Monday, January 10, 2011

A New Year

A lot has happened since my last post in July.  I finished a five month web project redesigning the previous static website for United States Nonviolent Peaceforce Chapters Association into a dynamic site to help connect the chapters more closely.  I assisted in organizing the Annual Conference for the USNPCA in Boston, to be held the second weekend in October.  The conference was a great success.  We honored Gene Sharp, or maybe he honored us by attending and giving a talk, with a nice certificate and dinner.  After the conference time was slipping quickly into November, at the end of which I had to finish writing the first draft of a book chapter.  In fact, while my daughter enjoyed a big feast with family, I pedaled to the Red Cross, donated a little of my life blood, was gifted a pumpkin pie for my effort and I spent the remainder of that holiday in my office writing and eating pie.  After sending that off to the editors the holidays were well underway and the dark days upon us.  We enjoyed a beautiful solstice celebration at Whitefeather, leaving all electric lights off while each guest lit four candles upon arrival with four wishes for the New Year.  By the end of the evening the house was bright with candlelight and with renewed energy.  Just before solstice an opportunity came up to join a women's community home in NE Portland with other children, so Alexa would have mates to play and grow with and my bike commute would decrease significantly.  It was also a way to avoid going to see an allergist for headaches and asthma that had begun to plague my respiratory system since moving into the peace house.  So quite out of the blue I picked us up and moved us over the New Year's Eve weekend.  Last night my daughter and I enjoyed our first soak in the private hot tub in the back yard and I felt all the tension and hard work of 2010 begin to leave my weary bones, and today new energy is flowing in.  The morning headaches have vanished and I'm using the nasal spray less and less.  Although I'm a few miles South, I will continue to be an active member of the Whitefeather Peace Community. 

So I begin the New year with a new perspective and energy.  During the time since the IPRA conference in Sydney I've given much thought on my future and how I might bend my vocation more towards nonviolence.  I've explored teaching and leading workshops and find that much to my liking.  I also enjoy doing research.  That's what got me into science to begin with.  So my real interest seems to be in the intersection, looking deeply into the science of nonviolence and then sharing that learning with others.  After looking at PhD programs in the universities across the US and beyond I began to feel a bit stranded from my source.  I realized that for me this work had to be grounded in the philosophies from which it had sprung, my Buddhist leanings.  So I've decided to take a slightly less traveled path and take a course at Maitripa Buddhist College in Portland titled,  Engaged Buddhism: Non-Violence and Social Justice in Buddhist Thought and Practice.  As one who tries to walk the path of an engaged Buddhist, this class intrigued me.  This will be my first class at the college, but not my first event there.  I attended a talk by Robert Thurman - I love his books, but love his public talks even more.  His joviality does not come through in print as it does face to face.  I feel very fortunate to live in a city with a thriving Buddhist college, and I look forward to supporting it with my tuition and my attention.  After this class I'm sure my path will bend again, and I will come back to the blog and take you on that journey as it unfolds.

On another note for the unfolding year, I'm becoming more involved with the counter-militarism subgroup of the UU Peace Action Committee.  Looking back on all the violence in speech, politics and action unfolding in the culture around me I see an urgent need to hold a mirror up to people.  It seems we've gotten lost in the forest and can no longer see the bigger picture and how terribly disturbing it is.  More and more American's are embracing violence as the way to solve their problems, from school yard shootings to assassination attempts.  The NRA and it's supporters jump up and down about the right to bear arms while others are convinced that the government wants to take their guns away in order to control them and the rest of us wonder about the national insanity level and if there's any hope for a future here.  I think the entire country needs a time out, liberals in one corner, the conservatives in the other and the rest of us in whatever corners they leave.  While in that time out, clear your mind and just breathe for a moment.  We all want security for ourselves and our families.  We all want our children and grandchildren to have the resources and time to enjoy life, and a beautiful planet to enjoy as well.  We all really want peace.  But how to get there.  That's up to what you envision during your time outs.  If you're letting your imagination vision death and suffering to those you feel are to blame for your problems, then you will never have peace, nor will those around you.  Take those time outs to paint the reality you desire and begin to take steps to get there.  Look in the mirror everyday and try to see the good in yourself.  You CAN make a difference.

There's a sticker on my bike that says, "We're all in this together".  We need to help each other through this.  Let's make this a New Year we'll want to remember.