Learning to be more flexible and creative

Last Sunday I ran a short 4 hour NVDA training session for People and Planet at Leeds University, an interesting experience as, because it was the same weekend as Shared Planet , only 3 people attended which meant I had to really re-think what we were doing and how. It was actually wonderful to have the opportunity for an intimate discussion about violence and nonviolence, and where we draw the line. We also spent longer than usual talking about examples of nonviolence in the photos I had brought with – cuttings from newspapers of recent events in Libya, Syria, Egypt and Greece, photos of tar sands actions in Otttawa, and actions by Indian and Turkish villagers to stop the building of nuclear and coal plants. Some nonviolent actions are so simple – just sitting quietly occupying a space – and others moving in the attempts of rebels or protesters to speak truthfully and honestly, human to human, to ranks of armed police and soldiers.

I had decided early on that with only 3 people the hassle line, which practices responding nonviolently to anger and aggression, would not work, so dropped that exercise completely and moved on to physical exercises – blocking techniques and passive resistance – but later, on the packed train back to Manchester realised I had become so fixated on the method – the line – that I hadn’t even tried to think about a different technique of exploring how to experience aggression and still control your own fear and remain calm. I felt very annoyed with myself, because it is such an important part of NVDA training to go through, and began to work through ideas; there are in fact lots of different things we could have done. For example, I could have taken on the aggressor role and the others sat together in the line, practicing different responses. The 3 Leeds students were not the only ones to come away feeling they had learnt something new, which, as a trainer, is always one of the real rewards of training or facilitation. That and the privilege of spending time with enthusiastic thoughtful people wanting to bring about change, asking great questions and making me think and laugh.