Deryk Houston’s Art Exhibition

February 28, 2012

My husband, Deryk Houston, is an artist.  At the moment he has an exhibition of paintings at Eclectic Gallery on Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria, BC. You can view the work at the gallery till April 7, 2012.

Muskwa Kechika Painting

Muskwa Kechika - a painting by Deryk Houston

The exhibition is full of colour and strong images, with paintings of local scenes, northern wilderness and memories from Deryk’s childhood. For me, these paintings speak of the joy of daily life. The beauty depicted in these works is why we strive for a world of peace — to allow the fields to continue to sustain us and the wilderness to continue to flourish.

Deryk is blogging with stories related to some of the paintings in the show. Here is a link to his first posting in that series, about his trip to the Muskwa Kechika (depicted in the painting above) in the BC’s North East:

As of March 16, 2012, there are eight more stories to share: Crows among the Seeds Cider Apples Next Generation Beautiful Soft Folds Gonzales Bay Springtime Renewal Shadows and Light Blackbirds and Prayers

And a new story, guest blogged by me on March 25: Blackbirds Rise Across the Fields

And here’s a little video I made showing Deryk painting at a nearby beach called Point no Point.

Compassion after Grievous Harm

February 20, 2012

The story behind this posting is already familiar to many. It’s not new, but I wanted to share it because of the way it exemplifies how an individual, even when grievously harmed, can respond with compassion.

It’s about Trevor Greene, a Canadian who, in Afghanistan in 2006 , was severely wounded by an axe to his skull wielded by a sixteen year old boy during an otherwise peaceful meeting of Canadian peacekeepers and Pashtun village elders. Greene had taken his helmet off as a gesture of respect.

Details of this horrifying incidence and its aftermath are widely available and have made medical history. Here are just a handful of the many links:–how-capt-trevor-greene-came-back-from-an-afghan-axe-to-the-head

But it’s Trevor Greene’s amazing compassion that I want to share here.

Greene, after he emerged from a lengthy coma, was able to forgive his young attacker (who was shot and killed at the time of the attack) and Greene expresses regret and apologies for the fact that the young man lost his life. This beautiful compassion is strikingly similar to what Marshall Rosenberg advocates as part of his philosophy of nonviolent communication (NVC).

One interview with Rosenberg is especially interesting to me because it led me to make the connection between the ideas of NVC and the actions of Trevor Greene and also addresses the protective use of force.

Rosenberg’s work focuses on meeting the needs of individuals. He says: “Conflicts, even of long standing duration, can be resolved if we can just keep the flow of communication going in which people come out of their heads and stop criticizing and analyzing each other, and instead get in touch with their needs, and hear the needs of others, and realize the interdependence that we all have in relation to each other. We can’t win at somebody else’s expense. We can only fully be satisfied when the other person’s needs are fulfilled as well as our own.”

When Trevor Greene spoke of his attacker, he acknowledged needs in the village and needs related to the boy and his family. Later Greene said “you can’t hate and heal at the same time.” I believe it’s a message the world needs to hear.

And here’s some classic Rosenberg that addresses healing at a different level – the intimate family level.

Paul Conneally – digital tools transform humanitarian aid

February 17, 2012

Paul Conneally says:
There are no more reasons not to do it.

His TED talk inspires by showing recent examples of how mobile technology brings solutions to crisis situations, taking the humanitarian world from analog to digital.

Porcelain Unicorn

February 13, 2012

My friend Sheila from Boston sent me a link to this video, which, almost without words, speaks volumes about compassion. It’s about two individuals, and it fits with things I’ve been thinking about lately (and blogging about, in recent posts) regarding the beautiful ways we could relate to each other as individuals if we could just strip away our preconceptions based on nationalities, religions, etc.

It’s a three-minute long prize-winner called “Porcelain Unicorn” from American director Keegan Wilcox.

Our view is much different when see the two children in this video as simple, vulnerable individuals than if we label them as “a Nazi boy” and “a Jewish girl”. I love how this short video expresses how the vulnerability can last a lifetime.

Peace, protective force, compassion

February 11, 2012

Douglas Dolstad, someone Deryk and I found via the nonviolent communication (NVC) network of support, (Douglas is involved in the NVC family camp ) has been sharing ideas with us related to our concerns about the situation of Iran and Israel — our fears that missiles might soon be launched. In part, we were looking for a deeper understanding of the NVC concept of the protective use of force.

Douglas wrote:

What happens when I imagine this violence – even, or especially, if cloaked in the garb of “protective use of force”?  What happens when I think that thought?   Am I willing to go into that depth that has no bottom and needs none to define itself?    Through the halls of rage, and fear and sorrow  to a place where the names drop away and…. there is … a… fire burning?       NVC encourages us to be Alive in every moment as framed by what we’re feeling and needing.  What happens if I go there first – not just briefly as in a mean spirited road house but to linger as in a nest in which I am deeply held?
I know that if I steep in that place, whatever I do next will happen from a different energy.  

Right now, because I’ve been thinking about this in other conversations (like the one I’ve had with Miki Kashtan), when Douglas mentioned “the names dropping away” it seemed to mean the point at which there is no “us” and “them” — no “this side” or “that side” but only individuals. I asked him if that was what he meant and it did indeed seem to resonate with him.    

He asked: What goes on in you when you think these thoughts?  Is there a fierce love present?  A resting place full of power?  It may be that there aren’t individuals either, just needs.      

and part of my answer revolves around whether wanting to change the world is, in itself, a form of violence. because the assertion of wanting to change the world seems to imply an imposed solution. It can feel like a “do it my way”, rather than a “find information, think critically, act for yourself” (which is the view of education and the role of information technology that inspires me, personally).

Here is an addition to my original post (this block of text is an update as of Feb 12) based on a reply from Douglas, who said:

If I want to change the world and do not care of the effects of my actions on others, then I would agree that violence is a likely outcome. If, on the other hand, I want to change the world and extend care to the well being of others as I act to upon the changes I want to see, then the path of nonviolence is of great value. Ahimsa will guide the actions. The action might be minimal or quite major. Depends on circumstances and what evolves. In either case, there is a choice to come from a nonviolent place.

As I see it, what Douglas says requires dimensions of both intent (you mean to change the world in a positive way) and of attention (to ensure that your actions truly do extend care and are not harmful). These ideas could help guide the concept of protective use of force as well.

So what does go on in me when I think about there being no “this side” or “that side” and the “fierce love/resting place full of power” question that Douglas asks. I have felt fierce love at some of the strangest times…. watching an infinitely patient cellphone rep cross a barrier of language and culture to build a plan for my new-to-Canada homestay student, a stranger scrambling to keep a hat from blowing off on a windy day or the expression of joy on the face of a marimba player in an outdoor market (I mention these because they are examples of when a level of love jumps out that is almost completely unexpected — of course fierce love is there for family and friends but it doesn’t contain the same element of surprise.) And yes, though not always consciously, I do feel fierce love for any person doing something to meet a simple (or complex), individual need. And that resting place full of power that Douglas asks about? I’m less certain. It seems more like a resting place of letting go, temporarily. At least for me 🙂

Is there a difference between wanting to change the world and wanting to help individuals change (or wanting them to see/experience new things that might change them?)

Another addition to my original post (again as of Feb 12) — the reply from Douglas:

The moment you, me, anyone changes, the world is changed.

It might just be as simple as that, for better or for worse.

And how does protective force fit with this? The Dalai Lama talks about this and says that a harsh action might sometimes be compassionate — if it is motivated for maximum benefit. Sort of “when all else fails” or like Marshall Rosenberg’s NVC concept of needing to use force to restrain “when the child runs into the street”. See 3/4 of the way down this page for the Dalai Lama answer to an interview question on this topic, noting that he later points to the strategy of solving large problems (like Mandela’s leadership of South Africa towards independence) without “touching the gun”, so the harsh actions are clearly not intended to be the norm.

Marshall Rosenberg talks about it here:

These are my thoughts/questions for today.

And a public thank you to Douglas for pointing us to the film “Fierce Light”

Non Violent Communication

February 8, 2012

Nonviolent Communication/NVC (sometimes also known as compassionate communication) is a huge and deep topic. I have been talking to people about it in an attempt to feel less overwhelmed by current world crisis situations, including the tensions between Iran and Israel.

Miki Kashtan’s Fearless Heart blog is on my reading list and I have been particularly moved by some of her thoughts about the occupy movements. What she says seems to apply in a very global sense. An important theme that emerges is that when we define people as “us” and “them” (or any two categories) it is a form of violence. To focus on individual needs is much more complicated, but it could be the transformational strategy the world needs.

And as I think about it, it seems that social media may well be a communication form that allows more of this to happen, and I do feel optimism when I put those thoughts together. 1. We need to hear individual voices in order to find an answer to world problem. 2. New technologies are allowing us to do so more than ever before.

Miki says (in an email) “when people don’t have direct access to power and resources, it would take many more of them to create change through nonviolent resistance or dialogue — much more difficult to make happen, and more sustainable when done well.” Social media, in my opinion, is on its way to taking us to that sustainable place.