Nonviolent communication, money & Miki Kashtan's relationship with money

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At a Convergent Facilitation workshop with Miki - Oxford, August, 2016

In this interview, you’ll learn about Miki Kashtan's relationship with money, specifically with the viewpoint of NVC (Nonviolent Communication).

Miki Kashtan is an international teacher, creator of Convergent Facilitation, and author of three books, the latest being Reweaving Our Human Fabric: Working Together to Create a Nonviolent Future. Miki, through her teachings and books, has really influenced me (and countless others) in learning to live ‘shamelessly’. Reflecting on her book, Spinning Threads of Radical Aliveness: Transcending the Legacy of Separation in Our Individual Lives, has inspired me to apply greater inner freedom in life's decisions. I reached out to Miki via email and as luck would have it, we actually met a few weeks later in London which was so much fun.

What is your relationship to money like now after having practised NVC for a few years? What was it in the past before discovering NVC and could you say more about the shift if any?

I didn't have a huge distance to traverse. I never had a dream of being rich or making money. I was already aiming to live a simple life, because of my growing awareness, in the early 90s, of the global situation facing us -- both environmental degradation and extreme inequalities -- and how it was related to consumption in the Global North.

So the change is subtle, not dramatic. I am less attached to money; less concerned about fairness and more concerned about needs being attended to; etc.

How does NVC affect how you view, consume, earn and spend money?

NVC being the core practice and worldview that guides my entire life, of course, it affects what I do with money and how I view it.

The most dramatic moment was when I first heard Marshall Rosenberg say: "Never work for money and always make sure you have enough resources to do your work." This was in the late 90s, and now, 20 years later, I am still unwrapping all the ramifications of this one statement -- to how I live, how I ask for money, how I give money, and how I think and write about money, especially in its role within the economy. Subsequently, I also heard Marshall suggest never to pay for anything and, instead, give people money based on the intention to support them in doing their work. The full circle was completed for me.

On the individual level, I see money as a claim to some portion of the world's resources. I am profoundly troubled by the way that needs do not provide an automatic claim on the world's resources if the person with the need does not have the money to back up their need.

I do not see myself as "earning" money. I see myself as asking for money, and as giving others money that they are asking. I don't ask people "what do you charge?"... Instead, I tend to ask: "what do you like to receive."

I try to make my choices as consciously as possible. This often means going against the implicit ethos of shopping for the cheapest that you still believe has quality. Within some bounds -- based primarily on my overall resource limitation, not any "principle" -- I prioritise my values over price or even convenience at times. If there is a local, organic variety available at the farmers' market, I would ordinarily buy it rather than the supermarket version even though sometimes the price could even be doubled. I recognise this as a form of privilege, and I am glad to exercise my privilege in a way that supports local people trying to shift the pattern of vegetable production.

I have set my own salary, within my organization, to be enough for sustaining my carefully thought out expenses -- primarily designed to provide enough sustenance and respite for my organism to tolerate the onslaught of unmet needs that living in this world implied, and thus be relaxed enough to be able to show up present and available for the work I do.

Being almost entire shameless is something you have trained yourself to do, something I deeply admire about you. Did you notice any shame in asking for money prior to the rewiring and if you have worked through that, could you share a significant turning point or story that helped you transform this?

The turning point was when I started thinking about what I was asking for money for. It wasn't for me. Or: it was for me to be able to live, thrive, and contribute. Once I had enough integrity about how I make my choices about money, I felt a full sense of integrity in asking for money to be able to do that. Before, asking for money felt sacrilegious, as if it was demeaning the sacred work I had just completed. Once I adopted Marshall's frame about not working for pay, and came to accept what my true needs are (I carry quite a number of physiological and emotional sensitivities that are supported by supplements and practitioners I work with, my highest expenses beyond rent and food), including the need for support from other people to do the work, it became easier and easier over time.

Like everything else, knowing the "why" made it all different. I know why I am asking for money; I know and trust how it will be used -- either by me personally or by the organisation in supporting my work; and thus I have no compunction about asking.

Would you say money is feedback or inspiration or would you use another word to complete the sentence: Money is…

I think I already answered: it's a claim to some portion of the world's resources. It's the primary way these days that we communicate with each other who gets to eat well and who may not get to eat.

Do you have a favourite book or person that inspired you around money?

Marshall Rosenberg, Vicki Robin, Lynn McMullen and Charles Eisenstein. And... though not directly thinking about money, I add Karl Marx to the list, as a key thinker that opened my eyes to the ways of the world.

Would you say a conscious relationship with money vital in creating and sustaining a nonviolent society? If yes, could you say more?

I don't fully believe that we can have a truly nonviolent society for as long as we have money. This is because money can be accumulated, and I see accumulation as antithetical to nonviolence which, to be fully realised, necessitates allocation of resources based on needs. Money and exchange interfere with that. Where do you mainly see the dysfunction around money across our society?

The fact that it's banks that create it, and thus spiral the debt economy and create the imperative to growth that is bound to kill everything since growth can only happen from commodifying things that are available freely now from nature or through relationships.

On an ever deeper level, the entire notion of merit and deserving are flawed for me in that they separate us from each other and are the reason why our needs are not necessarily met.

You made the decision to work partially in gift. What would you say are the main motivations for you to work in gift?

For learning, for integrity, for play, for joy, for making it possible for people to receive what I offer without having to have money. I love doing work without receiving money directly in exchange. I just love it. I feel like a kid who gets away with doing something incredibly naughty because in doing the gifting in the way that I do I am clearly challenging the entire scheme of things.

How do you see us overcoming the lack of creativity in systems to share resources better in the world, how could we overcome this artificial scarcity? It seems like such a big thing to overcome and yet we believe that all needs can be met?

My basic idea is that we map resources and needs all over the world, and use that as information to jump start a flow of resources based on willingness and generosity. I wrote about it in my book Reweaving Our Human Fabric, where I provide a vivid description of a world in which attending to needs through a flow of willingness and generosity is the norm. I hope I get to see us move more in that direction while still alive.

If you are interested in supporting Miki's work, if you feel so moved, please consider joining her circle of support here.