Today we transition from the MIIS Monterey campus to Mt. Madonna Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Watsonville. For this final blog of the second week, I pause to give thanks for the days now past that have left an indelible mark. Our sessions have not been without their challenges but each has been guided by someone with academic or practitioner expertise that has enlightened, taught and formed us. Dr. Iyer has masterfully brought the right people in the room, building session upon session for our comprehensive learning of the content of Conflict Studies. Likewise our sessions yesterday gave us some space to process the emotions and inner response that comes along with the intensity of this experience, which can be, at times, quite traumatic. Even as observers, students of conflict and Peacebuilding, one cannot be completely separate or objective from the pain, trauma and human toll being explored. The whole human experience is precisely the reason for engaging the topic. As we seek to work for peace we must also find it within ourselves.

I am grateful for Prabha Sankaranarayan who yesterday brilliantly taught by example how one can lead a small group, using our personal experiences to teach “People Centered Peace” and mediation techniques. After a week of an intense look at the criminal justice system, the sacred space created was a blessing.

Joan Blades of Living Room Conversations added to our learning of how to communicate across sensitive and polarizing topics. We were reminded of the power of grassroots conversations to mobilize the average citizen for daily Peacebuilding that can contribute to important social change.

Finally, my deepest gratitude is for my colleagues, an exceptionally bright and capable group of people committed to working in this field. Each comes with a powerful personal story, insights and experiences that has offered me so much already. I am grateful for their roll in my own formation these past two weeks.

We begin now our final week of the course, but reflection on the enormous amount of content will go on for a long time!