For two days in 2009, I was transfixed by the amazing speakers who spoke about peace and transformation at the Vancouver Peace Summit. Their message, that we need to think about how we are creating spiritually healthy communities was powerful, and it is inspiring to see examples of communities attempting to bring this idea to life.
Last year for instance, Karen Armstrong, the winner of the 2008 TED prize and author of “Twelve Steps to Live a Compassionate Life” visited Vancouver for twelve days to hold discussions across the city on compassion. The visit also marked “the launch of the Greater Vancouver Compassion Network, part of an international movement to build compassionate communities” (12 Days of Compassion, SFU). Also in BC, the Healing Cities Institute examines the connections between city form and public health/ healing and investigates the “spiritual dimensions of urbanism” and the “concept of the sacred within planning” (Healing Cities Institute, About.) And in 2007 Durham University in the UK held a 24 hour colloqium about the “connections between connections between faith/spirituality and contemporary city-making” titled Faith and Spirituality in the City.
Similar to how we consider how social connection, economic and physical health is nurtured or hindered in our city, these initiatives ask us to consider how our cities nurture or hinder spiritual health. They ask us to think about how different areas of city life are connected, and it is exciting to imagine city planning occurring in such an integrated way. They also ask us to be clear about the values that infuse our planning process. In Vancouver for instance, sustainability is an organising principle in the muncipal planning process, and whether it is in food policy plans, regional strategic plans or in buying decisions, an explanation is needed about how the principle of sustainability is being advanced.
All of this work is still very new and rapidly developing. Here’s to hoping these conversations continue to grow and spread and are able to create change! See below for selections from my Peace Summit notes.
- I’m amazed when people say that God would say to my brother, one of the most beautiful people I know, that Oh Dalai Lama, you were a really wonderful guy, but it’s a shame you weren’t a Christian. Really, the spirit of God is wider and greater than any faith. (Desmond Tutu, Fetzer Prize)
- Need to see beyond labels. Not that as soon as we hear the term Republican, all compassion is gone for the person (Eckhart Tolle, Opening Panel)
- “Peace is the opportunity for all to flourish. Where even with conflict, we accord respect and dignity to whom we regard as Other, to whom we are stretched to love and stretched to feel compassion for. (Reverend Tutu, Opening Panel)
- Compassion is about removing the cause of suffering. It is not only for the people that you like.
- Money fails to bring inner peace. Modern education has failed to bring inner peace. Technology fails to bring inner peace. So we need to promote the basic human values of compassion. Females have more sensitivity to human compassion.
- To be a human being is a rare event, and we should use the opportunity as beneficially as possible (Sir Ken Robinson, Opening Panel)
- Real change starts with the individual, family, community. Need to think that the rest of world is part of me. Then the basis of conflict is no longer there. Then they are not Other, they are me. (Dalai Lama Opening Panel)
- With warmheartedness, intelligence is constructive (Dalai Lama, Opening Panel)
- Question of where we think this process (of creating peace) should begin. Life is not linear, everything is connected. Have to begin somewhere. For me, starting point is education. Right now there are 27 million slaves in the world (organisation: Free the Slaves) (Sir Ken, Opening Panel)
- Everything has the right to exist and grow. Peace is important, it is the opposite of destruction. Peace gives inner joyfulness. Peace cannot be achieved through wishes and prayer alone, you need to have the means to solve problems. Peace is about the absence of problems. (Dalai Lama)
- World peace is created through inner peace. Through inner peace, world peace. First an individual must develop inner peace. Then wherever they go, able to take that peace along with them. (Dalai Lama)
- People are so beautiful but they don’t know it. We underestimate potential. (Mathieu Ricard)
- To have a beautiful garden, need fresh flowers. Can’t have dead wilted flowers. Need to focus on self. War starts with a thought of hate. It takes courage for Burmese monk to stand in front of tank. It’s a loser formula to say, if others don’t start, why should I? Should be so enthusiastic that it doesn’t matter. We shouldn’t concede defeat before crossing the starting line. (Mathieu Ricard, Opening Panel)
- Voice in our head that never stops speaking, it interprets things in negative distorted way. This is the ego, the false self. If mind uses you-madness. But when there is inner stillness are fully alert. (Eckhart Tolle, Opening Panel)
- The media needs to tell others what is going on, and be honest, be very truthful. They have a real responsibility to tell truth and make things clear. But instead things are more sensationalist, and more about getting attention. Media is telling that humans are being violent, but not actually so. Because you can count incidents of violence, but what about the people who are receiving compassion? Millions. (Dalai Lama, Opening Panel)
- Compassion needs to come from you, not from technology. We’ve had too much focus on technology and money. Dalai Lama, Opening Panel)
- All of us know that goodness exists. We have problems because of our disregard for noble virtues like forgiveness. In so many parts of the world there is awfulness, but at the same time, there are wonderful human beings, where you can tell a joke that and everyone laughs. Where there are Muslims in spotless robes. And that’s where you see the resilience in humankind. When you see humanitarian workers who often come from peaceful countries, and you say yes, we are made for goodness. This is a global gathering where we want to be reminded that war and violence are not the whole picture. They are aberrations. There is goodness love and caring that everyone knows in the depths of their heart that we are made for (Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Fetzer Prize)
- First few weeks/months of our lives are based on affection. So we’re appreciative of other’s affection. Compassion lives in our blood. Anyone who appreciates affection is able to be compassionate. And we need compassion, gentleness. Constant fear and anger is bad for the health of the particles of body. (Eckhart Tolle)
Everything is Connected
- We have a severe environmental crisis and a crisis in human resources. Few of us understand depth of human possibility. (Sir Ken Robinson, Opening Panel)
- We are in a time of revolutionary circumstances. We take many things for granted that aren’t true. Like the idea of time, people under the age of 25 have a different concept of time, and very few of them wear wristwatches. The time is on the iPod, the laptop, the cell phone, everywhere. So the under 25 set think, why would you wear a separate device just to tell time? Like how lame is that? (Sir Ken Robinson, Opening Panel)
- One thing I realised when I met my teachers, was the messenger becomes the message. Cannot be a grumpy, awful spiritual teacher. The spiritual teachers show what you can become. (Mathieu Ricard, Opening Panel)
- Too many people focus on secondary identities rather than fundamental similarities we share. My happy future is directly dependent on the rest of the 6 billion’s people future. (Dalai Lama, Opening Panel)
“To what end are we educating ourselves and our children?” (Reverend Tutu, Opening Panel)
- When we watch children and what gives them joy, observation can be lesson to us, At play, children focus their attention that fully draws them, where they forget themselves. Gift that we often lose. (Reverend Tutu).
- I will uphold you in my prayers. (Archbishop Desmond Tutu)