Today I attended a Women’s Interfaith Peace Discussion held by the Soka Gakkai International. The SGI is a Nichiren Buddhist organization to which I belong. About 2 years ago I began practicing Buddhism as a part of my daily life. But that is a whole other story! Back to the discussion meeting.
A group of 40 or so women from around the Lexington area, of different faiths and nationalities, of different ages and backgrounds, gathered to discuss peace in our communities and the world. It sounds like a super heavy topic, and while there were some amazing and deep discussions, it was a beautiful, friendly gathering and we enjoyed laughter and friendship during this time as well.
We watched a music video produced by the SGI about the abolition of nuclear weapons. I was STRUGGLING, let me tell you, not to burst out in tears during the video. I get extremely emotional when it comes to, well, anything actually. I am a crier. I used to think it was a bad thing, but now I have come to realize that it is because I am so deeply empathetic. And I don’t think that’s so bad.
I wanted to share this video, along with some of the discussions we had. And there were some really good ones! After the video, we split into 5 groups and each had a different topic to discuss. We then wrote on a poster what solutions we came to in working toward a resolution for these issues.
Of course, my table had a pretty deep topic. Our card read something like this: “Name a time when you feared for your life or were scared about something. How did you overcome the fear?”
At first I had a really difficult time coming up with a time when I was THAT scared. A significant fear. Not just that I was scared I wouldn’t pass my AP Spanish test senior year of high school. A real, deep-rooted scary as shit time in my life. I knew it would be difficult for people to start talking and to get the conversation going, and since I was one of the 2 facilitators at the table, I felt like I really needed to say something.
Then it hit me like a ton of bricks.
It was something that happened when I was 8 or 9 years old maybe. I literally haven’t thought about it in years and probably put it in the back of my memory to never remember again. I know I was scared at the time, but I don’t think it was something that ended up traumatizing me or made a lasting impact on my life. I am pretty sure I never told my mom about it, and I tell my mom everything.
But all of a sudden I remembered it. Like I had it stored away just for a moment like this. And the implications of the event seem much more profound to me now than they did when I was a little girl.
Here’s what happened:
I was raised with my mom’s best friend’s son like we were brother and sister, so I was at his house quite a lot as a kid and vice versa. We had a close, sibling-like relationship.
One day I was at his house playing hide and seek with a neighbor kid. I couldn’t tell you what this kid looked like, what his name was, or if I ever even saw him again. But I know we were in the basement, playing hide and seek in the dark.
My friend was “it,” so the neighbor kid and I went to hide. Somehow, we ended up hiding together. The only thing I really truly remember is that he was behind me or somewhat beside me and he put his hand on my chin and tried to nudge it toward his to come in for a kiss. And I FREAKED.
I’m quite certain that kid didn’t mean much harm. He was pretty smooth, actually, and I feel like what he did was almost a scene out of a movie. But I was 8. Maybe 9. And I was NOT okay with it. It didn’t feel right and I screamed and ran. When I told my friend what happened, he made the neighbor boy leave. At least I think so. I have a horrible memory.
Mostly what I remember was the feeling of uncomfortableness…is that a word?
Like I said, this memory had all but been erased from my memory for as long as I can remember. I have a horrible memory of my childhood, but for some reason this just STUCK out to me. So I shared it.
And we had an amazing discussion about fears that women deal with. That most, if not all, women have that fear of being violated by someone unknown or unwanted. Or, that many, MANY women have been in similar (and unfortunately much worse) situations.
We discussed how fear is often a barrier to peace because people can often develop a hatred of something which they fear. Thankfully, my situation didn’t end in this way. Thankfully, I am not a hateful person. I’m scared of a lot, trust me. But its all irrational stuff like falling into the grates in the sidewalk or being bitten by a snake hiding in the toilet.
So, maybe if we can find a way to deal with these fears (of people, of cultures, etc), then we can start finding a way to peace
A few other women shared some amazing experiences. I’m not going to share their stories because this post would get WAY too long. But they were amazing, trust me.
And here’s what we learned and decided that we are going to do from now on:
- We are going to look at everything from other people’s perspective and treat them with kindness, no matter their treatment of us. (But we are going to do this while NOT being victims.) (For example, one story involved a woman being held at knife-point, who ended up actually forcing the man to take her money and made HIM cry after he tried to give it back to her because he “didn’t want to take a lady’s last dollar.” She looked at his perspective, that maybe he really needed this money, and thought that he might do the same to someone else later if she didn’t give him her money then. So after he actually let her go, she forced him to take her money, which really was only a dollar and some change. She took charge of the situation, wouldn’t let herself be the victim, and kept herself from being hurt.)
- We are going to love ourselves and know that we are worthy of happy, healthy lives.
- We are going to trust in a support system that we can rely on when needed.
- We are going to take things one step at a time. (Rome wasn’t built in a day, right?)
There were a few more awesome ones that I can’t remember, but that was the basis of it. I felt SO incredibly moved by this discussion. And I decided that I would come home and right about this opportunity that I had, and share it with others.
In order to bring peace to the world, we all have to be happy first. In Buddhism we call this Human Revolution. We all have the capability inside of us to be happy, we just have to choose it and make it happen. It isn’t easy and we have to work hard for it, but it IS possible.
To quote the current SGI President, Daisaku Ikeda, “Happiness is not a life without worries or struggles. Happiness is the robust sense of fulfillment one feels when bravely confronting hardship. It is that elevation of the spirit, like an airplane gaining lift from the air resistance against its wings.”