Our entanglement with our culture of violence is deep and unavoidable, so deep that to attempt to extricate ourselves from it is — to put it mildly — extremely vulnerable, painful and terrifying. We may hold ourselves aloof from the most obvious forms of harm to others, yet ignore how violent we are in our opinions and snap judgements of others, and even more importantly, our selves. We limit ourselves with cultural beliefs, stories about how separate we are, or how impossible it is to experience connections that we have broken with distrust.
The greatest challenge for those who would be nonviolent is restore trust in their relentless and invisible participation — knowing it or not knowing it — in a process of learning and adaptation to “right relationship,” the experience of connection. We trusted our parents and teachers because we were dependent on them. The culture they gave to us may have had some value for prior centuries, and is now obsolete, a colossal mistake for this century. It is a natural part of the process to wake up to that mistake and return to square one with some forgiveness, respect and curiosity about strategies for a world of connection.
I call it the “research and development” phase of a new culture, a culture of peace. As always, R & D work is expensive, time-consuming and fraught with strategies that don’t work for the intended result. When a mass extinction event is thrown into the mix, the pressure to produce results is extremely high. The situation gets dramatic and exciting. Really attention-grabbing.
For me, the trick to practicing nonviolence consistently is just that: practice, practice, practice simple things like breathing through stress, pausing and slowing down enough to stay in the feelings and awareness of the present moment, listen to the background noise (roar) for subtle indicators of changes in the wind, watch where I’m placing my feet, carry nourishing energies of all kinds (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual) with me at all times, and accept that by my actions I have deliberately encouraged surprises over which I have no control.