I like to invite people to close their eyes and visualize “peace” or a place or time that makes them feel “at peace” or “peaceful.” Overwhelmingly, the responses I get include ourselves, alone, in a quiet, most often natural setting. Very frequently these visualizations take place sitting or walking near calm water or basking in the warm glow of sunrise or sunset.
It only takes one quick google image search to find that none of us is alone here – the trend is remarkably common. Easy to see why so many of us view time in nature as an escape, a respite from the frantic pace of our daily lives of work, stress and digital distractions. The research on the restorative benefits of time in nature keeps growing, but it only reinforces what many of us have known and practiced for a lifetime – finding those special natural places that allow us to breathe more deeply and slowly, to close our eyes and listen and feel, and to shed the effects of the artificial. To simply be in a place that feels like home outside of time.
For me and for the OBCP community there is more happening here. We believe a natural environment is an ideal classroom for learning and for engaging with that very big and very tricky idea of peace.
As one entry point, I return to the ideas of Negative and Positive Peace – voiced by Galtung and now a staple dynamic within the framework of Positive Peace put forward by our partners at the Institute for Economics and Peace.
When we visualize ourselves resting on a beach at sunrise, soothed by sand with no footsteps, water with no ripples, and the embrace of silence, we have simply created a metaphor for negative peace. We have quite literally envisioned a place of absence – no violence, no conflict, no challenges confronting us. Negative Peace is not a bad thing – and there is nothing wrong with this respite to reflect and recharge.
But achieving respite alone is not our work at OBCP and it’s not enough to envision the power of nature as only an escape.
We strive to share the approach of Experiential Peacebuilding – learning and acting with our whole being to address conflict – precisely so that more of us can begin to see the strength of nature as the ideal place to envision and enact Positive Peace. We can use shared experience and shared adventure in the outdoors to re-imagine and enact collaboration, community and resilience.
I hope a new lasting mental image of Peace can be any of us – together – ascending the summit together, sharing the moment together, relying on one another to cross the gap that makes us pause. And, maybe most importantly sharing the weight of what we carry with us.
In the meantime, enjoy the next sunrise and see what you see.
– Flavio Bollag