Last week I spent seven days in a training called Nonviolent Leadership for Social Justice. Remember those bumper stickers that say “Subvert the Dominant Paradigm”? What I discovered at this training is that, while I always thought I was subverting the dominant paradigm, I really wasn’t.
This goes back to why I left Italy in the first place, as a 19 year old. I had a zest for life, adventures and experiences; but I also really wanted to escape the patriarchy of Italy. As a woman, I felt my choices were very limited–how I was expected to look, the kinds of jobs I was expected to fill. The U.S. was the birth place of feminism, not to mention civil rights! Just the place for me.
I found liberation! I wore overalls (could never do that in Italy). I crafted my career as a self-employed independent woman, working in the area of growth and wellness–these felt like radical choices, even counter-cultural.
Here I am, many years later, aware that even in this radical life I set up, I’m completely caught up in the values of the dominant culture. I feel the pressure to be better than I already am, to be wildly successful, to make lots of money, to be The Best. I’m vulnerable to these pressures in a way that says I’m totally with the culture, not counter-cultural at all! The worst part is how I end up in a spiral of shame and self blame for not being enough, doing enough – as if I’m the problem. The fact that I’ve assimilated these values is really the problem.
One way I can break away from these pressures driven by profit and success is by s l o w i n g d o w n and taking the time to connect deeply with myself, my body and my feelings.The NVC tool set has been an incredible ally for this. When I connect with myself, what I value, I can respond to others in an authentic, less defended way. A way based on prioritizing humanity and human connection far and above profit and success.
The insight that I am finding most interesting, most counterculture has to do not just with slowing down, but with resting.
Nowhere do I hear commercials about sitting still on a back porch or see superheroes spending some good hammock time. Culture tends to bring us into the head to make decisions and actions by thinking. The alternative is to lead life with our full selves, with our bodies: connecting with our hearts, feelings, guts and connections to each other. Taking time in our lives to do the rituals that keep us connected to our humanity and each other–that’s the dominant paradigm I want to live by.