What is Violence?

One of the exercises we do in a Basic AVP workshop is a brainstorm on the topic, “What is Violence?” Participants say whatever word or short phrase comes to mind when they think of violence and it is transcribed onto a sheet of poster paper. It is a word storm of ideas. No one’s idea is censored. When the storm passes and the ideas cease, we look at what we have written, noting the things that surprise us and the things that confuse us. Usually a good discussion follows on violence and how the group has experienced it in their lives.

Sometimes a word like “babies” ends up on the page. When that word was challenged once, I defended it, even though I had not been the one to add it. From personal experience, I came to realize after the birth of my first child, that there is a very fine line between self-control and child abuse. Working full-time in a demanding, stressful job, breast feeding at night, being constantly sleep deprived, I remember the moment I realized I could see that line clearly. The scary part was recognizing how easy it would be and how perfectly capable I was of crossing that line.

Occasionally, a participant is surprised to realize that something besides physical aggression could be considered violence. I have been fortunate never to have personally experienced physical violence. However on numerous occasions over the years, I have been the giver and receiver of verbal violence. Words carelessly or intentionally spoken can do tremendous violence to a person, creating wounds that fester for years, causing harm over and over again whenever they are remembered. I have carried such wounds with me for most of my life. Through AVP, I discovered their origin and was finally able to heal. What is violence in your life?

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The Power of Nonviolence

Check out this new radio series!

The Power of Nonviolence, a major new series distributed worldwide by NPR, is now available to hear (or download):www.humanmedia.org/nonviolence

History proves over and over that violence breeds more violence. Victims are traumatized by brutality — as are perpetrators, and the cycle is uninterrupted.

Yet, today ISIS terrorizes the Mideast and Europe, civilian jetliners are shot down in Ukraine and Sinai, mass shootings erupt even in “safe havens” like churches and elementary schools in the U.S. People of conscience everywhere are heartsick and looking for answers.

The Power of Nonviolence, by award-winning radio documentary producer David Freudberg, seeks deep solutions to this vexing problem. Voices of peacemakers are heard and their stories are uplifting. And we turn to wisdom teachings across our great spiritual traditions for guidance and inspiration. This is a powerful free resource.  Please share with everyone.

The Alternatives to Violence Project Returns to Kentucky in April

In April, AVP Indiana was invited to Berea, Kentucky to facilitate a Basic (1st level) AVP workshop.  One of our original group of apprentice facilitators is a Kentucky native and has been working for the last several years to regenerate interest in AVP.  This spring, Steve was successful in organizing a group of local Quakers from Berea Friends Meeting to attend a workshop held on the campus of Berea College.  It was a beautiful spring weekend, with the trees beginning to leaf and the mountains  beckoning in the distance.

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Our facilitation team consisted of me, Steve, and Arnold, who was a  new apprentice from South Carolina, looking for an opportunity to gain experience.  I had never met Arnold before the Friday evening of the workshop, so team building that first evening was crucial.  Also, I had not facilitated a community workshop since the fall of 2012 and I knew it would be a different experience than my prison workshops.

Fortunately, the weekend proved to be a great learning experience for all of us.  As a facilitation team, we learned how to smooth out some or our own rough spots and became aware of issues that we, ourselves, needed to work on.  Personally, I learned to be more sensitive to the needs of the participants.  We tried an exercise I had never done, or seen done before, and it generated some strong emotions among the participants.  In the evaluation process, I received really good, critical feedback that will help me facilitate the exercise better in the future.

I also discovered that I have come a long way from my former, introverted, conflict-avoiding self.  When conflict arose in several instances, I was able to handle them with a great sense of calm.  Transforming Power was truly present, because I knew exactly what to do without thinking.  It reminded me that the AVP process works and that we can trust it.  It was a superb beginning to a new AVP presence in Kentucky!

Magical Miriam

Spring Advanced Workshop at IREF

This past weekend (March 28-29th), AVP Indiana conducted an Advanced Workshop at the Indianapolis Re-entry and Education Facility.  This workshop was facilitated by two inside facilitators, Fly Ty and Stellar Steve, and two outside facilitators, Courageous Kirsten (myself), and Magical Miriam.  The workshop was exciting and all but one participant signed up to take the Training for Facilitators workshop when it becomes available.

Working with inside facilitators on a workshop is an incredible experience, and one that really breaks down barriers to stereotypes that a person may unconsciously have developed about people who are in prison.  I enjoyed my experience and the lessons that I learned from my co-facilitators about humility, bravery, and dedication. Both Fly Ty and Stellar Steve put their full selves into the workshop, taking risks to facilitate activities that they had not participated in before, and taking risks to make the workshop inclusive and engaging for all of our participants.

One of the struggles of crafting a workshop with inside facilitators is that preparation time is very limited. During times when Magical Miriam and I were able to talk and plan, our fellow co-facilitators had to return to the dorms for mandatory “counts.” This happened twice a day, and took away from valuable planning time that we could have used. Fly Ty and Stellar Steve showed such flexibility and calm in the face of this lack of preparation time and really immersed themselves in the unknown in order to make the advanced workshop meet the needs and desires of our participants.

Our focus for the workshop was around poor communication and issues of power/powerlessness, with a bit of anger and stereotyping mixed throughout.  Speaking with participants at the end, it was clear that people got a lot out of the workshop and only hoped that they would have a chance to pursue these topics more in depth with each other in the coming weeks. The participants and our inside co-facilitators decided that creating an AVP support group that could meet weekly or bi-weekly would be a great way for people to stay in touch, practice skills, and have deep conversations about the skills and ideas that we covered in the workshop.  Magical Miriam and I fully support this idea and hope that participants are able to make it a success so that they can work with each other through the many confusing and concerning issues that we all deal with when encountering conflict.

Thanks for reading! Till next time,

-Courageous Kirsten