Tell me how you got started.
I’ve felt the calling toward peace work since age 7, but it really came to a head in 2005 when various peacemakers such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jesus and The Dalai Lama started making guest appearances in my meditations. When Masters like that show up, you pay attention to their messages! Ultimately, I was directed to volunteer on the effort to create a U.S. Department of Peace, to work with the Dalai Lama on a large compassion project called Seeds of Compassion and to then become Chief of Peace at The Shift Network.
What interests you most about what you’re doing now?
As can often happen with ambitious peacemakers, I reached a burnout phase that lead to a health crisis (i.e. cancer) that needed to be addressed STAT. So, I took a leave from my role as Chief of Peace to heal from cancer. In taking the time off to heal, I was reminded of the importance of always doing our inner peace work in order to sustain our bodies so we can be of service to the larger peace movement. The great news is that I was able to heal quickly and naturally from cancer and now I write about that healing journey as a path to personal peace in a blog/book called Holy Sit. While I might be sidelined from the big peace work for now, as Peace Officer in Training at Holy Sit, I can still be in service to others.
Through Holy Sit, I get to send a loud message to all of my fellow foot soldiers for peace; We don’t have to sacrifice our bodies for the job anymore! In fact, that model is outdated. When we do the internal peace work, the outer world reflects the truth of who we are, whether our peace work is with children, staying compassionate in a long line at the grocery store, or negotiating a peace treaty. By the way, internal peace is most definitely sexy!
What’s been your biggest accomplishment? Biggest challenge?
My biggest accomplishment thus far has been following the spiritual signs that gave me the honor of working with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He started showing up in my meditations in 2005 and encouraged me to work on the Department of Peace efforts, which I did. From there, in 2008, I was on the Executive Team that brought The Dalai Lama to Seattle, Washington for a 5-day event called Seeds of Compassion. Over 150,000 people attended the live events and were impacted by the messages of peace and compassion. Millions more read about it or viewed coverage of the events. I was very proud of what our team at Seeds of Compassion accomplished in such a short period of time. What we pulled off was miraculous. The highlight for me was putting a Peace Tag on The Dalai Lama after moderating a panel discussion with him and local philanthropists.
The biggest challenge was recovering from that compassionate event! It’s tough when your spiritual and professional worlds collide and you feel so on path that you don’t often know when to stop and give your human body a rest. I paid the price in health costs afterwards (due to that and a life-long habit of over-doing it for “the cause”.) But, the great news is, I’ve learned the lessons of how to be peaceful to myself in the process of bringing more peace and compassion to the world.
Who or what inspires you?
Jesus, The Dalai Lama, Gandhi, Mother Teresa and Martin Luther King. Lesser-known peace builders who have taught me such as Marianne Williamson, James O’Dea, YOU (Marianne Perez de Fransius of Peace is Sexy), Philip Hellmich, Avon Mattison, Dot Maver, Rita Marie Johnson, David Hazen, Susan Collin-Marks and anyone who has had the courage to hold a vision for and work for peace on the planet, also inspires me. It takes a tremendous amount of courage and tenacity to go against the norm and find nonviolent ways to address what is not working in our global society. And courage is sexy.
Brene Brown’s work on shame and vulnerability also inspires me. Her research and any work on emotional intelligence is incredibly important for the peace movement, especially the internal peace movement. As Marianne Williamson so aptly puts it: “The changes we need are both external and internal. We need to control the guns on our streets AND in our head. It’s not either/or; it’s both/and.”
Why is peace sexy to you? What does “Peace is Sexy” evoke for you?
If you’ve ever had a spouse or partner practice empathy with you, it can be about the sexiest, most connecting experience that two people can have. That to me is just downright sexy, not to mention sweet. Another way peace is sexy is that it takes strength of character and confidence to compassionately address societal issues in a nonviolent way. Nothing is sexier than a smart, centered, confident, peace activist who comes to the table with a new and creative solution to a significant conflict. I think of Gandhi who used nonviolence as a strategy bringing independence to India. I think of Azim Khamisa visiting his son’s murderer in prison and forging a new future with the grandfather of his son’s killer. I think of the young boy at school who started wearing glasses because the other boys were making fun of “Joshua” who wore glasses. I think of Bradley Cooper, well, um, just because I like to think of Bradley Cooper and the question was about what is sexy, right?
Diversion aside, as my friend and fellow peace activist, Carrie Morgan says, “Sexy is about life and power; and as history has shown, there is power in standing still in the face of crazy.”
What is a simple thing you do to create peace? What is something you do everyday?
“God before technology” is my morning mantra! I practice prayer and mindfulness meditation every day to get myself centered and more able to calmly address my busy day. I also practice mindful consumption. What I put into my body must be kind and peaceful to my body. What I consume with my eyes and ears is nonviolent. I scan headlines to stay up to speed on current events, but I rarely watch full news coverage as it can really sensationalize violence. How I make buying purchases also reflects my values as a Peace Officer in Training. I have to sit/meditate/do yoga regularly in order to hear my internal guidance a.k.a. peace orders, large and small. I don’t think that’s just a coincidence.
How would you like Peace is Sexy to make a difference in what you are up to?
Your role in opening up the paradigm and definition of peace is a huge contribution. Continuing to interview people who reflect the full spectrum of peace, from inner to international. I have always believed that peace can be profitable, so the more we expand people’s views of what is possible with peace whether it’s through the market place or our political discourse, the better. Also, please keep doing anything that can help quantify peace. The work that Steve Killelea is doing to measure peace is the evidence we need to influence major corporate and political leaders.
Where would you like to see your passion go in the next 10 years? 20 years? 100 years?
First, since I’m based in the United States, I’d like to see the U.S. get more honest about our violence epidemic. When 20 children ages 6 and 7 years old are gunned down in an elementary school, it’s a horrific reflection of a larger societal issue. We have a serious problem in the U.S. and this is just one of many ways it’s reflected outwardly. It will continue to escalate if we don’t get honest about the elephant in the room (i.e. access to guns).
In 10 years, I want there to be an active U.S Department of Peace. I think there are strategies we have not yet employed that would better engage our political officials in making this vision a reality in the next 5-10 years. I’d love to be a part of re-framing how we think about and create a U.S. Department of Peace.
Within 20 years, I’d like to see peace and mindfulness practices integrated fully into our school curriculum, parenting classes and employee manuals. We cannot possibly be peace builders internationally when we are still serious bullies with each other here at home. I’m not just talking about gun violence or bullying in schools. I’m talking about domestic violence as well as the bullying and overpowering that goes on and is culturally accepted in the workplace. We have to address all of our systems and the current unskillful ways we deal with inevitable conflict. Of course the common denominator is the individual. We must bring tools to each individual so that they know how to be peaceful and can bring that to all aspects of their life.
In 100 years, I’ll be dead and there will be peace on earth. I’ll be hovering above the planet, wearing my peace t-shirt and smiling.
Is there anything else you want to tell us?
Yes, I humbly invite you to check out Holy Sit where I write about spiritual awakening, healing from cancer (without traditional surgery or chemotherapy) and finding personal peace in a chaotic world. A recent blog, Making Peace with Dis-Ease will definitely speak to the Peace is Sexy audience.
Thank you for what you are doing!