Today is the third day of an extended weekend training here in Yantai, and our 9th day of training here over the last year. I sometimes joke that we love doing NVC here in this small village.
In 2010, there were almost 7 million people here! That’s bigger than every city in the USA except for New York City. And most Americans have never heard of it. Yet by Chinese standards, a small city. (Shanghai and Beijing have over 20 million!)
“Opened” by the People’s Republic in 1984, Yantai has been transformed from a sleepy port and fishing village into a vibrant and sprawling city linking various parts by subways and wide, modern boulevards lined with buffers of thickly planted vegetation: ground cover, shrubbery, flowering trees and evergreens that create a natural barrier between streets and the buildings set back from the avenues. Sadly, the mixture of exhaust from power plants and cars along with the natural moisture from the nearby sea create a perfect place for smog, not unlike LA.
About 2/3 of the participants come from Yantai, and the rest have come here from at least ten other cities around China, making this a “national” training. Most of the practitioners have practiced NVC for at least a year or two, and some are already on the path to becoming certified trainers. (Right now, in a country with over a billion people there are no certified trainers!)
The sense of joy, community and connection inspires my heart. So much laughter, tempered by a serious attitude when it comes to diving into the learning. Weijun, one of the organizers and a senior certification candidates claps his hands sharply at the appointed time to begin, and silence quickly descends. This is a 5000 year old culture of deep obedience to authority, after all.
We encourage folks to question that authority in a gentle way: “Why are you getting quiet? Why are you attending to us as teachers. Are you doing this out of a habit of obedience or because you are connected to your needs? What needs are motivating you?”
There are almost 40 folks studying with us this weekend, and we are focusing on “NVC as a Mindfulness Toolbox”, material which we began developing about a year ago in Maui and Oahu. The first day we focused on Self-Connection; yesterday we shifted to Empathy; and today we will settle into Mindful Dialog.
Of course, they feed us way too much food. Besides the 3 meals a day that is the current Chinese middle-class habit, there are snacks available during the training, unlimited tea and coffee, and they have fully stocked our refrigerator with yogurt and fruit that we have barely touched because we are bloated from the abundance.
This weekend marks the more than halfway point on our journey to China. Monday we head for a brief stop in Shanghai, than finish with two weekend trainings in Shenzen and Guangzhou.
One last moment of reflection and hope. Yantai is a port city on the Bay of Korea. Just a few hundred kilometers away is the Korean Peninsula, and yesterday there was big news that the two Koreas may be moving toward a peace treaty after more than 60 years of war, tension and uneasy truce. After our nuclear missile scare in January, the urge to peace feels quite present in my heart, and I hope that the various parties can come to a peaceful agreement. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to celebrate something that President Trump has done! What a refreshing possibility. I’d love to have some evidence that my enemy image is at least a little shaky, and that I can touch celebration as well as mourning about our current political situation.
Please keep practicing with Hawkeye, Becky and with one another! We look forward to seeing you in May!
Warm aloha from chilly Yantai,