Realigning with Life

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by Miki Kashtan

Recorded by Leslie Becknell Marx

Note:  Some people’s identities have been hidden. Emma is still, after all these years, in a shared risk pod with me and one other person for now, seeding a vision of realigning humanity with life.

June 22, 2019, walk with Nitha

Life is the constant rearranging of everything in continual integration of all volitions.

Nitha asks the simplest questions that take my breath away. She wants to know how I define life. I look at her in disbelief. And then the words emerge, effortless, beyond me: “Life is the constant rearranging of everything in continual integration of all volitions.” This only makes sense from the perspective I have adopted as a working assumption: that everything is alive, everything has volition, including cups, electrons, and mountains. The world opens, mystery deepens and thickens, and imagination flows, when we assume that everything is alive and has volition, however different it may be from our human volition. 

June 25, 2019, cranial-sacral session with Valentin 

Valentin and I meet at the intersection of spirit, bodies, and words. Sometimes we walk, and sometimes he gifts me cranial-sacral sessions, mostly silent, connecting us, to each other and to life. 

Today, he puts his hands under my back and SI joint, and I experience the relief of being known and held. Then he puts his hand, with utmost gentleness, right above the pubic bone. I take an involuntary deep breath. And then Inbal, my sister who died in 2014, comes to visit. I usually have only fleeting, rare moments with her presence. This time, it lasts two whole minutes. Then I hear her unmistakable presence: “I’m always with you,” she says without voice. This is exceptionally tender and comforting. Other threads of communication arise, private, complex. And in between them, interwoven, again and again, maybe twenty times: “I’m always with you.”

When Valentin and I decipher the session, our words, incomplete as they must be, point to a kind of return to the origin of life, when needs have power, before patriarchy, before we interfered with life, the endless flow of energy and resources that cares for all that lives.

Each of us is born knowing that for humans, by evolutionary design, the flow is simply orienting towards known needs. 

Each of us is born knowing that for humans, by evolutionary design, the flow is simply orienting towards known needs. Each of us, as an infant, is shocked into patriarchy, the prime disconnector, alone, small, and entirely dependent. It happens the moment having a need is not enough for another to orient towards us; the moment we have to be good, to “deserve” what we need, to fit expectations, to tame ourselves from wildness, to not want what we want. No longer are needs powerful. No longer is generosity flowing. Under patriarchy, needs are a liability to be ashamed of and generosity is a weakness. 

I speak of life itself as being about needs, about volition, about flow. I speak of practicing vulnerability, putting needs and impacts on the table, consciously choosing to undo the hiding and withholding of our vulnerability. Valentin speaks of feeling, through working with me, the power of that flow, of the needs, of the vulnerability. I remember Gandhian scholar Narayan Desai telling me, in 2012, that I need more faith to do my work well. Now I know that the necessary faith is that it’s enough to put needs and impacts on the table. Always. Everywhere. This is wholeness. 

June 26, 2019, conversation with Emma and Juta

Emma and Juta are together, on my Zoom screen, thousands of kilometers away. We are exploring bringing all our resources together. No exit clause. We are beginning to make life decisions together. 

Volition… is the intersection of desire, will, and choice.

I share about my conversation with Nitha. Volition, I discover while explaining the word to Juta, is the intersection of desire, will, and choice. Integrating all volitions sometimes means that something must be killed. The lion can’t live if all the zebras remain alive. This is what the integration sometimes looks like. And then there is grief.  

We talk about living in trust, in the endless flow of life, in full surrender, in effortless volition, trusting life to expose our true limits, without boundaries, without tension. I want to live without tension. Without effort. Together. Always together. No protecting, posturing, defending, judging, or numbing out. No hiding, manipulating, or coercing. Simplicity. No effort. Needs. Impacts. Resources. Togetherness. Heaven.

Patriarchy, the turn away from life, scoffs at effortlessness, calls it laziness, demands exertion. We are banished from the Garden of Eden because we ate from the tree of knowledge. We learned good and evil. We lost the simple, effortless capacity to put our needs on the table, hear the needs of others; hear all the known and anticipated impacts, on everyone; name all the options, all available resources; and move, again, wherever it goes, together. Now, it’s by the sweat of our brows that we eat; that we find love; that we give to life.

Good and evil is the language of patriarchy, constructs erected to keep us from going near the tragedy that befell us

Maimonides, in the Guide for the Perplexed, said that knowledge of good and evil, in itself, is a punishment, because it brings suffering. Before, Adam and Eve knew only true and false. Good and evil is the language of patriarchy, constructs erected to keep us from going near the tragedy that befell us, the trauma, the loss of life, connection, flow, togetherness. So we wouldn’t know the power of mourning to restore our capacity. So we wouldn’t know what is possible. So we wouldn’t, ever again, know the simplicity of just needs, impacts, and resources. 

June 27, 2019, conversation with Lisa

Lisa and I go back many years. Lisa knows me. She tells me, whenever she knows it will matter, that I can do no wrong. We collaborate on life and work; friendship and changing the world; mutual coaching and fun. We have simplicity. 

We can’t walk today due to a recent surgery, so we sit and talk. The pace of the transmission that started with Nitha is slower, though not weaker. We talk about trust. I discover, while speaking, that when we say we don’t trust someone, what we are saying, without knowing it, is that we don’t trust the other person to put their needs on the table, speak the impacts on them, hear our needs, hear the impacts on us, assess, together, what the available options and resources are, and decide, together, how best to move forward. Simple. Wrenching. Solvable. 

We protect ourselves from those we don’t trust.

We protect ourselves from those we don’t trust. We remove all that could restore trust from the interaction: warmth, connection, generosity, vulnerability, tenderness. We escalate, without wanting to, proving to ourselves that our mistrust was justified.

We don’t have to. We can ask, instead, what, if anything, will allow a person we don’t trust to remove obstacles from the simple act of showing the needs, the pain, the grief, their own mistrust, the effort, the impacts on them, the fear of impact on us. This is possible. Everything can be on the table. We can lean on the stubborn faith that we can restore simplicity, and come, again, to heaven, even when trust is lost. We forgot. It’s called patriarchy. 

I do that intuitively, I never stepped fully into the patriarchal vortex. Something, deep within me, is still wild. Something in me knows, always knew, never forgot, my innocence. I remember being a small body, my father’s assaults on me, the little fortress I built within me, knowing I will not let him break me. 

June 28, 2019, walk with Rachel

Whenever we are both in town on a Friday, we walk. I am part of a magnificent support network that envelopes Rachel with enough sustenance so that she can bear not having the community she longs for. 

I love science. I fear its avaricious claim to be the only truth.

We do three celebrations each, whenever we walk, regardless of circumstances. I tell her, too, about what’s been unfolding this week, about electrons and electric fans, and leaves and trees, and everything else, having volition. About the endless flow, the way it all comes together in intricate patterns, the repeated experience of dots connecting across time and space, all that is unnamable, all that I can suddenly put in words, all that cannot be proven or unproven. There is no experiencing any of it through the scientific paradigm. Trying kills life. I love science. I fear its avaricious claim to be the only truth. We cannot prove life. We can only experience it. 

June 29, 2019, writing

We decide from concepts now, not from life.

Someone told me of a video clip I could never find and yet see so vividly, where a mother goose is desperately going back and forth between a flock of geese beginning their migration south and her ailing gosling who cannot fly. She doesn’t want to leave it behind. And she knows, knows, that staying means they both die. Back and forth she goes, until she makes her choice, heartbroken and clear. She joins the flock, leaving the gosling behind, choosing life; knowing she cannot save her gosling, knowing she will go for this year without offspring. She is thinking in that moment, thinking like us, weighing the pros and the cons, and deciding, painfully. She has that option, all beings, all life, have this option, somehow, somewhere. Only humans need to decide so much, all the time. She is in flow, most of the time. We rarely are, and less so since patriarchy. We decide from concepts now, not from life. We decide from habit, impulse, obligation, shame, fear, and desire for reward. Not from what we want.  

I am on the path of vulnerability, since 1996. I can put my needs on the table. I can ask for what I want. Often. I can speak of impacts. Often. I can hear needs. Often. I can hear impacts. Often. I aim for togetherness. Always. 

I haven’t begun to touch the grief about not seeing the patriarchal conditioning everywhere

I am someone people leave, more often than anyone else I know. I keep looking for patterns of why, patterns of what I do, what they do, who I choose, who chooses me. I think I haven’t begun to touch the grief about not seeing the patriarchal conditioning everywhere which filters my simple act of putting my needs, impacts, and resources on the table and turns it into something else that becomes the reason to walk away from me. I am still innocent, still confused by the world of adults, still trying to establish togetherness, and I fail to notice, fail to plan, fail to meet what is happening, fail to anticipate the separation, the filtering. 

Then thinking of Emma. Wild like nobody I ever met. Wilder than me. She meets me in Rumi’s field, beyond right and wrong. We play in the grass, where “even the phrase each other makes no sense.” We know we “must ask for what we really want.” And always tell the truth. 

April 22, 2021, conversation with Emma

Today is the day when the next piece is coming, almost two years later.

Patriarchy emerges from scarcity, functions in separation, and results in powerlessness.

Life emerges from flow, functions in togetherness, and results in choice. 

There is no self that is separate from life. There is no life that is separate from self. 

Will mystery invite us, finally, into stopping long enough to feel and mourn all the calamities that have befallen us…?

When choice (the volitions), anywhere, is bigger than what togetherness (continual integration) can metabolize into flow (the constant rearranging of everything), life breaks down. That’s how we got patriarchy. We are an experiment on the part of life: can consciousness like ours be folded back into the flow of life? Threats put humans, all living beings, into survival mode. Collective calamities put us into such a degree of survival mode, that we reverted to dominance and submission, fell out of our sacred lineage, away from the biology of love. The power of togetherness has so far been insufficient to metabolize our uncontainable choices, powered by progressively more potent technologies that can make us feel like we can control life. Will mystery invite us, finally, into stopping long enough to feel and mourn all the calamities that have befallen us through us so we can find a collective way for the metabolizing to occur before we destroy everything? Will enough of us who have retained any degree of flow, any spot within that is consciously accessible, be able to become the source of expression that can mysteriously unfurl the whole thing freshly back into flow?

Recorded by Erin Holtz Braeckman

Miki Kashtan is a practical visionary exploring the application of the principles and tools of Nonviolent Communication (NVC) to individual and collective liberation. She is the founder of the Nonviolent Global Liberation (NGL) Community, a certified NVC trainer and author of her most recent publication: The Highest Common Denominator: Using Convergent Facilitation to Reach Breakthrough Collaborative Decisions (2021). Miki teaches and works with visionary organizations, leaders, activists, and others to support the transition to a world that works for all.

One thought on “Realigning with Life

  1. Thank you for this beautiful piece. I am left wondering about volition, needs and impacts. Perhaps this can help me understand why I came to the realization recently that, “I am not being honest about who I am.” There is fear that I will lose relationships if I put my needs on the table and talk about impacts. There is fear that if I hear others needs and impacts, I may need to change, or leave.

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