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June 29, 2015

Emma Seppälä: 10 Science Based Reasons to Meditate to Achieve Peace Within

Every Monday, we share with you the stories from luminaries, celebrities and unsung heroes, about how we can achieve Peace Within, so that we can use that Inner Peace to have Peace Between people and Peace Among nations.

Today we wanted to share something more – the science behind WHY you should begin working on developing Peace Within. We turned to Dr. Emma Seppälä, Associate Director of the Center for Compassion and Altruism and Research at Stanford University.

“When my colleagues at Stanford and at other universities started researching meditation, most of us expected that meditation would help with stress levels,” Dr. Seppälä shares. “However, what many of us did not anticipate was the extent of the benefits the data ended up showing.”

Seppälä continues, “Hundreds of studies suggest that meditation doesn’t just decrease stress levels but that it also has tangible health benefits such as improved immunity, lower inflammation and decreased pain. Additionally, brain-imaging studies show that meditation sharpens attention and memory. Perhaps most importantly, it has been linked to increased happiness and greater compassion.”

Inspired to share her findings, Dr. Seppälä summarized her data in an article and then created this helpful infographic to help readers visualize the data and to inspire would-be or regular meditators to keep up with their practice!

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EMMA SEPPÄLÄ, Ph.D is Associate Director of Stanford University’s Center for Compassion and Altruism Research and Education. Her areas of research include positive organizational psychology, health psychology, cultural psychology, well-being, and resilience. She is a frequent contributor to Harvard Business ReviewPsychology Today and Scientific American Mind. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Fulfillment Daily, a news site dedicated to the science of happiness. She also consults with Fortune 500 leaders and employees on building a positive organization and is the author of an upcoming book on the science of success, The Happiness Track, published by HarperOne (January 2016). In addition, she is a Research Scientist and Honorary Fellow with the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Investigating Healthy Minds.

Dr. Seppala’s research has been cited in numerous television and news outlets including ABC News and The New York Times and she is quoted in books such as Congressman Tim Ryan’sMindful Nation. Her research on mind-body interventions for military veterans returning from war in Iraq and Afghanistan was highlighted in a documentary called Free the Mind by award-winning filmmaker Phie Ambo. She is the recipient of a number of research grants and service awards including the James W. Lyons Award from Stanford University, where she helped found Stanford’s first academic class on the psychology of happiness and taught many well-being programs for Stanford students.

She received a B.A in Comparative Literature from Yale University, a Master’s Degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, and a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. She completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Originally from Paris, France, she speaks five languages: French, English, German, Spanish and Mandarin Chinese. Outside of her experiences in the US, she has worked in France and China.

June 24, 2015

Brian Rusch appointed Executive Director of Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation

NEW YORK, June 24, 2015  — The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation (DTPF) announced today the appointment of Brian Rusch as the new Executive Director of the foundation. As Executive Director, Rusch will helm Archbishop Emeritus and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Desmond Tutu’s only foundation based in the United States, whose mission is to inspire young people to build a world of peace within themselves, peace between people, and peace among nations.

Brian Rusch

“We are thrilled to have Brian Rusch join us,” says DTPF president Robert V. Taylor. “His hands-on work with global peacemakers like the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, together with his remarkable skills, combine to provide him with unique insight and wisdom to work with the foundation.”

Rusch’s first initiative will be to launch Peace3, an ambitious three-year campaign to build a network of one million 17-22 year-old peace builders.

“We look forward to the implementation of Peace3 as Brian joins the team,” says Rev. Mpho Tutu, Executive Director of the Desmond and Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation. “May we magnify one another’s voices in spreading Ubuntu and creating a new generation of young peacemakers.” The philosophy of Ubuntu, or that “we are all connected and what affects one of us affects us all” guides the foundation.

Prior to working at DTPF, Rusch was the Deputy Director of The Dalai Lama Foundation, an organization dedicated to supporting the development of shared global capacity for ethics and peace based on a non-dogmatic ethic of compassion, and was the COO of Project Happiness, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit dedicated to teaching social and emotional learning to young adults.

“It is an honor for me to join The Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation. With recent events from Myanmar to Charleston, it is apparent that the work of the foundation is needed now, more than ever,” Rusch said. “Archbishop Tutu’s teachings and his life can serve as a template for us to shape conversations on peace, equality and forgiveness.”

Archbishop Tutu added, “I would like to offer my congratulations to the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation on hiring Brian Rusch as the new Executive Director.  May God bless you in your work.”

June 23, 2015

Tutu endorses United Church of Christ divestment

The United Church of Christ will hold its general synod in Cleveland June 26-30 and consider a divestment resolution targeting the Israeli occupation. Archbishop emeritus Desmond Tutu has issued a statement supporting the resolution.

My dear sisters and brothers in the United Church of Christ,

Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ, through whom we share work and witness on behalf of God’s love and God’s justice.

I write to endorse, “A Call for the United Church of Christ to Take Actions Toward a Just Peace in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”, Resolution #4, which will be put to the vote at your 30th General Synod later this month in Cleveland, Ohio.

We grieve over Israel’s decades long oppression of Palestine and Palestinians: The illegal occupation; the expanding West Bank settlements; the separation wall; the siege of Gaza; the manipulation of water rights; the network of checkpoints and settler bypass roads; the detention of people without charges; the travel restrictions, identity cards, and disruption of every aspect of daily life for Palestinians.

We condemn the brutality of Israel’s policies. But we do not condemn Judaism or Jews.

As South African, we recognize institutionalized racism when we see it. We have experienced the corrosive effects of segregation – and have witnessed the healing power and joy of reconciliation.

It is unconscionable to remain silent, or neutral, in the face of injustice. Neutrality maintains the status quo and compounds the injustice.

The depth of my commitment to justice in the Holy Land has cost me friends and elicited vehement criticism. It is the cost of discipleship that requires us to name evil and clearly oppose it. Calling me anti-Semitic will not stop me from speaking out for justice.

We do not seek to demonize the architects of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, but to implore those with the political power to change their policies and their ways. Injustice brutalizes the humanity of the oppressors as well as that of the oppressed. Freedom for Palestinians will liberate Israelis, too.

We are sisters and brothers of one family, the human family, God’s family. We are made for each other, for inter-dependence, for goodness and for love. When we recognize each other for what we truly are, we make the impossible possible.

Thank you for recognizing our common humanity, for taking a stand for justice. Your resolution places you on the side of justice and human rights for all.

I endorse fully your resolution’s proposal to use the powerful non-violent tools of economic leverage. These tools helped us to engineer a new day for my own country, South Africa. With you, we proved that economic pressure can force the most powerful to the table. I am grateful that your denomination stood with us then, voting to join the South African divestment movement, and that you are prepared once again to take this stand for justice.

I applaud your decision to be guided by the faithful voice of the Christian community of Palestine, and to encourage widespread study of Kairos Palestine – a Moment of Truth (2009). It was just such a document which, in 1985, allowed the world to hear our voice and learn the depth of our oppression in South Africa. May we all heed the Kairos Palestine call, as people of faith, to engage in “resistance with love as its logic”.

I affirm your resolution’s condemnation of all violence and your uncompromising commitment to the path of non-violence and inter-religious dialogue. And I commend the resolution’s call for accountability from your own, United States, government over its annual $3.1 billion in military aid to Israel.

As US citizens you have the responsibility to speak truth to the power of your own government. As Christians you have the duty to side with the oppressed and by so doing to liberate the oppressor.

I endorse your resolution, and fervently pray for the day when Palestinians and Israelis will be reconciled and live together in dignity, security, and peace, with equal rights for all. When that day comes our collective hallelujahs will resound across the world we share.

God bless you.

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu Cape Town, South Africa

Source: Mondoweiss.net

June 22, 2015

Desmond & Mpho Tutu on Forgiveness, Family and Inner Peace

Desmond and Mpho Tutu reflect on the power of apologies, the need for material reparations, and the importance of forgiveness in dictating the world’s future. They also speak about truth and reconciliation within their own family, and how they are able to maintain their own inner peace.

Source: Yes! Magazine

June 15, 2015

Desmond Tutu & Bettina Gronblom: Migration – Choosing Freedom Over Xenophobia

In September 2012 we wrote together warning about the rise of xenophobia, intolerance and political scaremongering (the blog can be read here “God is not a Christian”. The situation has become worse. South Africa’s long walk to freedom is now threatened by xenophobic violence. Our universal human rights are being eroded in Europe on the basis of scaremongering and “national security”. Desperate migrants are drowning in the Mediterranean and mass migrant graves have been found in Asia. Xenophobia and migration are now urgent worldwide issues.

What do we do about migration? How do we move from a world of “terror” to peace? We must, as Mahatma Gandhi said, be the change we want to see in the world. This feels like an aged statement by now – but one we have yet to enact. In order to have peace, we must truly, be peace. The good news is that this is not at all impossible. In fact it is within immediate reach if we just think and listen differently, because as we know, we cannot solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that created it in the first place.

Isn’t seeing others suffer, knowing that we can help, just another form of violence towards others, and a violence towards our inner-selves, our souls, depriving us of our own happiness? No one chooses to be a refugee or migrant. Facing poverty, discrimination, violence, war, corruption and malnutrition is a prison, because it renders you helpless to live a full life. Migration is the only escape.

Xenophobia is a prison – a Robben Island of mind and matter – that can never lead to peace or happiness. Of mind, because society is a reflection of the images we create of each other, and it is these perceived images that fight and hate. Of matter, because we can never build walls high enough to keep destitute people out – and even if we could – would that not be a prison in itself?

Xenophobia is defined as hatred and fear of that which is foreign or “strange” to us. The definition of a phobia is according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary “an exaggerated usually inexplicable and illogical fear of a particular object, class of objects, or situation” (italics ours). This is what xenophobia is – exaggerated, inexplicable and illogical. This is actually great news because this is also the way out of this mental prison.

This phobia can be conquered with education and familiarity. We can be realistic about our fears and help others overcome theirs. We can educate ourselves and others, check social and economic facts about immigration, get to truly know one-another without wearing inflammatory blindfolds produced by scaremongering. We can realise that by hating or fearing others we are corroding our own inner peace and happiness.

We can consciously liberate our minds. What political messages do we choose to listen to? What kind of news do we read? What kind of movies, games, books and even people, do we subject our minds to? Our children’s minds? Our inner peace? We can remain passive and continue to subject ourself to violence and fear – or we can choose those sources that come from love. We can remind ourselves that all revered and unforgettable leaders in history; Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther King, people like John Lennon – stood for one thing – LOVE – not fear or scaremongering.

It is so easy to be negatively influenced by hatred and violence. We hear or see what we want to hear and see, as a result of what we have been influenced by. If we look for the “terrorist” we will surely find him in the foreigner. If we look for the human being in the migrant, we will find her too. If we look for love – we find love.

Born a slave, the greek philosopher Epictetus said: “No man is truly free who is not a master of himself.”. We can free our minds from the pollution of hate and fear. With free minds we see that there truly is nothing to fear but fear itself. Fear will lead us to imprison ourselves in our own countries by trying to keep others out. Fear will lead to more wars and violence. Fear will erode our human rights and our privacy. By choosing to break free from our imprisoned state of mind, we become not only free and happy – we actually become peace.

This is an “Oprah Aha” moment and it only takes a second! This is how, if we want it, peace is within our immediate reach.

“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility. For the person who is unwilling to grow up, the person who does not want to carry his own weight, this is a frightening prospect.” –Eleanor Roosevelt, Human Rights Champion.

But surely we cannot accommodate the world in a few countries? Surely we cannot afford to help everyone in the world? We can, because the financial cost alone of “terrorism” and wars is far greater than dealing with the issues at source. We don’t have to be accountants to figure that out. Spending on war and “anti-terrorism measures” is a fallacious argument when we need to solve the real sources for conflict. With freedom comes responsibility and we must help people at home and in their own countries. Most people actually want to stay in their home countries if they could. This is where the focus should be.

In order to choose freedom over xenophobia we need development and growth as if human beings mattered. Not more economic development based on Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or arbitrary monetary values (see also blog “About What Peter Buffet Said on Philanthropy, ROI and Understanding” http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/bettina-gronblom/philanthropy_b_3962660.html). Wealth doesn’t “trickle down” to the poorest and there is no equal “level playing field” to begin with in unequal societies. After decades of economic growth and numerous happiness studies, we know now that happiness doesn’t come from economic growth itself, but from our human relationships, showing and receiving compassion and love, and things like spending time in nature.

We need to free people from their “unfreedoms”, similarly to what Amartya Sen argued so well in his 1999 book Development as Freedom. We assert that as long as anyone suffers malnutrition, lacks access to clean water and proper education, are discriminated against, violated, suffer from corruption or environmental contaminations, have unequal rights or unequal opportunities and similar “unfreedoms”- no one can be truly free or happy. We are all one human family.

We can actively choose freedom over xenophobia, or put another way – choose to love and not to fear. We can start this journey in a split second by thinking differently, seeing things differently.

We can be peace now.

Source: Huffington Post

June 15, 2015

Dr. Scilla Elworthy: Why finding ‘peace within’ is more essential than ever for young people facing an uncertain future…

Fostering peace within is more important than ever for young people, particularly when you’re growing up in a world that seems to be without it.

Generations of young people face an uncertain future and challenges like environmental destruction and growing global inequality and, thanks to the power of digital technology, they are now more aware and connected to these issues, and to each other, than ever before – and many are feeling overwhelmed, angry and afraid.

Finding peace within is essential to be able to thrive in these circumstances and feel empowered to take effective action for creating a world that works for all, without burning out.

‘Peace within’ can be seen in people like Nelson Mandela. This man, during twenty-seven years in jail, made the profound shift from believing that violence would end South Africa’s apartheid system to committing himself to the much more demanding path of mediation and negotiation with the regime that had imprisoned him and his colleagues. Mandela inspired our imagination not only because of his great achievements but also because of what permeated everything he did—a mighty core of presence and integrity. His very bearing emanated solidity, serenity, and a humble, unshakable majesty.

Authentic leadership —the kind embodied by Desmond Tutu and so deeply needed now—begins in the radical mastery of one’s inner being. In half a century of work in the world, the most important lesson I’ve learned is that inner work is a prerequisite for outer effectiveness—the quality of our awareness directly affects the quality of results produced. The new brand of leaders that we need—those who are actually able to meet the challenges of today and thrive in the world of tomorrow—are the ones who know and live the connection between inner self-development and outer action. If we want to communicate clearly, transform conflicts, generate energy, and develop trust within our families and in our places of work, our first challenge is to do the inner work.

If you ask yourself: “Who do I know who’s most alive, most vibrant, effective and energetic, who’s also calm and generous and seems to have time for others?” Then, if you go and ask that person what their secret is, they’ll be likely to tell you that they meditate, or do bodywork, or have some practice of self reflection, or like being silent in nature, or have some experience of becoming self aware.

Peace within comes with the development of this inner power or self awareness. Inner power is the diamond formed by years of honing self-awareness, practicing selflessness, and observing and controlling the ego. It results from developing the essential skill of empathy—even for those who oppose you—and the humble commitment to keep learning the skills of deep listening and mediation.

I have come to realise that the parallel development of inner power and outer action—the marriage of the two—is the only effective way to bring about positive change. I know also from experience that being involved in creating a safer and more satisfying future is the source of the greatest and most lasting joy imaginable—a joy that can sustain you through all the ordeals of working for a new world.

If a critical mass of humanity can make this shift, to fostering inner power, inner awareness and developing peace within, an entirely different way of living could emerge. We could live in a world that is safe, where the earth has regenerated itself, where streams run clear again and you can drink the water anywhere. Where you can breathe clear air. Where children can be secure, not scared. Where creatures are protected from cruelty and extinction. Where people communicate with each other rather than fight. Where women are educated, safe, and respected. Where money holds its value, and companies compete to be trustworthy, because consumers insist on this. Where we find a way to elect to government the kind of people who want to serve rather than to abuse power.

This is not a utopia. It’s happening. This recognition of a need for ‘peace within’ is something I’ve witnessed in millennials the world over, and a global movement of creativity is beginning, of which you are potentially a part.

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Dr. Scilla Elworthy (born 3 June 1943) is a peace builder, and the founder of the Oxford Research Group, a non-governmental organization she set up in 1982 to develop effective dialogue between nuclear weapons policy-makers worldwide and their critics, for which she was nominated three times for the Nobel Peace Prize. She served as its executive director from 1982 until 2003, when she left that role to set up Peace Direct, a charity supporting local peace-builders in conflict areas. In 2003 she was awarded the Niwano Peace Prize. From 2005 she was adviser to Peter Gabriel, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson in setting up The Elders. She is a member of the World Future Council and in 2012 co-founded Rising Women Rising World, a growing, vibrant community of women on all continents who take responsibility for building a world that works for all.