East Point Peace Academy, primarily offering trainings in the skills of nonviolence as understood by Dr. Martin Luther King, not excluding training for inmates in prisons in the Bay Area. What’s the connection? What does nonviolence offer as much as military training? Gandhi would say unequivocally, self-discipline. The human being requires self-discipline as we require food, sleep and love. These days, it seems we need it in greater and greater measure, yet if the military is the only institution servicing this need, especially for young people, it is no wonder that many still find this violent institution appealing. Especially in the culture we live in today, where the less restraint we show the more easily we’re manipulated, restraint becomes a counter to oppression. Likewise, it takes restraint not to strike out with a closed fist or a sharp word when someone questions our dignity or otherwise harms us. We rarely learn anything different. We are told that any restraint is a form of passivity.  The corporate media and military is literally invested in our thinking that self-restraint is the wrong road to freedom. Don’t believe them. On the contrary, we should be absolutely clear that the more self-restraint we show in nonviolence, the more it is powerful and the more we are free.   Experiment in Nonviolence:  Find a way to observe restraint today in a relationship. Hold back a harsh word you might say about another person, even if you think it’s true. Take note of the process–how did it feel to show discipline in this way and what happened? Daily Metta 2015, a service of the Metta Center for Nonviolence, is a daily reflection on the strategic and spiritual insights of Mahatma Gandhi in thought, word and deed. As Gandhi called his life an “experiment in truth,” we have included an experiment in nonviolence to accompany each Daily Metta. Check in every day for new inspiration. Each year will be dedicated to another wisdom teacher. Sign up to receive Daily Metta in your inbox!

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Taking women’s lives seriously — an interview with Cynthia Enloe

by Stephanie Van Hook. Curiosity, arguably, is the antidote to the passivity in politics. When we question the assumptions of candidates’ platforms, especially with regard to women, and when we learn from movements that take women seriously, we stand to awaken something more active and empowered within ourselves. In Cynthia Enloe’s words, “This makes us […]

Waging feminism — the other side of nonviolent struggle

by Stephanie Van Hook. May 17 marked Women Occupying Wall Street’s (WOW) First Feminist General Assembly in New York, along with similar assemblies in Chicago and other Occupy sites nationwide. It also happened to be my 30th birthday. Everyone knows that when you pass to a new decade, there is a comfort in nostalgia — […]

Can we be the 100 percent?

Occupy Wall Street has signaled the changing weather of a looming “American Autumn” and consequently galvanized the progressive movement. The 99 percent, as they call themselves for the interests they want to represent, have shown tremendous courage in the face of police brutality. They have also demonstrated remarkable perseverance, despite the general lack of accurate […]