"Our power to empower is perhaps the most important role we can play in the 21st century. The more individuals who feel empowered to work in their own systems for peace and conflict transformation, the closer the world comes to that critical mass that will allow for a massive leap of consciousness, allowing new processes for peace that were previously unimaginable to become normative, and easy." – Louise Diamond
Transformation is the name of the game with Dr. Louise Diamond. When I met her in the mid-1970s, she was Louise Lindner, a psychotherapist in Burlington, Vermont. Although her work with my mother was very important in my life, the most profound impact came when I visited her in the hospital when she had cancer. Yet, the courage and joy with which she lived her life in those stark circumstances inspired and aided me immeasurably when I was later called upon to serve as a death midwife for my father. Confronted with death, she strove to be "full of joy, full of love, full of peace."
When I ran across her again, she was Louise Sunfeather, a member of Sunray Meditation Center pursuing Native American and Buddhist studies. As a presenter at a peace conference, she led a guided meditation, one of the first I experienced. Following the exercise, as workshop participants shared their visions of the future, I was impressed by how closely those visions coincided. Mine was a bucolic scene in which children played happily and safely in an unpolluted world, surrounded by a loving community.
Vision is critical to the way Louise lives her life. In a near death experience during her bout with cancer, she experienced "a great spiritual awakening. I made a commitment to be fully alive in however many moments I had in my life," she says in her soft-spoken manner. "In learning to live that way, I discovered that the natural world became my teacher. I knew that I was here on purpose, for a purpose."
Further divine inspiration led to her current work. She was told "by Creator to take what I know about healing to the international level." As a result, she co-founded the Institute for Multi-Track Diplomacy (IMTD) in Washington, DC, served as its president for 12 years, and worked extensively in the Middle East, Bosnia, Cyprus, and elsewhere.
One of the most important questions she asks people now is "why are you here?" She doesn’t refer simply to whatever mediation process is underway, but also to people’s everyday lives. We must, she believes, have a strong sense of our purpose. And when we get in touch with our truest selves, "we know in our hearts that there is a better way, the spirit of peace. We’re programmed for peace because we’re spiritual beings. We know there’s just one of us, and that one is divine." This is the first of four spiritual lessons she believes that peacebuilders must live by.
This inner sense of what is right informs our intuitive knowledge that the current social patterns of domination aren’t. Louise contends that because they’re out of synch with our true natures, these oppressive systems will crumble, are crumbling. "We have colluded in perpetuating systems that aren’t right," she explains. "It is time to find a different way." She argues that "the dominant system is destroying itself. The rise in violence is an indication of that, a last ditch stand" of the old order.
In a recent talk, she laid out the spiritual principles she’s discovered on her journey. They are further elaborated in her latest book, The Courage for Peace: Daring to Create Harmony in Ourselves and the World (Conari Press), which describes basic tools for everyday peace building. It invites "readers to choose peace as a way of life and to turn that choice into action."
"Humanity is on the verge of a peace revolution," declares Louise. We are in the midst of a "transformation of consciousness" that began with the civil rights movement, feminism, environmentalism, and holistic health, and is now poised to bring peace into our collective lives if we are ready to invest in the opportunity to be peacebuilders.
The second spiritual lesson is that we belong to each other in the interrelated web of existence. "When we understand how truly and deeply we belong to each other, the Ôother’ disappears," she says. "Our work as peacebuilders is to climb around that mountain of lies" we’ve created about the "other" so that "we can really see each other."
The key to this is relating to others with an open heart. "Our hearts have hardened against people who have hurt us so the natural flow of love can’t move." She explains that in her work, she is successful only when she can keep her heart open, and in the face of the tragedies she has witnessed, "sometimes the only way I can do that is to let my heart break." Louise notes that we help create our own realities, and asks us to look at what we are creating when we are operating from a place of fear instead of love.
The third spiritual tool of peace is knowing that "love is the glue that can mend what is broken." It’s not that there isn’t a place for anger in a world of peace. "It’s important that some people will say with righteous anger, ÔThis is not okay.’ That form of anger can have a very important role to play. To express anger is important … and then let it go. To hang on to it is to do violence."
The UN declared this year to be the International Year for the Culture of Peace, which will be followed by a Decade for a Culture of Peace and Nonviolence for the Children of the World. Louise is making a commitment to do whatever she can to build that culture of peace, and invites us to join the effort.
The fourth principle is that "we are peacebuilders in every moment." That commitment to peace requires creativity in the form of creative problem solving, and a great deal of courage, the raison d’etre of her book’s title. "Peace is not for wimps," she warns. "Peace takes courage." Courage, she reminds us, is a word that derives from coeur, the French word for "heart," and "courage is about the heart."
Dian Mueller is TF’s associate editor. Louise Diamond is the educational director and training supervisor of the Peacekeeper Mission, sponsored by Sunray Meditation Society, and author of Multi-Track Diplomacy: A Systems Approach to Peace with Ambassador John McDonald. She will teach peacebuilding at the June 2000 session of Conflict Transformation Across Cultures (CONTACT) in Brattleboro. The Courage to Peace is available through the Sunray Tapes and Literature catalog, www.sunray.org/Catalog/catalog.html.