Thinking outside the box in search of peace

Finding ways to peacefully resolve conflict is the mark of an evolved society. With the political climate such as it is, that can sometimes be difficult to remember. Certainly a glance at our nation’s leaders does little to set the example.

But there must be, today more than ever, a way for human beings to relate to one another honestly and express themselves appropriately. Forget the divisive rhetoric. Forget the name calling. Forget the hate speech. Forget the nonsense, for one, spewing from the president and all the president’s men on a daily basis.

Look, instead, toward those who have the tools, and know-how to use them, to help us solve our conflicts. 

We can look, for starters, to The Watershed Center right here in Millerton. The Watershed Center, according to its mission statement, “is a retreat and resource center for changemakers.”

It offers seminars, workshops and retreats “designed to help people align their lives with their own deepest sense of purpose, to strengthen the creative capacity of organizations and to facilitate strategic conversations in service of democracy, ecology and liberation.”

A Body-Based Conflict Transformation Workshop with Paul Linden will be held at The Watershed Center on March 3 through 5. The program is being organized by Bill Leicht, president and founder of the nonviolence group, Urban Visions. It is intended to figure out ways to communicate across political divides and engage in positive conversation with one another. 

The workshop is based on the principles of aikido, a nonviolent martial art, which Leicht described as a “way of being.”

According to the peacemaker, “What you practice and put into yourself is what comes out.”

The workshop at The Watershed Center will teach simple exercises anyone can follow and incorporate into their daily lives. The goal, of course, is to learn and practice how to peacefully resolve conflict — a must in our crazy world.

If only everyone could attend. President Trump, for one, would benefit from learning such skills. But as much as our leaders could take the cue from Leicht and workshop leader Linden, so could our friends and neighbors living close by.

We closed 2016 and began 2017 with reports of numerous anti-Semitic posters being hung throughout the region. If only the person(s) responsible were to seek out how to peacefully engage with others. Clearly, those who express through intimidation have a lot to learn.

For some, it’s not that extreme. Perhaps one struggles slightly with how to effectively communicate with those who have differing thoughts and opinions. Here’s an opportunity to learn how to do so.

Consider Leicht’s success brokering peace with some of the roughest, toughest gangs in the Bronx. He did that guided by a philosophy of using posture and movement as a form of expression. We all use and interpret body language — it can be pretty powerful. Being conscious of that reality can help when dealing with others.

This might sound a bit too alternative to some, but hopefully not. Communication is complicated, and is done both consciously and subconsciously. The more we are aware of, the better. Keeping an open mind is key. Hopefully, those who do will find that an open heart follows.

For more on The Watershed Center and its programs, go to www.thewatershedcenter.org. 

For more on the workshop this weekend, go to Page A1.