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NVC: Gandhian Principles for Everyday Living (Part 1 of 7)
By Miki Kashtan

This is the first part of a 7-part series that looks at the roots of NVC within Gandhi’s explorations of nonviolence.
The First Principle Explored: Nonviolence as Love
One of the most frequent questions I hear when I speak about Nonviolent Communication is “Why Nonviolent?” People often hear the word nonviolent as a combination of two words, as a negation of violence. Since they don't think of themselves as 'violent,' the concept of 'non-violence' doesn't make intuitive sense, and appears foreign to them. Keep reading this article below >>  
Tiffany Meyer Assumes New Role
From the desks of Meiji Stewart and Neill Gibson
After six years as the heart and soul of marketing here at PuddleDancer Press, Tiffany Meyer is transitioning into a more limited role as our marketing consultant for new publications. If you have enjoyed this eNewsletter, the value you've found in it is primarily the result of the great job Tiffany has done making sure we provide our community with timely, relevant, and helpful information.
Keep reading this article below >>

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After Arizona : Time for Nonviolent Communication
the AZ Progressive



"We can make life miserable or wonderful for ourselves and others depending upon how we think and communicate."

- Marshall B. Rosenberg, Ph.D.

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World-renowned author, peacemaker, and conflict resolution expert, Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D. talks about the keys to prevent all forms of conflict and violence in this 10-minute video.


Gandhian Principles... continued

For some time, I felt similarly. I was happier when I heard people talk about Compassionate Communication instead of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) because it felt more positive. After all, the practice of NVC itself is about focusing on what we want and where we are going instead of looking at what's not working. So why would the name not reflect this focus?

Like others, I was unaware of the long-standing tradition of nonviolence to which the practice of Nonviolent Communication traces its origins. Then I learned more about Gandhi's work and the Civil Rights movement. That is when I fell in love with the name Marshall Rosenberg gave to this practice.

That love has deepened over the years. Now I want to bring out the continuity so as to situate NVC within the tradition of nonviolence. I do this by exploring seven core principles of Gandhian nonviolence that are also reflected in the practice of NVC.

The First Principle: Nonviolence as Love
The word nonviolence is the closest literal translation that Gandhi found to the Sanskrit word ahimsa. In Sanskrit, negation is sometimes used to suggest that a concept or quality is too great to be named directly.

"Ahimsa is unconditional love," writes Eknath Easwaran, in his preface to Gandhi the Man. "The word we translate as 'nonviolence' is . . . central in Buddhism as well: Ahimsa, the complete absence of violence in word and even thought as well as action. This sounds negative, just as 'nonviolence' sounds passive. But like the English word 'flawless,' ahimsa denotes perfection." As another example, avera, which means "love" in Sanskrit, literally translates into "non-hatred."

Hinduism is not the only tradition that honors the unnamable. Judaism has a similar practice. The name of God is unsayable in Hebrew, being letters without vowels, without instructions for how to read them. Some things are beyond words. Nonviolence is one of them.

Gandhi also used other terms for his practice. One word that he commonly used is Satyagraha, which translates as "truth force." At times, he also used the term "soul force." Whichever term he used, Gandhi made it abundantly clear that nonviolence is a positive force, not a negation.

"Satyagraha means 'holding to the truth in every situation'.  This is ahimsa, which is more than just the absence of violence; it is intense love." (Gandhi the Man, p. 53)

"A Satyagrahi has infinite patience, abundant faith in others, ample hope." ( Young India , Mar 19 th, 1931)

Why is nonviolence equated with love? Clearly, it's different from forms of love that sometimes have been the impetus for great violence. (Think of Othello as one such example.) What is this kind of love?

It appears to me that Jesus, Gandhi, Marshall Rosenberg, and those of us following their tradition through the practice of NVC, think of love as the full radical acceptance of the humanity of every person, regardless of how unhappy we are with their actions.

Indeed, Gandhi said, "It is nonviolence only when we love those that hate us." (Gandhi the Man, p. 108) These words are strikingly similar to a core principle of Jesus' teachings: "Love thy enemy." (Matthew 5:44) Both of them speak to the vision of a heart that is fully open to everyone, especially our enemies. Marshall Rosenberg, too, has said that the practice of NVC emerged from his attempt to understand love.

I understand this love as the commitment to act in ways that uphold everyone's humanity. It means caring for the wellbeing of the other person even when we are in opposing positions; even when all that we value is at stake. This is one essence of what nonviolence means.

Everything else follows from this principle. I am reminded of a Talmudic story about a man who came to Hillel, one of the famous rabbis, and asked Hillel to teach him the Torah standing on one foot.

Hillel is reputed to have said, "Love thy neighbor as thyself, and the rest is commentary." Similarly both Gandhian nonviolence and the practice of NVC are, in some ways, elaborations on this one key principle: whatever the circumstances, no matter what else is going on, we are committed to caring for the wellbeing of all.

The practice of NVC gives specific form to this commitment. We apply our hearts, focus our consciousness, and bring active attention to transcending and transforming fear and judgment. We excavate underneath our habits to understand our needs, so we can know what longings, dreams, and values inform our reaction to another.

This allows us to reach for and maintain an open heart to the needs of another. When we hear others with full empathic presence, their core, irreducible humanity shines forth. I think of this quality of practical open-heartedness, of caring for the well-being of someone regardless of her or his actions, as an essential ingredient of the love I want to live in the world.

Look For Part 2 Next Month
The next segment of this 7-part series explores the second principle that NVC shares with Ghandian nonviolence: a call to live courageously and take on the possible consequences of choosing to live a life of love and integrity.

The complete bibliography for the series can be found online at NVC Gandhian Principles Bibliography.

Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication. She leads workshops and intensive retreats in Nonviolent Communication throughout the United States and in Japan, Europe, Brazil, and Africa, and offers mediation, meeting facilitation, coaching, and training for organizations. Miki hosts the Conflict Hotline, a monthly live call-in TV show, and blogs regularly at The Fearless Heart. She holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Berkeley and her articles have appeared in Tikkun magazine and elsewhere.

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Tiffany Meyer, continued

Fortunately, she's laid a great foundation and provided us with a reliable e-newsletter creation process that will help us continue to follow her example in the months to come. We look forward to her ongoing support in making sure that our upcoming publications will continue to help carry the NVC message to as wide an audience as possible.

It is hard to express the great appreciation we have for the wisdom, guidance, and support she has provided in so many ways through these past six years. We feel fortunate that we will be able to continue working with her in the vital task of creating effective marketing strategies for our new works.

If you have any need of marketing expertise, we cannot recommend Tiffany highly enough. Tiffany is President of Numa Marketing, co-founder of Glass Elevator Communications, and worked as the marketing director for PuddleDancer Press from 2004 - 2010. She is also a co-founder and former board member of the Oregon Network for Compassionate Communication, and helped organize and promote Marshall Rosenberg’s workshops in the Portland area for three consecutive years. In 2000, she created the NVC promotion toolkit (this resource is no longer available) to aid NVC volunteers to create a life-serving experience promoting Marshall’s visits to their area. In 2008, she leveraged the success of the toolkit to create The Help Share NVC Project, a web-based philanthropic project to support trainers and teams engage in successful promotion on a shoestring budget. You can contact her through her website: Numa Marketing