Daily practices for nonviolent living


Creative nonviolence is a process of bringing us back to our truest selves. Ultimately, its techniques and strategies must draw their life from the well of sacredness within. Practically speaking, this means consciously cultivating those dimensions planted deep within our being which bring life to ourselves, to other human beings, as well as to the earth and all its inhabitants. Now more than ever, our spiritual disciplines must deepen in us the vision and methods of nonviolent transformation. To this end, we are called to cultivate the spiritual dimensions of the nonviolent life on a daily basis. Here are some spiritual qualities that lie at the foundation of a spirituality of nonviolence, with some suggestions for practicing them.


There is a spiritual tradition that says that the truth of our being lies in the center of our spiritual hearts, located a little to the right of the middle of the chest. And in order to contact this center, a cave is imagined within which a blue flame burns. As an opening ritual, let us imagine this cave within that physical position and a blue flame burning steadily and brightly inside it. Now hold on to this blue flame without allowing your mind to wander…hold on…. (Giving a few minutes to stabilize the image, the facilitator says the following prayer, asking the participants to repeat each line after it is first read):

May I dwell in the heart,
May I be healed,
May I be full of love,
May I be free from suffering,
May I be joyful and free,
May I be at peace
And discover the utter radiance
Of my own true nature.

From: Veronica Pelicaric


Often we are so absorbed in our everyday life that we assume that this is all there is. We come to believe that the structure and horizon of the world we experience—at home, in the work-place, and through the media—is “reality.” By making this assumption, we often miss the fact that this social reality is constructed—it is a system of rules, beliefs and motivations that shape and limit our view of life. We tend, therefore, to overlook the fact that life is much more mysterious and unfathomable than the systems we manufacture to navigate through the world. As Karl Rahner held, these systems are like tiny islands floating on a vast sea of mystery. When we cultivate a sense of awe for the great and irreducible mystery of our lives, we are able to see that life is more than the systems in which we live. We are also able to see that those systems can and must be transformed when they contradict or offend the great mystery that is our beginning and end.

One way of exploring this sense of mystery is to reflect on our encounters with other persons. On the one hand, these exchanges can be like following an agreed-upon formula. In that case, we are often like two billiard balls knocking against each other. On the other hand, our encounters with others can be experiences of deep communion. They can be holy moments where presence receives presence, experiences where, as phenomenologist Emmanuel Levinas says in Totality and Infinity, there is a “flow of infinity between one another’s eyes.” When two subjects encounter one another in this way—giving but not being destroyed, belonging but not “belonging to”—they experience in a momentary but tangible way the “ground of all being,” the inexhaustible mystery which creates, preserves and embraces us.

One way of cultivating this sense of awe and mystery is to take some time in a quiet place and call to mind a very important encounter you had with another person. After imagining this event in detail, consider how it happened and what some of its consequences were. Notice your feelings as you remember this event. Reflect on the ways that this exchange had an unpredictable quality, a sense of possibility, transcending prescribed social ritual or conventional scripts. Sense the mystery of the situation. Reflect on how this mystery comes in part from the way that the depth dimension of both people was shared. This depth dimension or inner mystery is that aspect of us that cannot be reducible to our assumptions, expectations or systems. Throughout the day, cultivate an awareness of this mystery.


A nonviolent stance is one of deep gratefulness for our life and for all life. It is a posture which acknowledges the source of this life. It recognizes that each one of us is on a spiritual journey and that all of our experiences—happy or sad—teach and transform us. It salutes all the ways we have been gifted. way of cultivating gratitude is taking some time in a quiet place and recalling ten people who have given of themselves so that your life could be better. Call to mind their faces. Remember in some detail what they have done for you. Recall the ways people have lavished their time, energy and resources on you. Cultivate this awareness throughout the day, increasingly acknowledging how our entire life—and everything that passes through it—is a gift.


How do we cultivate our openness to those around us? One way is to practice letting go of the ego’s armor in order to receive and heal the world. Here is an exercise which you can practice in the morning before leaving for work, or at any other time of the day.

Stand up, dropping your arms to your sides. Allow your entire body to relax. Breathe in the power of life; breathe it out into the world. Then slowly raise your arms and cross them in front of your eyes. Feel yourself protected and guarded. Slowly extend your arms outward in an attitude of openness to the world. After a few moments, move them in a gesture embracing the world. Repeat several times. This ritual can be performed alone or with others.


Creative nonviolence opens us to the two fundamental dimensions of all beings: sacredness and woundedness. It teaches us to share the suffering of others, as well as their fulfillment. Active nonviolence seeks to put this form of accompaniment into practice as each opportunity arises.

One way of cultivating compassion is to imagine someone with whom you have an unresolved conflict or unresolved negative feelings. Imagine them sitting in front of you. Look into her or his eyes. Share your feelings about this conflict with this person. Then ask her or him to speak. You may want to write down the “dialogue” that unfolds between you. Finish this encounter by praying for one another. (For more information about journal writing, see Ira Progoff’s At a Journal Workshop: The Basic Text and Guide for Using the Intensive Journal Process [New York: Dialogue House Library, 1975]).


The horrors of this world are often overwhelming. Though these are not to be ignored, awe, gratitude, receptivity and compassion demand nothing less than engaging them fully. Horror is not the ultimate reality. Creative nonviolence is a spiritual path that cultivates a keen awareness that the meaning of life is found by joining wholeheartedly in the profound power of joy. How do we join in this sacred rejoicing? We do this by letting it flow into all parts of our existence, including our modest efforts to mend the brokenness of our world.

From: Ken Butigan with Patricia Bruno, O.P., From Violence to Wholeness (Berkeley, CA: Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service, 2002), pp. 51-53.

If you see injustice and say nothing, you have taken the side of the oppressor.”

-- Desmund Tutu

No one has a right to sit down and feel helpless, there”s too much to do.”

-- Dorothy Day

A country which has dangled the sword of nuclear holocaust over the world for half a century and claims that someone else invented terrorism is a country out of touch with reality.”

-- John K. Stoner, 2001

Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.”

-- Theodore Roosevelt, on April 19, 1906

If any preacher tells you that personal salvation can be achieved without first paying attention to social justice, you may know by this sign alone that you are listening to a false prophet.”

-- Sydney Harris

Do not return evil for evil. Avenge not yourselves, but rather give way to wrath; for it is written, vengeance is mine; I will repay, says the Lord. Therefore if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink: for in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

-- Romans 12:17-21

It may well be that the greatest tragedy of this period of social change is not the glaring noisiness of the so-called bad people, but the silence of the so-called good people.”

-- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr

Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security”

-- Benjamin Franklin

Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder…. the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish their corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace… They are continually talking about their patriotic duty. It is not their duty but your patriotic duty that they are concerned about. There is a decided difference. Their patriotic duty never takes them to the firing line or chucks them into the trenches.”

-- Eugene V. Debs

The first duty of love is to listen.”

-- Paul Tillich

Every gun that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world, in armaments, is not spending its money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the clouds of threatening war it is humanity, hanging from a cross of iron.”

-- Dwight C. Eisenhower

Military power is as corrupting to the man who possesses it as it is pitiless to its victims. Violence is just as devastating to the soul of the perpetrator as it is to the body and souls of those who are victims of it.”

-- American Friends Service Committee

Nonviolence, when it becomes active, travels with extraordinary velocity, and then it becomes a miracle.”

-- Gandhi

Conceit, arrogance and egotism are the essentials of patriotism… Patriotism assumes that our globe is divided into little spots, each one surrounded by an iron gate. Those who had the fortune of being born on some particular spot, consider themselves better, nobler, grander, more intelligent than the living beings inhabiting any other spot. It is, therefore, the duty of everyone living on that chosen spot to fight, kill, and die in the attempt to impose his superiority upon all others.”

-- Emma Goldman

One cannot level one”s moral lance at every evil in the universe. There are just too many of them. But you can do something, and the difference between doing something and doing nothing is everything.”

-- Daniel Berrigan

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice…Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance - how violently I hate all this; how despicable and ignoble war is…I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

-- Albert Einstein

These form the basis of peace work. You can get something from a book. That something may be so important as to lead you to the recognition of the real thing.”

-- Idries Shah

We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we do about peace, more about killing than we do about living.”

-- WWII General Omar Bradley

He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice…Heroism at command, senseless brutality, deplorable love-of-country stance - how violently I hate all this; how despicable and ignoble war is…I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action. It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”

-- Albert Einstein

There must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand; it never has and it never will.”

-- Frederick Douglas 1857

The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, violence merely increases hate.”

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Love is the most durable power in the world. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.”

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better.”

-- Daniel Berrigan

War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”

-- John F. Kennedy

Put up the your sword into its place: for all those who take up the sword will perish by the sword.”

-- Jesus

A journey of A thousand miles must begin with A single step.

-- Lao Tzu

Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.”

-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Christians no longer take up the sword against nation, not do we learn war any more, having become children of peace, for the sake of Jesus, who is our leader.”

-- Origen

One is called to live nonviolently, even if the change one works for seems impossible. It may or may not be possible to turn the US around through nonviolent revolution. But one thing favors such an attempt: the total inability of violence to change anything for the better”

-- Daniel Berrigan

The soulless corporate exploiters and militarists, each poised to become our future oppressors, somehow always succeed in staying on the gravy train no matter which cards fate deals them. It seems like it would make sense to stop voting for, stop paying for and stop supporting any system or group that could turn out to be our future executioners.”

-- Gary Kohls

Nonviolence is the inherent quality of women. For ages men have trained in violence. In order for them to become nonviolent they have to cultivate the qualities of women. Ever since I have taken to nonviolence, I have become more and more of a woman.”

-- Gandhi

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems, maintaining my convictions that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But, they asked, and rightly so, what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn”t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their question hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against violence on the oppressed in the ghettos without first having spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - our own government.”

-- Martin Luther King, Jr. NYC April 4, 1967

Spending hundreds of billions of dollars on Star Wars will take money away from education, programs for women and children, and health care. There is a direct link between promoting weapons for space and the destabilization of our communities. People must connect these struggles.”

-- Bruce Gagnon

In nonviolence, the masses have a weapon that enables a child, a woman, or even a decrepit old man to resist the mightiest government successfully. If your spirit is strong, mere lack of physical strength ceases to be a handicap.”

-- Gandhi

Love turns upon a commitment to a certain kind of seeing, a certain kind of sharing.

-- R.C. Solomon.

The world will change because of your smile… to sit, to smile, to look at things and really see them”

-- Thich Nhat Hanh