News & Events

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Friday
Dec212018

White!

In integrity with NVC process - please note the following piece of writing is mostly "evaluation" as opposed to "observation."  I felt compelled to share nonetheless.

 

Random Thoughts and Musings on my White Experience!

It’s July 2nd – 2017.  I’m sitting in my pavilion in Hayesville, NC with the misty morning mountains as part of my view.  Mama bird perched on the water spigot, tweeting her chirpy anxiety, as she tries to figure out the best route to her youngins who are directly behind me in the rafters.  A hummingbird tentatively sputters up to the feeder and quickly flies away, once spotting me. I know he will return; the sugar water is too tempting.  And all of this activity and beauty is surrounded by the constant humming – no rumbling – no actually something between a hum and a rumble of Tusquittee Creek just to my left.

When I come here, to our property known as Big Land (named after my brother and my husband, Bigbie and Landis), I’m swept away.  It’s like the creek sound literally drowns out my thoughts.  All remnants of my daily life back in Tallahassee – gone!  That inaccessibility is similar to the general experience I have going through life as a white woman, running a restorative justice program, for mostly black youth and living as a born Jewish northerner so much integrated into the South, that my heritage is barely  known to myself or others – and I like it that way.

But the parallel I’m trying to explain is not between my lost thoughts and my heritage; it’s about the ache in my heart I experience every day as I go through life as a white middle class woman deeply enmeshed in the intimate lives of black folks, mostly whom have far less than me – at least materially speaking.  That ache is not so much about their inequities, and difficulties, and tragedies – for sure those are there.  But the ache is about my utter desire to explain the fullness of my experience as I dance among my black brothers and sisters, some who may not initially see me as their sibling.  There is so much to grasp regarding privilege and the lack thereof, what privilege actually is, how it shapes our world view.  There is so much to know about class differences and how poverty is not all bad and wealth is not all good – and vice versa.  There is so much to tell about crime and the way our society is arresting kids for much of the same things that I see my white counterparts partaking in casually- and then these kids walk uphill with a ten ton pack for life.  Or how they get arrested because they are playing out the violence pattern that was handed down to them as slaves in a power-over system that they now tragically perpetuate.  Or how they steal because they are hungry and too embarrassed to explain their actions to a world that wouldn’t listen anyway.  These are the things I wake up at night thinking about, along with uncontainable love in my heart for the kids I have the honor of knowing every day. 

There is so much I want people, everywhere and from all walks of life to know and deeply understand about my experience.  I wish people, everywhere, could have a window into my being – because I have a sense that it could bring some healing to our scarred world, in particular regarding the race and economic divides.  The ache in my heart, that I described, is because my words could never adequately capture it all.  My thoughts and experiences are too non coherent – like the river’s rumbling washes over them and scrambles them all up.  Yet, I deeply believe that if I could let everyone live inside of me for a week or so, our world perspective could change for the better and a quicker turn towards true unity and community could possibly happen in my lifetime – or at least the next.  So, as I sit here on this blissful North Carolina morning, this is my initial attempt to share.  I pray I can keep my sharing going in the days to come and I pray my writing is captivating enough to hold your attention.  I pray for the guidance to help me capture my heart’s experience adequately – so that we can bring some wholeness to our broken world.

Saturday
Jun282014

Meditating at Tire Kingdom

I had a life changing experience yesterday morning at Tire Kingdom!  Needing to get new tires before my summer vacation, I woke up early – had my morning run, but did not have time for my routine yoga/meditation practice.  I thought to myself, “maybe I will just meditate while waiting for my new tires.”  And I did just that! 

Picture this… out the front door of Tire Kingdom, just to the right, there was a little concrete bench facing the parking lot and adjacent to the garage where cars were getting worked upon – in other words – lots of noise, chaos, comings and goings.  And that’s where I decided to have my morning meditation.  What an unexpected treat!

I was wearing clothes that allowed me to sit cross legged in the “authentic” yoga position.  Using my handy dandy iPhone, I pulled up Deepak and Oprah’s recent meditation series (which I highly recommend), closed eyes and sat right in the midst of the front entrance/parking lot of Tire Kingdom. 

Once in my “sacred space,” I experienced fully and consciously the contrasting sensations of uneasiness/ embarrassment and sweet, deep peace and gratitude.  I noticed as my mind brought up thoughts about what other people might be thinking when I felt and heard them walk by.  I imagined some believing I was a little off my rocker and others not noticing me at all.  I heard the loud noises as cars drove past and as the Tire Kingdom workers took off and put on the tires – the latter being super loud.  And through it all I just sat, eyes closed, legs crossed, straight back, breathing and bringing myself back to full presence and acceptance of the moment which also included a sweet morning breeze, a mantra to remind me of love, and a profound sense of divinity and peace. 

Before I was wanting, the bell sounded on my audio file, signifying the end of the meditation.  I opened my eyes to the parking lot and day in front of me and felt blissful.  I realized that years ago I could never have done what I had just done… I would have been WAY too embarrassed, way too concerned about the opinions, thoughts and reactions of others.  And while there were still remnants of discomfort in the process, the epiphany I had was  - what an amazing process I had just come across to deepen my way of  being more fully human and fully present in more moments of my life. 

I figure if I can practice getting connected in the midst of chaos intentionally and as a regular practice, perhaps it will transfer into more everyday moments.  I’ve always known this is how meditation and yoga worked, but I never thought of doing it in the middle of the world and practicing presence while the world was watching.  But isn’t that what we are all wanting – to be able to be in the world, experiencing it all – the good, the bad, the noise, the judgment, and be able to stay connected to that thing larger than ourselves – to experience the bliss in the midst of the storm.  And perhaps, if I can look “crazy” outside of Tire Kingdom, it will give other people permission to slow down and do the same – and maybe, just maybe we won’t have to have war!  It’s a stretch, but, in my opinion, not an absurdity.

So the next time you are waiting for your new tires or any rendition of that – I invite you to close your eyes, sit crossed legged, breathe and “Be the Change you Wish to See in the World.”

Tuesday
Jul232013

Entering Rumi's Field through Non Violent Communication

This is a "guest blog" from one of my students.  Hope you enjoy.

“Out beyond ideas of wrong doing and right doing, there is a field, I’ll meet you there.”  Rumi

NVC is a process of communication developed by Marshall Rosenberg.  Nonviolence is more than an absence of physical harm, it is a way to communicate with compassion from the heart.  The process helps us transform old patterns of defensiveness and aggressiveness into compassion and empathy.  It helps us remain focused on what is happening right here, right now.  It has 4 main components:  (1) Observation (2) Feeling (3) Needs (4) Request.  I will illustrate the effectiveness through a recent incident at work.

Just a little background to this story so you have a better understanding of the dynamics in the situation.  I grew up in an anti-religion household, and chose a spiritual path that focus on acceptance and compassion for all beings.  I also chose to hang out with people with similar believes that all beings are good, but their goodness might be covered up by dark clouds.  I have been rather sheltered in my loving, compassionate worldview. 

A couple of months ago I started working at the _____ office, and was paired with more senior attorney who has very “traditional” Catholic believes.  I’ll call this attorney Frank.  Frank is very knowledgeable and an impressively good attorney, and I felt blessed to be paired up with him.  However, I was a little shocked and uncomfortable when he talked about his believes. 

One day, we were having lunch together.  He had a meal replacement bar, and I was having salad.  He was impressed with my healthy diet, and started talking about how he eats lots of wheat and beans because he purchased pounds of wheat and beans just in case the government fails, and he has to eat what he buys.  Next thing you know, he was talking about how there are many signs the government is failing, such as: 

  • ·       Openness to homosexual relationships
  • ·       High rate of divorce
  • ·       Lack of faith in God.

I became uncomfortable and dashed out of the room with some lame excuse of having to use the restroom - not a skillful way to handle the situation, but I just needed a minute to breathe.  Thankfully, Frank gave me a second chance to handle the situation better.

Later that afternoon, he asked me if the conversation we had earlier made me feel uncomfortable.  I decided to utilize my nonviolent communication training in hopes of having a honest, compassionate conversation with him regarding the issue.  I took a deep breath and went through the 4 components of NVC: 1) Observation 2) Feelings 3) Needs 4) Request. 

Observation
My “typical” thought was how did I get stuck with this religious freak who hates everyone who does not fit into his box?  Doesn’t he see that it is people like him that is causing the hatred and division we see on the news everyday?

WAIT – these are all judgments and stories in my head.  What actually happened?  He told me about his belief that the government is failing, and his belief of the cause of the failure. 

Feeling
I observed sensations in my body, and my feelings and realize that when he said homosexuals and divorced people is the cause of our governmental failure, I felt angry and afraid.  

Needs
Needs are not things like a fast car, a hot date, or lots of money.  Those are methods to meet one’s needs.  For example, a fast car may meet one’s need for power, a hot date – to meet someone’s need for sexual connection, lots of money – to meet one’s need for independence, comfort, and/or security.

The reason I felt angry and afraid when Frank talked about how homosexuals and divorces are causing our government to fail was because such statements do not meet my need for inclusion, harmony, emotional safety, and acceptance.

After taking an inventory of my observation, feelings, and needs, I told Frank that when he speaks of government failure because of social acceptance of homosexuals and divorces, I feel angry and afraid because such statements do not meet my need for inclusion, harmony, emotional safety, and acceptance.  I made a request to Frank to speak about happier matters, such as good things that are happening in our society.

To my surprise, Frank actually agreed with me and said the Bible actually instructs people to think only good thoughts, and he started telling me about good news – such as actions of certain saints.

Later that week, I worked through the situation again during a NVC practice group.  The instructor role played the situation with me and I realized that Frank has his believes to fulfill similar needs as mine – he believes that a tight family unit without divorce and clear expectations of society (i.e., heterosexual relationships only) would fulfill his need for security, harmony, and acceptance.  Through the NVC process – I entered Rumi’s Field, where there is no ideas of wrong doing and right doing.

Nonviolent communication is a process to communicate with yourself and others compassionately from the heart.  The process has been proven successful in the workplace, in family settings, and even in negotiations between warring nations.  The process is simple and consists of 4 main components: 1) Observation 2) Feeling 3) Needs 4) Request.  Practicing NVC in your daily life surely leads you to Rumi’s Field where right doings and wrong doings do not exist.