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'Visionaries' to be honored with Peacemaker Awards

We’re not used to silence. We talk, text, listen or look at screens constantly, says Larry Ward, who will be given a Peacemaker Award at the annual Peace House awards banquet Friday, Nov. 15, at Ashland Hills Hotel.

Why is this important? Because silence is the door to inner peace, which, he says, is the door to world peace.

Ward and his wife, Peggy Roe Ward, are senior dharma teachers at their Lotus Institute in Taos, New Mexico. They were ordained by peace activist and Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh and worked with him for 20 years. They and others will receive Peacemaker Awards.

The couple give retreats of several days, leading meditation and “making peace with ourself, our bodies, minds, emotions, our experience,” said Larry Ward, “then we look outside ourselves to where the absence of peace exists, to help people.”

“We do what we can to bring people home to themselves,” Peggy added. “That’s the core teaching of Thich Nhat Hanh. Our true home is within our bodymind. Within us is peace. It is nowhere else.”

Also vital, she added, in an interview, is hanging with others who practice inner peace.

They target their spiritual work on “social justice,” working with many ministers, therapists and such, who “seek to serve and relieve the pain of others,” noted Larry, adding that social justice involves balancing society, resolving “cultural ignorance, preoccupation with money and being awake to our choices, asking ourselves if they are leaning toward justice or not.”

We live now in a moment of crisis, which is also a moment of opportunity, Larry said, because “social equity is never finally achieved. It’s about vigilance about the kind of society we want to live in. We’re going through a powerful transition, so the question is, ‘Do we have enough maturity to handle it in helpful ways?’”

Climate change is a major focus for students, Peggy said, as “it’s a reason for a lot of great despair and suffering as they experience lack of power about what we need to do. We get feedback all the time about this, from all parts of the world.”

Peggy will lead “Morning Mindfulness,” from 9 a.m. to noon, Saturday, Nov. 16, at Peace House. It will be by donation and will combine sitting and walking meditation with a dharma talk. For reservations, call Lillibet at 541-890-2497.

The couple are the National Awardees of Peace House. Local awardees are David West, director emeritus of American Studies at Southern Oregon University, and Derek Pyle of Vision Quilt, which started in Ashland and now operates in Oakland, California, with the goal of ending gun violence.

West, in an interview, said he’s “a lifelong proponent of peaceful coexistence, and reflecting on the interdependence and interchange of life between all things and beings,” as seen in the Native American belief in the circle of life.

West has worked all his life in “difficult areas,” such as being external liaison for the prison system in Alaska while working for his master’s degree for the ministry.

“I’ve always moved forward in peaceful ways,” West said, “and my research in reflective sociology and community psychology of tribal life showed it had to be a relationship of respect and cooperation, which is seen as possible in all species.

“I truly believe peace is possible,” said West, adding that Native American prophecy foretells this time of change. “Many young indigenous people are moving forward in peaceful protest out of concern for drinking water sources, the fish, birds and plants.”

West is a member of the Spiritual Support Network for Asante and Providence medical groups and is an advisor and proponent of hospice care for all. He is an adopted son of Grandmother Agnes Pilgrim, connecting him to the Confederated Tribes of Siletz and the Takilma Band and is entrusted to speak for her when she is unavailable.

Derek Pyle, program director of Vision Quilt, will accept a Peacemaker Award for his mother, Cathy DeForst, who started it in 2015 in Ashland to “empower communities to create their own solutions to gun violence through the power of art and inclusive dialogue.”

Pyle noted she was inspired by the AIDS quilt, “using art, a visual medium to respond to the devastating impact of gun violence, but with no solution coming on the national level and no grassroots movement to honor the losses, this can show the community how it can work toward change and bring people together.”

The key, he added, is that there is no one solution that will change the whole world, so each of us needs to come together in our community and collaborate.”

Peace House Executive Director Elizabeth Hallett says awardees “are all visionaries with amazing imaginations, creating alternate structures that lead to a more peaceful society. They get on the wavelength and move with it, but based on putting one foot in front of the other, being mindful day-to-day, appealing to the basic value of respect and engagement with each other and respect for the planet.”

The theme of the Peacemakers dinner is “Tending the Sacred: Resiliency in Challenging Times.” For reservations, see peacehouse.net/tickets or call Hallett at 541-292-2106.

A banner made for the Peace Fence in 2007 that is now on a tile in front of the Ashland library.