Author: Stephanie Van Hook

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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Global Spirit and Nonviolence

Usually I prefer not to work on Sunday evenings. It’s my one chance for a day to myself, to work on my weaving or sewing projects or even get more involved in a book that I’ve been salivating to read all week long. (Currently on my table is Kamala Subramaniam’s version of The Ramayana.) There are some occasions that warrant a slight change in routine, however. Last Sunday was one of them. Michael Nagler and I were invited to represent the Metta Center for Nonviolence at a small gathering—about 25 people mostly representing rather effective large-scale organizations (think Pachamama Alliance, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, Attitudinal Healing International, etc)—on a houseboat in Sausalito, California (it was much more house than boat). It was for strategy meeting for the PBS/Link TV Series, Global Spirit, to help them brainstorm for their third season. We were broken into three groups to have small circle discussions about what topic might be particularly relevant for the times we are in, while holding fast to their vision that timeless wisdom and a higher image of who we are must underlie the subject matter. Up our ally, alright! Michael and I joined the breakout group hosted by Jean Bolen on how we understand the “Other,” questions of fear of the “other,” and overcoming “otherness”—where we made the case for the show engaging a dialogue around restorative justice. It’s practical; it’s happening around the world; and it’s based in indigenous culture/tradition. There was general interest. Michael also contributed by sharing the Wheeler and Fisk study from Princeton about smooth or crunchy peanut butter, which explains that we can interrupt our amygdala’s fight or flight response by taking people out of a class or category and imagining them as full individuals. People thought that the next season could simply be called “smooth or crunchy,” which gave us all a good laugh. I was very moved by the efforts of the Global Spirit program. The host Phil Cousineau is not only a humble, thoughtful writer from North Beach whose mentors include Joseph Campbell and Houston Smith, he takes people on pilgrimages around the world. His film partner Stephen Ollsen is a Bay Area documentarian as well as a bit of a media activist convinced, as he is, of the power of the media to impact the way that people see each other and the world. Check out Global Spirit when you get some time. I recommend this episode on Earth Wisdom and Standing Rock. Look forward to Season Three—even more nonviolence will be in the lineup.          

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Empowering nonviolent play

We’ve all seen and heard kids playing out violent scenarios–mostly because they have not learned enough about how nonviolence works and what other options they have. In this podcast I share the story of how one mother was able to gently show her son the power of rehumanization while playing his game with him. Listen to the five minute podcast here.  Or below the bio box… Have a story related to this podcast? Share it in the comment section below.      

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We’ve moved: Join us!

Since mid-March we’ve been moving into a new office in downtown Petaluma. Now that we’ve vacuumed up the last bit of sawdust from the floor (all our shelves were hand-built and crafted by our own Michael Nagler), placed the final book in our Gandhi library, arranged the last piece of furniture for our nonviolence home—and inaugurated our meditation corner—we are ready to open our doors to our community. We are now located at 205 Keller Street, Suite 202D, Petaluma, California. (For mail, please continue to use the PO Box 98 address.) We hope you’ll join us in person. Here are a few ways of getting involved and taking action: 1. Volunteer in person at our office: Volunteering is an opportunity to put your skills to the service of the larger nonviolence movement worldwide while also deepening your learning of how nonviolence works. Choose your frequency: once a month, once a week, etc. 2. Monday Meditations: 3:15-3:45 pm every Monday to nourish the mind, body, and spirit of the Mahatmas-to-be in our midst. (Or, join us from wherever you are at, at that very time, and we’ll be united in heart.) 3. Restorative Justice Strategy Team: This is a project open to those living in Petaluma who feel passionately that the time is now for restorative justice to play a bigger role for our youth in our community’s school system. The Metta Team kindly invites all interested and committed community members to join us on our strategy team and TAKE ACTION. 4. Nonviolence Mentoring: We work with people around the world on the dynamics of nonviolence, to practice this great power more safely and more effectively. We are now offering in-person mentoring and nonviolence study at our office. 5. Family Program: Second Tuesday of the month from 3:30-4:30 pm. Bring your child to the Metta Center for a story, craft, and snack. Spaces limited. To join any program, kindly email Stephanie Van Hook to arrange your visit: stephanie@mettacenter.org.

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Conflict is Natural- Podcast

  Conflict is natural and healthy. Violence is avoidable. In this podcast I talk about a practical approach for understanding conflict as a necessary part of developing our most humane qualities and the art of engaging conflict without resorting to violence.  Podcast time: 5 minutes. Listen here or at with the player below the bio box.

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“We’re friends.”: Parent Power Podcast

How do we express to children we are working together as a team and what effect can it have? In this episode, I explore the power–and challenges of– working together on setting boundaries with children in a respectful way that models for them a productive way of saying ‘no’ as well. Episode length: Six Minutes LISTEN HERE or below the bio box.    

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Never Despair: Daily Metta

“Man’s nature is not essentially evil. Brute nature has been known to yield to the influence of love. You must never despair of human nature.”  ~ Gandhi, Harijan, November 1938 The 1930s were not a very hopeful time in the history of world politics, yet here we have Gandhi echoing across the years with a clarion call of hope: do not despair of human nature. People may be obstinate; people may be unkind; people may be downright cruel; but that’s not the whole story. People can change. People can exhibit extraordinary selflessness. People can still love even in the face of the most challenging circumstances, with a fierce, unrelenting love that can stop pipelines and wars. But this love is not a soft, sweet love. It’s the kind of love that resists, and protects, and draws out the highest powers—real power—in people. In a word: nonviolence. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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Women’s Power: Daily Metta

“Woman is more fitted than man to make explorations and take bolder actions in ahimsa.” ~ Gandhi, Mind of Mahatma Gandhi, p. 294 Certainly one can do without the gender essentialism in the 21st century, but that’s the problem when you take quotes out of their time and context. What we have to understand here is that Gandhi was working within a society and time where women were marginalized and stepped on even more than today within the social order. And within the colonial system itself, exploited nations were thought of as “effeminate.” If we look even slightly closer, we see that Gandhi is bringing women out into the open by aligning them with nonviolence, and that he includes himself and his movement in that categorization. Women are powerful. That is his message. This is actually the basis for Gandhi’s feminism: not essentialism, but deep empowerment. Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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Village Life: Daily Metta

“…[P]eople will never be able to live in peace with each other in towns and palaces. They will then have no recourse but to resort to both violence and untruth. We can realize truth and nonviolence only in the simplicity of village life. ~ Gandhi, Letter to Nehru, October, 1945, in Bhoodan, March 26, 1960 This is one of his strongest statements on the role of villages, for which viable neighborhoods (apartment houses) might be a Western equivalent, if they were to function like villages. It does underscore the challenge we face in rebuilding a life of material simplicity and rich, close relationships; which, if Gandhi is right, is pretty much a necessity if we are to avoid “violence and untruth.” There must be a modern equivalent, and I don’t think social media does it; but it’s open to each of us to work out his or her own formula: how to live in accordance with Martin Luther King’s admonition that we must “rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented civilization to a person-oriented civilization.” Thanks for sharing a comment below. About Daily Metta Stephanie Van Hook, the Metta Center’s executive director, launched Daily Metta in 2015 as a way to share Gandhi’s spiritual wisdom and experiments with nonviolence. Our 2016 Daily Metta continues with Gandhi on weekdays. On weekends, we share videos that complement Michael Nagler’s award-winning book, The Search for a Nonviolent Future: A Promise of Peace for Ourselves, Our Families, and Our World. To help readers engage with the book more deeply, the Metta Center offers a free PDF study guide. Enjoy more Daily Metta: See the  archives Get Daily Metta by email: Subscribe    

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