This is the 100th anniversary of the day Britain entered the First World War. Over 16 million people died. This was not to be the ‘war to end all wars’: conflict continues around the world, and many millions more have died since Armistice day in 1918.
Have we learnt anything about building a lasting peace? I’ve just come back from a four day training retreat focusing on embodiment. I was presenting a session on nature connection and was honoured to be sharing the programme with Paul Linden. Paul, who has been practicing Aikido for 41 years and is something of a genius in bodymind awareness, has developed an approach he describes as ’embodied peace building’.
Amongst other things, Paul is a philosopher, and he presents his peacemaking approach with great precision. He begins with a definition of peace as “the condition in which conflicts are dealt with and resolved in respectful, life-affirming ways” (2007). Conflict resolution typically emphasizes thinking, listening and talking, but this can only succeed if those involved are “in a state of inner and outer peacefulness” (2007). Paul’s techniques teach us how to embody peace and calm. From that foundation, we can begin to explore ways of resolving conflict. Without the sense of safety and empowered love enabled by Paul’s method, conflict all too easily flares up as soon as negotiations get difficult.
Words alone aren’t enough. Morality is not some abstract set of principles or a divine injunction: it is “built into the very structure of the body”. Ethical behaviour emerges with profound inevitability “from an integrated body state of power and love” (2007).
I’ve long been convinced that our embodiment holds the key to positive change, whether that’s in the context of environmental awareness, mental health or spirituality. Paul’s work confirms my belief. More importantly, it saves lives.