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Miki Kashtan
Miki Kashtan
Miki Kashtan is a co-founder of Bay Area Nonviolent Communication and the Center for Efficient Collaboration



Stepping off the Line into Freedom and Interdependence, Part 2: How

May20

by: on May 20th, 2018 | No Comments »

In my last blogpost, I introduced the idea of stepping off the line we all live on, where most of us are constantly trying to get ahead, and described the value I see in aiming to step off the line and what we can gain by doing it: reclaiming our freedom to choose for ourselves, from within, aligned with our deepest needs and values, and reconnecting with our place in the vast web of interdependence. In this piece, I focus on the actual process, the inner and outer spiraling dance of transformation we can engage in, from where we are, to move in that direction, knowing full well we cannot dismantle the line.

Freeing our consciousness

We can start with cleaning up our own consciousness from the effects of our own socialization. This means examining our internal landscape, facing the helplessness we inevitably feel about the existence of the line, and transforming and releasing any judgment we find, of self or other. We can focus on remembering that this problem is not of our choosing; that it existed before any of us were born; that our choices have been scripted by the existence of this line; that even our capacity to resist the line is scripted.


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Stepping off the Line into Freedom and Interdependence, Part One: Why

Apr28

by: on April 28th, 2018 | No Comments »

One of the potent images of our modern, competitive era is that of a long line we are all trying to get ahead in. Our spot in the line determines our access to resources to sustain our bodies, souls, and families. On a recent Facing Privilege call, one caller I will call Jennifer put on the menu for our conversation a question that directly refers to this invisible and pervasive line. She spoke of feeling bad for having enough. She wanted to know: did she get to have enough by pushing others out of the way to get to the head of the line? Was there a way she could both keep her intent to get her own needs met and do so while caring about other people’s needs? Here’s a distillation of the very engaging conversation that involved many in the group: none of us created the line. The line was created long before any of us were born, and has been perfected and refined and intensified for several thousand years. Jennifer and all of us were born into a world in which we are all on this endless line. We don’t choose the line. We only choose how we relate both to our place in the line and to the existence of the line.

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Stepping into Leadership: 
the Magic of Self-Acceptance

Mar16

by: on March 16th, 2018 | Comments Off

A Hassidic story tells of a rabbi Zusha who summons his students on his deathbed and tells them that when he gets to the other side, he won’t be judged for not being a good Moses; he will only be judged for not being a good Zusha.

This story captures, for me, one of the most challenging tasks of supporting people in stepping into and developing their leadership. Time and time again, I have found people comparing themselves to me, or to some other admired leader, and giving up on themselves and the path because they don’t “measure up.” Each time, I come back to the basic truth that the only leader any of us can be is based on who we each are. As we step into leadership, we are called to lead with our strengths and compensate for our weaknesses.

This truth, for me, has been both a relief and an exacting discipline. It requires a profound shift in our relationship with ourselves: from judging to observing ourselves, from minimizing to celebrating our strengths, from criticizing to tenderly accepting our limitations, from motivating ourselves with “shoulds” to connecting with purpose and choice about creating change within ourselves, and from hiding to asking for support regarding our challenges.

Each of these shifts challenges the patriarchal legacy and upbringing that almost all of us have grown up with, transcending shame, fear, and the perpetual doubt that we matter. This approach asserts, boldly and loudly, that we do matter, whoever we are.


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Transcending Barriers while Life Meets Death

Feb20

by: on February 20th, 2018 | Comments Off

In this time, so full of pain and challenge, I was unexpectedly nourished by an email I received from someone who is consciously, purposefully trying to live applied NVC and Conflict Transformation in work and life, currently doing it in Eastern Sri Lanka. I am sharing an abridged version of her words here, with her permission, because I continue to be inspired and transformed repeatedly by her description of an encounter with a strange man dying of a violent act. I bolded the part that is most inspiring to me, in case you want to go straight there.

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#MeToo and Liberation for All

Jan22

by: on January 22nd, 2018 | 2 Comments »

“I want to kiss you all over your smile.”

The poetic beauty struck me even while my entire body was contracting. The man speaking was drunk. I had asked him several times to stop calling me, at least not so late. He was married, with four children, 20 years my senior, and the president of the company I was working for at the time. I was in my late 20s. It was 1984.

Somehow, between the persistence of the phone calls and my repeated attempts to create boundaries while being human and caring, an unlikely friendship developed. Maybe because I was touched by the vulnerability at his core, or inspired by his brilliance and apparent openness. Slowly and painfully I realized, like so many women before and after me, that maintaining the budding friendship would require succumbing to the sexual overtures. I remember the moment of saying straight into his eyes: “Do you really want me to kiss you even if I don’t want to?” I was so shocked by his insistence in the face of my disinterest, that I lost my will; as if being seen solely as an instrument for his pleasure actually made me less of a person in my own right.

A relationship of two years emerged. It had its moments of true intimacy. And it was a difficult and complicated relationship. When the time came to end it, he predictably asked me to resign. I, unpredictably, declined. I loved my job and didn’t want to lose it. He protested, insisting that it would be difficult for him to see me daily after the breakup. I told him he could fire me, and that I would speak about why. To this day, I am astounded by my matter-of-fact courage.

Two years later, I discovered the literature on sexual harassment. My world exploded in understanding of what had happened; one of my own pivotal #MeToo moments. Even then, I knew I was relatively lucky. No ruined career. No watching him continue, with impunity, to victimize others.

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Life, Interdependence, 
and the Pursuit of Meeting Needs

Dec18

by: on December 18th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

“Life is arranged to care for all that lives through an endless interdependent flow of energy and resources.”

After years of thinking, reading, writing, talking, teaching, feeling, and communing, that simple sentence came to me in a session I was leading about money at a nine-day intensive training in Chile. Perhaps being immersed in a cultural context that is so much closer to the collaborative, warm, community-based way of living that I am working towards – and that still hasn’t been wiped out fully there – brought this clarity. Or maybe it was the venue, built to mimic the non-linearity of nature. It came. And then the rest followed immediately.


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Nonviolence in the Face of Hatred

Nov16

by: on November 16th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Anita was present at almost every one of the 34-sessions of my online course Responding to the Call of Our Times. I have sometimes wondered what this course would have been like without her steady willingness to explore the depths of nonviolence. I was counting on it as a thread tying us together, inviting others into more willingness, inviting me into more daring capacity to excavate, find truth, find love. I thought Anita could not surprise me any longer. Then, two weeks before the end of the course, she surprised all of us.

Anita was one of very few people of African descent in the group, and the experience she described was totally related to her background. Some weeks before, her one remaining sister shared with her for the first time that years ago, when she was living in the South, there were a few times when the Ku Klux Klan broke into her house and dragged her out into a field towards a burning cross.

Probably 1958, from the North Carolina State Archives

Anita was bringing this up for a very specific reason, fully fitting with the focus on leadership that the course was on. Although this was very tender for her, she wasn’t bringing it up for empathy or sympathy. She was bringing it up because she wanted to find a way to transform her thinking about what her sister had shared with her, so she would know what to do with the violent thoughts that were populating her mind and challenging her commitment. Out of respect for her dignity and choice, I never asked for the specific nature of the thoughts.


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Moving from Fault to Cause: Looking for Systemic Solutions to White Supremacy

Sep14

by: on September 14th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Downtown Charlottesville, by Bob Mical

The recent events in Charlottesville have brought even more attention and public conversation to the growing phenomenon of visible, explicit calls for white supremacy. Much of what I have since read and heard is horror and disgust at what has happened, and an intense inquiry about what can be done to make a dramatic shift, and quickly.

Although I experience myself as entirely separate and different from the torch-marchers, from their slogans, actions, and hatred, I consciously choose to maintain the discipline of remembering that they were not born this way; they are not in any special category. There are reasons why more and more people are drawn into such groups, and I want to know the causes, not what’s wrong with the people. Like many who’ve been writing recently, I am confident that fighting back, name calling, shaming, denouncing, and other similar tactics I’ve seen used recently are feeding rather than quelling this upsurge.

Clearly, we are facing a huge problem here; one of many that are challenging our overall ability to sustain ourselves as a species. One of the benefits that our very large brains give us is that we are, as a species, amazingly capable of responding to major challenges by solving complex problems. We know, without having to learn it very much, that to solve a problem we need to understand its cause and then look for solutions based on understanding the cause.

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Why Patriarchy Is Not about Men

Aug4

by: on August 4th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

In response to my recent newsletter, which I named “Tenderness, Vulnerability, and Mourning as a Response to Patriarchy“, I received two comments from men that led me to choose to write this piece. In two very different ways they pointed me to the reality that the word patriarchy is used in many ways; that some of those ways lead to a lot of misunderstanding; and that, in the process, men in particular get targeted in ways I never wish they did. In this piece I hope to rectify this a little bit. I start with pointing to what I mean by patriarchy, since I don’t yet have a definition that I am fully satisfied with. Most significantly, I speak to what patriarchy does or does not have to do with men and what it has to do with all of us. I also aim to make it clear what my very deep concerns are about continuing within the patriarchal paradigm that’s been with us, at least those of us who are part of Western civilization, for about 7,000 years. And I end by what I believe every single one of us can do about it.

What Is Patriarchy?

One of the things that make it difficult to speak about patriarchy, or any other system, to a mostly North American audience, is that the capacity to see systems as distinct from the individuals that live within and are affected by them has been systematically rooted out of most people’s awareness. Instead, everything is seen as an individual issue with only individual solutions.

This is, sadly, also the reason for why the main accomplishments of the 2nd wave of feminism (about which more below) in the US, for example, have been at the individual level, such as access to more kinds of jobs and to education, or increased reproductive choice. There has been very little change in the system that I call patriarchy, nor have the individual changes been open to women who are darker skinned and/or of limited economic means.

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Addendum to Privilege, Responsibility, and Nonviolence

Jul20

by: on July 20th, 2017 | Comments Off

After posting my recent post, I received a comment that completely surprised me, in which I was challenged about what I thought was the opposite of what I said. Given what was written in the comment, I believe it was a person of color writing it. Given my overall commitments, including the ones I wrote about in that piece, it was vitally important for me to take the comment seriously as important feedback. This meant focusing on what I may have done to contribute to the misunderstanding rather than on trying to explain myself.

In reflecting, and in further conversation with a colleague, it didn’t take much to recognize what it might have been. What I discovered is three things I didn’t say rather than specific things that I said. Because of these omissions, my piece ended up vulnerable to being interpreted through the lens of shifting blame to the marginalized. The purpose of this piece is to make explicit what was left unsaid before.

Naming the Audience

The first was a very major slip; something I intended to add to the piece and was still thinking about where to add it most effectively, and then I forgot to close that loop and sent it off for publication without it. I am deeply chagrined about this slip, and want to correct it now.

It’s the failure to name the audience.

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