September 11th has come and gone but this year was different as many people began to recognize that this is not just the anniversary of a tragic event in the US but rather the 102nd birthday of Gandhi's notion of Nonviolence. Since the events of 2001, this year I found myself not pondering the horrors of that day seven years ago, watching the politicians spin the memorial jingoism, but with a choice of two conferences on Nonviolence (NV), one in Portland and the other in Eugene. In Portland the Peace and Justice Studies Association kicked off its conference with a rally titled, Take Back 9/11 for Nonviolence, which made me immensely happy. But a few months earlier I had already committed to attend the other conference in Eugene, Nonviolence as a Way of Life. I missed the rally (but look forward to seeing pictures of it soon) and instead embarked on four days of soul enriching, energy producing connections with other Oregonians searching for ways to integrate NV into their lives, their thoughts, their actions and their communication.
I had read and/or listened to a few of Marshall Rosenberg's books, but this was my first time in his presence. I had heard that he had almost a cult following, but after seeing him in action I can understand why. He walks his talk. He can hold to the spirit of NV even when a large audience voices is disparate needs. Marshall has been doing this work, and international mediation, for over 30 years now. He has managed to make NVC playful by introducing the "jackal" and the "giraffe". The jackal language is blaming, argumentative, always searching for the upper hand. The giraffe on the other hand is listening for the unmet needs that this language is hiding. He had offered us a precious gift, a way to connect to "what's alive" in one another. But even more, it's a reprogramming model for the human mind. For 8000 years we've lived in a domination paradigm that requires that we shalac over our hearts, our vunerabilities, with impenetrable armor which is reflected in every aspect of our lives, and is paticularly evident in the way we relate to one another. If NVC can take root this will help to nibble away at the current paradigm. Language is such a powerful tool and Marshall has provided us a way to strip off the many layers of armor and allow our divine light, the light that shines through and connects all of us, to pierce the darkness in this world. If you haven't heard of NVC, please get his book and give it a try. Just start with the dialogue inside your head - is it a tyrant or a friend. Once we can speak kindly to ouselves and treat ourselves with respect, that will naturally begin to extend to those we love and eventually even to those we don't.
The other two invited speakers were Rev. Vivian (from the civil rights movement) and Julia "Butterfly" Hill. Both were inspiring and deserve an entry all their own. In addition to the brilliant speakers there were at least 15 choices for each of the four sessions each day, relating to every part of our lives. I will speak to a couple of these in subsequent posts, including a terrific teaching on the Bhagavad Gita and Cosmic Ecology, Restorative Justice, and an interfaith dialogue on nonviolence that I found paticularly insightful. As I close this entry, it is my hope that 9/11/2009 will find even more people pondering ways to celebrate the anniversary of nonviolence and turning a deaf ear to those who wish to maintain their domination and power by instilling fear and hatred, a dark shalac, over our bright and beautiful hearts.