“There can never be peace between nations until there is first known that true peace which is within the souls of men.”
– Black Elk
We are all connected, through the air we breathe, the land we walk on, and the beauty of the earth that supports each one of us from the moment we are born until the moment we die. We are not separate from the earth, and we are not separate from each other. When we forget that, at our core, we all have the same primary yearning to be happy and live peacefully,1 conflict arises. When we forget that others share this yearning, we move further away from our essential nature and become out of balance with everything around us, including those we love.
The resolution process of Coming to Peace is unique because it offers ways of mediating external conflicts with others, as well as methods for recognizing and addressing the places where we may be out of balance within ourselves. It is rooted in the wish for happiness that we all share, and holds the understanding that with conflict comes the lessons we need to learn. It does this by empowering us to tell the truth of our experience of conflict in a setting that is informed by the spirit and wisdom of thousands of years of experience. With the help of a specially trained practitioner, the process helps heal the hidden hurts that, unbeknownst to us, affect how we are in the world, those places where we have become severed from our connection to others and ourselves, and offers us a method for working through conflict with others in a way that is beneficial to all.
Many of us do not even recognize our connection to all living things and how fundamental it is to our happiness. It’s hardly a surprise that we’ve forgotten this link when we consider the culture of war we live in, which has created so much devastation for so long. There are wars that pit nation-states against one another, wars that pit religions against one another, wars that pit genders against each other, the hidden wars we wage within ourselves, and the war against the earth caused by those seeking to profit from it. This last war is so remarkably damaging it’s being called “the sixth extinction.”2 We can no longer deny the effects our disconnection from the earth, each other, and ourselves has on the world around us. Yet in the midst of all this conflict that degrades and splinters us, there is hope. We can find our way back to peace.
Coming to Peace is born out of my decades-long study of Buddhism and core mediation practices from a variety of earth-based wisdom traditions, as well as my counseling practice and life experience. In the early nineteen-nineties, I developed a counseling model called Depth Hypnosis3 from which Coming to Peace evolved. Over the past twenty years, I have seen Coming to Peace help resolve conflict in families, business relationships, and even internalized conflict within individuals. I have witnessed the unique gifts Coming to Peace has brought to clients stuck in the pit of internal and external conflict. I have seen how the essence of resolution lies in the recognition of the deep and unbroken connectedness we share as human beings. Again and again, I have seen the processes of Coming to Peace meet those in conflict and provide them a path to reconciliation and wholeness.
To better understand how Coming to Peace works and how it’s able to effect such profound healing, we must first look at its roots in some of the world’s most ancient wisdom traditions. Buddhism, which emerged in the fifth century B.C.E. as the result of a young Indian prince’s investigation into the nature of reality, informs the Coming to Peace process on a number of levels. While it is a religion with spiritual teachings, it is highly scientific and philosophical in nature, and no theological belief is required for someone to benefit from its methods for living a happier and more peaceful life. In fact, contemplative practices such as meditation and mindfulness, which are staples of Buddhism, already permeate our society. Stand in line at the grocery store and you’ll likely see a magazine cover touting the many benefits of these ancient practices.
In recent decades, scientists have taken a great interest in and have begun studying the efficacy of meditation and compassion practices for outcomes such as stress reduction and an improved sense of wellbeing. In 2007, Buddhist scholar Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D., and neurosurgeon Jim Doty developed the Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education at Stanford University. CCARE provides an ongoing forum for scientists, psychologists, and other interested professionals to study the effects of altruistic behavior. According to Thupten Jinpa, CCARE has “helped place the study of compassion squarely within established science.”4
Major corporations have also begun investing in programs that adapt mindfulness and other such practices, in an effort to increase productivity in the workplace. A notable example of this is at Google, one of the largest and most influential tech companies in the world. Chade-Meng Tan, a former engineer at Google, introduced a mindfulness-based emotional intelligence curriculum for the organization’s employees called “Search Inside Yourself”—he later wrote a book about it by the same title. This program has had an immensely positive effect on the culture and work environment at Google, including greater creativity, productivity, and overall job satisfaction.5
These are just some examples of the ways that Buddhism is subtly influencing contemporary society in a positive way. As Jinpa suggests in his book, A Fearless Heart: How the Courage to be Compassionate Can Transform Our Lives, “If traditional Buddhist compassion practices touch us in fundamental ways that help nurture and develop our better self, clearly these traditional techniques can be translated into forms that we can all understand, no matter our race, religion, and culture. In other words, the deepest and best truths are universal.”6
One of the most fundamental and pragmatic teachings to emerge out of Buddhist thought, and one that largely informs Coming to Peace, is The Four Noble Truths. These principles directly address the sources of conflict and hardship that we experience as human beings. They offer us an interesting way to look at life and how we experience it. For instance, these principles are based on the understanding that we all experience pain and hardship in our lives, which in most Buddhist translations is referred to as “suffering.” If you’ve ever burned your hand on a hot stove or fallen in love with someone who didn’t return your feelings, then you know what it means to suffer. But according to The Four Noble Truths, there is a way for us to navigate and even emerge out of our suffering, rather than be ruled by it. The first step in the liberation process is to understand the causes of suffering, which include aversion, attachment, and misunderstanding.7
Simply put, whatever we do not want is aversion. Whatever we want too much is attachment. And whatever we do not understand is misunderstanding or ignorance. All of these cause us to suffer. For example, if we are afraid to lose a friendship, and we clutch onto it despite having outgrown it, and the friendship ends, we suffer. Or, if we desperately want a new job and convince ourselves that it’s the only job that will make us happy, and then we don’t get it, we suffer. In fact, we suffer from not knowing that the time and energy we invest struggling with these strong attachments and aversions are causing us to suffer more than if we simply accepted the reality of the situation.
In this way, the Buddhist concept of suffering is a helpful framework for understanding our motivations in life and for initiating change. I have noticed over the years, with clients, students, and in my own life, that conflict arises from the things we cling to, try to avoid, or misunderstand. In essence, all conflict is caused by this kind of suffering; and the Coming to Peace process wades into the dark places where we are choosing to engage in activities that create suffering for ourselves and others and helps us find a way out.
Coming to Peace also draws upon the equality and peace-generating practices of “earth-based wisdom traditions.” These are the spiritual and educational systems practiced by peoples of the world who are now most commonly referred to as “indigenous cultures.” For thousands of years, these practitioners have been nurturing relationships with nature, guiding its power and wisdom to effect change in people’s lives. The oldest shamanic culture on record is that of the Australian aborigines, which dates back over 150,000 years.8
Despite the losses these cultures have suffered through centuries of colonialism, expansionism, and the usurpation of sacred lands, their traditions continue to endure. In more recent times, there has been a burgeoning interest in the practices of indigenous cultures, giving us the opportunity to follow the traces of these traditions and learn what they might offer us today.
Many indigenous cultures have spiritual belief systems and practices that support conflict resolution among their members in a way that fosters equality, and understands that, as humans, we all share common and similar hopes, needs, and goals. As such, these traditions encourage and nurture each person’s ability to connect with this truth of common purpose when they find themselves in conflict.
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