Sunday, August 23, 2009

Emotional Liberation

Out beyond ideas of wrong-doing and right-doing, there is a field. I'll meet you there. When the soul lies down in that grass, the world is too full to talk about. Ideas, language, even the phrase 'each other' doesn't make any sense.
- Rumi

I regularly find myself grateful for the clarity I find in a framework for emotional liberation that Nietzsche wrote about, and then Marshall Rosenberg applied to Nonviolent Communication (NVC). Applying this framework I find myself more able to understand and shift patterns of self-denial and self-isolation, and therefore able to enjoy much richer and more alive connections with people and life. Rosenberg writes about the 3 stages of Emotional Liberation in his book, Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life. In my experience these stages are not "linear", meaning that we dance through all 3 in various directions at various moments, though Nietzsche and Rosenberg both imply that the 3rd stage is the most "evolved" or "life-serving." Here they are:

1. Emotional Slavery: This is when we tend to disconnect from the fullness of our own needs or values while focusing on the needs of others. I find it key to remember that when we are do this we are doing the best we can to meet needs for love, acceptance, belonging, care, etc. We get caught here when we get attached to being "nice," "caring," "self-less," "compassionate," or "generous." Unfortunately, no matter how loving we may try to be, if we are doing so from a place of self-denial, it is a recipe for depression and resentment over the long term because those needs we're disconnected from don't go away. This stage is sometimes called co-dependency, with both the one "hanging on" and the one who's "hung onto" caught in emotional slavery. Both are disconnecting from the fullness of their needs for freedom, self-reliance, flexibility, self-worth, self-respect, etc.

2. Anti-Dependence: As a reaction to Emotional Slavery, we often go into what Rosenberg calls the "obnoxious" stage of focusing on our own needs while disconnecting from the needs of others. This is a crucial and beautiful swing of the pendulum (just as Emotional Slavery is), where we explore freedom, independence, and self-respect, and we get away from the constraints of being "obedient," "nice," "a good boy/girl," etc. Unfortunately, it also means cutting off the flow of full connection and care with others, so it gets kind of lonely after a while, and we are not contributing the fullness of what we could to the well-being of others. Unfortunately, many of us spend years on a vicious pendulum swinging between Emotional Slavery and Anti-Dependence. Fortunately, once we become aware of these patterns, we have the chance to develop our capacity for.....

3. Emotional Liberation or Interdependence: Whaa-hooo! When we are able to stay connected to the beauty of our own needs and to the needs of others, we are in Rumi's field beyond right- and wrong-doing. Ahhhh! This doesn't mean we try to meet other people's needs all the time, or even our own, but we are at least aware of these needs existing, and we connect to and honor them. In essence it means that we see the humanity in ourselves and others and have both respect for ourselves and our needs, as well as respect for others and their needs. Just like the oxygen masks on the plane, I find it important to self-connect and address my own baseline needs for empathy and well-being before trying to reach out to others. When living Interdependently, we have the great pleasure of contributing to the needs of others from a place of self-full-ness, without self-denial, and without believing we have to "save" others, as often happens in Emotional Slavery.

I'm curious to know if reading this contributed something to you. Feel free to send me an email or comment below.

To emotional liberation for all,

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Transition Movement

Hello! I am excited to share resources about some of the initiatives and issues that I see as essential at this time on our planet. I'm guessing you may know about many of these, but just in case, I'll mention them anyway.

The top of my list of life-serving initiatives on the planet today includes the Transition movement. In brief, it is a town-by-town positive action approach to shifting society to sustainability and away from oil dependency, consumerism, etc. Transition is gaining a lot of attention recently, with many articles and many ways to get involved. Here are a few:

A New York Times article: The End Is Near! (Yay!) - April 16, 2009

Transition United States: an organization supporting US Transition initiatives

Transition Towns WIKI: a WIKI with information and resources for Transition initiatives worldwide

May we co-create a sustainable future for all!

- karl

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Journey in Asia, Part II: January-April 2009

Below is an overview of the second half of my stay in Asia, from January through April, in India, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Japan.

I spent most of January through March in southern India engaged in a lively mix of teaching, traveling, and introspection, teaming up with Clayton Barker, a good friend whom I met in Auroville and who has a passion for teaching about peace and sustainability. Highlights of those months included: savoring sweet stillness during a week-long silent meditation retreat at a Buddhist zendo high in the cool, banana-tree covered mountains of Kodaikanal in south-central India; practicing daily morning-to-night yoga, chanting, and meditation for two weeks at a yoga ashram in Kerela (as well as the illicit fun of sneaking out of the ashram with friends to go swimming in a local lake); offering the Awakening the Dreamer Symposium and the first Symposium Facilitator Training in India, to audiences with people from Brazil, South Africa, Australia, Switzerland, the US, and India; and becoming friends with Naveen and Manasi, two young and passionate nonviolent activists, and having wonderfully alive conversations with them about consciousness, community building, and social change.

In the midst of my time in India, I also made a two-week visit to the neighboring island nation of Sri Lanka, which has suffered from 25 years of deadly civil war, to offer nonviolence trainings and support to students and organizations there. My brief visit stirred a deeper longing in me to find more substantial ways to support healing in Sri Lanka and other regions of the world where people are experiencing war and ongoing physical violence. I was saddened by the huge loss of human life I heard about, and at the same time, I was deeply inspired by the courage and dedication of women and men I met who are working day after day to bring peace and universal human rights to the country. In the future I intend to write about various ways in which we in more prosperous and peaceful (in some ways) parts of the world might contribute to well-being in these other regions.

I had initially dreamed of leaving Asia by a form of transportation other than an airplane, both for the adventure of a sea or over-land return to the West, and to take a more ambitious step toward personal sustainability and low-impact living. What more, my fellow traveler Clayton had a lifelong dream to travel the world by sailboat. However, after a month of extensive research (mainly done by Clayton) and searches which took us as far as staying on a friend’s boat in the harbor in Singapore, in the end it turned out that the main sailing season was still a long way off and land routes to the west were pretty problematic with the war in Afghanistan. I made uneasy peace with my ecological footprint and decided to buy airplane tickets to make a final stop in Asia and then fly to Europe.

I have dreamed of visiting Japan ever since I was about 14 years old and my father showed me Akira Kurasawa’s film, Seven Samurai. Drawn by the transcendent calm of Zen Buddhism and the elegant simplicity of Japanese design, I began studying Japanese martial arts in my teens, beginning with Karate and Judo, and then years of practice of Aikido and Zen meditation in my late 20’s and now 30’s. So, I was excited to complete my eight months in Asia with a three-week pilgrimage to Japan in April. Staying with friends in Tokyo and the ancient capital of Kyoto, I enjoyed so many wonders of Japan: delighting in every meal, from salmon sushi to soba noodles with fried tofu; picnicking under explosions of delicate pink flowering trees during the height of cherry blossom season; training in aikido at the world headquarters dojo in Tokyo, on a mat packed with martial artists from around the world; climbing mountains of trails and steps to visit dozens of Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines with my friends Thor and Toshi; and enjoying the simple yet amazing pleasure of soaking in onsen (natural hot springs). I also had a chance to reflect a lot on both the benefits and challenges of a culture based, at least historically, so strongly on tradition and collective values rather than Western individualism, but I will leave that discussion for another time.

One of my next posts will tell about May-July 2009, including a Buddhist meditation retreat at Thich Nhat Hanh's Plum Village community in France, visits to two ecovillages in Germany, and my return to the Findhorn Community in Scotland for the Fall semester to co-lead the Living Routes program there.

Many thanks to you, friends and family, who despite many miles and sometimes years of separation, continue to send love and support, in many ways. You are with me wherever I travel, and I am deeply grateful.