Jill Stoffers began her time with us on Monday morning with a 5 minute silent meditation. When she offered this time to us, I smiled. Just an hour earlier I had engaged in my morning practice of at least 10 minutes of silence meditation. This quiet time of centering myself is a way I calm myself and/or “connect” to myself every day. For me, this practice is about prayer and centering myself in my relationship with God. Several weeks ago, when I was meditating, the phrase, “Peace, be still (Mark 4:39)” came into my heart.
( This is an icon of Jesus I often meditate with when I am at home.)
“Peace, be still” has been a phrase that has helped me prepare for this course in a number of ways. At first, breathing this phrase both in my morning meditation and throughout my day, helped me to navigate the variety of projects in Connecticut I was trying to complete before flying to Monterey. Since I have arrived, this phrase has been a way for me to stay focused on the question on my heart which is, “How can I be the peacebuilder I believe I am called to be?” I am here to learn tools and deepen my awareness of the peacebuilding work of others.
The phrase, “Peace, be still” also helps me reflect on my own story as it slows me down and helps put me in a place of self-reflection. One of the tools that we talked about in class was the importance of being aware of our own values and what has informed those values. This is a lens through which I will engage in my peacebuilding work. From a place of self-reflection I can honestly look at my own values and how they are informed by my personal history and by a variety of systems including my family of origin and my faith. In some instances these values are reinforced by one another and sometime my values are more aligned with one system than another.
One of the tools we looked at on Monday was the Conflict Management Styles Assessment. When I did the assessment, I learned that my conflict management style is a blend of Accommodating and Compromising. This was followed very closely by Collaborating. In my family of origin I would say that the conflict management style was/is Avoiding. I have worked very intentionally to move away from this style. My faith informs my Accommodating Style because I place a high value on relationships. I believe God became flesh in Jesus Christ, showing God’s desire to be in relationship with humanity. I treasure my relationship with God and seek to share God’s love through my relationships with others. I place a high value on relationships. The Compromising Style is, I believe, the weigh station for me between Avoiding (my learned behavior) and seeking to be Collaborating. The Collaborating Style values relationships and yet also seeks to find solutions that satisfy both parties. At this point, I will occasionally sacrifice my personal goals for a situation to keep the relationship. I continue to build toward the skill of addressing conflict by Collaborating rather than Compromising. While I am not troubled by the fact I occasionally do this, I see this an opportunity for continued growth.
On Monday we also talked about the importance of a mediator “listening with” rather than “listening from above.” This was an important point for me as we moved into learning about needs and interests. The article we read about needs informed us that “If needs were not satisfied there would be costly conflicts. Inherent needs for recognition, identity and security ( more a physiological security then a physical one) were emphasized (Violence Explained, Chapter 4, Needs Theory, by John Burton p.36). One of the ways that I tap into my own needs of identity, recognition and security is by asking myself the questions, “Who am I?” “Am I seen?” and “Am I safe?”. If I am in a context where I do not feel like I am able to tap into my personhood, or feel like I am not being seen by others or I do not feel safe, then I feel as though my needs are not being met. I have found tools to help me find answers to these 3 questions which help me feel that my needs are being met. I have a mantra that says, “I am a loved child of God and God sees me and values me.” Tapping into these truths, I can find my agency for getting to a safe space internally even if I can not do so externally. Having this awareness within myself can help me to “listen with” people whose needs are not being met.
I have several tools that I believe help people feel that their needs for identity, security and recognition are met during the institutional meetings I oversee. One of my goals is to learn ways to build capacity for these peacebuilding tools to be used in the places and settings where the conflict is being played out on a regular basis.