Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Team Building

I serve a smaller church with lots of history. As most churches, we get together for fundraising dinners, church potlucks and celebratory events. Each of these gatherings requires that we come together and work alongside one another. Working alongside others can be a wonderful thing. It can create a team like atmosphere with a common goal always in mind. In fact, I’ve heard that people working in residential treatment centers will be given a project to work on as a team. Team building, I think is the correct term. Team building, what an awesome idea!

The funny thing about team building….it implies living nonviolently toward the other person on the team. We cannot have a church event in which one person is engaging in a violent manner toward another person and I do not mean hitting or pushing. No, I mean violent in attitude and manner. Words and attitudes can be as violent as physical violence. How one responds when one does not agree, how one goes about setting the fellowship hall tables…”that’s not the way we do it, ya know!” and how one organizes oneself in response to other’s ideas and suggestions can all be met with a peacefulness or violence.

Living nonviolently is not only about great movements for peace in response to war, but also our day to day interactions with the other person. In fact, those great movements for peace are built when many people practice that everyday nonviolence. Living nonviolently implies that we attempt to live in harmony and unity with all the diversity of thought and ways of being and doing that surrounds us. When I say to the people I serve, “go in peace my friends” I am asking them to work and live alongside others in harmony. I am asking them to be team builders.

Go in peace, my friends.

Kristi McLaughlin

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nonviolence and Eating

Why should we practice nonviolence?
Spiritually, mentally, physically and socially, we are nonviolent.
Human design and structure are nonviolent.
Socially, ‘life’ cannot enjoy violence.
Physically, a human body cannot bear violence.
Violence disturbs mentally and totally destroys spiritually.

See, our hands, are designed to hug. Catch with love, pluck and eat.
Not to fight, kill and eat.

The hands of a tiger are so violent; the sharp and strong nails; the teeth to attack, fight, tear up;
And finally, to kill and eat.

Can you imagine to kill and eat a goat?
Does it stimulate your mouth?
Are you capable of doing it?
Why do you run to the kitchen for a knife?
Why do you say “oh,” not me?
Why do you want somebody to do that for you?

A tiger never goes to our mother to borrow a knife.
It is designed to kill and eat.

It should fight and kill for each and every food. We don’t have that fate.
Every animal and bird hates carnivorous animals. Co-operation is a strange word to it.
It must be alone …………. can you imagine 10 to 100 tigers joining together to hunt?

Do 10 to 100 kingfishers cooperate to catch fish around the pool?
They must be alone.

Why do you choose meat from the special parts of the animal?
Why can't you eat as an animal?
Tiger eats the flesh, blood, bone, skin, hair …….. all together.
Do you still think your body is designed to eat meat? Then eat as the tiger.
That may be your last meal. Why?

The great designer of your body doesn’t want you to eat non vegetarian.
So your hands, teeth, jaws, stomach are built according to the nonviolent way.
Pluck and eat.
The human digestive system is designed the same as the cow and the elephant ………. not as the tiger and lion.

A lion hides itself on the top of a tree and then jumps upon the animal.
Why can't you do the same?
That maight be your last jump.
Your shock absorbing systems are not able to do this type of adventurous action.

You are built to live a peaceful, happy, harmonious existence with all the creatures of the world.
You have to love all, cooperate with all and finally save all the “life’

Jacob Vadakkanchery

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Prayer for America

This prayer for America was written by Rabbi Victor Reinstein on the occasion of the inauguration of Barack Obama as President of the United States. The Video was composed by Phyllis Cole-Dai and was first published on her "Practicing Presence" blog.

Compassionate One, fill our hearts with love and compassion for each other, that in truth we might be one nation indivisible. Bless our country, its government, its leaders, and its people. Bless the vision that is America and help us all to make it real. Help us to be for each other a mirror in which to see the best we are, and when we stray give to each one the courage to remind, speaking truth to power when need be.

Of qualities that built this land, help us to distinguish between their light and shadow sides, and to know the upright way, that good not be twisted into evil. Take the violence from us, so much part of what has been; and lead us on a new path to the Prophet’s vision fulfilled, of swords turned into plowshares that we shall at last learn war no more. Let not our confidence become arrogance, nor might the measure of right; mature enough in our independence, may we celebrate with all nations the interdependence from which a greater good will come.

Thirsting for peace, help us to sing an anthem now, not of bombs bursting, but of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties; the beauty of this land we love, your blessing manifest, not of destiny, but of goodness spreading out from sea to shining sea; and not upon us alone Your blessing bestow, but upon every nation and people in the world of Your creation.

Help us to see that we the people are America the beautiful, in all the grandeur of our colors, and in the symphony of faiths and tongues by which we sing to You and call each others’ names; in the pilgrims’ pride of roots diverse, each one of us from other lands have come, not only of a Mayflower on the sea, but of steerage passage and in chains and through sweltering desert sands, wretched and poor yearning to breathe free; let us be the strength of heart and mind to sustain the hand of she who lifts her lamp beside the golden door.

In our caring for the earth, the sky and water, may we honor those who first dwelled upon this land, and in small measure so atone for all the wrong done to them.

With liberty and justice for all, that freedom not ring hollow, help us to insure that health and knowledge, bread and roses, be the birthright of every child born, each one free to be, she and he, dreams deferred no more.

Bring near the day, her dawn soon to rise, when in rainbow chorus we shall sing, we have overcome.

Rabbi Victor Hillel Reinstein
Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue
Jamaica Plain, MA

Monday, February 16, 2009


I expect most people have never heard of Lamech. It’s an unusual name found in the first book of the Bible. Lamech is introduced in the 4th. chapter of Genesis, right after the story of Cain and Abel. If you remember this story, Cain kills Abel out of jealousy. God’s punishment is to make him a vagrant and wanderer. But Cain is afraid as a homeless person he will be a victim of violence, even killed. God says “no,” that should anyone kill Cain, he will be avenged seven times.

Lamech is not satisfied with sevenfold vengeance. He confesses to his wives that he has killed a man. Lamech is anticipating a coming “blood feud.” He wants his wives to know that should he be killed, he wants to be avenged seventy seven times.

The Gospel of Matthew reads, “Then Peter came up and asked him, ‘Lord, how often am I to forgive my brother if he goes on wronging me? As many as seven times?’ Jesus replied, ‘I do not say seven times; I say seventy seven times.’”

There you have it! These Biblical stories articulate the options. We can take vengeance seventy seven times or we can forgive seventy seven times.

I’ve just been reading A Thousand Sighs, A Thousand Revolts: Journeys in Kurdistan by Christiane Bird. Bird describes an interview with Ako Abba Mamand Agha, chieftan of the Ako tribe, who acts as a mediator to resolve killings among his people. To be avoided at all costs is the “blood feud,” where families may seek vengeance for generations.

Of course, one doesn’t have to travel to Kurdistan for recognition of “blood feud.” After the experience of 9/11, the U.S. government didn’t limit itself to an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” Rather, the government took vengeance in the realm of seventy seven times for the three thousand lost in that horror.

After 9/11, as the country grieved, a good friend said to me, “grief work is about reaching out or lashing out.” We certainly know now what choice the U.S. made.

Martin Doblmeier (the Director of the film Bonhoeffer), has brought us a new film called The Power of Forgiveness. Together, with the film Long Night’s Journey into Day (the story of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa), they’ve impressed me with the difficulty of forgiving. Vengeance and forgiveness wrestle in our individual souls. No wonder they struggle so grievously in our world.

Still, one takes hope in the ancient ways of resolving disputes, still functioning around the edges of traditional societies like the Ako. And one takes hope in experimental structures like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa and the growing interest in mediation and restorative justice in the U.S.

Gandhi reminds us that only the strong can offer forgiveness. “Only the brave can be forgiving. The weak are unable to punish; therefore, in their case, the question of forgiveness does not arise.” And again, “A mouse hardly forgives a cat when it allows itself to be torn to pieces by her.”

Like nonviolence itself, forgiveness only proceeds from strength and fearlessness. May our country reclaim the inner strength of its ideas and values and turn a deaf ear to the ancient call of fear and vengeance.

Carl Kline
Painting by Bartolomeo Manfredi

Monday, February 9, 2009

I and Thou

We were visiting my step-son and daughter-in-law and our grandchildren in Pasadena, CA for Thanksgiving when the attacks in Mumbai took place. Witnessing the events from over here (USA) was eerie for me, as I have often been to the places where the attacks occurred. I have clear memories of being in those places and moving about that part of Mumbai while leading groups who had come to India to participate in programs on Gandhi and nonviolence. At times while I watched it unfold on a TV screen or a computer monitor there was a sense of unreality about it, a feeling of being a step removed from it all, and I was 8,000 miles away. However, at other times it felt very close and real as these were places and people as familiar to me as the streets and shops and neighbors in my hometown here in the USA.

What I didn’t want to feel close and familiar to me were the intolerance and prejudice that appeared to motivate those who were perpetrators of the violence. Yet, try as I may, I can’t hide from the automatic, habitual reactions of intolerance and prejudice in one form or another toward individuals and groups that still surprise me when they often arise. The work with these habitual reactions is two fold: through practice replacing these habits of thought and feeling with more wholesome ones; and, in the mean time, acknowledging that they are there while preventing them from shaping my behavior.

These habitual reactions of intolerance and prejudice are also one of the things the perpetrators and I have in common. As much as I want to consider myself different or separate from them, and though my behavior is different from theirs (the forms of violence and the harm I participate in are less physical and more subtle), I share with them the same feelings born of judgments and fear. We are not separate. Love and compassion and understanding of and for them are possible. While their behavior is condemned and must not be tolerated, it is possible to love them, to genuinely and sincerely seek their well being.

These reflections bring to mind these words quoted from the Buddha often by a dear friend and wise teacher from India: “Practice the simple truth that that man (one) there is thou.”

Chris Klug

Imagine That

The following post was originally published at the author's "Practicing Presence" blog, the day following the presidential inauguration of Barack Obama.

For most of the past few days, I've been listening to dreams. Dreams of prophets and presidents, of parents and children, of activists and artists, of factory workers and farmers, of soldiers and students, of immigrants and the native-born, of citizens on the left and the right, of human beings all around the world who were dancing, singing, chanting, shouting, laughing, crying....

Some bore witness in silence. Even their silence spoke. Sometimes it was deafening.

I've been listening to dreams of people gathered together, whether in person or on the airwaves or in cyberspace; of people present to one another, and therefore open to possibility; of people so full of the moment, so "here and now," that sometimes they didn't know what to say, didn't know exactly what they were feeling or what it all meant, didn't know how cold they were or what time it was or who they were hugging or what they were going to do next. Race, creed, political party, sexual orientation, age, class—such things were somehow transcended, at least for a moment, and all of us had the opportunity to taste in that moment the wonder of a precious dream becoming flesh. We had the opportunity to taste what can happen when we carefully tend and nurture a vision of how we human beings can live, and be, together, and bring that vision to harvest by hard labor and sacrifice, instead of leaving it to wither on imagination's vine.

This morning I heard reports that as many as two million people may have been in and around the National Mall for the inauguration ceremony. Two million people, and there wasn't a single arrest made.

The power of a dream.

Dreams are confounding. On the one hand, they can too often become substitutes for real life. We can get so wrapped up in wishing and hoping and longing and yearning that we do little else. The contrast between our dreams and reality is stark. We can't help but regret (even resent) the world as it is and bemoan our apparent place in it. Finally, our dreams so faraway as to be unobtainable, we can't bear them any longer. We abandon them to the cold, letting them freeze to death.

On the other hand, dreams can inspire our days. We can embody a dream and carry it forward, moment by moment, living it out in our very attitude toward the world, in our work within the world. This sort of dream doesn't point to someday. To some degree, it's already here, now, because we're here. It's up to us to help reveal it, to help make it known. It's up to us to give it flesh, not only in our own life but in the life of our community, our society, our nation. It's up to us to join our dreaming to the dreaming of peoples around the world.

We don't have to be a prophet or a president to have a dream, to live a dream, to inspire others to live it with us. Whoever we are, we are enough. All we have to do is give ourselves permission to be the dream we believe in.

For most of the past few days, I've been listening to dreams. As I've listened, my eyes have been hot with tears. Time and again they've spilled down my cheeks. I haven't wiped them away.

My tears haven't been about Martin Luther King, Jr., though I give thanks for him. And they haven't been about Barack Obama, though I wish for him and his advisers all the wisdom, all the humility, all the fortitude, all the creativity—everything they will need to lead us

No, my tears have been about the dreams, about our grasping the chance to dream them together, and to make them live, together.

Let's never stop.

Phyllis Cole-Dai

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Experiments with Truth

There are two nouns in the title of the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, My Experiments with Truth. These words, "experiments" and "truth," help define the intent of this blog. We call the blog "Living Nonviolence." We hope to provide information about experiments in nonviolence carried on daily by people around the globe. We hope to provide inspiration to those who are trying to live the truth of nonviolence in their daily activities and relationships.

I'm grateful to Gandhi for his recognition that nonviolence can be understood as an experiment. There's a certain degree of grace here. There's also a recognition that violence is deeply embedded in the psyche of each and every one of us. 

Experimenting with living nonviolence is not so much about making judgments and naming failures. It's more about trying again. Experimenting with living nonviolence is not about exclusion, setting the redeemed over against the condemned. It's more about inclusion, patience, persistence; changing enemies into friends. Experimenting with living nonviolence places as much importance on the means as it does on the ends. And as Gandhi suggests, "Satisfaction lies in the effort, not in the attainment. Full effort is full victory." 

I'm also grateful to Gandhi for his conception of Truth. It comes from the sanskrit Satya. Rendered "Truth" in English, it means "that which is." Gandhi even says, "Truth is God." Liberally interpreted, one could say that satyagraha, Gandhi's term for nonviolence, is the force of divine Truth. That's the force one uses to stand up to violence!

Truth is also understood by Gandhi to be divisible in the human heart. My truth may be different than yours. It is impossible for one person to possess the whole Truth. Perhaps one can perceive it but not possess it! We are always in need of being open to the truth of the other.

In this blog, we are inviting people to share with us their experiments in Truth. How do you see nonviolence at work in everyday life? What insights, what habits, what relationships, what activities have encouraged you in living nonviolence? Might your thoughts and experiences also inform and/or inspire others?

This is our intent! Schedules permitting, we expect to post new material twice a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays. If you would like to join the continuing conversation, please subscribe. If you would like to respond to a particular post, please use the comments button below it. If you would like to write occasionally about your experiments with the force of truth, let us know. We expect to have many authors.

Carl Kline