Twenty-two AVP facilitators from ten countries are meeting online to deepen their understanding of activities in the AVP Basic and Resiliency Special Topic Workshops. In our various settings, we each work for peace and justice and have found Creating Cultures of Peace, AVP workshops adapted for peace and justice workers, to be critical for our lives and work. We meet every other week for eleven sessions. We are working in English, but some come as small groups. They can mute their connection and translate in the background with no disruption. Zoom offers a manual moving or exchanging of members in random breakout groups, so we can put same-language speakers together. Several of them hope to offer this in their respective languages eventually.
We focus on practicing ourselves and inviting others to practice with us. Peaceful community requires healing, change, calling for an end to violence and oppression, and practicing peaceful approaches to being together on the Earth. To make discussion on how to create cultures of peace more ordinary, we each practice a 30-second introduction and invitation to this work and give each other feedback on it.
Since our goal is personal and social transformation, we must change. Even though life is perpetually changing, many people are uncomfortable with change. We ask each other: How does change make you feel, especially when it makes you appear strange or different? How do you respond in a positive way when change makes you or others uncomfortable? Many facilitators are much more uncomfortable with change than they like to admit, especially with our families and friends. Others take it on as an identity, “everyone knows I’m just strange.” So it’s a longer conversation to discuss how to change in a way that is significant and inviting to others around us towards changing our culture together.
We remember to first act in service of our primary intention. We each post our personal commitment (intention) at home or work and remember: 1) to believe in it, 2) open to transforming power to live into it, and 3) invite others to it. We try not to use the training as a distraction from this larger work in our lives, but as a support for it. There is no substitute for genuine faith and action.
We have each committed to personal practice, including regular meetings with one to three companions, regular training sessions, and applying the tools and skills in our daily lives.
We name our companions and how often we meet. It’s more important for companion groups to be regular than frequent. But our bodies retain change for about three weeks, so we encourage meeting every one, two or three weeks. We divide the time equally, giving each person at least twenty minutes or more. Each person uses their time as they need, not trying to make the others understand, but tending and seeking insight oneself. If something becomes clear, state it and ask others to reflect it back. If it persists, one may ask for feedback. If a statement is affirmed for someone, they write that down in their journal. If it’s affirmed for the whole group, they document and share it with the larger community.
We share our training schedules and news. We support one another, especially in crafting agendas using the AVP format: welcome, opening: name and …, agenda preview, alternating activity and play, and ending with a reflection and closing. We talk about how to use this structure in our families and at work.
We give particular attention to the welcome. It is a trauma-informed element we added to the AVP format. It is not intended to be a mediation or prayer, although in some parts of the world they do that at the opening of any event. But for us the welcome is about staying grounded, eyes open, letting go of stress in the body and mind, and opening to the whole room and all the people, breathing easily. It’s about letting our guard down in a large group; opening to, feeling, and trusting transforming power, not as a special time, but as the manner in which we live. If we become distressed, we’re learning to realize it, tend the emotions, and come back to this centered place to think and make decisions. This is the place we can think, before reacting. Stopping is an essential skill for anyone committed to being inwardly guided by transforming power.
Then we identify the skills and tools in each activity in the AVP Basic Workshop and discuss how we experience them in daily life. Once we have that orientation, we practice giving clear instructions in the fewest words possible and discuss any facilitating or debriefing questions for that activity.
Facilitators report that they feel very connected and love being part of the group. They enjoy the online training because it is very interactive in pairs, small groups and the large group. They are learning much more both about the material and about themselves. It feels good to practice this “effortless work” with friends who are also practicing in so many different countries. It reminds us how peace works and leaves us feeling more excited and motivated to practice in our lives with our companions and others. It’s also lots of fun. We leave feeling well and peaceful.
In the words of the twenty-two participants: In the rigid patterns of our society, this rejuvinates me. It helps me get back to what it means to be a human being. I see I can train myself, and how my life can be changed by opening to transforming power in life. It gives me the basic practices and space, and reminds me to be in my core self. I want to sustain and nurture my core self.
The assignments will stretch me, but I’m excited to try. I’m already thinking about so many ways to try the skills. I need this practice regularly. I feel confused or lose my sense of direction when I don’t take the time to stop and notice the practices that heal me and make peace possible with others. It is only when I practice that I can sustain my inner peace and live in peace with others and the world in general.
I do this work to discover, remember, and practice living in peace each day. I want to help myself inside of myself, and learn how to create peace in my life, in my family, and then help the other people. I do this because it helps me to be kind to myself and other creatures on the planet. It helps me be peaceful and creative in every moment. I do this because this is what our world should be, and I need to practice it more often. I do this because I always believed in peace and it’s within ourselves. Meeting and sharing with amazing people makes me want to be a peacemaker with a practice in my life and with others.
I believe peace is needed everywhere and it’s possible and this is a way to live out this possibility. I believe peace is very important for my life and the earth, so I need more practice. I need to practice and remember the tools and working together with people who believe peace is possible. This gives me energy. I believe in peace and I want to work on myself and make the connections with others more easily. It feels like we are creating a movement for peace. I like being part of this movement for peace. It’s inspiring and exciting to see all these wonderful peace movers; let’s have fun spreading love and peace.