Nonviolence is like a current of electricity. In order for this power to work at its full capacity, we have to let it pass through us, without getting in its way, without even offering resistance. Maybe because of something that happened to us in our past, we find it hard to forgive others. This gets in the way of nonviolence doing its work in the world. Perhaps we wanted to say a nice word to a friend, but held it back because they were unkind to us recently, or we have insecurities about ourselves so we cast judgment and blame on others. All this can block the flow of nonviolence through us. This is why Gandhi called nonviolence a ‘two edged sword’ (yes, he allowed himself that simile): because to really use it we have to set about transforming our weaknesses, or what in Indian philosophy are called ‘samskaras’ (tendencies that have become deeply ingrained through repetition).
You could almost call nonviolent a kind of yoga, which means ‘union.’ It is an integral work that engages our whole self: mind, body and spirit. If it seems that nonviolence doesn’t “work,”we can ask, as he did, how we can change our own hearts and figure out how we could have made it work more effectively. Not realizing this, many an activist has thrown it away after trying it once or twice without the hoped-for success. What made this work for Gandhi — and could for us as well — was his realization that he was not the “doer” but a channel. This is not a cliche, but a misunderstood dynamic of nonviolence in action.
Become aware today of an experience you have where nonviolence wants to “come through” but something is blocking it. Maybe pondering the idea that you are not the doer will help it flow.
The Metta Center for Nonviolence, PO Box 98, Petaluma, California 94953 707-774-6299 email@example.com