A Real-World Peacebuilder

I want to start off with a blog that I recently found from my old MySpace. This was written July 18, 2007, just a few days before I turned 17:

This summer has changed me.

I said that same thing last summer.

Last summer did change me.

It was a crazy summer.

I felt this confidence I had never felt before.

I also felt so carefree.

It was a great summer.

I was different.

But this summer… I am different.

Even more different.

I don’t even know if I can explain it.

I admire people that speak their mind. [sometimes]

And I have had a lot of people speak their minds to me this summer.
At first I take it hard. It hurts

I am a sensitive person and I can’t change that. [blame my father]

But then, I turn the criticism into something constructive.

So then, I make it change my life for the better instead of crippling me.

I really would love to start working with different charities.

Focusing on different things that don’t deal with me.

We have one life.

Are we going to spend it on ourselves?

Or are we going to out there and make ourselves be remembered by the impact we are leaving on this world?

Please forgive the imperfection of it all and thank you for following my young mind. It was actually a very long blog with a lot more to it but the introduction is enough to make my point.

In reading this blog, I thought of all the various summer time experiences I have had that have changed me. I can’t tell you exactly what was happening during the summer of my 17th year but I do know the thought processes I was going through because I seem to have a pattern occurring in my life.

Even as I was about to turn 17, I was critical of myself and listened to criticisms others had of me. I was in this pursuit of wanting to make a positive impact of the world and was in a deep sense of questioning how I was going to do that.

Let’s flash-forward to the summer of 2018 (11 summers later) and here I am doing the same thing. As I read through the blogs that I wrote during SPP, I was in a deep sense of questioning the impact my being was having on the world. I was in a constant state of questioning my downfalls and strengths in relation to what we discussed and learned about during the day. I was consistently inspired daily by the type of work and people we learned about, and here I was again wondering what kind of impact I was going to have on this world after graduate school.

In the Fall, I was able to work in a position that focused on healing and reconciliation practices. I dove into a meaty library of books that focused on forgiveness and reconciliation, white allyship, leadership, European history & ancestry, as well as some literature focusing on New Mexico history, all with the hopes to create a curriculum that would help support community leaders embarking on community reconciliation practices.

This is a list of a few books that inspired me and the curruiculum, and that I greatly recommend:

  • The Book of Forgiving by Desmond Tutu & Mpho Tutu
  • Building Peace by John Paul Lederach
  • Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown
  • The Biological Mind by Alan Jasanoff
  • The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
  • Practice Showing Up by Jardana Peacock
  • This Will Be My Undoing by Morgan Jenkins
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

In the end, I felt like I developed myself more than I developed any curriculum. This was an emotional time for me as I read through history and people’s narratives. Some narratives were hard to read as I questioned if other around me felt the same way some of the authors did, and I had no idea. Other histories were hard to learn about as it debunked aspects of history I had recognized as truth. These books inspired me to, yet again, look inward and find my short-fallings. They made me question if I even had the ability to do anything good or if I was just stuck in a system where my actions automatically created there to be negative effects on others.

In December, I walked as a graduate at Middlebury, still unsure of what I was meant to do or where I even wanted to go.

​Here I am now on March 21, 2019 where I have just wrapped up two days of interviews for jobs in different countries, one in Haiti and the other in Chad, after about a million applications. Here I am again questioning if I am prepared to enter the world and leave that positive impact I’ve been searching for since as teenager. Is that even possible? What mistakes am I going to make? Am I really the best person to be working with these communities? Am I going to create more harm than good? Am I ready?

My answer to all of these questions is: As long as I never quit reflecting, questioning myself, listening to others, or striving to learn from the impacts I do make, I will remain ready. These are qualities that I believe make a real-world peacebuilder. Maybe I even began the embodiment of a peacebuilder since I was 17 after all.

Lessons Learned in Peacebuilding

Our final session was interacting with Fambul Tok, a program in Sierra Leone that looked to reduce conflict between civil war actors in the war torn country. The entire session was very emotionally heavy as we saw videos and heard stories of children being flung around and smashed into the ground, of girls being raped by family members, of children killing their parents and loved ones. For me, this really upset me as the actions partaken by the people in the country directly went against some of my prime core values, and I couldn’t understand how even though these actions were taken place, and the peace process showed community members coming together, how almost easy it seemed for forgiveness and then amicability moments after was possible.

What really struck me about this session was the role play we had enduring the afternoon. We were assigned roles within a region in the country that had a history of conflict between two groups and had to develop action plans and coordinate with our various adjacents and subordinates regarding partnership and actions. What struck me during the presentation was the level of abosolute disconnect between us at the top, and those at the community level who were being affected by our designs and projects. There was no communication between the community groups and the national organizations, and a lot of our actions were built off the scripts we were given and not the actual needs of the people. What happened were plans developed that did not match their needs and would cause them more harm than they would good.


A lot of this mirrored the way real world peacebuilding and development can go. The lack of inclusion between local communities, the in pouring of top-down approaches within a country or region seen needed the most help, and the disconnect even between adjacents in terms of what was provided, true roles enacted by the organizations. It was a real eye opener for me to be careful of falling into the trap that development and donor dependency usually fosters, and causing more harm to communities that I intend to serve. As I continue my journey into peacebuilding, I must constantly be aware of this and try my best to be mindful of the community’s needs and desires by asking the community themselves and not assessing based off a case study – that to me is how agency will be best cultivated.

Understanding My Shortcomings: Gender

In our session with Dr. Sujarta Moorti we explored the multi-faceted continuum that is gender, and how that has reflected in peacebuilding and the field of conflict resolution. As soon as the session begun I was learning new things that I never really considered too much, and the longer we were in class the more I seemed to realize that gender was relatively unexplored through most of my life, and how much more I needed to explore.

I identity as a male, and associate the cis male pronouns and identity with myself. The concept of what it meant to be male, and how that is ‘signaled’, was something I’ve never really explored in this context. I knew that society frames our perceptions about gender, but I didn’t realize the scope and scale of the scripting and coding of gender into our society until seeing how the difference between children’s advertisements are displayed. It also challenged perceptions I had of the session going into it. While I consider myself pretty fluid in terms of gender roles and norms, I found myself having to push back on instilled codes and scripts during our morning exercise, as well as the general assumption that ‘gender’ would be a discussion of mainly women in conflict and peacebuilding, when in reality it would be about the men too and how patriarchy creates such a narrow frame of expression.

This session has been very helpful in helping me explore gender as a study and lens to operate. I am still not very comfortable utilizing this lens as I have not fully grasped the total complexity that gender and I’ve had the privilege to not have to grapple too much with the binaries of gender to have to confront the lens. I think more interaction with gender will be beneficial for me in the long run and I look forward to exploring them in depth in the future.

Gender roles


When we talk of feminism, we generally shift all the focus onto the female gender. However, what we don’t realize is, what exactly are we referring to when we say the female gender? Here is where I think it is important to distinguish between gender and sex. One of the biggest misconceptions in the English language is that gender and sex are often used interchangeably. However, they do resort to two different concepts. Sujata Moorti, our speaker, was able to shine some light on this matter. When we say sex, we are talking about the sex a person identifies with. It could be masculine or feminine or even a little bit of each. What then is gender?

Gender is a socially constructed concept and role that is built around the sex of a person. Now, where lies the problem is, the way we deal with gender and sex is, we don’t wait for people to identify with a sex and then ascribe a gender role. We instead, identify whether a person is a boy or a girl the second they are born (using the human body as an indicator) and then start training and teaching them to fit the stereotype of their genders. Boys are trained on “masculine” traits and girls are trained on “feminine” traits, and a mix of either or is shunned.

The whole idea through ancient history of men only doing certain kinds of work and women only doing certain kinds of work was inspired originally by the idea of division of labor. A house had to be run, and so men and women would divide up the work. Stemming from that original division of labor, we now have stereotypes constructed around what women should be doing and what men should be doing. What people fail to see is both these activities are structurally dependent on each other. Without either or activity, “the house” / society would fall apart. So where then did this notion of “more important” work versus “less important” work come from?

Now to bring gender into this and constructed societal narratives. They say women are meant for certain kinds of work especially those associated with nurturing and caring and are associated with being petite, delicate, mannered, polite, etc. But men on the other hand are big and strong and they build things and are the head of the family and are the bread winner. Focusing on only these prescribed and expected qualities and characteristics leads to an immense deficit and poverty of capabilities for both men and women. Both masculine and feminine characteristics need to be embraced irrespective of the gender to have a whole all encompassing development of oneself, allowing one to liberate their potential and talent. In the peacebuilding field a wise person told us, men are appreciated for their feminine qualities and ability to empathize with populations, however, if a woman expresses these same feminine qualities, it is assumed that these qualities were already “naturally” in her, when actually these are qualities instilled in her. One the other hand, women are not appreciated for their masculine traits that they might possess and exhibit, limiting again their potential and talent.

The only way we can break this deeply constructed narrative is if we touch into the everyday life and slowly start breaking the narrative with better more enlightening narratives that have a better connection to the truth. We can use these narratives as teaching moments.

Here is the link to an Advertisement, that is a good example of how we can use teaching moments to break the stereotypical narratives and start building new better ones:


Violence, a disease?

In one of our sessions, we had the opportunity of meeting Richard Matthews in the field of Peacebuilding and his specialty was connecting the dots between violence and health. He introduced us to a very unique way of looking at violence i.e. violence as a disease. We all talk of violence and how there are so many different contributing factors to a conflict and how intricately complex it is. But when you think of violence as a disease, it makes sense. For example:

Model: Susceptibility          Infection          recovery

If you treat violence as a disease, you are made aware of the fact that most of the people who behave violently or participate in violent acts have been victims of violence themselves or have been around violence a numerous amount of times. In this sense, they were susceptible to violence. After exposure to violence again and again, they start exhibiting that same behavior or other reactive forms of behavior (in reaction to the violence they have been exposed to) that qualify as violent. In other words, you can say that they are infected. Once infected, they perpetuate this violent cycle that then makes others susceptible to it and eventually infected and so on and so forth. And then, the system is victim to a cascading effect.

Kazu Haga, “Hurt people hurt people.”

If one were to recover from a disease, you have prescriptions and medicines given by doctors or specialists in the field of medicine. In a similar sense, to recover from violence you have various prescriptions and medicines. For example, if violent behavior is being expended by a person who has had a violent traumatizing past, the diagnosis could be trauma and one of the medicines could be trauma-healing along with other forms of behavior change tools.

Where then does peacebuilding come in in the midst of all of this? It is at these junctures or middle grounds, where a person moves from one stage to another, that peacebuilders can instigate change through their area of study or expertise. However, how do we go about garnering the support for these movements and motivating investments to access the resources required for these programs? How do we attract public/ societal investment?

In my opinion, the key is in susceptibility. People, society, in today’s reality address the disease of violence with a shunning attitude. They want to be safe and keep their loved ones safe and so the action of removing the violence from the environment is equated with removing the people with the disease and putting them in “quarantine” (Jail/ prison). However, the people already infected with this disease are in the millions, locking them up (as discussed in my blog earlier) will only intensify the symptoms of this disease, making society more prone to susceptibility of violence. The only solution here as we say in peacebuilding is, getting down to the roots of it, and eradicating the disease instead of the people with the disease. Once people understand that, they will start to be more invested in this approach. Touching in a way on the concept of pragmatic pluralism, we need to understand that we all, i.e. all of us members in society have our role to play and bring different contributions to the table. We are all structurally interdependent on each other maintaining a good balance in society, facilitating sound functioning of said society. However, the second pockets of society and individuals start resorting to violence and disrupting the balance, the whole of society is affected by it. Only once we as a society can acknowledge this idea and accept it, can we move forward in effectively combating violence.

Kazu Haga, “ The challenge is to build compassion for the not beloved in community.  One’s liberation is bound to another.”

Space and liberal peacebuilding:


In the field of peacebuilding, or just in general our everyday life, I think we take for granted the spaces that we have at our disposal and the spaces we are allowed to use. In this session led by Guntram Herb, we were able to dig deep into how spaces and their arrangement or presence or even absence play a huge role in our everyday lives and are more often than not the sources of conflict or lack thereof.

The four types of space we were acquainted with in our session were:

Space as Facilitator

Spatial barriers

Formal Spaces

Everyday spaces

How do we then tie the concept of spaces in with peacebuilding to help us analyze or understand a conflict and then go about addressing it? The article by Benstead, “Saving Liberal Peacebuilding from itself,” talks about how liberal peacebuilding has manifested into a structure that goes into conflict zones, with a more or less “one size fits all” model for the situation at hand and applies it, without any extra emphasis on sustainability or context. This is where liberal peacebuilding is failing itself, but the structures are so prominent and any change to it would involve massive restructuring, that for the most part it has stayed the same throughout.

When we combine the idea of spaces we realize liberal peacebuilding as per the critique, is invested in these formal spaces and tries to eliminate spatial barriers through formal spaces when in fact formal spaces do not really impact everyday people or communities on a regular basis, enough to implement a change for behavior change. In that case, Benstead introduces the concept of the everyday life, and that’s where peacebuilding should be focusing, to impact and potentially improve the everyday of these people and this can be done through everyday spaces. Everyday spaces can serve as a “shared space” where people are not sharing these spaces consciously but more unconsciously, helping them connect with one other and reduce tensions and animosities without any conscious efforts. We should not be looking at eliminating spatial barriers specifically, but instead, creating and holding everyday spaces which in and of itself disintegrates these barriers.

Another angle to look at from the idea of the everyday life is, we interact with our environment on an everyday basis. Therefore, tying in peacebuilding in an everyday space for the everyday life can be achieved even better by tying in or making the environment and gender un removable factors from the process of peacebuilding. Addressing these factors as a complex system and not individually will lead to a better overall environment for the people, making it a sustainable ongoing process to address conflicts. In other words, a multi-pronged approach.

Another important idea I would like to touch upon is the notion of a digital space. Nowadays, with the heavy usage of social media and such platforms and dependency on technology, it is safe to contest that this is a very powerful platform. This platform can be used to build impactful spaces on a large scale and at the same time being extremely cost efficient. It could almost qualify as a fifth categorization of space.

Sisterhood – an ideal that is not upheld

We were treated to an illuminating session which focused on scripts of gender roles — they influence almost every aspect of what we see on a daily basis. It becomes an invisible force that tell us what is natural for men and women. It is also a force that is extremely constrictive due to the associated character traits and assumptions that define how men and women should act. We attempted to discuss spaces in society that exist as gender free zones – that are not laden with gender roles and scripts that shape what we believe to be normal. We were hard pressed to come up with anything. Our speaker for the day, Sujata even highlighted that bic pens invented a pen just for women, naturally it is pink and purple, glittery, and has a cushion for the fingers. It sounded so ridiculous that even pen production has become gendered, but ideas like this one infiltrate the advertising world. Sujata pointed out that it is evidence that these gender scripts are working when we are not critical of them. It was an important reminder of the need to ask questions in order to be resistant – a theme that applies to our gendered norms and far beyond.

Through learning about 2nd wave feminism, we saw how it focuses on equity and equality, and brought ideas about education and employment access for women in view. It is important to always seek to recognize the layers of power dynamics at play. The idea of ‘benevolent sisterhood’ that arose during 2nd wave feminism sought to bring these ideas to a global scale, but there was pushback about how this negates social realities. Benevolent sisterhood steps into a realm of overreach, as it assumes that the experience of a privileged white woman has inherent similarities to the experience of a woman of color. Although we have a tendency to recognize humanity’s differences as opposed to similarities, we have to be careful to not make assumptions about experiences completely different from one’s own. Claiming sisterhood with women for whom we are the colonizer, oppressor, and an imperialist power has real consequences for overlooking realities that we have no experience with. It is another example of where we need to be learning, through hearing voices that are not traditionally heard, and acknowledging privileges in order to address the silencing of many groups in society.

A theme throughout our course has been creating positive peace instead of negative peace. Positive peace is a long process, an objective that sometimes feels impossible, an effort to create justice as opposed to silences. Seeking positive peace aims for equity for all, and requires an ethic that is adopted and worked at constantly. Is it an ethic we are ready to fully embrace? It has real consequences for how we view the world, our work, our interactions…everything. If we aren’t working for positive peace, what are we doing that we see as more worthwhile? Or is it just something easier? Today’s session exposed another powerful example of the spectrum of voices in the world that are distorted. Using a feminist perspective to redefine peace, power and justice challenges us to rethink these power dynamics, and believe that they can be transformed through a long journey toward equity.

The need for humanity in peacebuilding

Through these three weeks, we have learned how the field of peacebuilding has become separated from the nations, individuals, communities, and places that it seeks to influence. It is another one of the great ironies of international work and the reality of how our societies function. The work of peacebuilding and development has come to be something that is planned in sterile offices and mapped without a sense of place, and connection to the geography, history and social context. This is a recipe for…well, not success. It might feel like we are so distant from the real answers to a more peaceful society, but they are often so much more accessible than we believe them to be. We need to access the immense ability to bring peace, development and health to communities, as the opportunity is frequently lying in wait – ready to for its potential to spread.

On our final day of SPP class, we had the opportunity to learn about a reconciliation process called Fambul Tok (meaning family talk), which is an effort to reintegrate communities in the wake of the devastating civil war in Sierra Leone. Fambul Tok invokes the power of local traditions in order to incorporate values of forgiveness and community healing. Through a series of hundreds of bonfires across the country, thousands of perpetrators of violence and victims have had to opportunity to unweight the burden of what they have experienced and what they feel. The documentary is a powerful example of the human capacity value the potential that each person has, even when they make horrible mistakes.

We have spent many sessions discussing the need to illuminate the voices of those that are closest to the issues of conflict, and have them lead the conversation about how to make change. This film and discussion took that lesson to the next level as it showed us the power that local initiatives have in recognizing the deeply rooted values, and incorporating creative and impactful strategies that recognize these values and human nature. We do the world a disservice every time we think that Western knowledge and development is superior. Even without having this explicit thought, there are so many ways that this is integrated into our biases, learning, everyday lives, and the way we were raised. This field needs to recognize where we can do more learning and less telling, and utilize resources to spread innovative ideas to the national level. Recognizing and unleashing this opportunity seems quite simple – but systems have a way of isolating the knowledge and potential that we need to implement real solutions.

I am a white, settler colonialist…

Our speaker Guntram Herb exhibited great knowledge, interest, and valorization for indigenous cultures. One of the initial sentences that he spoke was this blog’s title… It made a statement about the need to recognize who you are and where you come from. His explicit ownership of being a white, settler colonialist invited an openness in recognizing the limitations of one’s experience, and associated opportunity to expose the silence on cultures that have not been allowed to share their voices and histories. It is to the great detriment of all people when the perspective on the human experience is flattened, and actions selectively erase cultures and societies that are deemed to be inferior or disposable.

When I previously worked as a history teacher overseas, my students pointed out how I sought to weave aspects of recognizing the colonial legacy and its deeply damaging perspective into a variety of conversations and lessons. I once created a mock trial involving Namibia’s colonizers, which sought to allow for students to recognize the psychological aspect of colonialism. I was quite pleased when our class judge found the colonizers guilty for their crimes against humanity, and wished our education system would more broadly emphasize how colonialism is still alive in societies across the world. I’ve had the opportunity to live with indigenous families in South America and the 4 corners region, and have been fortunate to be able to hear some of the infinite stories, histories, and knowledge. Guntram introduced his session with a recognition of the fact that we are on Ohlone land, and California has a deeply devastating history of colonization. I was disappointed in myself that I have very limited knowledge of the Spanish mission system, and how the indigenous people of this region have been subjected to structures of erasure and silencing. It can be easy for me to become passionate about how systems of inequality work overseas, but I have not held myself accountable to using the same lens when I am walking through Monterey.

Further research taught me that thousands of Ohlone people lived on California’s central coast prior to the arrival of Spanish colonizers in the 1700’s. Monterey was home to one of the first missions in what came to be called King’s Road – missions from what is now San Francisco to San Diego. The process of converting and assimilating the indigenous population (known as neophytes) involved profiting off of their forced labor. The missions served as slave plantations, nearly exterminating the captive indigenous population. The starvation, disease and hard labor that decimated them is fairly well documented by historians, but their findings are not well known. The missions are normally depicted as friars and Native Americans living side by side and happily helping one another. Upon a quick google search for Monterey historical attractions, the first description I came across was “The history of Monterey is part of its charm…” It is a disturbing phrase showing how we choose to depict a violent history. The California Mission Preservation Act of 2004 approved $10 million in grants to restore 21 Californian missions, which draw in millions of visitors each year. It is an example of how settler colonialism continues to act upon us, through sharing the stories that we find to be more convenient, and it is easier to overlook the terrible truths. We have learned throughout many sessions that systems work in ways that become invisible – they are accepted as normal, and we fail to notice how they influence our psyche. I must be more conscious and critical of the subtle and unsubtle ways that systems of silencing continue around us every day.

When we visit or learn about a mission, we must think about what stories are not shared

I am also a white, settler colonialist. Our society has heard the voices of my relatives while intentionally ignoring so many others. That is no excuse for passive acceptance of these structures, it is complicity in violence. Settler colonialism is the most devastating type of colonialism, it goes beyond exploitation for economic benefit. It seeks to eliminate the colonized and replace them with the colonizers. We also need to recognize that incorporating values and views that have been hidden is integral to aligning our unsustainable societies with a better way forward. The effects of settler colonialism are ongoing, and we have a moral mandate in order to recognize the histories and knowledge that we have systematically ignored. The Western world has strayed so far from respect for all living beings, the Earth, and communities. We become focused on our every man for themselves mentality, gobbling up more private property, and arming our national borders. We forget that this is not natural, it is not the only way of organizing a society. There is a more considerate, sustainable, and deeply undervalued culture and way of viewing the world that lies in indigenous communities. We have a great deal of work to do as individuals and a society to make changes that reflect an acknowledgement of the cultures and communities that colonialism continues to disappear.

Mirror, Mirror

Mirrors are tricky things…you can pick out every flaw that you notice about your reflection; or, you can choose to see all the potential that you bring into this world. Everyone is attached to himself or herself, meaning – to one’s values.  Sometimes, for one reason or another (to our chagrin) we betray our own values.  That doesn’t necessarily make us bad people.  It just makes us human.  The ability to check oneself, see things from a bird’s eye view, and forgive – that is transcendence to another type of existence.  Forgiveness is a powerful tool; but sometimes, we must also forgive because we literally have no other choice.  To say that burdens are heavy to bear is a vast understatement. 

If you are unfamiliar with the story behind the decade-long war in Sierra Leone, I invite you to do a quick Google search. You’ll likely see footage of “blood diamond” mining, child soldiers, and tragedy in all forms imaginable.  Could you ever forgive someone for throwing around your baby & smashing them into the ground?  For raping your mother and cutting her head off afterwards?  For burning your loved one alive in front of your eyes?  Not many could, you may think; but…some have.  Now, I also recommend you seek out and watch the film, “Fambul Tok.” This is a miraculous example showing communities who have come together after experiencing tragedy about which words cannot even come close to doing justice. There is a proverb in Sierra Leone, which roughly means, “there is no bad bush to throw away a bad child.”  Instead of exiling, seeking revenge against, or even murdering with their own hands the ones who committed crimes against humanity (which maybe no one would blame them for doing)…instead, through the program “Fambul Tok,” they call back war criminals to testify to their victims around a bonfire, in order to begin the process of restorative justice and ultimate acceptance back into the community.   This a program cultivates & catalyzes the embedded, absolutely miraculous culture of forgiveness that the people of Sierra Leone already have to spark an extraordinary process of forgiveness, which no truth commission could ever do in the same way.  It also begs the question though, what other choice do they have?  There is so much suffering still present, as the program is not omnipresent (maybe one day it will be).  Hatred can eat away at your soul; but to truly forgive such atrocities may seem hard for an outsider to believe.  That said, it’s a process.  It’s a first step at moving forward.

Sometimes we get so focused on our issues, our priorities…we need to back up, and look again at what really is going on in the world.  Are there any truly gender-neutral zones?  Should we have 23 boxes to tick under the “sex” category on forms? – as some biologists say there are that many.  Do advertisements towards children enforce gender stereotyping in a detrimental way?  Not “if,” but “how” can peace exist without war as its predecessor?  Are we approaching justice with equality in mind?  Or must we take a step back in order to notice a problem with equity in the first place?  Humanity has extraordinary potential within; and as outsiders coming in, our role is not to impose the Western way…but to instead ask questions.  What is my role in all this? I must remember to come in as a learner and create spaces with the metaphorical mirrors reflecting back at the local individuals who already have everything they need.  We all monitor and evaluate to some degree; tools and skills like useful, but it’s important to not let any and all sentient beings become lost in the process. Expand your sphere to include animals and the environment. Check your lens with which you are viewing a situation, and be aware of your own biases.  Maintain humility, always ask questions of yourself & others.  “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…how am I seen…who am I…what is my true purpose among them all?”