Tag Archives: Peace

Building Peace: A Greeting

In May 2016, I started a series of blog posts entitled “Building Peace”. This led, two years later, to a book that tied together many of the ideas presented in these posts, ideas that remain fundamental to the role I want to play in this world. I have written just a couple “Building Peace” posts since then, perhaps because I find this theme far more obvious now than when I first began tugging at stubborn threads. Somewhere along the road, these nascent ideas coalesced into an identity.

And it has been a road.

A significant personal change is that I like who I am; the adult can speak to the child in me without crying. In optimistic moments, it’s enough just to know that. In pessimistic ones, I still find that it helps to spend time among trees.

Rereading, I stand by what I wrote back then. So maybe it’s not that I have changed, but that the way I understand myself has changed. Not so lost after all, perhaps.

December in the Gregorian calendar situates us at the end of a cycle. There are certainly other means of marking time, but standardization allows for a more connected world, and a blog is a product of such a world. Readers of this blog come from 151 countries and this is astonishing to me. I thank you for the privilege of writing and I thank you for your patience in reading.

Western tradition says that this is the time of year for us to reflect on the past year and resolve, in the new year, to act differently. To push back on convention, as usual, I would like to suggest that the best time to make a change is the moment in which you recognize that a change should be made. Walk peacefully.

But in keeping with convention, which has a time and a place, I offer the greeting that ends many yoga classes. It takes different structures, forms, and languages, and it has meant different things to me at different times. I share this greeting because it is a reflection of how I try to walk in the world, behave in relationships with others, and consider my actions in relation to the planet. I hope that it resonates with you, too. And regardless, I wish for you what you wish for you.

Hands to the heart reminding us to have clear and loving intentions.
Hands to the forehead reminding us to have clear and loving thoughts.
Hands to the mouth reminding us to have clear and loving communications.
The light in me recognizes and honours the light in you.

Schalkau, Germany – September 2021

Saying “I’m Sorry”

A brief introduction to this post: I have been thinking a lot about growth lately. After reflecting on past experiences, I have watched myself act in ways that demonstrate that I have actually learned something. This has been critical but is not always comfortable. It is difficult to put myself in a position of vulnerability, but it is also the only way that I can live up to the pictures I paint on this blog. I am grateful for what I have learned and for all who have taught me. To those who were gracious enough to give me multiple chances, to those who heard my awkward apologies, to those who looked me in the eye when looking back was the hardest thing to do: I am still sorry and I thank you.

I am sorry . . . .

I thought . . .

But you . . .
and so
it’s just

I guess . . .
next time

It can be hard to apologize. It can be hard to admit that we were wrong, that we hurt someone else, that we misunderstood or misinterpreted or made a mistake. It can be hard to acknowledge that we didn’t behave in the ways that we should have and that our behaviour was harmful.

To apologize means to stand before another person and admit to being fallible, to having erred, to being human. It means wanting to do better and, significantly, taking the steps necessary to do so. To apologize means asking for forgiveness, and asking for forgiveness, we often think, means handing someone else power.

And that is scary.

I’d like to offer something else here: Saying “I’m sorry” and then acting upon what it actually means to be sorry is not only an act of courage, but also an act of recognizing the humanity inside someone else.

Saying “I’m sorry” acknowledges that a wrong has been committed, that a relationship has the potential for being repaired, and that this is work we want to do. And we cannot do it alone.

To come together and rebuild takes not only compassion, but also grace. It takes setting aside ego and hierarchy and control and everything that separates us, and requires us to sit down together and acknowledge, perhaps for the first time, that being human can hurt and that humans cause hurt.

Saying “I’m sorry” recognizes that maybe we are too far gone, and that maybe the gulf is too wide to cross again. Maybe the trust that was once between us has shattered into too many pieces to reconstruct. Saying “I’m sorry” admits that this might be possible.

And this is scary.

But it also might be the only way to move on, even if we aren’t moving on in the ways that we’d hoped. Sometimes life goes that way.

Given that our current cultural obsession with the self has created personalized environments in which each individual is at the centre, it is no wonder considering another perspective is challenging. After all, there are no other perspectives. It is no wonder that discourse and dialogue are anathema. After all, we “cancel” those with whom we disagree. To change one’s mind, which is what happens when we learn, is to flip-flop; to apologize is to capitulate, roll over, show weakness.

There is a great deal wrong here.

A genuine, heartfelt apology carries with it the possibility of making the world a better place. It is an act of building peace in our interactions, relationships, and everyday encounters. This is a powerful thing. No one ever said something so important was easy, though it might be easier than we think. Many things are this way when approached with honesty and openness rather than suspicion and competition.

Sometimes we are wrong, but we can mend those wrongs. This does not mean the harm disappears, or that everything goes back to the way it was before. It means that we forge new paths and learn new ways. We are marked by our experiences, and this is how our lives are constructed.

Treat others the way you want to be treated, or the way they might want to be treated.
Be kind.
Take a deep breath.
Do the hard thing.
Hold out your hand.

If we continue building this world into a better place, there will be someone there to take it.

Weimar, Germany – August 2021


Tonight is Erev Rosh Hashanah, the eve of the Jewish new year. We are celebrating 5781 journeys around the sun. These are 5781 journeys of love and loss, peace and war, fear and joy, hopelessness and solace.

Perhaps it’s because we’ve had such a strange six months that I’m not feeling the familiar ache to be with my family that I usually experience around the High Holy Days. I felt that ache acutely for weeks and weeks and perhaps I’m just accustomed to it now. I think the unprecedented life we’ve all been living is what has actually left me quite calm about my plans to welcome the new year quietly and with reflection rather than attending socially distant religious services in a normally communal environment.

Given everything, it seems fitting to begin a new year taking explicit action at making the world a better place – the world needs it. This is why I decided to go to the blood bank right after school. The queue both inside and at the door indicated that I was not the only one feeling the need to act and it was heartening to be in the company of so many strangers.

As I walked slowly home from the bus stop, I felt the strength of my heartbeat and I felt it working hard. The world needs us to work hard – it will not heal on its own.

As this year flows into the next my wish is, as always, for peace. Peace among friends, among strangers, with the earth, water, and air. And my commitment is to take actions to achieve it. I welcome all to join me.

Shana tovah u’metukah.

Auckland, New Zealand – December 2018