Tag Archives: peacemaking

Birthing Forgiveness

forgivenessForgiveness is a transpersonal quality whose essential role is often overlooked in the story of Good Friday. Today Christians mark the death of Jesus, who before dying, forgave his executioners as well as the thief crucified by his side. Born out of a paradoxical mixture of human suffering, responsibility and love, the essential power of forgiveness is that is contains rather than proliferates violence. Today seems like a good time to explore where forgiveness comes from and the power it holds. How does it happen? And what are the steps that we, in our personal lives, can take towards it?

Forgiveness is a creative process. You decide how much, when, where, how, and under what conditions to forgive. As Jungian psychologist Clarissa Pinkola Estés writes, “The important part of forgiveness is to begin and to continue” (author’s italics). It does not happen overnight, it does not have to happen fully. But one thing is certain, it cannot happen from your head. We cannot reason our way around, into, or towards forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the heart, and it requires a great love, a Love beyond ourselves. Continue reading

Birthing Mercy

forgivenessForgiveness is a transpersonal quality  whose essential role is often overlooked in the story of Good Friday. Christians and non-Christians alike might reflect on Jesus’ act of forgiveness for the soldiers who nailed him to the cross and the thief who hung crucified at his side.

After the recent carnage in Brussels, most of our world leaders are calling for heightened surveillance and security, tighter borders, illegal torture of prisoners, patrols of Muslim neighborhoods, stricter control over the flow of refugees from the Middle East, and the ultimate destruction of Isis.

Perhaps it’s too early to start talking about forgiveness, but one faint whisper of mercy would not do us any harm. Our own responsibility in co-creating the world we all live in also needs to be acknowledged and spoken.

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The War Paradox

good and evilHe was a big, well-built man with thick thighs like huge whales, breaching towards the airplane seat in front of him. He ended up sitting in the aisle next to me. We were thrown together that afternoon, only after some confusion and switching of airplane seats. Because of his size, I thought he wanted more space, but he quickly confessed he needed to sit in the aisle because he was claustrophobic.

“My doctor says I should see a psychologist, but he also gave me some drops to calm me down.” The words rushed out in a torrid as he jumped up to retrieve the prescriptive drug from his jacket in the overhead bin.

“Well, you’re in luck,” I said smiling once he settled down (sort of). “I’m a psychologist!”

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An Understanding Light of Welcome

A refugee child seeking asylum in Gronau.

A refugee child seeking asylum in Gronau, Germany.

News headlines have recently been shouting about the refugee crisis and Germany’s prominent role in welcoming them. Estimates are that more than 1.5 million refugees will enter the country by the end of the year, mostly from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq. Since I live in a small town in Germany, I thought I might share my personal experience and reflections.

The town where I live is a poor one by German standards and a rich one by world standards. Gronau has a beautiful heated community swimming pool, a Jazz Festival every May, and a well-stocked public library. But the town also has many boarded up factories with smashed windows. Gronau was once a boom town centered around the textile industry. But by the 1970s, all the jobs disappeared, first to Eastern Europe and then to China.

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Imagine All the People …

Plastic WorldSomeone is holding a large plastic globe over my head while I stand in front of about 750 people and welcome them in English to the Friedensfest or Peace Festival. The afternoon has started with various citizens welcoming the crowd in German, Arabic, Turkish, Aramaic, Kurdish, Dutch, Russian, French and Persian. During the past year, 700 refugee families from Syria and Iraq have descended upon our small German town of Gronau, nestled against the eastern Dutch border. More than 90 languages are spoken among a population of 45,000. In stark contrast to the anti-immigration movement of Pegida in Eastern Germany, today we celebrate our differences as well as try to raise money for those left behind in Sengal and Kobane.

Outside in the drizzling rain, men from the Yazidi community are grilling meats while the women fill plates with cut tomatoes and onion salad. I am struck that ‘Yazidi’ is no longer an idea but suddenly a smiling human before me. Inside the hall, Turkish children are circle-dancing to traditional songs. Other children bob their heads to the music while folding paper into origami birds or dipping their hands into paint and printing their palms.

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Become a Peacemaker of Your Own Heart

Some are saying that this summer is the bloodiest in history. Brutality and war seems to be flaring up all around us. What is wrong with the world today? I have one answer that is certain and simple: Catherine Ann Lombard.

BKS Iyengar, photographed in Karnataka, India, in 2005

BKS Iyengar

Yes, that’s right. Me. I am partly responsible for what is wrong in the world today. Mr. Iyengar, the yoga master whose practice I have followed since 1988, died last week at the age of 95. More than any other practitioner, Mr. Iyengar was responsible for the spread of interest in yoga in the west over the last half-century. He always insisted that yoga is a spiritual discipline, describing it a “the quest of the soul for the spark of divinity within us.” As to its wider benefits, he maintained:

“Before peace between the nations, we have to find peace inside that small nation which is our own being.”

The small nation of my being is usually managing okay. Love still maintains the strongest foothold. But there are times when a violent war seems to have overtaken my consciousness. I fight to be nice to someone I envy. I struggle not to be lazy. I blame another for my personal failings or frustrations. On the outside, I look sweet and understanding all the while brutal battles are being fought inside my soul. The only way I can conquer these warring factions is to go deeper and honestly sink myself into the true origins of my anger, sadness, abandonment, and fear. And then to joyfully accept, allow, and attempt to act in a new and creative way whenever that particular war begins.

Not easy. Not easy at all. That’s what’s wrong with the world today. We are all looking for the easy way to end our wars. More than anytime in history, many of us have access, time and money to pursue the many distractions that keep us from making peace – both inner and outer. Where’s the app to take care of my inner battles that leave me feeling depressed? Where’s the exotic holiday? What’s the latest fashion craze? What can I eat, drink, pop, inject, smoke, snort? Who can I abuse mentally, physically emotionally? Who (and even what God) can I use for my own self interest?

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou

Maya Angelou is another great soul who recently died at the age of 86. A brilliant American poet, writer, actress, dancer, and singer, she said:

We need the courage to be bodacious enough to create ourselves daily– as Christians, as Jews, as Muslims, as thinking, caring, laughing, loving human beings. I think that the courage to confront evil and turn it by dint of will into something applicable to the development of our evolution, individually and collectively, is exciting, honourable.

I am now thinking of Clare, one of my former clients (not her real name). During an amazingly beautiful session together, Clare related how, for the first time, she became aware of the inner war inside her during an innocuous conversation with her boyfriend. They had been discussing where to live together when he started to talk about how much he would like to be in Amsterdam. Amsterdam wasn’t really the best choice for Clare, and suddenly she felt overwhelmed with feelings of rejection and never being good enough.

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