We will gather peacefully for silent meditation the morning of July 4th, 2018 from dawn until noon; and a peaceful assembly of free speech and expression from July 1st through the end of Vision Counsel; in the southern Appalachian Mountains. DIRECTIONS TO THE GATHERING ARE HERE (and contain road closure info, and other critical information. This post is updated frequently so check back for the latest.To learn how to get into the gathering without getting a mandatory court appearance ticket, click here.

Monday, July 9, 2018


Every gathering I attended teaches me a new lesson. This summer's gathering in Georgia taught me about the importance of de-escalation even though I did not attend.

Now I'm not saying that de-escalation solves all problems and prevents violence. It is a tool in dealing with other humans on this amazing planet.

Remember we cannot control what other people do, we cannot always control wildfires, floods, or earthquakes, but we can work on our selves and manage our reactions to events external to our individual human body.  So how do we de-escalate a stressful situation and reduce the potential for human violence?

Keeping in mind that every situation is different and every human is different, the first step is to feel what is going on. Feeling includes reading body language, trying to understand words, tone of voice, etc.   Trying to understand as best you can what triggered the situation before you involve yourself is always important although sometimes life doesn't allow you this luxury.

I often start with the words I hear caring parents tell their upset children.  "Please use your words to tell me."  Asking the upset person to put into words what they are feeling about the situation and/or you doing the same by using the personal pronoun is one way to de escalate an argument. Saying "I feel uncomfortable when you do xxxx" rather than "You make me feel xxx."  After all, as grownups, we should learn to own our own emotions.

Avoid defensive behavior. Of course, when someone attacks you verbally or physically, our instinctual response is to fight back. But there are other options. 

When dealing with physical attacks, sometimes you can retreat or step aside. Sometimes you can use the least force necessary to buy time to open up a dialog. This means not letting your emotions control the force you use, but letting your calm rational brain do so. No need to try to kill someone. Sometimes, just restraining a person in as gentle of a manner as is humanly possible for a bit can allow everyone to cool off.

When dealing with verbal attacks, responding with phrases such as "If I understand correctly, your concern is that XXXX"  or "I hear the pain and hurt you are experiencing." Acknowledging the pain and struggles of other people and responding emphatically with love and compassion, is one way a crises can sometimes be de-escalated. Asking another human being questions about their situation when done with care can completely change the vibe. After all, anger and sorrow can often be two sides of the same coin.

When someone is upset, it gets hard for them to rationally listen to the words you say, but your tone of voice, your body language, your relaxed body posture and breathing can help others relax. I have had great success with oming and have seen people who were really upset, catch themselves after a few minutes of oming.  Oming helps us to deepen our breath, many people believe the om encompasses all human language, and many consider it to be a sacred sound. When problems arise, calling on the divine is always appropriate. Singing or playing calming gentle music is often a great option.  Trying to get everyone's breathing to s l o w  d o w n, often helps our rational mind jump back into the picture.

When we get upset our primal brain and sympathetic nervous system jump into action creating a flight or flight response. This is a fantastic part of our brain. It allows mothers to lift automobiles off small children, helps people outrun danger, and gives us the mental ability to respond in an emergency situation without fear. But this same "reaction" can cause an already bad situation to slide downhill quickly.  However, if we can acknowledge the fear or anger that is driving someone's fight or flight response, perhaps we can create a loving space that will allow that person to process their emotions, what ever they are. After all, no emotion is wrong or bad. We all feel what we feel. However, how we respond to feelings makes all the difference in the world.

Allow silence. Don't feel you have to talk all the time. Sometimes, just being silent and breathing gives everyone the opportunity to calm down.

Sometimes, being a calm and grounded witness helps other people calm  down. When someone is in a whirlwind of emotions, the grounded energy that others can provide may rub off.

Sometimes, all you can do is leave the situation to protect yourself or because you are being reactive. That's OK to. Much better to walk out on an argument than let it escalate until someone gets hurt.  Its OK to step away from an argument.

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