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Miki Kashtan: Vulnerability, Shedding Excess, and Communicating Our Needs

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Nuggets From Miki Kashtan's Call

Last Saturday, we had the privilege of hosting Awakin Call with Miki Kashtan.

Miki Kashtan is a self-described “practical visionary pursuing a world that works for all, exploring the application of the principles and tools of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to social transformation.” In 2002, she co-founded Bay Area Nonviolent Communication, offering training, mediation, and facilitation for skills and consciousness of Nonviolent Communication. One of the central areas of learning and application for Miki is exploring the shift from the paradigm of exchange and accumulation to the paradigm of a full gift economy, especially looking at how we can restore our relationship with the abundance of nature and increase the interdependent flow of energy and resources. Miki describes encountering feminism in the mid-1980’s as a huge personal awakening, leading her to embrace nonviolent communication. Miki has developed Convergent Facilitation, a methodology for helping us recover our collaborative capability.

We'll post the transcript of the call soon, but till then, some of the nuggets that stood out from the call ...

  • Miki discussed the "raw deal" given to newborns in societies like ours, which are steeped in patriarchy, transactionalism, and acquisition: to be accepted, you must give up your freedom, your truth, and who you are. Most accept the deal; a minority do not. When you make the choice to accept yourself, it transforms you in such a positive way. Miki talked about her own struggle to be authentic and to resist the "active assault on her spirit" she experienced while growing up. While reading Love In The Time of Cholera by Gabriel García Márquez, Miki experienced a transformation where she found herself literally screaming for her vulnerability and authenticity back. This led Miki down a spiritual path which has involved shedding layers of protection and embracing vulnerability and authenticity.
  • The path of vulnerability and authenticity is a spiral, and it is made of tons of micro-decisions, wherein you can decide to be a little more vulnerable or a little less vulnerable on a moment-to-moment basis. When you consistently make decisions in the direction of vulnerability and authenticity, you become more and more compassionate and you open yourself up to nonviolence and to a world that works for all, instead of a world that works for some. The feeling of "shame" is in many ways the antithesis of vulnerability and authenticity; it is a tool of patriarchal societies designed to suppress one's true self.
  • Nonviolent communication is an important tool for cultivating compassion and combating the illusion of separation between the "self" and the "other." Miki talked about an amazing breakthrough she had in a nonviolent communication setting. She listened to a person who was frustrated and upset with people who were being judgmental and inconsiderate toward others, and in the process that person was being a bit judgmental him/herself. Miki asked: Is it that compassion is so important to you that it is really hard to see when others are not compassionate? This question completely shifted the energy in the room and allowed everyone to more deeply access their hearts and vulnerability. Another practice that supports compassion and non-separation is the practice of "empathic imagination" -- i.e., the practice of imaging yourself as the person who incites or provokes a reaction in you. Imagine you are the one in such person's position. Miki discussed how this practice has helped her develop compassion toward those whom she has felt anger, while still allowing her to maintain her integrity.
  • Drawing on her sociology background, Miki explained that we are not self-made, but are instead very much products of our socialization and the norms we have been forced to internalize, including, for example, patriarchal norms that teach us to suppress our femininity and to cede our freedom. Recognizing this is an important part of figuring out who you actually are.
  • There is a flow to life, and we as humans have taken ourselves out of that flow through accumulation and transactionalism (as opposed to gift). Accumulation stems from mistrust -- it is a protective measure designed to prevent you from exposing your needs, and it is an illusion. Transactionalism -- or the give-and-take, quid pro quo mentality -- stunts relationships and is at odds with "humility" and "surrender", two fundamental values of flow. Humility is not knowing, and surrender is overcoming the urge to resist not knowing. Real relationships of shared risk will ultimately free us from dependence on money.
  • In terms of following up with Miki or learning more about Miki's work and nonviolent communication, Miki has offered the following resources:
    • -- This is Miki's main blogging site, including lots of other audio, video, and written resources and information about Miki's free conference calls and how to contact Miki
    • -- This is where you can find information about working with relevant organizations.
Lots of gratitude to all the behind-the-scenes volunteers that made this call happen!

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