The Rigor of Mutual Mothering
July 2021

Dear Friend,
Mutual mothering is how one of us, Selene Aswell, has started referring to what we are doing here in our community experiment that is now winding down. What we are talking about is the way we completely orient towards each other’s needs, including caring for impacts as we discover them, and how committed we are to staying within the capacity of available resources. It took a while, with much heartache and conflict that led to losing one of our initial coholders. And now we are in amazing flow. Every week we engage in a small ritual that arose spontaneously in one of our early weekly meetings. We take some time, in silence, to sense into what the purpose for the week is; then one person says theirs, and everyone else integrates their own into the emerging whole. We check for “wrinkles” until we have something within which all of us can find ourselves for the week. 
Mutual mothering is what this looks like. It looks like Fox – whom I started calling “Mama Fox” before realizing the connection with mutual mothering – doing the lion’s share of cleaning and even cooking, including cooking meat for those of us who eat it, tracking our individual preferences for many little things and following them, and more, and doing it with a glow. As Selene says, “we are not aiming for equality, only for resource flow.” Recently, we started thinking about hiring someone to clean simply because we haven’t managed to and, for some of us, it looks awful now. And Fox became unhappy about it, and I connected with how much mourning there is, for him, and even for me, about not finding a solution that doesn’t involve instrumental labor, for pay, for someone for whom there isn’t likely any connection to a sense of purpose in doing the cleaning. The next day he quoted from two articles of mine about there being willingness, always, for whatever is needed, and wanting to find a solution, and asking for the need to be made visible. So we began collecting the minimum cleanliness baselines for everyone, and he is committing to doing that and hiring someone only if he discovers, for himself, that there is no capacity. I experience so much beauty in that, in trying to see that outsourcing any part of our maintenance is continuing the separation at the heart of patriarchal functioning.
Mutual mothering came from the idea that we are a “mothering species,” which came to me from Genevieve Vaughan as part of her way of holding the gift economy as specifically maternal and emerging from the length of dependence that human infants have. That dependence, an orientation to others’ needs, from which flows unilateral gifting (without requiring something in return), is core to what makes us who we are. Mothering is both a biological phenomenon and a species orientation, a view that is also confirmed by the Chilean biologist and philosopher Humberto Maturana’s work on the biology of love in which he attributes our collaborative, loving ways of being to the extended youth that is characteristic of our species.
This is a far cry from how we live now, in more and more of the world, at cost to more and more of life, including our own. The intensity of societal pressure for independence and self-sufficiency could make what we are doing here easily appear like unhealthy dependence. We make and change decisions through ongoing capacity assessment, noticing that as we do that our capacity increases to do more and more things with more and more flow. We make a million requests of each other, most of which receive a yes and enough of which receive a no for me to trust that we are, for the most part, in full choice. And we have our impact sharing practice where anything that isn’t caught initially comes to light later. We have adapted the impact sharing practice because of integrating learning from the difficulty we had initially. We now do capacity assessment for sharing and receiving impacts before we delve into it. Much of the time we have almost no impacts to share, and sometimes we have pretty intense impacts that stretch us very far. We navigate what and how to share based on capacity. No should. No have to. Only what’s within capacity. The amount of trust, truth, love, and flow that I have experienced in these past weeks has been unfamiliar to me, and I think to all of us.
And this is where rigor comes in. There is a very real way in which our life here feels like human heaven, despite the hardships, despite the heartache from the conflict and the loss that came with it, and despite the ache about how few people are ready to join us in this way of being. And this heaven is exacting and demanding, not accidental. So far, we have identified four core agreements that are key to our capacity to do what we are doing. Every single one of them challenges deep grooves within how we have been socialized to function.
  • Regrooving choice to be within togetherness: Agreement: To be willing to bring every last need of mine to collective choice.

  • An uncompromising willingness to orient towards capacity: Agreement: To accept at face value what people say about their capacity.

  • Impact sharing as core tool for uncovering truth: Agreement: To be willing to engage in Impact Sharing when needed and within capacity.

  • Putting purpose at the center: Agreement: To accept that the purpose of any community experiment is what guides our decisions about who is part of it or not, not relationships.
Beyond these agreements, we also are in the thick of experimenting with a new approach to conflict that is based, in case you haven’t guessed already, on the capacity lens. You can read about it, briefly, in my post called “Flow, Decision Making, and Conflict,” and I anticipate much more coming as we gain more traction with this embryonic piece.
One of my “dailies,” the group of six to whom I send daily emails about what is happening in my life, now turned into “our” life, wrote this to me: “The level of collective functioning that you invite is radical. I am trying to understand the implications of what you are doing to the big aim of creating a model for sustainable human life. Do you think we will all need to adopt this way of functioning to survive?” I’ve been sitting with this question, and the only answer I have for now is that I don’t know, the question is too big for me. (Though it’s a clear “yes” for Selene.) What I know is that without knowing in our cells how to do this, at least some of us, we will continue to believe that it’s not possible; that, deep down, we can only care about ourselves and our children, maybe some larger group with whom we identify as family, clan, tribe, nation, religion, or race; that we cannot ever count on a group to fully enough care for each of us and hence we cannot surrender in full to the “we.” I, or we who are here, staunchly insist that we can do this; we can come together based on purpose, not only preexisting relationships, and model to ourselves and anyone who cares to listen that this is possible. And then surrender to whoever comes to join and to whatever then happens. If this spells a pathway to survival, then we will have done something fruitful. 
With deep humility,

Miki

P.S. If you want to hear more of what’s been happening in the last couple of months, click here for both work and personal celebrations and mournings, including one more blog post, other pieces of writing, vagabonding updates, the usual crop of inspirations, and more.
 
Picture credits: Weekly Purpose by Emma Quayle; Mother and Child by Any Lane from Pexels; Hands by Alexander Suhorucov from Pexels; Listening to Impact by Alex Green from Pexels
Our experiment in the gift paradigm...
Miki's Circle of Support
We aim to encourage the gift paradigm: a pattern of resource flow that isn’t based on individuals’ access to money. Within this, the Circle of Support acts as a baseline of steady support for Miki's choice to boldly (and so far successfully) venture more and more into operating within a gift economy. If you want to learn more about the existing paradigm, gift economy, the Circle of Support and our experimentation so far with alternative economies, we welcome you to visit the Circle of Support page on Miki’s website, or join the Circle here.

With immense gratitude and awe we have seen that, despite the hardships that have come to so many in these times, we have been hovering around the same numbers for some time as a few people cycle in and out each month. At present, we have 120 people who contribute a total of $4,166 monthly to the Circle of Support. Both are roughly two-thirds of our goal of 200 contributors and $6,000 a month.

We celebrate every choice to join or leave the circle, as we aspire to our sustainability goal. Regardless of the total amount, we seek a broad base of participation both for the stability of this work, which increases when the circle is held by many hands, and for the affirmation of significance that your participation provides.

Is it your turn to cycle in? If so, please take a moment to do so now. If this isn't your moment to make a financial contribution, please consider telling the people in your life about your experiences of engaging with Miki’s work by forwarding information about her conference calls, books, or other resources.

Upcoming Events
Free Teleseminars
*Miki’s Maestro calls are on hold*

Miki’s free Maestro conference calls (voice) are still on hold while she is involved in the community living experiment in Portugal and while digesting it in August. Read about the experiment here. Miki is now scheduling the calls for September, and a reminder email is anticipated as soon as it’s ready.

Facing Privilege
On hold till September
The Facing Privilege calls are an opportunity for people to engage on the deep questions that arise as we reflect on the topic of privilege. Info and register
(see also for recordings of previous calls)

Overcoming Patriarchy
On hold till September
The Overcoming Patriarchy calls are for conversation, exploration, and active challenging of self and other based on the commitment to see and transcend all the ways in which we have internalized patriarchal thinking, to increase our collective ability to notice and act with choice. Info and register
(see also for recordings of previous calls)

Questioning Money
On hold till September
The Questioning Money calls are an opportunity to grapple together with all aspects, both internal and external, of global capitalism and to move toward transforming it inside and out. Info and register
(see also for recordings of previous calls)


*The Zoom-based calls are ongoing*

The Zoom-based activist call (video) will continue through the coming months.

Nonviolent Activism for Liberation
Sunday, July 25th, 9 am - 10:30 am PT
Sunday, August 22nd, 9 am - 10:30 am PT
Sunday, September 19th, 9 am - 10:30 am PT
The Nonviolent Activism for Liberation calls are to support activists in empowering themselves within their groups and movements to increase capacity to align means with ends so as to transform cultures of burnout, conflict, mistrust, blaming and shaming into environments of solidarity, trust, experimentation, and increased capacity to move towards the possibility of a livable future. Info and register
Online at NVC Academy
Vision Mobilization: Increasing Capacity for Organizations and Individuals Committed to Service
Arnina Kashtan, Emma Quayle, and Miki Kashtan 
Sundays, August 8 to September 26 (seven sessions; skipping September 19)
7:30-9:30am Pacific (California) Time
At a time of rapid transformation and accelerating crises in the world, the three of us are joining together in offering our newest tools for the first time in a public setting. Since the last newsletter went out, we have worked with the NVC Academy to make the course financially accessible to anyone who feels called to contribute to the large vision of this work and for whom the current fee is a barrier.

The course is designed for individuals, communities, and organizations with live demonstrations and tools for continuing the work on your own. It follows every part of the Vision Mobilization Framework, which you can learn about from the packet available here.

We anticipate a fast pace with lots of content, deep engagement, and as much tenderness as needed to be able to make and to integrate the leaps we want for all of us. Info and registration. 
Responding to the Call of Our Times
Fridays, February 5 - December 10, 2021 (45 sessions)
Noon - 2:00 pm PT
This is the 5th year of this course, and registration remains open throughout the year. There’s a reason why some people have been coming for all the years of its existence. Whether you are an "official" leader or not, this ongoing program will support you in freeing yourself to fully step into leadership in all aspects of your life and work, and play your part in making life work for everyone. As our social systems unravel, this is more timely than ever. Info and register
NGL doesn’t currently have any upcoming retreats. All of our work is online at present, and includes many calls where you can learn as well as many opportunities to contribute to our work.
NGL Friends

We continue to invite people to join us as “NGL Friends.” Every month we have more friends joining, now reaching 170 people in that category. Friends can join many calls, including coaching calls, conversations with guests, and team meetings. They also offer support with different tasks to the NGL Online community, contribute financially, and connect with each other for learning and mutual support. Read about NGL and see whether being an NGL friend is for you here.

Support NGL's Gift Economy

The NGL Online community is a wild experiment in terms of use of resources. There are over 20 of us in the core teams that sustain the community. We are co-creators of a community that aims to function on a gift economy basis. When money arrives, which now is reaching $1,600 a month, we aim to distribute it among us based on the same principles. Money related to all of NGL’s projects flows into one collective pot of money, as a strategy to increase cohesion and reduce the chances of stratification within NGL. In the absence of retreats, we don’t have less work to do, and our sustainability has become much more strained, including that of BayNVC, the fiscal sponsor and parent organization of NGL, as our resources have been depleted in 2020 and we dipped into our reserve. We now distribute money 3 times a year, based on requests for bare bones sustainability from those who really need financial support to stay engaged. In our last circle in April, we adopted a new process so that everyone walked out of the circle without serious impacts to them, even while some of us, including BayNVC, received less than what is long-term sustainable for us. We did it. We want to keep moving closer to our vision and dream of full resource flow based on optimizing the movement of resources towards needs based on purpose and willingness. We are eager for the sustainability of all of us who pour countless hours over years to be able to lean on NGL for some of their sustainability instead of supporting NGL’s sustainability often at cost to themselves. 

If you have the capacity to do so, please donate here.
Convergent Facilitation

The world is hungry for people with skills to guide diverse groups and stakeholders toward decisions that everyone can wholeheartedly embrace. Are you called to support others with collaborative decisions? See what we have coming up.

Weekly CF Coaching Calls
We are celebrating our one-year anniversary of offering weekly Convergent Facilitation Coaching Calls. This program provides ongoing support from experienced facilitators on real-life challenges you encounter as you begin to use and apply Convergent Facilitation. We ask that you take an introductory workshop or read the book before you attend. Find out more about this project and get involved on the

Making Life Work - Online Self-Study Course

In the challenging times in which we live, many of us barely dare dream of a world that honors and seeks to meet the needs of everyone. This self-paced self-study course was born from that dream and it is available without a paywall, on a gift economy basis.

Created by Miki, the course integrates principles and practices that can move you in the direction of making this dream a reality, starting with your own life, exactly where you are. At your own pace, with optional built-in support from others, as part of an vibrant online community practice now numbering 340.

Sign up for the course or learn more here.
The Fearless Heart Publications
Learning Packets
Miki worked for years with her sister Inbal Kashtan to develop learning materials about NVC, and has continued to develop new materials after Inbal's death. This time, the new materials are in the “Purpose and Values” category, which has been redesigned in full to have seven packets within it.

The "Mobilizing toward Vision" packet is fully redone to keep up with the rapid developments in our work. The "Organizational Systems Overview" and the "Decision-Making Systems: From Either/or to Integration" are brand new. And the "Feedback Flow Systems: From Performance to Learning" has been renamed and upgraded. Our plan is to send the revised versions to those who have downloaded the upgraded packets previously.

With this, we now have a total of 16 packets. Miki is planning to have four more by the September newsletter, bringing three of the eight categories below to completion, with a few other packets in other categories. Her plan is to complete the entire set by December 2022. All packets are available on a gift basis, with no paywall.

  1. Restoring Choice: Socialization, Liberation, and Integration
  2. Purpose and Values: Collaborative Organizational Systems, Agreements, and Seeding the Future
  3. Restoring Togetherness: Interdependence, Dialogue, and Collaboration
  4. Scarcity, Separation, and Powerlessness: Patriarchy, History, and Economics
  5. Restoring Flow: Nonviolence, Systemic Change, the Commons, and the Gift Economy
  6. Caring for the Whole: Facilitation and Leadership - complete
  7. Learning, Integrating, Applying, and Sharing NVC
  8. Power, Privilege, and Liberation

Many people are skeptical about money coming in when we provide content without a paywall. Our experience is a resounding affirmation that there is enough care and enough trust to begin to recreate flow. We are celebrating that so far this year people have downloaded 561 items in 324 orders, giving an average $7.63 per item. Of these, 165 people didn't give any money, and we rejoice in that. One person contributed $100 for 1 packet.  This is the transitional world we want to live in, for as long as money exists: access for everyone regardless of how much money they have, supported by those who have the capacity to give more. 

Visit the learning packets page here.
The Highest Common Denominator

What if you could bring together any group of people to find solutions that are creative, satisfying, work for everyone, and actually get implemented?

In The Highest Common Denominator — Using Convergent Facilitation to Reach Breakthrough Collaborative Decisions, Miki Kashtan introduces a novel decision-making process that is designed to build trust from the very beginning, to surface concerns and address them, and to turn conflicts into dilemmas that groups feel energized to solve together.

This book is now available for purchase. For options about how to access the book, visit The Highest Common Denominator.

You can view the edited recording of the book launch celebration which took place on January 12, 2021. It can be watched here for anyone who was not available to tend the launch event itself or would like to view smaller insightful video clips from the event.
Core Nonviolence Commitments
Learning and Support Community
Strengthen your commitment to nonviolence
With Helen Adamson and Claudia Sánchez
The first 3 Thursdays of every month (except August)
January 2021 - January 2024 (34 modules of 3 sessions each)
6:00 - 8:00 pm CET (Central Europe Time) Find your time zone

An ongoing series of independent units or modules, each one designed to support participants in engaging, in community, with one of the 34 Core Nonviolence Commitments. The series is for people who want to strengthen their commitment to nonviolence and increase their ability to put it into practice in their day-to-day lives. Prior NVC experience is highly recommended. You may register for the series at any time; once you are registered you will receive an email invitation once a month to RSVP, if you like, for the next module.

Upcoming modules:
September: Commitment #8. Assumption of Innocence
October: Commitment #9. Empathic Presence
November: Commitment #10. Generosity


Nonviolence is a way of being and living that orients, in thought, word, and deed, towards integrating love, truth, and courage in individual and collective action aimed at preserving what serves life and at challenging what doesn’t to transform itself so the human family can realign with life. -Miki Kashtan
We are now accepting scholarship applications:
Reducing Financial Barriers to Training in Nonviolence
We have been granted an opportunity to designate a small fund to offer support to members of marginalized communities to increase access to educational opportunities in the fields of nonviolence, including Nonviolent Communication (NVC), Kingian Nonviolence, and Nonviolent Global Liberation (NGL).

At BayNVC, we are painfully aware of the enormous systemic obstacles that block full participation in shaping and benefiting from training in nonviolence. One specific example is that the vast majority of people who participate in NVC training in much of the world are from white and middle-class backgrounds. We hope this fund will be a small contribution to change in this area.

To see if this scholarship may be a support to you or someone you know visit the project here: baynvc.org/reducing-barriers-scholarship.