Asia West Pacific

Discerning with Companions: From Anxiousness to Blossoming Heart

By Subhash Chandra

Subhash in discernment session with his companions on 4th February, Photo by Kins

Friends Peace Teams in Asia West Pacific (AWP) is working in communities across seven geographical locations, with more than a dozen peace activists directly committed to the work and probably hundreds indirectly. Discernment is one of the critical tools needed for peace work and life, which AWP peace activists practice intentionally. From February 4-6, 2021, these activists participated in a series of virtual discernment sessions, each session dedicated to one person. Twenty peace workers joined one or another session to offer time, attention, and companionship for the dedicated person to discern their priorities and focus for the year 2021. I was one of these fortunate persons. 

Ratna, one of my Nepali companions, who was also present in my discernment session, thinks that witnessing discernment practice was a gentle process of untying complex and tight knots in a safe space. 

  • Before the discernment, I did some homework to reflect on the past year, where I am in the present moment in terms of peace work and life, and what is the right focus for me in the year 2021. With that, I prepared a list of things according to what I thought my priority and focus were. Before joining the discernment session, I was a little anxious about how it would go. I could feel stiffness in my body and mind. Once the session began, as I felt the love and care for me flowing from others present in the session, I felt grounded and safe. 
  • During the discernment, I used silence, words, pauses, questions, and reflections. I  asked myself,what is right and true for me? I did not have to explain or make my friends understand. But it was important that I be clear and truthful with myself. In between, My companions asked questions to help me become clearer and more specific which I found very helpful to clear up the mess within me.  
  • At the end of the session, I felt like my heart was blossoming. Because I received unjudged attention, love, and companionship from a group of friends to help me discern what focus is true and right for me this year, not only in peace work but in my personal life as well. While discerning, my friends were focusing on my goodness and capabilities as well as their own, and listening to me with full attention. 

My companions, Ratna and Kalpana, were both present in my discernment session. 

We had experienced organizing based on discernment during the relief work in Nepal after the earthquake in 2015 , which we greatly appreciated and were very much impressed by. We think this practice of reflection and discernment is something we want to continue in our companion group for our personal and group needs. For example, we are the first stages of exploring and trying to establish a peace centre in Kathmandu, Nepal and we spent a day together to discern what and how we want to move on. I am grateful to AWP for initiating a series of discernment opportunities for us, in which friends from diverse cultures, backgrounds and experiences gave unjudged attention and love. I believe I am much clearer and ready for the year 2021.