Revolutionary Love – Love Ourselves

The third section of the Revolutionary Love compass is ‘Breathe and Push‘ – a way through our pain to find the transition we long for. Using a birthing metaphor, we are reminded that we breathe and push, and then breathe and push again, that there is no way around but through.

Breathe

Breathing brings us to ourselves and to the present moment – it creates space and time to be present to our body, our emotions, our surroundings and to one another. Deep, diaphragmatic breathing calms us, increases our capacity for choice over how to respond. It increases our awareness and our resilience. “Breathing creates space in our lives to think and see differently, enliven our imagination, awaken to pleasure, move towards freedom and let joy in.” In this sense, breathing and loving ourselves is a revolutionary act, asserting that we are worthy, no matter what.

Push

This invitation is to breathe and push through grief, rage and trauma to find healing, forgiveness and even reconciliation. There are times when we need to push, to go deeper, and times when we need to breathe, to rest and recover. There is so much more information now about how trauma is stored in the body, how bringing back awareness to those places in us we have shut off is an act of loving ourselves, the whole of ourselves. Part of this push is to step towards forgiveness and maybe even reconciliation, when we feel able, not to forget but to find freedom from hate.

Transition

The final stage in this birthing metaphor is ‘transition’: “Transition feels like dying but is the stage that precedes the birth of new life.”. Valarie talks about the pain, and the voice of fear inside that says ‘I can’t’, that wants to give up… and the voice of wisdom inside (or from others) that says ‘You are brave’. In most of us the inner critic voices are constant* – the voices of fear, judgement and cynicism that try to protect us and keep us small. And in time we can also tune into a wiser voice – internal wisdom, growing in presence and clarity as we learn to tune in and trust it. Both of these are part of us, and we can choose to spend time listening to people who are speaking from their deepest wisdom.

*I highly recommend Claus Springboard’s book ‘Disengaging from inner criticism‘ if you feel stuck around how.

In learning to love ourselves, to love others, and to love our opponents, we are taking a step towards transforming our relationships, our community, and even our nation and beyond. This is a radical, joyful way to practice and live, “a practical guide to changing the world”.

I have found so much joy and wisdom in the ‘Revolutionary Love Project‘ and in the ‘See No Stranger’ book, and am curious to explore with others, as community, in our local contexts. If you are inspired by this too, please get in touch.

Kingian Nonviolence – Avoid internal violence of the spirit, as well as external violence

This principle focuses on the internal violence that can play out in conflicts, either towards others or ourselves – blame, judgement, hatred, guilt, depression, burnout and ill will, a kind of violence to our own spirit or sense of wellbeing. In a way this principle is a commitment to accompanying ourselves and reconnecting to care, including to seek support if we need it.

We explored options available to use to make sense of the world when someone says or does something that harms us:

  • Blame the other person, e.g. labelling them stupid, evil or something else.
  • Blame ourselves, e.g. believing it must have been something we did wrong or misjudged.
  • Recognising both our needs and theirs and feeling the emotional impact of that, responding empathically.

In my own upbringing, the focus was very much on intention and what was right and wrong, and therefore blame. It is a constant relearning to wonder and inquire what is underneath, what is the impact and what were the needs trying to be met by an action.

Within this we spent some time exploring Rage, and how it connects to Love – how it can show us what we most deeply love and want to protect…

  • Rage arises when we lose care and when seeking is blocked (for example if it doesn’t seem safe to ask for what we want)
  • When rage is blocked and we can’t go to seeking what we love, we often experience collapse, (for example depression)
  • We also experience rage when coming out of a ‘freeze’ immobilisation response (often through trauma)
  • Rage can connect us to what we most deeply love and want to protect (for example our freedom or autonomy)

Poet David Whyte suggests “Anger is the deepest form of compassion” – we can use this to find out ‘what is being loved with this force’?. When we feel ‘Angry At…’ (at someone we want to be different), we can honour that as love and transform it to ‘Angry That…’ (connecting to what we love).

To me this principle reminds me to connect to the needs underneath what is going on, to self empathy and empathy for others, to seeking support when I feel stuck in the story and judgement, and to see this internal violence as part of continuing the cycle.

Next up: Principle 6 – The universe is on the side of Justice

Kingian Nonviolence – Beloved Community is the Framework for the Future

Beloved community is a vision of a world where all are included in the circle of care, where all needs matter. So the work in this part is to wonder about the current edges of our care, where it is not easy to see the humanity of others, and to include our own needs, to really check if we are leaving out anything of ourselves. And then to ask if we have the systems, processes, skills and support we need as a community or society…

  • Where are the edges of our care?
  • Where do we hold blame (for others or ourselves), and what might the mourning be underneath?*
  • How do we make sure always that our own needs are included, and check for real willingness?
  • How do we set up restorative systems that support us to reconnect when there is tension?

(* I’d highly recommend checking out more of Sarah Peyton‘s work around blame and mourning – you can find a detailed version of the ‘Transforming Blame into Mourning’ process here.)

An important reminder for me came from Roxy Manning‘s sharing, that there might be situations where we need to say to people in our lives “you are still part of my community but I won’t let you harm us” – Beloved Community has to include us and our families, our own safety. I enjoyed these questions posed: When you consider the invitation to live in beloved community:

  • In what circumstances do you exclude yourself? What needs does this meet?
  • In what circumstances do you exclude others? What needs does this meet?
  • How would it serve you to strive to include yourself or others more in the circumstances you named?

We will have moments of ‘I just cant do it’, where needs for safety, understanding, care, rest and others are at risk, where it feels really challenging, and we need support to find the next step.

“If you are not struggling to love people, if you are not trying to build understanding with those you disagree with, then you are not really doing the work of building Beloved Community. The work of building Beloved Community is understanding that we’re not trying to win over people, but to win people over.”

Kazu Haga from ‘Healing Resistance’

It’s important for me to know that while I so want a world where all needs matter, and wish for everyone to want that too… and to know that’s not the reality, I can’t expect anyone else to, and this is part of the work.

Coming up next – Principle 3: Attack forces of evil, not persons doing evil >

Revolutionary Love – Love Our Opponents

The core wisdom of this section of the Revolutionary Love compass is ‘Tend the Wound‘ – an understanding that underneath tension, conflict and division is so often hurt that has been left untended. We go first to ourselves, to see if we need to rage first, before really checking in with ourselves whether we are ready to listen to understand opponents, and then be ready to reimagine together.

Again it feels such an important reminder that this work is to be done in community, that we will all play different roles at different times, and can honour where we are and not feel we need to do all of this ourselves.

Rage

In many of us, rage is something we might not be comfortable with, or might skip over to get to action or to try and find empathy for the other. The lesson of this part of the compass is tending our own wounds by finding ways to express our rage in a safe container, and allow our bodies natural response to the hurt, with whatever support we need to do that.

Listen

When it really feels safe to do so for us, in our bodies, there is a choice to step towards our opponents with curiosity, to listen to understand their perspective. This is the work of listening for the wound in others – taking in different perspectives, alongside rather than instead of our own, so that we have the possibility of finding solutions that can work for all.

Reimagine

When we tend to our wounds and connect to the wounds in others, we have the possibility of reimagining institutions that could work for all. Some of the institutions might need to change, others to be dismantled and created again from scratch.

In each of these steps i feel hope, that there is a possibility, a map, that doesn’t try to jump over the hurt, and that also gives a way forward to create the new.

Next up: Love Ourselves >

Kingian Nonviolence – Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people

Kingian Nonviolence has been developed from the legacy of Dr Martin Luther King Jnr, and contains a depth of practice captured in six principles. My connection with it has been greatly supported by Kazu Haga’s excellent book ‘Healing Resistance’, and by the ’50 days for Peace’ course I’ve been part of through the start of this new year. Here’s a little taste of each of the six principles, (I’ll be adding one each week)

Principle 1 : Nonviolence is a way of life for courageous people

Nonviolence is not an easy path. It is beautiful and rewarding, and it can take courage to actively resist harm, to choose to step towards action when others are in harms way. Here are some questions to start that exploration…

  • Where do you see violence in the world? Where do you see people being harmed by actions, words, systems, decisions about where resources are directed to?
  • Where are there opportunities to stand not only in solidarity but as an accomplice to reduce this harm?
  • What scares you about standing up to violence? Where might you need support to find the courage to do this?
  • Where do you need to find care for yourself, stand back, trust others will be there to prevent harm when you need to rest?
  • Where have we made unconscious contracts with ourselves to behave certain ways to meet needs, regardless of the cost to ourselves? (you can find out about unconscious contracts here)

I’m really grateful to Roxy Manning for this extended awareness of different forms that violence takes, and opportunity to review where in my life these show up…

Up next – Principle 2: Beloved community is the framework for the future >

Revolutionary Love – Love Others

Valarie Kaur’s beautiful brilliant Revolutionary Love Project compass offers an orientation and practices to find love for others who are experiencing harm, love for our opponents, and love for ourselves.

Absolutely core to this work is understanding this is something we do as community – to know we all have different roles to play in each moment, and to trust our body as a guide to what is right for us.

Revolutionary Love Project Compass

I’d highly recommend following the content at valariekaur.com, or the brilliant series that is US based but applicable to all at The People’s Inauguration. Here is a taster of what you can find there…

Love others – See no stranger

How do we cultivate our love for others, our willingness to take action to protect what is at risk of harm?

How can we look at any other living being with the mindset ‘you are a part of me I do not yet know’…

Revolutionary love gives 3 practices…

1. Cultivate wonder

Seeing others with wonder, being curious about their story, what breaks their heart, what they want and care for.

“I am defining wonder as letting in a sense of awe and openness, deep curiosity. It is to look upon the face of anyone or anything and say ‘you are a part of me, I do not yet know’. Its an orientation of humility. Wondering about another person, their thoughts and experiences, their pains and joys, their wants and needs, gives us information for how to love them. It’s how we have learned how to love our partners, our children, our friends. Now when we wonder about those who we would otherwise see as strangers, let even them inside of our circle of care, then wonder becomes an act of revolutionary love.”

2. Grieve together

Whose grief have we not let into our hearts? When we come together to grieve, to hear someone else’s story of heartbreak, and let in their pain, we are saying ‘you grieve, and you do not grieve alone’. This is part of how we love others.

3. Fight together

From wonder and grieving together, we can notice and honour the impulse from inside us to fight against injustice, to take action, to prevent harm, to show up in active solidarity, to be there as an accomplice from a place of love.

“To fight is to choose to protect those in harm’s way. To fight with revolutionary love is to fight against injustice alongside those most impacted by harm, in a way that preserves our opponents’ humanity as well as our own. When we fight for those outside our immediate circle, our love becomes revolutionary.”

The fight impulse is natural, ancient and fundamental. It shows us what we love, and gives us the energy and the impulse to protect it. When we come to this fight from a place of love, without denying anyone’s humanity, we can fully move on this path of living nonviolence and loving others.

Up next… Love our opponents >

Living Nonviolence

Underpinning everything i do is a commitment to nonviolence, and to creating a world where ALL needs matter, where we can ALL thrive.

The path of nonviolence was embodied for many by Dr Martin Luther King Junior, and practiced in many contexts around the world. At the core is a commitment to standing up against harm and for justice, whilst staying open to the humanity of opponents.

Two hands of nonviolence

This has been illustrated by my friend and collaborator with this image of two hands – it says “I won’t co-operate with injustice”, AND “I see your humanity”.

Nonviolence is not ‘not being violent’ – it is a commitment to act from a place of seeing our interconnectedness, a path, a way of being in the world. It is a path of active peace, a courageous way of being in the world, a willingness to show up in solidarity with and as an accomplice to people who are being harmed by acts of violence of any kind, while recognising the common humanity of all of us including our opponents.

While the principle might be easy to understand, the practice is challenging and something that takes effort and needs support. Along the way I have explored several frameworks and tools, and found three in particular super helpful. In this series of blog posts, I’ll explore a little the beauty of each, and maybe inspire you to find out more…

  1. Kingian Nonviolence – The legacy of Dr King lives on in six steps and practices, brilliantly supported by Kazu Haga’s work ‘Healing Resistance’.  
  2. Revolutionary Love – A beautiful rallying call for these times developed by Valarie Kaur – a compass and set of practices to support us to fight for justice with love.
  3. Nonviolent Communication – An understanding of the underlying common human needs behind all our actions, and with tangible practices to transform the habitual patterns of our minds, words and deeds.

There is so much here to explore and I am curious to see what lands. I’ll be posting on each of these topics over the coming weeks so follow this blog if you are interested!

Nonviolent Communication (NVC)

In 2015, in a time of a lot of transition in my life, someone reflected back to me “you don’t seem to have much awareness of your feelings – i notice you tend to say you feel good or bad”. This simple statement sent me into a deep journey of reflection and reconnection that has radically changed how I experience myself and life, what work I want to do in the world, and onto a deep commitment to connection and nonviolence.

For me nonviolence is about noticing and welcoming all parts of myself, and of others, to the best of my capacity. I don’t always have the space or conditions or awareness to do it, and that too needs gentle recognition and acceptance.

I want to live in a world where all needs matter, where I care for other people’s needs and my own in the same breath, and look for strategies that will work for all, so we can all be free and well and thrive.

A key part of my journey has been finding Nonviolent Communication (NVC), developed by Marshall Rosenberg. His work builds on a legacy of nonviolence movements, the work of Gandhi and Martin Luther King and many more who see that prioritising the needs of some over others is violence, that nonviolence is not about ‘not being violent, but an active resistance to injustice, and an intention to see the humanity of all.

Part of Marshall’s gift was articulating that at the core of all of our actions are common human needs – that violence is a ‘tragic expression of unmet needs’. He shows how we experience pleasant feelings when our needs are met, and unpleasant feelings when our needs are unmet. We will find any strategy we can to get our needs met, especially when we are in pain (emotionally or physically), or not feeling safe. Often these strategies are found when we are young and we continue them as patterns in our lives, long after they serve us. Often we don’t even know what motivates our actions, it’s just what we do, how we are.

Much of our communication and thought patterns centre on these strategies rather than the feelings and needs underneath, and this is the root of many of our conflicts and inner struggles. When we can connect with our feelings and needs and those of others, we come back into connection and from there are more able to find strategies that work for all. We can also reconnect with our choice and autonomy, to make requests, to say no, and to go to mourning when our needs aren’t met rather than to blame.

This is a world beyond right and wrong, where we see our judgements are patterns of our mind that hide within them beautiful needs that want attention. NVC gives us a new understanding of our inner worlds, and tools to help us understand ourselves and communicate in way that is more likely to bring connection. Often it is understood as a language, a set of steps that can aid communication, but at the core is an intention to move towards a world where all needs matter, and to connect at a deeper level with ourselves and each other.

So what does this have to do with groups and social change?

I work in and alongside many different groups and organisations working for social change, and so often following the beautiful intention and common purpose of the groups is made difficult because of all the internal and inter-personal struggles that emerge. Especially with such urgency in our work, with the multiple crisis looming from climate change to racism to inequality and homelessness, we can feel as if there is not time for our own needs, and for listening to where others are struggling, that we have to push on.

I see the cost, in burnout and exhaustion, in conflicts and tension that goes unresolved, in people sensing they are being excluded and devalued, in ways of working that centre some needs over others. I see how groups try to care for each other, to include all needs, but don’t know how, and often miss each other. I feel sad when people leave movements or push themselves beyond what feels good, when it seems it’s ok to sacrifice some for the sake of the cause. I so value the vision of nonviolence and ‘Beloved Community’ – all needs matter, including our own.

And so, I am passionate about bringing this understanding, my energy and many of the brilliant tools out there to support groups. It might be explicitly NVC we want to bring in, to find easier ways to communicate what is going on and work out requests. It might be more about finding decision making tools that work for all and value outliers so that the needs of people who are often marginalised are included. It might look like exploring different ways to find solutions so that people who have more capacity in visual arts, metaphor, story telling, body sensing or movement can bring in all their insights alongside those whose strength is more in thinking and analysis. And it might be supporting conflict resilience – stepping towards conflict with care, setting up restorative systems or bringing in mediation or restorative circles.

Find out more

There are so many fantastic people out there developing the work Marshall started, and freely available resources to learn from. Below are links to some resources and some of the people I most enjoy learning from, and you can also find out about the nonviolent communication (nvc) work I do with others in and near Hebden Bridge through here.

If you are interested in how nvc can support your organisation, please get in touch.