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Tending the sacred: Resiliency in challenging times

“Peace is not just about calming down. It is about how we handle aspects of daily living and take care of what arises, emerging from conflict into transformation and social justice.”

— Larry Ward

On Friday, Nov. 15, Peace House will honor several visionaries at the Annual Peacemaker Awards Dinner. The community will shine a light on five remarkable people and their work for a culture of nonviolence and peace.

Local awardees are David West, director emeritus of the SOU Native American Studies Department; and Cathy DeForest and her son Derek Pyle, of Vision Quilt.

National awardees are Larry Ward and Peggy Rowe-Ward, senior Dharma teachers ordained by the Vietnamese Zen monk Thich Nhat Hanh, and co-founders of the Lotus Institute.

The awards dinner is a time to honor and highlight the expertise that has led us to a new integration of mind, body and soul through an evolving culture of healing and transformation.

Each awardee applies engaged values of nonviolence in their work, including respect, diplomacy, forgiveness, compassion, honesty, and mindfulness beyond the superficial. They emphasize accountability and community structures for healing, restorative justice and transformation. Preserving these values is sacred work.

“Peace is not just about calming down,” Ward says. “It is about how we handle aspects of daily living and take care of what arises, emerging from conflict into transformation and social justice.”

As an educator and spiritual teacher, West served in the Native American Studies Department at SOU for 15 years. He embodies the wisdom of Native elders in First Nation traditions and has given of himself to his Native communities in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Alaska, Oregon and Northern California. He applies, spiritual care, storytelling, tradition and ceremony to ground us, as he invites us to consider the seven generations of the past and of the future. He spends time praying with people in prison and people who are sick. His teaching and the development of Conaway Nakatilicum, a residential SOU summer school for Native teens, offers stepping stones for their future while retaining Native American heritage and validating their cultural origins.

DeForest, her son Derek and Vision Quilt volunteers are interfacing with many other groups who are also dealing with gun safety, trauma, grief and transformation. Protecting our future for coming generations, Vision Quilt uses art and engaged dialog with people of all ages, but especially survivors of gun violence and children facing day-to-day life where gun violence is epidemic, such as Chicago and Oakland. They are empowering others to use teaching tools they have developed to address gun violence.

New structures favor healing and resiliency in the face of trauma and disintegration as we deal with spiritual, economic, social and environmental upheaval.

National awardees Ward and Rowe-Ward call for a new integration of mind, body and soul as part of a “planetary wisdom revolution.” They have spent over 20 years walking in the footsteps of Martin Luther King and Thich Nhat Han. Larry blends the powerful voice of an African American preacher with the gentleness and humor of a Zen master. To lift our spirits, they emphasize compassion and joy and through their spiritual practice, which includes art, poetry and a deep appreciation for nature. These elements are much needed in these times.

Ward works especially with people of color to examine generational and cultural trauma. His talks, including three on “America’s Racial Karma,” are available at the blog site of the Lotus Institute. He calls upon us to rewrite our evolutionary-neurological heritage and “do the inner work” it takes to create a peaceful society.

We thank the Peaceful Refuge Sangha for their participation in bringing Ward and Rowe-Ward to Ashland. The awards dinner will be held at the Ashland Hills Hotel Nov. 15. Doors open at 5 p.m. The opening ceremony will be held at 6 p.m., followed by dinner, speakers and awards. Tickets are available online at www.peacehouse.net/tickets. Some subsidized tickets are available by calling Peace House at 541-292-2106.

Elizabeth V. Hallett is the executive directive of Peace House and helped to start Uncle Food’s Diner, the Tuesday Hot Meal Program at Wesley Hall of the Methodist Church.