Author: Stephanie Van Hook

Launching a great experiment…

  Metta Center founder and president Michael Nagler gives this illustration in his American Book Award-winning The Search for a Nonviolent Future: I am thinking of the anger Gandhi experienced that fateful night of May 31, 1893, when he was thrown off the train at Pietermaritzburg a week after his arrival in South Africa. This was no minor irritation; according to his own testimony, Gandhi was furious. That, along with the fact that Gandhi is more than usually articulate about his inner experiences, is what makes this event (among millions of similar insults human beings endure at one another’s hands) such an important window into the dynamics of nonviolent conversion. The first clue as to how he finally succeeded, after a night of bitter reflection, to see the creative way out is that he didn’t take the insult personally; he saw in it the whole tragedy of man’s inhumanity to man, the whole outrage of racism. Not “they can’t do this to me,” but “how can we do this to one another?” The second clue is the state of his faith in human nature. Already at that period he believed that people could not ignore truth forever. He did not yet know how to wake them up; he just knew they could not want to stay forever asleep. That is how he was able to find the third way between running home to India and suing the railroad company. Imagine the old-fashioned locomotive carrying this “coolie barrister” from Durban up the mountains to Pretoria, standing at the station in Pietermaritzburg with a good head of steam. You could shovel in more coal and just bottle up all that power and even pretend it wasn’t there, until finally it exploded, or you could just open the valves and scald everyone on the platform—but surely you would want to use it to drive the train. This is what Gandhiji was going through with all the emotional power built up in him by the accumulated insults he had met since his arrival at the Durban pier. He chose neither to “pocket the insult,” as he said, nor to lash out at the immediate source of the pain. He launched what was to become the greatest experiment in social change in the modern world.   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Love your “enemy”?

  “Through practices in which we surrender to love, we come to the understanding–even if only for a moment–that we truly have no “enemies.” Instead, we see that we are surrounded by brothers and sisters who are suffering in one form or another, but who are expressing it as hatred. This being the case, shouldn’t we drop the word “enemies” altogether? No doubt you have noticed by now that I have been placing quote marks around the word enemies, and the reason is this: to claim that we have “enemies” whom we must learn to love is to embrace in some measure the idea of a foe. It is to internalize the violence inherent in enmity, and thus to perpetuate–albeit inadvertently–the self/other framework that has fueled so much violence in the world. Indeed, to use the term “enemies” might even make it more difficult for us to imagine the person who harbors ill will and perpetuates injustice as one who suffers and is in need of our compassion, love, and kindness. Thus, as a part of our embrace of nonviolence, it is best we drop the term altogether, even though the command to “love your enemies” has been, for quite some time, a staple of the discourse on nonviolence.” –Alycee Lane, from her excellent book #Nonviolence Now,  p. 87.  Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Power and violence…

  “Violent and nonviolent action may also be differentiated in terms of their relation to a third construct, power. Scholars have traditionally emphasized power over and equate violence with power. However, others emphasize power to or power with and differentiate violence from power. The twentieth-century political theorist Hannah Arendt, for example, suggests that rather than being an extreme manifestation of power, violence is the antithesis of power. Violence, she argues, may destroy power, but cannot create it. From this perspective, the use of violence indicates a lack of power, while voluntary, cooperative, nonviolent action is an essential indicator of power (Arendt 1970).” –Kurt Schock, Civil Resistance Today, p. 6   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Satyagraha, in practice…

“Satyagraha, in practice, is a method for resolving conflict. Traditionally, conflict between opposed parties is ‘resolved’ only by the acknowledged dominance of one antagonist over the other. The assumption is that one side can succeed only at the expense of the other. Success may come by reason or persuasion, by threat or blackmail, or by force, but in any case, the assumption is the same: if there is to be a winner, there must be a loser. Even compromise rests on this assumption since in a compromise one side attempts to get as much as it can at the expense of the other, compromising only to the extent it is forced by circumstances to do so. Satyagraha challenges this assumption. Rather than trying to conquer the opponent or to annihilate his claims, Satyagraha tries to resolve the sources of conflict. As Gandhi states succinctly, it ‘seeks to liquidate antagonisms but not the antagonists themselves.’ This point is critical since it quickly distinguishes satyagraha from other social action methods which merely attempt to gain self-invested ends.” –Tim Flinders from his afterword to Eknath Easwaran’s Gandhi the Man.   Useful links about Daily Metta Have a question you’d like explored in Daily Metta? Write us. Want to see more Daily Mettas? Access the entire archives or visit GandhiDaily. To receive Daily Metta by email, simply subscribe.

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Lesson 1 (Family Program)

Love is the strongest force the world possesses, yet it is the humblest imaginable. ~M.K. Gandhi   Dear Friends, Welcome to our Family Program. This is a 12-month curriculum designed for families of all kinds–whether in our homes or in our classrooms–where we get a chance to deepen our practice of nonviolence with the help of children. As Gandhi pointed out, love is as humble as it is powerful–and who is more humble in our midst than the children that surround us at every turn? They are watching our choices; learning from our behaviors; listening to what we do and contrasting it with what we say; all while trying to make sense of the world, their place in it, and harnessing the great and latent powers they have to contribute to life around them. Indeed, a goal of this program is to help children find their inner potential. In its essence, nonviolence is the practice of discovering and putting that force of love to work in ourselves and in the world, and we cannot think of a more appropriate place to begin to explore that force than in the family. What you are engaging in throughout this project is more than helping your own family or helping your own children grow and develop into a force for nonviolence in our world; you’re helping the structure of family itself rediscover its purpose (dharma): to be a heart-centered space for the transmission of life-affirmation and constructive values that connect all of us into one larger, massive human family. The program will follow two main books: Gandhi Searches for Truth: A Practical Biography for Children and The Search for a Nonviolent Future. A supplement will be Eknath Easwaran’s God Makes the Rivers to Flow: Selections from the Sacred Literature of the World. We will share simple exercises, food for thought, and activities for the participants in this program to begin or else deepen what nonviolence looks like in the home setting. You are warmly invited to expand on any topic/activity or branch out in any way that you feel is right for you. We want this to be both flexible and engaging. Finally, this project is a work-in-progress, so your constructive feedback along the way is very welcome. Especially, please share with us your positive experiments or other materials that you have found useful. With admiration, Stephanie Van Hook, on behalf of the Metta Center Team   _______________________________________________________________   Activities for Month ONE Link to print-out here   The following activities are options for you to implement as works best for your family throughout the entire month. None are very demanding, but each one requires of us our full presence of mind and heart. You are invited to be creative with the activities: find your own way to make it work for the children with whom you participating. Invite each other to add to the activities in ways that add to their meaning and beauty. Here’s a list of the activities for the month. […]

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Restorative Justice for Petaluma

Photo credit: Restorative Resources A Community Conversation about Justice. Join the Metta Center for Nonviolence and Restorative Resources for a Petaluma community conversation about the practice of restorative justice. What is restorative justice? How does it help us as individuals within our community? How does it help our students perform better in school and in life? How can we work together to help our local schools adopt a restorative, instead of a punishment-based, approach to discipline? And how does it fit into a larger picture of ending the school-to-prison pipeline? Bring your friends! Aqus Cafe will have meals and beverages for sale. Come for inspiration, strategy, and community. When: September 18, 2017 Where: Aqus Cafe (189 H Street, corner of H and 2nd Streets) Time: 6:30 pm- 8:00 pm   “Nonviolence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our being.” -Mahatma Gandhi

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Nonviolence News–Weekly Hope Tank

  “You must not lose your faith in humanity.”  -M.K. Gandhi   The Metta Center for Nonviolence is teaming up with Waging Nonviolence for a Nonviolence News HOPE TANK every Wednesday morning from 8:15-9:15 am PST (11:15-12:15 EST) on the Zoom Platform until the end of 2017. We’ll discuss the featured articles Waging Nonviolence, exploring key ideas, grey areas, and core concepts of nonviolence that the articles highlight. Fill in this form to be added to our discussion group email for sharing articles, resources, and call reminders. Contact Stephanie (@) if you have any questions.   We are constantly being astonished these days at the amazing discoveries in the field of violence. But I maintain that far more undreamt of and seemingly impossible discoveries will be made in the field of nonviolence. M.K. Gandhi  

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WORKSHOP: Foundations of Nonviolence

“Nonviolence is the greatest power at the disposal of humankind.” -M.K. Gandhi THE PRINCIPLES AND FOUNDATION OF NONVIOLENCE In this fun, interactive workshop hosted by the Metta Center for Nonviolence team, participants will explore key principles of nonviolence, how it works, and how to apply it in our day to day lives as well as our activism. WHEN: Saturday, August 19 TIME: 9-11:30 am WHERE: The Metta Center for Nonviolence, 205 Keller St. Suite 202D Cost: $20. RSVP:  

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Monday Meditations at METTA

Meditation is a powerful tool for calming the mind and deepening our practice of nonviolence. Join us for a small group meditation at the Metta Center’s office. Silent meditation begins promptly at 3:15, and lasts 30 minutes. Following meditation at 3:45 is a short reading from Gandhi so we can better understand his life and teachings. If you would like to join and need support for a meditation practice, we are happy to meet with you beforehand to give instructions in a form of meditation called “Passage Meditation.”        

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Why Wednesday was Awesome

Training with Meta Peace Team’s Mary Hanna at the Metta Center…   Lou leans into the kitchen, “If we need more room, we can do this training at my house.” “We’ll be fine,” I reply with a grin. Walking back into our office, I see that all the chairs have been filled, and some people have moved to the floor. About 16 people, and one or two people spilling out of the door. We’ve all gathered in about a week’s notice to spend four hours with Mary Hanna of the Meta Peace Team who kindly offered to train us in skills related to unarmed peacekeeping (the work of MPT) as well as bystander intervention while on an important visit to our headquarters in Petaluma. Only an hour earlier, Mary was rushing about, organizing her material, plugging in her flash-drive, looking for her papers, and other preparations. I accidentally kicked over her coffee mug she set on the ground. She’s used to 8-hour sessions, and I’ve halved the time. I wanted people to have an intro to the work, but not necessarily a full day commitment at first go. Leave us wanting a little more. . . We start the training with centering. I smile at the room full of expectant faces, “Mary usually gets five minutes for centering exercises, but we’re at the Metta Center–we’ll do thirty.” At which point our training began–with half an hour meditation, or quiet walking, or sitting in nature. The main rule: turn off the devices. Centering, she said, is essential when you are on a peace team, and it requires daily practice. She compared it to walking through a forest. You do it day in and day out, so that one night, there’s an emergency and you need to dash through down the path in thick darkness. You don’t need to see because your feet know the path; your hands know where you are. On a peace team, she said, we need that path inward–to our calm center– at our fingertips. Throughout the morning, Mary came to life–sharing the amazing stories of the work of Meta Peace Team, and her practical idealism about how everyday people like ourselves can work together to strengthen our human bonds and reduce the violence we encounter and experience in our daily lives.  Their most recent interventions took during the anti-sharia “rallies” in Lansing, MI, where a neighborhood of immigrants and refugees was a target for violence. They patrolled the neighborhood, provided protective accompaniment, stationed themselves at potential “flash points” for violent confrontation, and managed to report that no incidents of the day were able to escalate into violence against the neighborhood.  “Did this make the media?” someone asked. “Since there was no violence,” she said, “the media wouldn’t pick up that there was even a story there to tell.” In the course of the training, Mary shared tool after tool to help us de-escalate violent situations with nonviolence. We practiced working in conflict situations related to our families, our […]

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