Photo Credit: Leslie Mclurg, KQED In crisis situations–whether by human-made violence or nature disasters–we can draw from the tools of nonviolence to help us take care of ourselves and others with sensitivity and awareness. The following list includes activities we can do by ourselves and share with others. Center.Take deep breaths to slow your breathing and to calm your mind. Take 15 seconds and check in with your surroundings: name to yourself or outloud five things you see: a red pillow, a grey chair, a tree, etc. You might also use a mantram, a prayer word that helps to calm the mind and body. Find one in your spiritual tradition, if you wish, such as Jesus Jesus Jesus, Allah Allah Allah, Rama Rama Rama (Gandhi’s mantram, which he called the “staff of his life”), Om mani padme hum, Baruch Atah Adonai, Ave Maria, etc. You can find a great list in The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran or online at BMCM.ORG/Mantram Check in with your body. Are you tense? Take 30 seconds, regularly, to stretch your arms, legs, notice your pace (is it unnecessarily fast?), rub your hands together, wiggle your toes, and so forth. Also, drink water. Stress can dehydrate us, fast; and as St. Exupery said in The Little Prince, “sometimes water is good for the heart.” One-pointed attention. There are a lot of things grabbing for our attention when we are in an emergency situation. Doing several things at once will not only fragment your mind more and make you feel more afraid, it will lead to less getting done. Try to do one thing at a time. Make a list (at least mentally, if you can’t write it down), you may have to “triage” to attend to first things first. Go through it systematically. Each thing you do, give it your full attention until you have finished doing it. Give people your one-pointed attention. Similarly, we can support the people around us who might be in a state of panic by giving them our one-pointed attention. Even if only for a short while, for whatever amount of time we have, be as present as possible with them. Plus, practice “deep listening.” When you hear what someone really wants (and they themselves may not be quite aware), it releases a lot of tension. Be creative, but be sensitive. In a time of crisis, we need each other and the various gifts we bring. Be creative and think of ways of building community based on what you know you can do. Help people to laugh and feel connected. But remember to be sensitive–look at what is happening, and consider what might be missing. People need safety, food, clothing, and shelter. We also need bonding, autonomy, and meaning. Don’t forget that human dignity requires all of these. Consent. Ask before you help. “Would you like me to help you with x?” Similarly with photographs. Respect people’s dignity and autonomy, always. Honoring our limits. There’s always something you can do, but […]
“Victory is impossible until we are able to keep our temper under the gravest of provocation. Calmness under fire is a soldier’s indispensable quality. A non-cooperator is nothing if he cannot remain calm and unperturbed under a fierce fire of provocation. There should be no mistake. There is no civil disobedience possible until the crowds behave like disciplined soldiers. And we cannot resort to civil disobedience unless we can assure every Englishman that he is in his own home. It is not enough that we give the assurance. Every Englishman and Englishwoman must feel safe, not by reason of the bayonet at their disposal but by reason of our living creed of nonviolence. That is the condition not only of success but our own ability to carry on the movement in its present form. There is no other way of conducting the campaign of non-co-operation.” –M.K. Gandhi, Young India, August 25, 1921. 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.
“We get asked all the time in our workshops, ‘Well, isn’t violence just part of human nature?’ And I used to struggle responding to it, because it was hard to argue. It has always been part of our history. Then several years ago, I met Paul Chappell, a graduate of West Point turned peace activist. During his presentation at a conference, he said that every study that has ever been conducted shows that violence is traumatic. It can cause PTSD, depression, anxiety and permanent damage to our brain. And yet not a single person has ever been traumatized by an act of love. He then asked, ‘If violence is part of our nature, then why does it short-circuit our brain?’ Shouldn’t we be able to engage in it and not have it cause permanent damage? That to him was evidence that violence isn’t in our nature, that at the core of human nature are the things that fulfill us: love, joy, community, peace. And that is what we need today: a determined and dogged belief in the goodness of people. We need the fierce tactics of nonviolence to stop the immediate harm, and the principles of nonviolence to transform the pain. Without one or the other, we are always going to be spinning our wheels, fighting the next injustice or addressing the next hurt. I’ve been very privileged in my life. I’ve gotten to see so many people transformed from the most violent circumstances, that it might be easier for me to have faith in people. It is the greatest honor being able to work with incarcerated communities. Every day, I get to learn from people who have survived so much violence and in many cases have inflicted so much harm, yet have transformed to become some of the greatest peacemakers I’ve ever met. It gives me faith in the resiliency of people and in the core of human nature. And if I can have faith in their core and their ability to transform, why not the prison guards? Why not the politician who passed the laws that filled the prison? Or the corporate lobbyist who pushed for that legislation? Or the conservative voter who put those lawmakers into office? It may take seven generations, but if we are not working for a world that works for all of us, then what exactly are we working for? If we are working to change laws and policies, but the hearts and minds of the people are still corrupt and we still see each other as exactly that — ‘others’ — will we ever know peace? –Kazu Haga, from Why the moral argument for nonviolence matters. 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.
“Who we are in the eyes of others is the image we project, but of course that image comes across differently for everyone who reads it because, as we know from the field of constructive conflict management, no two people’s perspective is identical. (…) How can we overcome these blocks to accurate perception of our [nonviolent] identity? Primarily through patient persistence and ongoing outreach. For example, after I went out into the north woods of Michigan in 1985 to physically dismantle a portion of a thermonuclear command center that was part of Project ELF (Extremely Low Frequency), I used my subsequent jail time to write letters to editors of small-town publications. I did an interview on the local affiliate of public radio. I met with the editor of the only daily paper in the area. Although the first reaction to my message in all cases was incredulity or hostility, careful reworking of the arguments, considerate reframing of the issues, and the simple discipline of restraint and establishing commonalities with the local people helped. It’s doable, but it takes time.” –Tom Hastings, “Apathy, Aggression, Assertion, and Action: Managing Image for Nonviolent Success,” from Exploring the Power of Nonviolence (ed. Randall Amster and Elavie Ndura) 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.
“The late writer and activist Barbara Deming wrote about the two hands of nonviolence in her book-length essay, Revolution and Equilibrium: ‘With one hand we say to one who is angry, or to an oppressor, or to an unjust system, ‘Stop what you are doing. I refuse to honor the role you are choosing to play, I refuse to obey you, I refuse to cooperate with your demands, I refuse to build the walls and the bombs. I refuse to pay for the guns. With this hand I will even interfere with the wrong you are doing. I want to disrupt the easy pattern of your life.’ But then the advocate of nonviolence raises the other hand. It is raised outstretched — maybe with love and sympathy, maybe not — but always outstretched . . . With this hand we say, ‘I won’t let go of you or cast you out of the human race. I have faith that you can make a better choice than you are making now, and I’ll be here when you are ready. Like it or not, we are part of one another.’ “ From blog post entitled: Ardhanarishvara: The Two Hands of Nonviolence 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.
Once upon a time, it happened in a forest that a hare was resting under a banyan tree. He had an intuition of doom and thought, “What would happen to me if the earth will break?” Suddenly, he heard a weird striking sound. He said, “It’s happened, the earth is breaking up.”He jumped up and ran madly without even observing the direction. When he was running through the forest, a hare saw him and asked, “What happened? Where are you going in such a hurry?” The Hare cried, “The earth is breaking up. You better run too.” The second hare ran so fast that he overtook the first hare. As they were passing the forest, both of them shouted to other hares, “The earth is breaking up. The earth is breaking up.” Very soon, thousands of hares were running through the forest. Very soon, thousands of hares were running through the forest. On seeing hares running through the forest, the other animals too got frightened. The news spread from mouth to mouth and soon, everyone came to know that the earth was breaking up. It didn’t take much time before all the animals joined the race. All creatures whether reptiles or birds, insects or four-footed animals, everyone was trying to escape and their cries of fear created chaos all around. A lion standing on a hill saw all the animals running and thought, “What is the matter?” He ran down the hill rapidly and positioned himself in front of the crowd. He shouted at them, “Stop! Stop!” The powerful presence of the lion curtailed the rising wave of fright among the animals. A parrot yelled, “The earth is breaking up,” alighting on a rock near him. The Lion asked, “Who said it?” The parrot replied, “I heard it from the monkeys”. When the monkeys were asked, they replied that they had heard it from the tigers. When the tigers were asked, it was found that they were informed by the elephants. The elephants told that the buffaloes formed their source. Finally, when the hares were caught up, they pointed one to another until the one, who started this menace was recognized. The Lion asked the hare, “What made you think that the earth is breaking up?” The hare wavering in fear answered, “Your Majesty, I heard it cracking with my own ears.” The Lion investigated the matter and explored the sound that the hare had heard. Ultimately, he came to know that the sound had been caused by a large coconut falling from a tree. The coconut fell on a pile of rocks causing a minor landslide. The Lion said to all the animals, “Go back to your homes. The earth is absolutely safe. Next time onwards, check a rumor before acting on it.” The animals agreed, feeling a bit silly for overreacting, and went back to their homes. Moral: Check a rumor before acting on it. (More: In nonviolence, learning skills of rumor abatement and using tools for […]
“Some people naively think that if they simply assert their goal strongly and firmly, for a long enough period, they will somehow achieve their goal. Others assume that if they remain true to their principles and ideals, and witness to them in the face of adversity, then they are doing all they can to achieve their objectives. Some believe if they act courageously and sacrificially, there is nothing more they need to do. Still others simply repeat the type of action they have used in the past, or which they believe is required by their political doctrine, and have faith that they will eventually succeed. Assertion of desirable goals, remaining loyal to ideals, and persistence are all admirable, but are in themselves grossly inadequate to achieve significant goals. Mere repetition of actions that have failed in the past often makes success unachievable. The technique of nonviolent action has special characteristics, and there are important factors that contribute to its effectiveness. People in conflict situations often allow themselves to be distracted from their main goal by focusing on trivial issues, repeatedly responding to the opponents’ initiatives, and aiming only at short-term activities. Sometimes, too, people do not even attempt to develop a plan to achieve their goal, because deep down they do not really believe that they can succeed. These people–despite the impression they may offer–see themselves as weak, as helpless victims of overpowering forces. Therefore, they believe, the best they can do is to assert and witness, or even just die, in the faith that they are right. Consequently, they do not even attempt to think and to plan strategically about how to accomplish their objective. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you do not believe you will succeed, and therefore do not take deliberate steps to increase your chances of doing so, you will usually fail.” –Gene Sharp, from Waging Nonviolent Struggle, p. 441. 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.
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.
“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.
“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.