Monday, May 12, 2014

Reflecting Together

Rollinsville (Colorado)
4th-7th of April 2014

From left to right: Marilyn Raatz, John Paul Lederach, Yago Abeledo, Bridget Mullins, Patience Kamau, Andrew Nussbaum and Fabrice Guerrier


In life, John Paul Lederach told us that he has experienced “Blessed Hot Dog” moments.  He drew from one of his own life stories in which he felt like the resolution of a violent conflict situation was resting on his shoulders—on his ability to meet with X amount of people, to make X amount of calls, and fulfill a thousand responsibilities.  In the midst of traveling rushed and frantic to make a particular meeting, his body had a severe allergic reaction to a hot dog he bought on the street, sending him to the hospital.  It took a number of years for him to admit that the hot dog incident was not so much about real allergies to hot dogs, but, rather, his body trying to tell him something—trying to get him to slow down and notice.

Throughout the retreat, we talked a lot about the art of noticing. Not the noticing that we typically think of in peacebuilding where we often spend a lot of time and energy analyzing root causes, systems, structures, and relationships maintaining a particular conflict. This is important, but what about the art of noticing what’s happening in ourselves as peacebuilders? What are the oppressed or marginalized voices within our own beings?  One of the challenges that Lederach posed was to “pay attention to what you pay attention to.”  His friend Herm, who spent a day with us sharing his music and stories, gave us the same advice with slightly different wording: “You become what you pay attention to.” John Paul’s reflection forced me to think about times in my own life where I have fallen out of touch with my own self—my own voice; my body, in return, picked the worst times to rebel and get me to pay attention. As peacebuilders, it is true that we do need skillful capacity to be able to respond to conflict situations. However, this “toolkit” also needs to be balanced with whole personhood—the ability to be fully present and feel a deep resonance about authentically being a human being. 

Bridget Mullins working in her 'talking piece'

This is hard to maintain if we do not create a space to listen to ourselves and intentionally stay close to that which brings us joy. One way that we practiced trying to notice our own voice was to journal for about 8 minutes each morning, writing without picking up the pen from the paper.  Later on, we re-read our journal entries and spent time noticing what we seemed to be trying to say to ourselves.  For me, the greatest lesson from this experience was that, if we look at unconscious text of our lives, we may just find that we receive the guidance we need.  My hope for the peacebuilding field is that we can all be more intentional about noticing, seeking out moments of “aimless time,” engaging playfully with our work, and striving for a “deep democracy” among the voices within ourselves. 

Bridget Mullins


My own intimacy within and between our shared intimacies. Laughter and tears, smile and fears. Reflection and interaction, meditation and music. Alone together and preparing to be together when alone. Witnessing and walking alongside each of my butterflies with: The State of Play in Peacebuilding, The Butterfly Model explained and applied, being human in poetic lens as a voice for all living creatures, asking another question and picking up a rock, being by my side as I cried and "touching the rough spots and sanding, sanding, sanding."

To be in this experience with each of my peacebuilding colleagues, friends and fellows deepening our butterfly consciousness was, is and will be life-giving, remembered, loveful, deep and fun. 

Andrew Nussbaum


Van Morrison

We were asked to enter the space each morning with meditation and an artists mind. With Van Morrison's song "Allow Me" playing we wrote without the pen leaving the paper for seven minutes. These seven minutes walked us below and beyond our erasers, mind stoppages and writer's bloc. Our stoppages became art, our erasers became idle and our consciousness was deepened, or more so invited into the safe space, by staying-in-touch with our feelings and thoughts. Seven minutes each day. 28 minutes in four days. 28. These morning minutes birthed my emerging theme for the retreat, this peacebuilding pilgrammage- Walking With My Own Intimacy. 

My first sentence each morning:

Saturday- Wondering feelings
Sunday- My eyes are tired but wide awake.
Monday- This song is speaking to my soul and heart.
Tuesday- Vu Ja Dei (All is new)


Andrew Nussbaum with John Paul Lederach
Revealing our inner, the intersections of our inners and the inner below our outers by holding, carving and sanding Aspen Wood. We made talking pieces. Or let me share, we began to make talking pieces. This embodied inner revealing process of working with Aspen, each of us with our own piece of the same limb, alone together, was a continual and unending experience. This in-touch with wood was a process of creation and in this a product of circle processes was created. Yet, for me, this revealed an inner in me that was crying out for breath. I don't know why or how but I felt closer to my father. As I carved and sanded I became silent out loud but loud in my silence. 'Dad, I miss you, I feel you, I feel closer to you.' For many years my father and I have loved each other but have missed a way of sharing our deeper feelings together. For so long he has worked with his hands and I have worked with my heart. Inside the Aspen I noticed that our hands and hearts work together. As Rumi spoke, "Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I'll meet you there." Dad I am ready to see you for your inner. 

Andrew Nussbaum


We made talking pieces from the trunk of a dead Aspen –an arduous process that instead, ironically, felt very joyous and fulfilling.  Nurturing and shaping that piece of wood from peeling the loose bark, to multiple levels of sanding; to massaging multiple applications of Tung oil bore a remarkable resemblance to the intentional and humbling process of learning fundamental wisdoms such as compassion (quality of alongsideness and alleviation of suffering), creativity (birthing –bringing forth something that hasn’t previously existed) and spirituality (authenticity). Elizabeth Gilbert says “wisdom is like water dripping on the stone that is our heart, working on it every day, patiently wearing it down, patiently trying to get through. It might not get through to us today, or tomorrow, or this decade …but it keeps working on us.”

Patience Kamau and John Paul Lederach

As wisdom keeps working on us, so then must we keep working on allowing it to do so by tenderly nurturing  courage –a constant reflexive action or value of coming back to self; staying close to our authentic self.  Having the courage to engage what John Paul calls “the below and the beyond.” The below being the sub-context that abides questions such as: who are you? Who am I? Do you see me/do I see myself? Do you hear me/do I hear myself? Having the courage to engage “the beyond” as characterized by having a cosmic perspective of knowing that we are part of something unimaginably large that we cannot help but be awash with gratitude and humility. A perspective that opens our heart’s eye to seeing that we are simultaneously incomparably significant in our uniqueness yet remarkably insignificant in our transience.

We sat with many poems, one of which was Rumi’s:

"Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and right doing, 
there is a field. I'll meet you there. 
When the soul lies in that grass, 
the world is too full to talk about. 
Ideas, language, even the phrase "each other"
doesn't make any sense."

The Flute and the Field

This is how I understood John Paul’s interpretation:

What if "the field" is compassion? That when we lie in it, we see pieces of ourselves in each other -so that my understanding of "I" ceases to be, as it merges with your diminishing sense of "you"?

What if "the field isn't about who wins the argument, but rather about a struggle to maintaining the capacity to see humanity in the other?

Patience Kamau

Quote: "We are not merely personalities contained in a defined body, like water carried in a bucket. Rather, the human person is a field of energy and information rooted in the body but extending out from the body, interacting with the energy and information of others. None of us is a discreet, separate unit, but an integrated system of interactions and relationships connected to all."

Judy Cannato, Field of Compassion, 7


John Paul Lederach with Fabrice Guerrier

The unpeeling of the piece of wood was very powerful to me because it showed me that we ourselves have many different layers that are existent within ourselves. Most of the times our true selves are forever lost within our conflicting internal layers. We have to slowly understand then to move forward toward growth. Because self growth and development is not always learning or acquiring  something new but how we understand and let go of certain habits and identities that are unhealthy. 

Fabrice Guerrier

Listen to your heart. Witnessing Herm and John Paul interact together as loving friends was energizing, life affirming and humbling. Humbling, as I noticed their inner rawness of humor and playfulness between each other even as they have experienced the intensity of peacebuilding work around the world together. Life affirming, as I observed in them what I hope I am and will be as a 'man.' Energizing, because their language of compassion, of music, of love fulness seemed to speak to my native voice. 

We sang "because it lives in us" and listened to Herm share that we must "live more fully in our blessings and our brokenness." We learned that Herm's 7 Guidelines of writing music are transformative when lived out in reconciliation processes. As a creative process, music making and reconciliation is: Driven by internal standards not external, to be honest, simplicity, a space for listener to participate, to grow from hearts as much as heads, a flexible timeline - as long as it needs, committed to having fun.

Andrew Nussbaum

The Group with Herm Weaver

Music has a power to tap into something that we don’t quite understand, it is a language that is able to speak to the soul, it’s a language that enables our ability to be vulnerable with each other.  It is then we can work together as a cohesive group that can implement transformational change. 

Fabrice Guerrier

John Paul Lederach guided us into poetic listening and Haiku noticing. This empowered us to notice and engage with our human essence, the earths voice and compassionate presence. 6 minutes became timeless.

Skin sensitive live
Shivering island in snow
Hidden rock emerge

Heat rays bird whispers
Winds emerge as ocean waves
Sun-dripped ice, drip drip

Hemisphere hot cold
Sun shines welcome scared shadow
Yearning for warm rays

Transitions take place
In my heart in our heart laugh
O life is playful

This process of shared experience inspired me to write my lived experience with my brother's pain, in Haiku:

"With my brother"

I, am I alive
Why me God I see Devils
Do you see me God

Andrew Nussbaum


According to John Paul, the double helix is a good metaphor to encourage the peacebuilder to expand holistically. That is, how to be a person that has skillful technical capacities to respond to challenging situations that people face, and at the same time be a healthy and whole person. Both are necessary if we want to be effective in our task as peacebuilders. In John Paul's book, The Moral Imagination, we are invited to reflect on our capacity to perceive when facing the hard side of reality. We take the risk of only developing tunnel vision, and ignoring our ability to incorporate a peripheral one. Both are important and necessary. If we are only in one part of the double helix equation we are in trouble. The double helix creates a whole, allowing us to be fully present to the other and the conflict. 

I can see the double helix metaphor working in other dimensions such as the capacity of the peacebuilder to be fully present in the consensus reality and the non-consensus reality (half in/half out). To have the capacity to engage in a "shamanic" journey where the peacebuilder explores unexplored territories of the conflict. The capacity to engage skillfully in the more chaotic side of reality is essential to expand our knowledge and wisdom. Also we are constantly challenged in communicating our findings in a way that can be understood in the consensus reality. The invitation to wholeness is essential for a peacebuilder. This is a challenging invitation for our peacebuilding academical programs. We are invited to evaluate seriously the training of today's peacebuilding practitioners. Are they really equipped to engage with the complexity of reality?  Is our thinking a "yes/and" thinking or a "either/or" one? Are our schools places of wholeness?

Yago Abeledo


The below and the beyond is an essential understanding that we as peacebuilders need to sow and reap throughout our lives. This translates as reflective practitioners able to understand the subtle influences the outside world has on our own inner identities. I found myself reach a new state of understanding of reflection that provided me an ability to not only ground myself but also to uncover more deeply others humanity. Building an internal awareness allows you to effectively use the creative spirit to unfold itself in the work you do and especially the analytical lens you utilize to understand a conflict situation.

Fabrice Guerrier


During this retreat we were encouraged to be intentional in following what bring us joy. This dimension of self-care is very important, especially for us who are often immersed in conflict mediation. We were also invited to explore what it means to live from the field beyond wrongdoing and rightdoing. How does it challenge our sense of identity? How authentic are we? How interconnected are our voice and our identity? Is my voice always adapting to the freshness of the here and now? We are encouraged to be unique, to find our own voice, our vocation; a vocation that identifies with everything that exist and lives; a vocation to compassionate presence.  

Yago Abeledo

Please, Call Me by my True Names

Don't say that I will depart tomorrow -- 
even today I am still arriving.

Look deeply: every second I am arriving
to be a bud on a Spring branch,
to be a tiny bird, with still-fragile wings,
learning to sing in my new nest,
to be a caterpillar in the heart of a flower,
to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,
to fear and to hope.

The rhythm of my heart is the birth and death
of all that is alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing
on the surface of the river.
And I am the bird
that swoops down to swallow the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily
in the clear water of a pond.
And I am the grass-snake
that silently feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones,
my legs as thin as bamboo sticks.
And I am the arms merchant,
selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl,
refugee on a small boat,
who throws herself into the ocean
after being raped by a sea pirate.
And I am the pirate,
my heart not yet capable
of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo,
with plenty of power in my hands.
And I am the man who has to pay
his "debt of blood" to my people
dying slowly in a forced-labor camp.

My joy is like Spring, so warm
it makes flowers bloom all over the Earth.
My pain is like a river of tears,
so vast it fills the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can hear all my cries and my laughter at once,
so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names,
so I can wake up,
and so the door of my heart
can be left open,
the door of compassion.

Thich Nhat Hanh

We wrestled with the butterfly model’s “U” and “X” energies that engage each other when we strive to “offer boundless love with clarity of healthy boundaries.” The “U” energy is that which propels us toward the divine in us, while the “X” energy is the consummate cynic, our "divorced energy". We concluded that it need not be a zero-sum scenario but rather “both/and,” with “Yes/and,” so that if “U” is the beauty and “X” is the beast –we are reminded that they fell in love and lived happily ever after.

When all was said and done, I personally walked away with a profound message of compassion and vulnerability. Seeing the capacity of the other in myself. Allowing for a vulnerability that acknowledges that I am not immune to horrible deeds if exposed to particular stimuli.  That I can never afford to feel immune to my own ability to do the wrong thing, or fail someone, even when I genuinely have the right intentions. That vulnerability, John Paul said, “means learning to carry a wound gracefully.”

 Patience Kamau

John Paul Lederach and Yago Abeledo with the original painting of the book 'The Moral Imagination' (Art: September 11, by Akmal Mizshakaral)

John Paul Lederach's words on the Butterfly Model at the end of our intentional dialogue:

"I do want to say very clearly that I am very moved by the way in which you have engaged the frameworks that I work with. You have been able to bring into the Butterfly Model what some of us have talked about but never were able quite… to touch it and locate it. And you are unfolding it in ways that are very powerful… it's revealing, it's provocative, it's evocative… it evokes… and it encourages… it makes so many connections…"