Peacework is in essence nothing else than to cultivate joy and delight, as powerfully as possible.
I put this sentence at the beginning of my lecture like a beacon, because it brings together all the conclusions that I have drawn from my stay in Albania and Kosovo. It shows that the confrontation with grief and destruction lies in the outer world and that the perception of war lies in your own inner self. I would like to take you on a journey of research during which these connections will unfold.
Firstly, that which I hold to be true:
I am a human being. I am a part of the network of living things: plants, animals, stones, air and seas. I am a part of the 6-billion strong community of humanity. Each being on the Earth is, at this very moment, breathing just like us: in and out, in and out. The bear in Canada, the zebra in Africa, a child in Grosny, a black musician in New Orleans; we are all one big organism. Everything I do has an effect on the Whole, and everything that happens in the Whole has an effect on me. The tooth which is sore can put the whole body into a nervous strain. If someone massages my hand, my whole body feels relaxed because of it. And since we are a part of the network of life, then we are effected by the situation of the Earth: the wars, the poisoning of the seas, the violence against animals. Our inner selves feel this as increased hopelessness. This effect occurs whether we see ourself as part of the Whole or not.
The question, then, is : Is there any hope at all? And if so, what hope, and under what conditions?
This summer I was in Albania and Kosovo for six weeks with the project Balkan Sunflowers, which organises social reconstruction projects in the Balkans. I worked in a refugee camp in Tirana, I helped look after volunteers from all over the world during their stay and helped them deal with their experiences, and I made two trips to Kosovo with Wam Kat in order to support the projects there. At the beginning of January I will make such an inner and outer research trip again.
The time there made my heart bigger, expanded my spirit and gave me new courage.
Hope doesn’t come to me from outside. Hope comes from my knowledge, not only intellectual, that I am a part of the whole and therefore I have an effect on the whole. It comes because I abandon powerlessness and take a fresh look at the world in order to understand more how it works, and then act according to the inspiration which this knowledge gives to me.
I live in ZEGG. Here I can understand the bond with something more and more universal. I can develop and build this bond on a daily basis in the community and within an ever-growing world-wide network around it. I experience key-situations from being together with people, where I no longer have fear: no more fear of being hurt by a man when I surrender myself to him; no more fear of losing him if he goes with another woman; no more fear of showing to other people that I am a religious and sensual person. In such moments I wish that this paradise would never end and that the whole Earth could be free from fear. It was with these experiences of trust and ‚being at home‘ that I watched the pictures of the Kosovo war, which like for many others felt much closer to me than other wars. This created so much inner pressure that I had to act.
At the beginning there are many questions:
I want to know, how it can be that I kill you and you kill me. I no longer make an exception for myself since the time during a ten-day meditation-marathon when I experienced a fantasy of annihilating a particular woman. For a whole hour I envisioned all 90 of us participants jumping on her and battering here until she didn’t move anymore. Simply because she continually picked here nose and I couldn’t concentrate because of that.
I want to know how far I have come with my understanding of the world and my influence in it. Can I, in concrete situations, contribute towards transforming the energy of destruction into a creative power?
I want to know whether it is possible to take my love for life, which I so often feel, and go to one of the darker places on the Earth and plant there a seed of healing.
I want to know how the consciousness of a person changes when he is confronted with that which he had repressed beforehand.
I want to know whether there is any hope for the Earth?
I only really know that which I experience myself. That’s why I call it a research trip.
In my luggage I will take with me a thought from Sabine Lichtenfels, taken from the "Morning Prayers" in March 1999. It expresses what gives me protection and a source of strength: "Do not project on the power of those who follow destruction. By being linked with the law of eternal life you are protected. If you can enact in yourself the full and conscious principle of trust, even in areas of threat and danger, then your power to initiate change will be limitless. That is THE power which can heal the planet."
I have arranged my thoughts under four questions:
- How does one overcome powerlessness?
- How does one overcome fear?
- What role does community play in the creation of inner and outer peace?
- What is the relationship between a sensual life and the capacity for peace?
So, how does one overcome powerlessness? The simplest answer and yet the greatest challenge is: Listen to your innner voice and follow it unconditionally. The inner voice is the telephone of the universe. It shows us our path. As soon as I follow it, the fear will disappear and hope will take its place.
During the bombardment of Kosovo my inner voice was unmistakable: "That what you are seeing is unbearable. That’s not on! You have to go there." That was a sobering voice, and it was totally clear that I would do it.
As the telephone of the universe, the inner voice shows no consideration for the limitations of the everyday consciousness. It is the bridge by which we can go from the reality where we are seperated beings to the larger reality of connectedness. This step from seperateness to connectedness is the spiritual ‚Change of Epoch‘ (referred to in a lecture the previous day) which has to happen if there really is to be a change here on Earth.
Joanna Macy (a founder of Deep Ecology) said "When we make the Earth our home again through the ability of sympathy, then we will see a huge joy and a huge power arise. Whoever can hear the language of the birds and the music of the cosmos, they also have the sensibility which can hear the screams of pain from the deepest abysses of existence. To hear the Earth crying within ourselves. That is the person with the limitless heart, the person who has once again found the connectedness with the large network." That’s how it is. There are many paths to get there; the work in a crisis-area is at this moment the path for me.
On the first trip through Kosovo I saw clearly the numbness of my feelings . This numbness is our normality, our soul’s and body’s armour which protects us from pain. This inner armour results in outer armour. That’s why I am speaking in such detail over this observation. There is a monster living in us and that will be so until the light reaches the darkest corners of our consciousness.
I am in a bus en route from Pristina to Peja, crossing the country from east to west. I am going with Wam to visit and support the projects which are just establishing themselves there. I see countless burnt-out houses and I feel nothing.
That is irritating and I try to make clear to myself that this picture is just the surface of a mix of fate, fear, terror and loss of loved ones. I also stand in front of bombed-out houses in downtown Pristina and feel nothing.
I notice that I even have the desire to see a town that has been reduced to rubble and ashes, in order to enter the reality.
There are only a few special events that break through this paralysation. . In Peja we go over a bridge and someone explains to me that two days beforehand they found a murdered elderly serbian couple there.
This couple had not wanted to flee like the others. They had done nothing to anyone and wanted to stay in the town. It was simply enough that they were serbian for someone to kill them. I cry, because they were old and unprotected and their trust had not been of any use to them.
My defence is weakening.
After six weeks I am back at home and little by little I begin to understand where I have been . I react to the evening news differently than before. Here there is something about East Timor, there something about Chechnya. I feel threatened, on this planet. The reality of the violence is overpowering. That has been the case for a long time, it’s only that I haven’t felt it on this scale before.
Resignation was close, but I had made a clear decision against it. Since I had just discovered a possiblity for action where before there had been a taboo-zone. And I saw my questions were still not being answered. Though I knew they have an existential meaning for the future of me and of the whole humankind on this planet.
So, how do I overcome the fear, the one in daily life, the fear of intervening in what happens in this world.
Somebody gives me a book from Aung San Suu Kyi, the woman from Burma who won the Nobel Peace Prize. She is a woman who inspires me. She reminds me of the inner power and knowledge in myself and in every person.
For decades Burma has been ruled by a cruel military regime and Aung San Suu Kyi is the leader of the democratic opposition. She was under house arrest for six years (1989-1995), seperated from her husband and her children. Her political friends served many years in jail and were exposed to uncertainty and torture. Her way of behaving towards the fear, her friends and her so-called enemies, her refusal of any dramatisation of the situation, her search for insight, even for perfection, her humour and her sobriety despite everything: all this has a deep resonance within me.
There is a true story, also made into a film, which shows the power of a fear-free behaviour:
Aung San Suu Kyi is travelling with her political friends. Watched by a Major and some officers from the army, her opppressors, they visit villages and towns. It’s evening and as a group they are heading towards the house where they will stay the night. They are heading down the middle of the street. Then they see soldiers on the side of the street, who are kneeling and have their weapons ready. The captain bellows at her that she should leave the street clear. They move to the edge of the street. Then he says that he would let them shoot anyway, even if she walked along the side of the street. Aung infers from this that it is forseen that she will be shot. Hence, she thinks, she might as well walk in the middle of the street. As she is walking over to the middle of the street there is an exchange between the commanders. There is no order to shoot. Meanwhile Aung’s group walks through the group of kneeling soldiers. Later it was explained to her that the captain tore his military badge from his shoulders and asked what his purpose was, when he didn’t once get the permission to shoot. Aung described what was happening inside her: "I had a completely clear head. I thought, what shall I do? Shall I turn back or shall I continue? And then I thought, in this situation one doesn’t turn back. …. Running away doesn’t solve any problems. … In this country we need to pose a whole heap of questions and then answer them. That is the only possibility to be able to solve our problems."
For me this scene has become a symbol of the belief, that in EVERY situation one can transform fear into contact and freedom through a spiritual effort.
At another point she also states: Each revolution must be a spiritual revolution.
From reading her interviews I’ve had many powerful thoughts about fear, friendship and pacifying the spirit. These can help to understand how she is able to act like this.
I’ll mention the most important:
You do not need to have fear when faced by people who you do not hate. Foster positive thoughts about the people facing you and they can do you no harm.
Do not permit others to take possession of your inner-self, nor your feelings nor your spirit. As soon as you begin to feel hate, you yourself have failed.
You will reach your goal if you have humour.
(At the beginning of Aung San’s house arrest, her contact with the outside world was broken, but not by disconnecting her phone at the exchange. What actually happened was that men came into her house and crudely cut the telephone cable and took her phone away. She found that hilarious!)
Do your work with your full power. That is the only remedy against despair.
Work for a world that is free from fear. At the same time do your best to free your own heart from fear.
Do everything that is humanly possible not to live in fear. That is all.
For this friends are a great support. Aung had many personal friendships with her political colleagues. They helped each other to avoid becoming vindictive. "Our mutual care held back the angry feelings which are present in everyone." In her own way and according to her own possibilities she created a type of community.
With that I come to the question, what is the meaning of community in the creation of inner and outer peace?
Community is a vessel in which a person can observe the effects of the habit of thinking ‚seperate‘ instead of ‚connected‘, and in which the person can let go of this habit. The way the Earth is at the moment is the result of this spiritual habit. By community I don’t mean just a fixed place such as this community, but also a ‚community spirit‘. A community-minded person will take care of trust and truth everywhere, since he knows that everything is connected to everything. And because the deepest longing of humans is the same everywhere, namely for a life in which they feel recognised and respected in their search for meaning, for permanence in love, for a fulfilled sexuality, for solidarity and friendship, for a meaningful occupation and for relationship with the universal connectedness. It is in this sense that a community with aims like those of ZEGG can be seen to be structurally working its way towards peace.
Whether I look back into history or whether I make myself aware of the incomprehensible horrors which are happening at this moment, I know either way that the elementary inner human life impulse has been so repressed that people have to forge their path violently. The symbolic picture of a ‚normal‘ human is one with a tie, with a briefcase in his hand, anally retentive and afraid of saying what he thinks. He can‘t really cry, can‘t really love, can’t really breathe, nor enjoy, nor be angry. A person who is so civilised that he doesn’t really shoot with a gun shoots indirectly..
War is inside us.
In our community we create the experience of not condemning ourselves for what a normal person does. Instead, through techniques like Forum, which we hold regularly, we try to study and transform ourselves.
As I was preparing this lecture I came across a text with the title ‚I carry the Yugolsavia War within me‘. It was written by a spanish doctor and peace worker, Jose Luis Gil Monteagudo. He asked himself whether somewhere in his inner self he could find the same characters that play roles in the Kosovo conflict. Is there within him a Milosevic, a NATO, a paramilitary soldier, a serbian village or a kosovo-albanian? Extremely radically he overcomes his last resistance to, for example, imagining himself as a murderous paramilitary, and finds that after all, he can find a part of them all in himself. "All of this disgusts me, but I bring it to the fore in order to see it instead of repressing it. I have repressed it long enough, now I want to have a clear look into it. I don’t want to see any enemy outside of me. I know who the real opponent is (himself). I don’t want to make an enemy of him, if I did that I would hurt only myself. I want to forgive this opponent, and for that I need to unmask him, as lovingly as possible but without compromise."
Myself, I can find at once a NATO General inside me, who is fighting for something just and attacks in the name of peace. I would like to give an example from the time just before Christmas: we were discussing as a community how we wanted to celebrate Christmas. Among other things we were talking about consumerism and grandmothers who send too many presents, etc. I was outraged because Christmas is about creating a holy space among humans. I declare the others to be stupid, wrong and that I am right. (We had a very moving Christmas which brought us all close together.) However, in this moment I cut myself off from the others at lighting speed and unpacked my weapons in the name of higher values. I was fighting for a just cause and felt justified to dish out verbal sword-thrusts. To NOT fight a war would have meant not to have let the connection be torn down and, for example, to put forward my ideas of Christmas as an affair for the heart.
At this point I would like to give a particular thank-you to those who took on organising the Christmas celebrations.
This example shows clearly the role of community in the transformation from a ‚seperated‘ behaviour to a ‚connected‘ one. People who can, from both sides, express what they think and see, can really accelerate this change.
We here now are also a huge community. You can, if you want, from time to time ask yourselves: does what I am now thinking serve war or peace?
I have talked a lot about overcoming powerlessness, about overcoming fear, about the meaning of community in the sense of a peace-building power. Now I would like to explore the significance of such a peace-building power between man and woman. I can only do that here in a limited way; this whole project has had this as a central point for decades. I would like to do it from the angle of looking at how the step to outer peacework was for me also a step forward in my innermost healing.
It is because the one thing affects the other that I gave this lecture the title ‚The Joy of Peace‘.
The confrontation with the pain of this world does not drive me to resignation, but towards a deepened consciousness of being alive, a deepened consciousness of being a woman, and to the growing naturalness, even urgence, of acting sensuously. I have this picture of a set of scales; with every person with whom I share a sensual situation, the worldwide balance shifts towards warmth and trust and away from cold and fear. This picture can be applied to every action and every thought.
The cold in the world drives my whole being to promote, wherever I can, warmth, sensual enojyment and a cellular trust. Sexual action arises from this naturally.
In history the repression of sexuality has, for example through the persecution and torture of witches in the Middle Ages, lead to the wiping out of trust on a cellular level. . Fear is registered as information in our body’s knowledge. I have known for brief moments this ‚Original Trust‘ from sensual and sexual situations. It is with this level of biological trust that a child, arisen out of sexual love, comes into the world and looks to us for his sensual home. In this sensual home nothing must be done and everything is allowed ‚to be‘. As adults we are also looking for this. This condition is the body’s and soul’s desire in which there is no more fear.
Next to this we find the other truth:
I am watching the pictures on the television. Young soldiers have been shot and they lie in mud and dust. I can often feel a connection with their bodies, their hands and arms and with that for which these were made. Not to destroy life, to pull the trigger and shoot, but for sensual contact with children, with girlfriends, with parents, with animals, with plants. I know what life is really there for and hence I have to take a stand.
As I participate more in the whole, which I am part of, the personal things which we call problems and take very seriously fall away. Does he love me? Do I still have a chance as I get older? Do others think the right thoughts about me? Etc. I now find such things to be time and energy wasting. I trust more and more that when I do what I want to do and need to do, then everything that I need will come without effort.
I am interested in the universal human being. As such, I follow my impulses, I follow the attraction to a man with a free spirit, with a simple, sensual perception, with a surrender to a cellular opening-up and trust. I am independent from a fixed fulfilment, and at the same time convinced that the whole sensual joy of the world is given to me as a present. Because it has a universal correctness, because I want it and because, in all simplicity and lightness, that is what I take care of. I freely go away from a man and trust that it won’t be long before I will meet this luck again.
Peacwork is the cultivation of joy, wherever it is. Politics, sexuality and love belong together.
With the fear fading away from me and with the growing connectedness, my inner ‘wider love’ can develop itself, a ‘wider love’ for everything that lives. This leads to an all-embracing consciousness in every core area of life. Religiously that could read: love and compassion are not divisible. There is only one Being.
Erotically it could read: sensual love is universal. Its role is to create the experience of cellular trust between people, between man and woman.
Politically that means: everyone counts who is aware of his true potential and actively takes part in the creation of a world community of all beings.
After these intimate themes, the focus now moves again to the outside world.
On the 7th January I will, so to say, take the training one step further. I will spend seven weeks in Peja in Kosovo. I will be working in a cultural centre, with the inner picture of bringing people together so that ‘connectedness’ and compassion can grow there as well, because I see this as the only medicine against the inner and outer cold, against fear and hatred, against hopelessness. I will have my toolkit with me: the spiritual toolkit that you now know, a community behind me, a body that is fit thanks to cold showers, good nutrition, human and male warmth and my belief in the goodness of humanity.
I invite you, on this last day of the century, to find a new determination to make the Earth into a home for us and for all beings. As all-embracing as you can feel.
Perhaps you can feel as far as to the women in South America who work in the banana plantations where the ground has been poisoned for decades by pesticides and whose wombs have become infertile because of that. And whose bananas we eat.
Perhaps you can feel for the dogs in Tirana. Their friends, humans, have abandoned them because of their own problems. Now the animals have formed packs again. Once a year the police are allowed to spend all night in a free-for-all dog-shoot. There are hundreds. Behind the police cars the lorries follow to load up the corpses.
May our revolutionary spirit awake again. May millions of people give up their participation in what we today call civilisation and decide once again to build the community of humanity, to build a life free from fear.
That is the most worthy aim which I know. This is what I mean when I speak from the "Joy of Peace".