Peace in Myself, Peace in the World

March 8, 2017

On March 1st, CSWR resident Nina Bryce led a workshop entitled “Peace in Myself, Peace in the World.” Nina began by framing this workshop within her work in the field of youth development and within her studies at HDS. Having been a full time youth worker before starting the MDiv at HDS last fall, Nina is interested in the meeting place of spiritual practice and social change and has found youth work  with teenagers to be an area ripe with possibility for this work. Since being at HDS, she has been reflecting on lessons from working with young people considering how to live those principles in the world of adults, and has been particularly interested in ways to bring the types of questions, activities and practices used in youth development work to ministry with adults.

She explained that she first developed the workshop “Peace in Myself, Peace in the World”  as a project for the HDS Introduction to Ministry Studies course, designed for the context of a teen mindfulness retreat  over winter break with iBme (Inward Bound Mindfulness Education), and that she wanted to bring it to the CSWR resident cafe as a way to both give residents a sense of her work in youth development, and also to explore her questions about ministry. Specifically, she explained that she hoped to learn more about questions regarding principles of youth development work practices with adults, questions of doing “Buddhist ministry” with non-Buddhists, and questions of engaged spiritual practice, of bridging the interior life with the way we shape the world around us. She also contextualized the workshop within her current studies in the Religions and the Practice of Peace program at HDS, emphasizing the term “peace practices” as part of the approach to the workshop. 

In the participatory workshop, CSWR residents explored two core questions:

1) What is the connection between peace in ourselves and peace in the world?

2) What does mindfulness have to do with creating a more peaceful world?

Nina began the workshop began with a guided peace meditation, based on Metta (loving-kindness)practice. Metta is one of the four brahmaviharas, divine abodes, or sublime states of mind, taught by the Buddha. It’s also and one of the ten paramis, the ten perfections. This practice is a way of inclining the mind toward friendliness. It allows us to reflect on the fundamental wish to know peace: "Just as I want to live in peace, all beings want to live in peace" giving rise to openness, awareness, and love.

At the end of meditation, participants were asked to reflect on the question, “How does peace feel in me -- in this body, heart, and mind?” We then came back together and generated two lists on large flip chat paper, one titled “Peace in Me” and one titled “Peace in the World.” We brainstormed responses to the questions:

What does peace feel like in you?

What stands in in the way of or presents a challenge to peace in you?

What does the opposite of peace feel like in your you?

What supports peace in you?

We posed the same questions about the world, and after the brainstorming session, participants reflecting on thematic connections between the lists.

Next, having begun to think about the relationship between peace in ourselves and peace in the world, participants were given an opportunity to use their imaginations and creativity. Nina led another guided meditation, this time, a playful visualization practice focused on developing a “Peace Superhero” alter-ego. Participants imagined themselves as Peace Superheroes with limitless resources (time, money, people, knowledge, wisdom, and magical powers such as time travel, invisibility, teleportation) and envisioned a hero who could meet one of the challenges on the list we generated and create peace in the world. After ending the visualization practice, Nina passed out colored pencils, gel pens, and paper, and participants had a chance to drawn their Peace Superheroes and share them with one another.

In the third and final portion of the workshop, having opened up the imagination, the group returned to the realistic world to explore the question of how mindfulness practice relates to peace in the world. Nina passed out printed images that showed various mindfulness-related activities or situations, such as school children, prisoners, corporate executives, police officers, or soldiers meditating, activists practicing meditation in public as a form of protest, the President meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and others. Participants paired up and reflected on the photograph they had, asking the questions:

What do you think is happening in this picture?

Do you see this as a practice of peace? Why or why not?

What seems to be the aim or purpose of this situation?

Do you think this is achieving that aim or purpose?

Can you imagine yourself in this situation in any way? Why or why not?

After having time to reflect with a partner, participants came back together in the large group to discuss.

The workshop ended with a brief closing practice. Nina led a guided meditation, in which she first led participants in mindfulness practice, then posed the invitation for participants to first, take a moment of appreciation for themselves for engaging with these questions, to acknowledge their own tremendous power to cultivate peace and share it with the world, and finally, to pause set an intention to carry something they had learned and carry it into their lives. The workshop closed with the guided Metta practice using the following phrases:

May all beings everywhere be well in body and mind.

May all beings everywhere be safe from inner and outer harm.

May all beings everywhere be at ease and happy.

May all beings everywhere live in peace.