What’s Going’ On?

by liza
What's Going On Pic 1
I watched an extended interview on the Daily Show – then I went to NVC Family Camp – I met a group of Palestinians and Israelis who were at camp studying nonviolent communication – and as a result, I am now enrolling myself and my kids in wilderness awareness courses.
There is a thread here. it is powerful; it is deep. And I am trying to find a way to unpack it all and I’m having trouble doing that all in one blog post. So if you will allow me the luxury of meandering down a path in my heart that is desperately looking for clarity, I’d be obliged.  I am asking for space to go on tangents, to reach conclusions that I may very well oppose in my next post, or to ask hundreds of questions with no solution in sight just for the sake of brainstorming in the name of peace.  In short, I need to process – right here right now. I like to do deep dives and get to the root of things that bug me. I would be so appreciative if you would be my witness.

Here’s the Question

Triggered by this Daily Show interview with author, Ta-Nehisi Coates, here’s the conversation I’m begging to have, to brainstorm, to share with anyone who will engage me. Have all civilizations been built with subjugation by design?  Could we have advanced this far from hunters and gatherers to our industrialized technological 21st century world without plundering the planet, abusing farm animals, enslaving our brothers, raping our sisters, and disillusioning our children? Do we have to continue down this violent path in order to evolve? Or is there another way?
Our ability to inflict harm on others is, indeed, the thing that most disturbs me in this world. I am grateful to Ta-Nehisi Coates for broaching the subject in a way that is allowing me to finally face this shadow we all have with new light. In his interview with Jon Stewart, he posited that what we attribute to “white” is really just power. It is not “whiteness” that causes power to corrupt and authority to abuse. It is not the differences among us that breeds subjugation. There is plenty of black on black, jew on jew, arab on arab, and white on white terrorism to prove that fact. So what is it? What causes violence and abuse?

Taking a look in the mirror.

After a rather stressful year (stressful is really an understatement), I began to listen to the dynamic in my own household and soon realized we had devolved into a less than nourishing style of communication. Stress can do that. And since there’s no time like the present and I’m one of those crazy people who likes to nip things in the bud as soon as I even catch a scent of something amiss, I promptly registered us for NVC Family Camp.
Clinical psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg created Nonviolent Communication (NVC) as a way to bridge gaps and open dialog between activists in the 1960’s civil rights era. It has since been systematized and taught all over the world as a powerful means of resolving conflict not just between races, but between nations, couples, parents and teens, and within schools and communities.
That’s about all I knew about NVC when I registered. I was looking forward to some quality time with my family. Camping always brought us closer and made us a stronger unit and we were really overdue – it had been a while.  I had a hunch that camping within the confines of an NVC environment would be just what the doctor ordered. I knew within hours of our arrival, that I would not get the family time I thought we needed. Instead, each individual member of my family was going to get his/her needs met for seven days straight. You see, at the root of NVC is the theory that all communication and behavior is rooted in a person’s desire to meet his/her needs.  How would I react to my children and them with me, how would I communicate with Ayan and he with me, how would Ayan communicate with the children – if we were all getting our needs met? We were about to find out.

Filling my cup.

The campers were made up of approximately 100 guests and 40 staff members. Every member of the staff had spent the prior week getting their needs met so they could be present and “full” for the duration of our visit. We were fed 3 nourishing meals and 2 snacks every day and accommodations were made for individuals with dietary restrictions of all sorts. Our children, almost 10 and 4 were each cared for by staff who were trained and designated to nurture, entertain, and educate specific age groups. They felt safe; they had fun; they chose from a variety of daily outdoor activities offered by trained counselors; and in between they ran wild among the blackberry bushes, green fields, and campgrounds with their new-found friends.
As adults, our needs were also met. We too were well-fed. The toilet paper never ran out and the showers were always warm. We were offered two official learning sessions where we could choose from a variety of offerings – parenting, bow-making, forgiveness & grief, self-connection as a path, adapting to change, or the fundamentals of NVC to name a few.  In between those sessions, we had the option to rest or hike or try “empathy time.” These were really sacred moments where we were given the chance to be heard or where we could offer deep listening to others. We were even offered time to meet individually with professional therapists steeped not only in NVC but in many other traditions as well. Ayan and I had our first ever couples therapy session. It felt like a honeymoon after 10 years of straight child rearing. We too made good friends who shared our desire for a more peaceful existence within our homes and in the world at large. The days were bookended with morning circles of song and gratitude and evening gatherings of story-telling around campfires. Think our needs were met?
I really did experience for the first time what it felt for my cup to be truly full. It became so plainly obvious that as long as our needs are met, our basic human instinct is to give fully of ourselves, our time, and our attention.  We can feel a sense of abundance even in the midst of debt, death, and suffering, as long as we have food, water, sleep – and…as long as we feel that we matter.  As long as we are heard and understood, we instinctively offer ourselves in service to others. We feel full enough to have patience with our children, compassion with our partners, and understanding within our community. It felt so good to be full and I honestly couldn’t remember a time in my life where I felt anything remotely like this.

My take-away…for now.  

How quickly I reverted back to judgement, impatience, and short retorts in my own household only 2 weeks since the end of camp. Only this time, I have seen with my eyes, and felt with my heart what’s possible. The memory itself is enough to trigger the ultimate act. Connect with myself to identify my needs and find a way to meet them. Am I hungry? Tired? Hurt? Scared? Do something. Say something – quick before I react desperately out of a place of need and someone else has to suffer consequences.
To act consciously out of a sense of abundance, the best I can do is make sure I can identify my own needs in any given moment and meet those needs as best as i can on my own or with the help of my friends, my family, an empathy partner, or any professional that is willing to help should the situation require it.
Are these unmet needs at the root of our violent behaviors? This is what I’m sitting with now.
The hope is that with this one personal act, I could be responsible for the way I communicate, for the way I behave, and for the energy I put out into the world. I can do that. I won’t win every time, but I can hold this as my ideal and get better with practice. I’ll keep you posted.

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  1. Marcia Christen
    Posted August 27, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    LIza – I am so touched by reading your experience and then your insight – you express what I have learned in such a clear, heartfelt way. And added such a simple thing for me and others to follow. Thank you for this insight! And for coming to camp! It is truly a gift to be a co-explorer with you and your family! Can I share this on my facebook page? Marcia

  2. Liza Pascal
    Posted August 27, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Thank you for your kind words, Marcia. I would be honored if you shared it. Looking forward to seeing you soon.

  3. Ingrid Bauer
    Posted August 27, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    So sweet to read and take in your words Liza. Hearing and resonating with the journey that you’re on. Thanks for articulating it. And hoping and trusting that we will meet again soon!

  4. Liza Pascal
    Posted August 27, 2015 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Thanks, Ingrid. And what a journey it is. I will find a way to make a visit a reality one way or another.

  5. Posted August 27, 2015 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful Lisa , it is that simple and powerful , connecting to the heart of the matter . at the level of the heart we are all connected . So wish your family could join us to the heart of mentoring gathering we are offering in little more than one week on Saltspring.i have this image of Lula and Nayani living that heart connection between each other and all the other living beings of the place . so exited for your family starting a deep journey with wilderness awareness.

  6. Liza Pascal
    Posted August 28, 2015 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    We were planning to join you at Heart of Mentoring until my mom decided to fly in from israel for 2 weeks. I may very well send a friend but for now, we can’t make it. I hope to nurture the Luna – Nayani heart connection as well. And we are so excited we met your family on this journey of ours. Every single member of your family has triggered positive change in our lives. We speak of it often. And we are so grateful.

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