Pictures of infantry anti-tank rifles and rocket launchers, fortress and siege guns, tanks, and fighter aircraft were displayed on a screen in front of me. It was 1985. I was taking a required course on Soviet military armaments for an MA in Soviet Studies at the University of Virginia. A month later, my fellow students and I were taken up to Washington, D.C. by our political science professor for a CIA recruitment session. We learned about the different divisions of the organization—including covert operations: aka, would you like to become a spy and lead a double life???
Of course, the recruiter never actually used the word “spy.” It was all painted in euphemisms and rosy scenarios of how important we would be, the financial and professional perks, the ability to live an exciting life abroad, and the opportunity to serve our nation. Our coursework also covered international relations, politics, and other topics relevant to U.S.-Soviet relations and focused on preventing nuclear annihilation between these two world powers and mortal enemies during the infamous Cold War.
It was the CIA recruitment session that pushed me over the edge. I no longer believed that I could have a career working in the government or foreign service and be happy. With my mind indoctrinated in enemy-making, suspicion, and the shadow of war, I knew that I would never have peace and I would not be a messenger of peace. While there could be and eventually was a fragile, negotiated stand-down between the superpowers, there would never be an end to violence.
This has been the greatest passion in my life. It has consumed my mind and filled my heart from my early years of life. I wanted to end war. I wanted to end oppression, whether delivered by authoritarian governments or appearing in racism and prejudice. I wanted to heal others of the trauma from all of this.
So, even while over 15 years, with the nuclear arms race on full speed, I studied with great intensity Russia, the Soviet Union, and the machinations of the Cold War, I was also delving into Jungian psychology, art, poetry, literature, and religion. Further, by that time, I had a long-established, spiritual view of life that was fueled from my childhood and early adult, numinous connection to Nature, kundalini awakenings, and visionary experiences.
By the time I was in my early-to-mid 20s, I sensed the movement of soul and spirit within me and in the world around me. I felt and saw a numinous matrix of light encompassing everything. I had felt the loving, compassionate presence of Jesus in an Episcopal church service when I was 8 years old and knew that the dogma of Christians being the “chosen people” had nothing to do with his essence and teachings. Another time at the age of 21, while walking across a frozen lake in Russia to visit an Orthodox church built by Peter the Great, the deep cold, physical effort, and sacred location caused my consciousness to expand. From this transcendent awareness, I was offered a bird’s eye view so I could see my life and the world through the lens of God. In a state that lasted several hours, I was shown the sublime and perfect order of things and how love flows through all of it. I saw a destiny line that would end this collective madness.
Out of these and more experiences that unfolded over my life, including discovering the power and potency of energy medicine for healing trauma, I came to understand that only when we harness the sacred using contemplative, healing, spiritual perspectives, tools, and practices, will we create an enduring, worldwide peace.
The Dalai Lama, one of the world’s greatest spiritual leaders and spokesperson for peace has said, “World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of our human compassion.” In another talk, he noted, “If every 8-year-old in the world is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world within one generation.”
Tsalagi (Cherokee) teacher, Venerable Dhyani Ywahoo, writes in her book, Voices of Our Ancestors, “The Peacekeeper holds the vision of peace for all beings in all worlds, as beauteous expressions of harmony and balance, resonating through thought, word, and deed. The Peacekeeper sees all in good relationship, perceiving the underlying unity of all creation. The Peacekeeper knows that each being is empowered with the will to choose, wisdom to see, and intelligence to act, all beings together weaving the dream of our shared reality.”
These and other great peacekeepers through time in the world have all stood on the authority of their spiritual wisdom and the experience of practices to maintain a luminous relationship with one’s inner divinity and to foster inner and outer peace. One of the most famous quotes by Mahatma Gandhi is: “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” This and other powerful messages enjoin us to passionate service to transform unending cycles of violence, wounding, and trauma through committed and focused personal and planetary action. Inner and outer work is essential.
This was what I viscerally understood in the years I was steeped in a study of the causes and conditions of the Cold War. Expecting war, relying on weapons and threats of violence, and political negotiation will never lead to a permanent solution. We must uproot the causes and conditions for this state of affairs within ourselves. In this way, we contribute to an exponentially expanding destiny line towards peace in human consciousness that has been catalyzed over hundreds of years and more recently has become visible even in the midst of escalating chaos and uncertainty. There have been many courageous peacemakers who have worked in anonymity or, like Martin Luther King, Jr. and those I have quoted here, have worked publicly, to bring the message that it is only through engaging with the sacred dimensions of soul and spirit that we will shift the destiny lines of humanity from war to peace.
Thus, mirroring these peace teachers, what I call Sacred Activism for Peacemaking and Ending Violence rests on 6 pillars of spiritual engagement and inquiry:
1) Recognize and embrace fully the unity within diversity of all creation and the natural equality of all beings, including 2- and 4-footed, the winged, feathered, furred, scaled, and shelled, Mother Earth and all her landscapes and elements of her body.
2) Have the courage to go deep within to confront, unwind, and become liberated from the conditioning of family, society, nation, and the world that entrains us into: accepting violence as inevitable; normalizing inequality, prejudice, and poverty; numbing us out to the stories of others’ experiences of injustice; and blinding us to our own subtly and overtly biased thoughts, words, and actions.
3) Develop deep wisdom through the healing of the personal and ancestral, untransmuted grief and wounds we carry from violence, trauma, and abuse of all kinds, overt and subtle with energy medicine and other therapeutic modalities.
4) Build the fires of compassion by maintaining a spiritual practice including meditation, prayer, and sacred ceremony which builds within and emanates out of each of us the vibrational frequency of friendliness, kindness, compassion, and love.
5) Foster forgiveness for and patience with our personal and humanity’s messiness and confusion in a recognition that recovering from the illusion of fear and separation and healing the wounds of trauma from violence is often long-term work that on a collective level could even go on for many generations.
6) Step into passionate and creative service through innovation and creativity in whatever domain that calls to each of us (artistic, therapeutic, business, non-profit, healing, etc.).
We are each finding our way. Join me in caring community to learn the knowledge, wisdom, tools, and ceremonies of Sacred Activism for Peacemaking and Ending Violence. I would love to hear from you at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rachel Mann, PhD is a sacred activist, social scientist, healer, and spiritual mentor. Through her Institute for Sacred Peacemaking, she provides an intensive 1-1 Mentoring Program and offers courses and retreats supporting passionate individuals with a vision to integrate the wisdom gained through their own healing and spiritual study into creative service to others as a healer/therapist, spiritual teacher, writer, artist, and/or socially conscious and spiritually awake entrepreneur. Through consulting and programs, she also provides businesses, NGOs, and nonprofits wishing to expand and anchor into the sacred values of positive inclusion, compassion, and a renewed, spiritual ethics with consulting and programs. Find out more at rachelmannphd.com.