“Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how
great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is!”
- Anne Frank
Violence equals disempowerment. In order to understand our use of the term Nonviolence, it will help to first explain what we mean by the term violence. Violence occurs when one individual or group attempts to meet one’s own needs at the expense of the needs of other groups or individuals. This generally occurs when there is a power differential of some kind, and one group or individual is able to overpower another. This can occur on an individual basis, such as in the case of personal theft, bullying or murder. Or it can occur in a more socially entrenched way, when one advantaged group overpowers and exploits another, such as in the case of men exploiting women (sexism), the wealthy exploiting the poor (classism), a dominant race exploiting minorities (racism), adults exploiting children or the elderly (ageism), or a dominant species exploiting other species, ecosystems or the earth/biosphere in general (speciesism).
Violence occurs because of disconnection. Our world is profoundly interconnected and interdependent. It is ultimately an illusion that any of us are entirely separate from other members of our society and our world, whether they be other human beings or non-human living beings. In order for any one of us to truly thrive, because of our deep interconnectedness, we ultimately need to live in a thriving human society existing within a thriving natural environment and ultimately a thriving planet (our biosphere). When we lose sight of this important truth, we are likely to fall prey to a scarcity mentality, and develop the false and very harmful belief that we need to exploit, overpower and/or take from others in order to meet our own needs. When we experience the world in such a disconnected and fragmented manner, it is unfortunately only natural to attempt to resort to violent means to attempt to maintain one’s own survival and wellbeing. Fortunately, there is another way...
Nonviolence equals empowerment and connection. When we recognize that none of us is an island unto ourselves, then we naturally recognize that attempts to exploit and overpower others ultimately undermines our own peace and wellbeing. We recognize that each of us is deeply connected to and dependent upon the wider community of beings to which we belong—each individual is a member of a family; each family a member of a community; each community a member of the human society; the entire human society a member of the many ecosystems in which we are immersed and ultimately the entire biosphere. When we recognize this basic truth, then we realize that whenever we harm and disempower others, we are actually harming and disempowering ourselves; and when we support and empower others, we are ultimately supporting and empowering ourselves.
Therefore, nonviolence entails the cultivation of this broader awareness of interconnectedness. It entails the practice of acknowledging the aliveness and the struggle that we all share. And it entails working with rather than against other humans and all other living beings in developing strategies that will meet all of our needs.
The origin of the term Nonviolence. The term Nonviolence comes from the Sanskrit word Ahimsa, which refers to the principle of recognizing that all living beings are sacred and interconnected, and that therefore practicing compassion for all living beings supports our own wellbeing. Mahatma Gandhi’s embodiment of this principle in the liberation of the Indian people played a major role in popularizing it, and it has since been used successfully by many leaders such as Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King, Jr., Cesar Chavez, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, among many others. Of particular interest to those of us in New Zealand is that many decades prior to Gandhi’s work, Maori leader Te Whiti o Rongomai and his kin were utilizing Nonviolent methods to resist the oppression of their people. In 2003, this foundational work was formally acknowledged by representatives of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion.
If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
- The Dalai Lama
“We and everything are connected.
Nonviolence means living your life sincerely supporting those connections.”
- Matt Bear, Director of Nonviolence United
“We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be
until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be."
- Martin Luther King, Jr.
CNCL is dedicated to holistic wellbeing, and is founded upon the core principles of Nonviolence and Conscious Living (these terms are explained in more detail below). In short, we recognize that the genuine wellbeing of the individual is built upon the wellbeing of the community, which in turn is built upon the wellbeing of our society, our environment, and ultimately our entire world. Therefore, we believe that (a) genuine wellbeing for any one of us is built upon the genuine wellbeing of all of us, (b) that the key to genuine wellbeing is the development of relationships that are authentically connected and mutually empowering, and (c) that the development of such relationships requires that the needs of all involved be considered and honoured.
Affordable* counseling, psychotherapy and psychological support to individuals, couples and families.
Affordable mediation, conflict resolution, restorative circles and other methods of relationship repair.
Affordable basic physical support, including individualized physiotherapy, nutrition, and physical fitness.
Affordable workshops, classes and courses dedicated to holistic wellbeing (Nonviolent Communication, mindfulness
meditation, yoga, sustainable gardening, nutrition, green building, etc.)
A forum for community events and discussions related to holistic wellbeing (i.e., issues affecting the wellbeing of human
beings, non-human animals and the environment).
Easy access to wellbeing resources (a lending library, and lists of books, videos, websites, and other useful resources).
Advocacy for and active empowerment of disempowered individuals and groups.
Internships and training to current and future counselors, psychotherapists, psychologists and others working or training in
human support roles or other avenues of wellbeing.
“We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. . . . Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own."
- Cesar Chavez
In simplest terms, the term holistic wellbeing simply refers to the fact that none of us lives an isolated existence. We are each profoundly interconnected to and interdependent upon all other living beings on this planet. To begin with, we can recognise that every aspect of oneself is deeply interdependent with every other aspect of oneself—mind, body and spirit—and the wellbeing of each of these depends to some extent upon the wellbeing of each of the others. In turn, I am interdependent to some extent with my own personal social network (my friends, family and acquaintances), which in turn is interdependent with the other families and groups within my community, which in turn is interdependent upon broader human communities (my town, my country, the entire human species), which in turn is interdependent upon the ecosystems within which we live and finally the entire biosphere (that extraordinary network of all living organisms on our planet). When we consider the profound interdependence inherent in this living network of which we are each a part, it becomes clear that the wellbeing of each of us is intricately tied up with the wellbeing of all of these other living beings and living systems.
In order to understand what we mean by conscious living, it will help to first explain what we mean by the terms needs and strategies, drawing these concepts from Nonviolent Communication, a model that we feel provides an excellent framework for cultivating wellbeing and a sustainable life.
All living organisms—whether a microbe, an insect, a tree, a human being, or an entire ecosystem—have certain requirements in order to maintain their existence and ultimately to thrive. It is these requirements that we are calling needs. The more complex the organism, the more complex its needs; and considering that human beings are particularly complex organisms, it only makes sense that we have many needs. As human beings, we can say that we all share a common set of basic needs with eath other, though we are each unique in the degree to which each of us may value any particular need. Here is what we feel is a particularly comprehensive list of such needs (compiled by Meganwind Eoyong, a Nonviolent Communication teacher).
While all human beings share this common set of needs, the particular methods that are used to meet these needs can vary dramatically. We refer to these particular methods of trying to meet one’s needs as strategies, and strategies generally are unique and not necessarily universal. In addition, it’s clear that some strategies may be much more beneficial and/or much less harmful than others.
To give just one example, we all share the need for personal empowerment. Yet if I use fear, intimidation, or dishonesty to acquire personal empowerment, then it’s likely that I will undermine other needs of mine such as peace, respect, companionship, or integrity; and of course such strategies will likely undermine the needs of others. On the other hand, if I use effective communication and collaboration as a means to acquire personal empowerment, then it’s likely that I can develop strategies that are empowering to myself while also being empowering to others, therefore potentially being far less harmful and far more effective.
This is why we believe in the power of Nonviolent Communication—that by honoring and addressing the needs of all those involved in a particular issue, we are more likely to arrive at strategies that result in truly sustainable wellbeing for all of us.
And this is what we mean by conscious living—by becoming more conscious of the consequences of my actions and everyday choices (i.e., by becoming aware of my own needs and the needs of others that are met and/or unmet by these choices), it is far more likely that I will be able to create a life that is enjoyable and sustainable for me and for those who share this world with me.
“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.”
- Mohandas Gandhi
The Centre for Nonviolence and Conscious Living (CNCL) is dedicated to fostering wellbeing in a holistic manner, and achieving this by making available and affordable those services that support healthy relationships with ourselves (healthy self connection) and within the various living systems of which we are all a part (healthy relations within our families, our community, our society, and our environment).
We approach our mission by providing:
Our basic guiding philosophy
What do we mean by Nonviolence?
What do we mean by Conscious Living?
What do we mean by Holistic Wellbeing?
* The costs of these services are supported by grants and donations whenever possible, and are offered at rates that are either income-based (lower fees for those with lower incomes) or Koha/donation based. These services are generally provided by independent contractors who are in alignment with our basic philosophy and mission.