The Peacemaker Within
Nurture the Peacekeeper through World Vision Walks
Thich Nhat Hanh’s Annual PeaceWalk & LWF’s “Walk Across the World”
by Michele D’Arbanville
The moment I stepped into the street at 6th and MacArther in downtown Los Angeles with Thich Nhat Hanh on his annual Peace Walk, I experienced a deep sense of belonging; a oneness with all who seek to transcend the boundaries of racial and social injustice and an awareness of our connection to the suffering of all people. Flooded with emotion, I recalled those in our past and present, who have walked and stood for peace in the face of violence.
Enlightened souls who’ve led the way, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Aung San Suu Kyi, the Burmese Monks, The Dalai Lama, all those who participated in the non-violent protests in Tibet, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Romania, Germany, USSR, Yugoslavia, China and Lebanon, are all part of a human heart chain that stretches far back into our historic past, our Native Americans, Knights of the Roundtable, Kshatriya Warriors of Ancient India and around 600BC it is said, Gautama Buddha, helped make all Asia mild.
One of today’s revered spiritual teachers, Thich Nhat Hanh, calls himself a simple monk. He says, “Peace is in Every Step. Each step we take is the doorway to the kingdom of happiness.” The Vietnamese, Buddhist Priest, known affectionately as, “Thai”, was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King. He shows us ways to calm the mind and open the heart.
Might the simple act of walking for peace break us open to spiritual consciousness and principles of deep listening, compassion and non-violence?
As I stepped into the streets, taking long, slow breaths, an inner spaciousness and a sense of universal responsibility entered into the walking meditation. I felt a collective memory of those who have walked before me, as peacemakers for social justice, understanding, tolerance and peace. The heart of the great universe called on my strength, all of our fearlessness called up my truth. Each human who has suffered, penetrated the sphere of my heart. Yes, we are all truly part of this larger heart, beating in unison for truth.
What does it mean to be a peacemaker in this time?
Each breath, each step becomes nourishment for the places inside ourselves that aren’t comfortable, the parts inside that need healing…even the perceived enemies inside and out…we breathe each step for them and us.
“We must meet hate with creative love, love is the most durable power in the world. Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend.” said, Martin Luther King.
When we guide our bodies, hearts and minds to hold this message, our intention for non-violence becomes clear. As we walk in our everyday life we carry the spiritual lineage of peacemaking that these great teachers have passed on to us. We become Peacemakers for the planet.
Helpful ways to heal include spiritual retreats, peacemaking workshops, World Vision Walks and Sacred World Arts and Music gatherings. At a previous retreat through, “The Open Center”, Thai took thirty of us through the streets of New York City in the late ‘80s. We gathered to share in the wisdom of this then little known Vietnamese monk.
He led us through the streets of Manhattan, hearts leading the way in a walking meditation, as we gently stepped in unison, even getting on and off subways together. The heart pilgrimage took us from downtown’s SOHO all the way uptown to a grassy knoll on the upper east side of Central Park. There we all participated in a Dharma Talk with Thai.
The experience engendered deep trust, silence and loving kindness.
If we listen to our hearts for the message of peace in every step we take, in every breath we breathe and every gesture we make, then each precious moment is filled with conscious presence. The challenge is great and the rewards even greater. As we guide ourselves to hold a strong vision of Tolerance and Non-Violence, we help each other at this vital time. We join in a collective healing that breaks us open to the heart and turns the cycle from greed and need into giving love and abundance.
“There is no way to peace, peace is the way.” said, Mahatma Gandhi.
In honor of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, October 2nd, Living Wellness Foundation held a World Vision Walk for Tolerance at Self Realization Fellowship’s beautiful ‘Lake Shrine’ in Pacific Palisades. We all walked slowly around the beautiful lake with the brothers and sisters of SRF, the ‘Full Circle Learning’ students and community members. The children sang the most poignant song, “…A glorious vision is waiting for you, a personal mission, if only you will see it through…” Thoughts were shared about Gandhi’s teachings on Non-Violence, “Satyagraha” and the ‘Full Circle’ children signed the ‘Walk Across the World in Unity and Harmony’ flag. Their prayers and wishes for peace joined those of Jane Goodall, The Tibetan Monks & Nuns of Zangdokpalri and many others from all the World’s Cultures. October 2nd, Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, has now been sanctioned by the United Nations as a, ‘Day of Non-Violence’. This October 2nd, was a worldwide event for LWF, with walks in Channai, India, and Northern California as well. The Walk Across the World, Paths to Tolerance Program is a worldwide coordinated effort that seeks to raise awareness for tolerance and understanding, which cumulatively logs walker’s distances throughout the year to equal the earth’s circumference of 24,800 miles collectively by the end of October 2, 2008.
We stepped into the street and dropped into a collective soul memory, a reminiscence that included the pain and suffering of all who had walked before us, those who made so many sacrifices. They made sacred the land they walked on. Now we are present, all striving to heal injustice in an act of non-violence, walking together in harmony. We walk together on this earth, shadow steps of light, learning to carry and share these seeds of wisdom, to create a collective awareness within, from which we all can heal our world.