A peace agent´s journey through the world and inside herself
By Adriana Ramirez
When you study international affairs you often find yourself reading and writing about war and conflict. You spend many years trying to understand the causes of confrontation among states and among governments and civil movements, you spend a lot of hours reading about how violence was used in this or that war, you analyze some indicators that shows different levels of conflict according to the number of deaths related to certain conflict in one year and you read a little bit more trying to find a suitable explanation for this simple question: Why do we kill each other?
Some day it’s possible that you wake up and think that although you have been studying for many years the manifestations of violent behavior and aggression you haven’t understood why human beings are capable to harm one another. And then, like it happened to me, you try to turn around your subject of study in order to keep your sanity and your hope in mankind.
That day, some years ago, I quit studying violence and I started to study peace, I renounce to study the causes of violent conduct and I began to learn about the origins of forgiveness and compassion, I give up my need to accumulate knowledge and I decided to be an active agent of social transformation, I stopped thinking in an arm solution to my country’s inner conflict and I open my mind and my heart to a negotiated resolution of our differences.
My journey started that morning and it took me to Africa one year later. I needed to see with my own eyes what Mandela and Tutu (among many others) had achieve in South Africa and I was desperate to see how people in Ruanda were able to move forward after 1994´s genocide. I will never in my life be fully “recovered” from that trip.
In Africa I learn that human beings are capable of the most horrible atrocities but we are also capable to forgive, forget and move forward. I saw how hatred can be a political weapon used to segregate people but I also saw how love, faith and hope can drove millions of people to believe in a future without racial divisions, I saw how after death it’s possible to think about life.
What I experience in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Pretoria, Windhoek, Kampala and Kigali opened my eyes to a new universe of concepts and ideas about peace and peace building. I can summarize all of my learning in one simple phrase: peace it’s not a political imposition, it’s a personal decision.
In that trip (organized by the University where I work) I knew an amazing person. An undergraduate student passionate about african studies and about conflict resolution. I remembered that every time we were about to eat he closed his eyes with a smile in his face for a few minutes and that gesture cause me a lot of curiosity. Someday I asked him: Nicolas what are you doing? And he answered me: I am meditating. I wanted to ask more! I wanted to more know! But I decided to wait for a good place an moment to hear Nicolas explanation about he’s silent time on the dining table.
The location was Queen Elizabeth National Park at Uganda, we were staying at a lodge and it has a very big outdoors dining room. I remember like if it was yesterday. The full moon was in the middle of the sky, we were drinking hot coffee and Nicolas started to talk…
He told us about an organization named Peace Revolution that promotes world peace trough meditation and he told us that he has recently being in Thailand where he learned more about the connection between inner and outer peace. In that precise moment something in my heart and in my mind just clicks and I thought: I need to know more!
From that moment on I became a permanent visitor of Peace Revolution´s website. I spend hours reading about the origin of the organization, I enjoy myself watching the pictures and the videos posted by the crew and a dream about knowing that beautiful island in Thailand where all your problems seems to go away while you meditate. But, I must admit, my desire then was bigger than my discipline. I started the self-development program but I wasn´t able to sit quiet for half an hour and after that share my impressions with my peace coach, I found myself submerged in my work and my daily routine for many months and I just put aside the idea of meditate.
After Christmas 2012 I was spending my holyday´s vacations in my hometown and I was looking at the beautiful scenery around me, full of mountains, trees, birds, and flowers and without even notice it I close my eyes and I started breathing really slowly. I stayed there for about half an hour and when I opened my eyes I felt calm, relax and fresh. I wanted to keep that feeling inside me; I wanted to be able to go deeper, so, I decided to re-start the self-development program.
For 42 days I dedicate about one hour and a half to meditate and write my daily entry in the website commenting my impressions on the meditation, the techniques I use and some of my opinions about different subjects.
As the days went by I felt a change inside me, I felt more happy and more relax, in other words, more peaceful. I felt that I have given up aggression both towards others and myself; I felt that I was building peace in my inner world and in the universe. In that moment I decided to apply for the Agency to be on the one of the participants of Global Peace on the Move X, knowing that the possible trip to Thailand was going to be the beginning of a longer and deeper trip.
I will love to write many pages about my travel experience from Colombia, trough the United States and Japan before I arrive to Bangkok, I could spend hours and hours describing with words the colors, the smells and the spirit of Thailand, I could go on and on remembering how beautiful was to feel the warmness of the Peace Revolution crew and how they take care of every single detail in order to make us feel welcome and the expectation of knowing people from around the world, but, unfortunately, that isn´t the point of the lines…
Of course I enjoy the delicious food, the warm weather and the magnificent view of the Island, but today, when I remember all of those days, I really treasure the pain I felt in my legs and in my lower back after the meditation sessions, I smile when I recall being extremely tired after five or six days of activities, I think about how hard it was for me to write in my journal once I arrive from the evening meditation. I think about how many times I wanted to say: I can´t be still! Or: I just can´t visualize my center! Or: it´s too hot! Or too cold!.
If what we could call “bad memories” is more important for me that all the beautiful images and sensations that I have during the fellowship, it´s only because thanks to them I was able to perceive and notice how one day, like out of the blue, everything changed. One day I just realize that not the physical pain or the expectations about having a good or a bad meditation session really matter, the only important thing was to enjoy every minute and be there, be truly there, with my mind still, letting go my thoughts, my expectations and my fears. In that moment, I didn´t just feel less tired and stressed about my learning process, I truly felt joyful, finally I understood what sabai really means.
Since that moment I´ve been thinking about the positive impact that a calm and focus mind can have on the thoughts and the actions of a person and I´ve been trying to link that state of mind with the process of forgiveness and reconciliation that some societies have lived. I´ve been reading testimonies of victims, perpetrators, prosecutors, and politicians who agree that social peace it´s only possible when individuals decide to be peaceful. When they resign to their need for vengeance and acknowledge the humanity in others even when those others acted in an “inhuman” way.
Johan Galtung affirms that violence doesn´t only manifest as a physical phenomenon (or direct violence); he says that there are other kinds like structural and cultural violence. According to the work of this sociologist, violence is based on mental patterns, codes of conduct and social values that legitimize aggression. Therefore, the understanding of peace needs to be guided not only as a process where the patterns are eliminated and the physical confrontation stops, but where the values and the social codes are transformed and replace. That´s what he calls “positive peace”.
To have participated in Global Peace on the Move X has given me all the tools that I needed to break the old and bad habits and patterns that I have in my life. In Galtung´s words, I´ve had been able to bring positive peace into my days. All the above, thank to meditation, thank to Peace Revolution.
Love from Colombia
Peace Agent – Adriana Ramírez.