May 2012 was a very special month for Bolivia, as it hosted its first Peace Revolution event. From May 8th to 14th , the Peace Revolution team conducted a series of conferences and a retreat, reaching more than 500 people, introducing them to meditation and to the concept of Peace In – Peace Out.
The program in Bolivia was organized by WHY- Bolivia, an organization composed of young educators whose mission is to organize experiential education programs for Bolivian youth to promote social inclusion and integration.
The Peace Revolution Team arrived at La Paz airport, at 4100 meters above the sea level. Despite the high altitude (and lack of oxygen!) and the very long trip from Thailand, the team was filled with energy to revolutionize Bolivia.
It was also very symbolic to start the Change the World Tour in the city of La Paz, which means “peace”. Although it should be a peaceful city by its name, it is a city where conflicts and street protests happen daily. Even on the same day that the Peace Revolution team arrived in Bolivia, we didn´t know if it would be possible to carry on the program due to the social turmoil in the country!
Luckily, we were able to continue with the plans. The program started in La Paz with a Press Conference, which included an introduction to Peace Revolution and a meditation session. It was well attended, despite the social turmoil that had paralyzed the city that day.
On May 9th, meditation was introduced for the first time to a group of students at the teacher´s school Escuela Superior en Formación de Maestros in the city of El Alto, next to the city of La Paz. The students lined up to attend the session and the audience filled the school´s auditorium completely.
In the afternoon, the Peace Revolution team went back to La Paz to lead a session with children and youth with disabilities or coming from less-privileged backgrounds. It was again a success!
On the evening, a meditation session was held at the auditorium of the Universidad Católica Boliviana in La Paz. Students and other interested people alike had the opportunity to try meditation and also ask questions to the teaching monk Luang Phi John. Angie, a psycholist shared her experience "... I liked it a lot. For me it was the first time to do such a long meditation, actually I didn’t feel it was that long. It turned out to have lasted 35 minutes the first time. But for me it went really fast. ... I had some moments when I felt quite relaxed and everything".
On May 10th the Peace Revolution team flew to Cochabamba, a city located in the center of Bolivia, where the meditation retreat would take place. On that day, however, while the participants were arriving at the retreat site, Luang Phi John held three sessions at two universities: Universidad Católica Boliviana and Universidad Nur. All three sessions were a big success, with filled rooms and many eager new meditators. Jose, a professor told us that "One of the participants who came out said ‘how fantastic! I used to do yoga, but this was phenomenal!‘." Sandra, a university student also shared her experience "The truth is that I like it a lot because I used to practice pilate and that was another thing that relaxed me. But this was something new to me. To tell the truth it was super impressive because I felt like I was totally outside of myself, do you understand what I mean? Nice! ... I imagined that I was in a garden, in an open space, completely alone… I don’t know. I felt I was lost in the world, I didn’t feel anything, I was in peace with myself. It was very beautiful!".
The meditation retreat took place from May 11 to 13 in CADECA, a retreat center in Quillacollo, close to the city of Cochabamba. 65 youths and 10 adults came together from all over Bolivia to experience inner peace.
Thanks to the support of the German Cooperation agency GIZ and AVINA, the youth who participated received fellowships, which meant that they could participate regardless of their ability to pay the expenses of the retreat and could come from very far, including rural communities. The diversity was apparent, with participants from very different backgrounds all coming together with the same objective: to cultivate inner peace in order to share this peace in their communities. Felipa Gabriela shared with us "It is very beatiful ... I used to feel this happiness when I went to sacred places and did some rituals. But it is very different here, because you have to have a clear mind. After you are done you are able to find solutions because your mind is clear. With meditation, it is possible to do it anytime."
The retreat was only a starting point for them. They left the retreat site with concrete plans to conduct “Peace Initiatives” in their own communities. These initiatives will be supported by the WHY Bolivia team. The goal is to share meditation and PIPO to many more people around Bolivia, especially those who do not usually have access to learning about meditation.
All in all, it was a great experience for all 500 participants in either the retreat or the other meditation sessions. The Peace Revolution has started in Bolivia, and will only keep growing!!!