Aug. 6, 2010: Finding the skills — and courage — to lead nonviolently, by Sister Julie Christensen

As our the Concordia Year of Peace continues, I am aware of the diversity of needs in our community and within my own day-to-day living. My question is: What do I rely on when I encounter these needs?

For me, living with the intention of nonviolence gives me freedom to be open to the possibilities of life. Nonviolence is a response and a choice to be free of violent structures, private and public, created to maintain power and control. My choice and ever-growing focus is having the courage to lead nonviolently.

My experience has taught be that to have that “courage,” I must first have skills. These skills involve, among others, the practices of meditation, listening and creative response.

The first practice is meditation. I have learned to simply sitting quietly for a while, with an inspiring author, a quote or Scripture reading. I let the words fill the pores of my soul. Letting the words become an action that starts in my mind and filters ever so slowly to my heart, permeating the very depths of my being. An example of this is a quote from Henry David Thoreau, “I went to the woods to live deliberately.”

This practice reminds me, the seeker of the nonviolent way, to be reflective and quiet initially. It allows each response I make to enter more deeply into the situation, seeing the needs of all involved and seeing beyond my reaction. This takes courage.

The second practice is listening. I was reminded a few weeks ago of the Chinese character for the verb “to listen.” The character is made up of the characters for the ear, the eyes, the heart and undivided attention.

Listening to the depths of what surround me is important and requires discipline. To truly listen — with the ear, the eyes, the heart and undivided attention — brings me wholly into a situation. I see this as a positive form of multitasking. This takes leadership.

Meditation and listening develop an inner and an outer awareness of my environment. These actions call me first to be an observer and to be informed. From this point, I can move into action, into my response to the need.

The final practice is creative response and building a nonviolent mentality. This is being able to think and act outside of one’s conditioned models of response. A few weeks ago I found an unexpected pumpkin vine growing in a flowerbed. Knowing that it did not belong, I considered my options: let it go and pay the consequences, pull it up and add it to the compost or transplant it to my plot at the new Concordia Community Garden of Hope. I choose to transplant the pumpkin vine, to give it another go at life. Now I have 25 feet of pumpkin vine and five little pumpkins — and the experience of finding a positive alternative.

Creative response and nonviolent mentality bring about freedom to be and to do things not bound by history, but by the present need and the present potential. Creative response and a nonviolent mentality contribute to being fully aware of the choices we have in our midst and the effects of the decisions being made. Creative response is compassionately entering into life for humanity.

— Sister Julie Christensen is a Sister of St. Joseph and a member of the Concordia Year of Peace Committee. She recently joined the staff at Manna House of Prayer as a youth minister.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.