Peace Un-conference Continued…


Old Missoula Peace Sign on Waterworks Hill

Old Missoula Peace Sign on Waterworks Hill

Since my last post was so long and I didn’t cover a few things I wanted to I thought I’d do a second post about the peace un-conference I attended.  So if you’re interested in reading in detail more about the un-conference and what that entailed please read the previous post.

During the opening and lightning keynote speakers in the morning someone said the following statement, which I then wrote down after it was reiterated by one of the participants in the closing circle: Where there is conflict people care deeply, which then creates an opportunity for peace.  I thought this was an interesting insight into the nature of polarizing issues and beliefs.  On both sides of the fence, no matter what the difficulties are, people are filled with care and concern about something.  One side might be particularly drawn towards concern about the environment while the other side may be concerned about the security of jobs and economic prosperity.  To see the areas of similarity and overlap is incredibly important when it comes to the transformation of the us-verses-them mentality.  It’s difficult to make lasting, effective change when we only see the differences and set our perspective in the direction of separation and division.

The first session that I attended was on community peace building and focused on creating safe circles to help foster connection and unity in diverse settings.  The speaker was Dr. Keiko Ozeki, with the Center for Ethical Leadership in Seattle.  Having supported a variety of different companies and groups she said that it’s important to tailor the circle to the individual group so that it makes the most sense for the people attending.  For example, she had supported a circle at a tire company and in the center of their circle (as a focal point or alter of sorts) they put a tire and their talking stick that was passed around (to help aid in communication making sure everyone had a voice) was a tire gauge.  I love the image that I conjure up thinking of a tire company holding a space for community building amongst themselves sitting around a tire and passing around a metal tool – it brings me such joy!  What a great example!  

Being able to develop the wisdom of adaptation is an amazing skill set and tool for connecting with others and especially in community building, peace building, and conflict resolution.  If we are not able to adapt to an ever changing set of circumstances, groups, ideas, and beliefs and develop communication that can bridge the gaps we have little hope for creating understanding and peace.

Here are a set of Peace Making Principles that Dr. Ozeki shared in our session:

Work for the inclusive community 

Work on self, not to change others

Don’t pass on your pain to othes

Transform your pain into positive action

Stand “in the fire” with others

Contribute to the wholeness of the community

Treat others as sacred

Build trust and relationships before arriving at issues and solutions 

The second session of the un-conference I chose to attend was entitled: The Role of Joy and Spirit in Responding to Confusion, Conflict, and Chaos.  The host of the session was going to be attending the World Parliament of Religions in Salt Lake City in the fall (along with 10,000 others from around the world) and wanted to hear from as many fellow Missoulians as she could on the chosen topic in order to best represent our little mountain town at the Parliament.  It was an open dialog and our session generated some good insights, ideas, and questions.  I’m a big note taker when it comes to attending workshops, retreats, conferences, and community meetings but I went to the un-conference surprisingly un-equipped with paper and pen.  During the second session some of what people were bringing up sparked interest for me that I wanted to remember later, specifically for the purpose of composing a blog post, so I borrowed a pen and set to scribbling on my left arm.  By the end of the day the inked shorthand-esque notes on my skin had become rather cryptic and faded but I managed to eventually decipher them all.  Mostly they were questions I wanted to later address in individual blog posts here that would serve as good writing prompts and cause for my own reflection.  Inspired by what other shared from my group here’s what I jotted down:

Is joy impermanent?

What is the difference (to me) between joy & happiness?  Joy & peace?

What are the qualities of joy?  Are there different types?

How do we let joy prevail?

What comes first: joy or peace?

Is global peace possible?  Is it a realistic goal?

One man shared this thoughts about joy and equated it to hiking local Stuart Peak in the Rattlesnake National Recreation and Wilderness Area.  He said that he enjoys getting to the top of the peak (which rests at 7,960 feet) after an active 4-6 hour hike with his dog, mentioning that his best time was 3 hours and 45 minutes.  He then spends 10 minutes or so at the top before hiking down.  He said joy was like those 10 minutes on top of the peak, after and before a rather grueling trek up and down the mountain.  Much work went into the creation of those quick 10 minutes of joy.  His story was a great analogy for what I consider to be the opposite of the great potential of joy.  While it is wonderful to bathe in the exhilaration of reaching a set goal, such as the peak of a mountain, true joy does not have to dissipate along the way to and from that spot.  The practice of cultivating joy can be a steady state of mind that carries with us wherever we go.  It was a good reminder that there are a vast multitude of ways to decipher words, concepts, and ideas – and that we don’t have to call any one way right and the others wrong.

Some of the things I came away with from the un-conference were:

Our individual differences as a human collective are what create and strengthen our unifying sameness, and vice versa.

To act with great skillfulness in fostering diversity and creating bridges between opposing sides we need to honor our differences just as equally as our similarities.

We need to be responsible for connecting with others of varying ideas, thoughts, and beliefs in order to cultivate a strong global community.

We need to practice the art of mindful listening in order for anything beneficial to happen in regards to the grand idea of creating peace.

Being present and open with others is always one of the most valuable uses of my time and energy.



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