by Miki Kashtan
by Miki Kashtan
I have not found a word that captures the exact line that I am looking for. “Commitment” may be a bit too strong and tends to connote “should,” thus invoking the non-choiceful energy of obligation and duty. “Intention” is not strong enough, in my mind, to carry the unwavering force of staying the course even when the going gets hard. Somewhere I also want to capture the unpredictability of life. These commitments are not a promise, which none of us can give. I have full understanding of how challenging life is, and imagine that no matter how strong the choice, every single one of us at some point or another will not find sufficient inner resources to follow through on these.
To soften the intensity of “commitment” without losing the strength, I chose to use the word “want” rather than “commit” in the actual wording of the commitments. Another reason is that I want the words to remind any of us who makes the choice to follow this path of the overarching clarity that this is what we want, that there is no in-principle objection to living life in this way, no matter what anyone else is doing, no matter what the structures of the world look like, no matter what the circumstances are.
This is a tall order. This, to me, is a mobilized life. The commitments serve as a compass, a reminder, a scaffolding that can hold us in living by choice.
While the choice is ours to make, and the invitation is to extend ourselves to life fully without conditions, we need each other to be able to continue to face reality – external and internal – and keep focused on what matters to us most. This is why each of these commitments includes a reference to seeking support. I have written about how essential community is to embarking and sustaining an emotional journey. No matter how far we are on the path to wholeness, sustaining where we are continues to be a journey because of the continued challenge of meeting a world that is not designed to meet human needs. This is why I call on all of us to welcome and seek support and reminders for staying on track with these commitments.
Blossoming tree at an NVC retreat at the Quaker Center, Ben Lomond, Calif.
Even when I act in ways I really don’t like, I want to keep my heart open to myself. If I find myself in self-judgment, I want to seek support to reconnect with myself and hold with compassion the needs that motivate my actions.
Even when my feelings are uncomfortable for me, I want to stay present with myself and keep my heart open to the fullness of my emotional experience. If I find myself contracting away from my experience, numb or shut down, I want to seek support to release defendedness and open to what is.
Even when I am full of doubt, I want to offer myself in full to the world. If I find myself thinking that I am not important or that my actions are of no significance, I want to seek support to come back to my knowledge that my presence and my gifts matter.
Even when overwhelmed with obstacles or difficult emotions, I want to take full responsibility for my feelings, my actions, and my life. If I find myself giving my power away to other people, larger forces, or analytic categories such as my past or any labels I put on myself, I want to seek support to find the core source of choice within me to live as I want and ask for what I want.
Even when I am stressed, overwhelmed, or in disconnection, I want to maintain my commitments to my well-being, and take actions that nourish my life. If I find myself letting go of strategies that I know contribute to my life (such as exercise, eating as I want, receiving support and empathy as needed, enjoyable activities, or anything else that I know works for me), I want to seek support to ground myself in the preciousness of my own life and my desire to nurture myself.
Even when I am drawn to overstretching myself (including towards any of these commitments), I want to remain attentive to the limits of my capacity in any given moment. If I find myself pushing myself, I want to seek support to honor the natural wisdom of my organism and to trust that remaining within my current limits will support me in increasing my capacity over time.
Even when my needs are seriously unmet, I want to keep my heart open. If I find myself generating judgments, angry, or otherwise triggered, I want to seek support in transforming my judgments and meeting others with love.
Even when others’ actions or words make no sense to me or frighten me, I want to assume a need-based human intention behind them. If I find myself attributing ulterior motives or analyzing others’ actions, I want to seek support to ground myself in the clarity that every human action is an attempt to meet needs no different from my own.
Even when others are in pain, disconnected from themselves, expressing intensity, or in judgment, I want to maintain a relaxed presence with their experience. If I find myself attempting to fix, offering advice, doing mechanical empathy, or turning my attention elsewhere, I want to seek support to regain my faith in the transformative power and the gift of just being with another.
Even when I am afraid or low-resourced, I want to keep reaching out to offer myself to others and respond to requests. If I find myself contracting in fear and unwilling to give, I want to seek support to release any thoughts of scarcity and embrace opportunities to give.
Even when I feel scared and unsure of myself, I want to share the truth that lives in me with others while maintaining care and compassion for others and for myself. If I find myself hiding or protecting, I want to seek support to embrace the opportunity to expand my sense of self and transcend shame.
Even when I want to be seen and accepted, I want to make myself available to receive feedback from others in order to learn and grow. If I find myself being defensive or slipping into self-judgments, I want to seek support to find the beauty and gift in what is being shared with me.
Even when I am very attached to a particular outcome, I want to remain open to shifting through dialogue. If I find myself defending a position or arguing someone else out of their position I want to seek support to release the attachment, connect with my needs and the needs of others, and aim for mutually supportive strategies to emerge out of connection with needs.
Even when I have many obstacles to connecting with someone, I want to make myself available to work out issues between us with support from others. If I find myself giving up on someone, I want to seek support to remember the magic of dialogue and entrust myself to the process of healing and reconciliation to restore connection.
Even when I experience separation or deep isolation, I want to open my heart to the fullness of the interconnectedness of all life and to cultivate awareness of the countless ways that our actions and experiences affect each other. If I find myself retreating into self-sufficiency, separation, or mistrust in my own gifts or those of others, I want to seek support to remember the beauty and relief of resting in interdependence, including the many ways each of our lives depends on the gifts, actions, and efforts of others.
Even when change happens (welcome or unwelcome, small or large), things fall apart, people don’t come through, or calamities take place in the world, I want to remain open to life. If I find myself contracting away from life or drawn to ideas about what should happen, I want to seek support to find a sense of peace with unmet needs, and to choose responses and actions from clarity about how I want to interact with and respond to life.
Even when I am faced with difficulties, personal, interpersonal, or global, I want to maintain an attitude of appreciation and gratitude for what life brings me. If I find myself becoming cynical or experiencing only pain and despair, I want to seek support to connect my heart with the beauty and wonder that exists in life even in the most dire circumstances.