Sunday, October 18, 2009

Peace Is Not Just the Absence of War

I recently had a rare opportunity, along with a number of others, to co-sponsor a speaking event featuring Arun Gandhi, grandson of the late Indian spiritual and political leader Mahatma Gandhi, at the New Vision Center in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Center was jam-packed with people of all ages, and as Arun prepared to speak a hushed silence that spoke volumes descended on the gathering. It was a combination of the audience honoring his grandfather and acknowledging Arun as one of the most respected and influential figures in the international peace movement today. I also believe that we were all grateful, hopeful and relieved that he and others are still actively working on changing the culture of violence in our world.

In his introduction, Arun shared with us his early life in South Africa, where he daily experienced the injustices of apartheid, while his family was dedicated to nonviolent social reform. As a young man who was often beaten up and humiliated, he struggled to understand and embrace his family’s nonviolent response to racism and violence.

The anger this generated in Arun was a signal for his parents to send him to India to spend time with his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi, during the most critical and tumultuous time in his grandfather’s efforts to free India from British rule.

Despite Mahatma Gandhi’s worldly concerns, India’s “Great Soul” set aside one hour each day for eighteen months for his grandson. During these times, he shared through stories and exercises his teachings on the aspects of nonviolence, truth, anger, humility, discipline, morality and spirituality.

The training Arun received from his grandfather, which he chronicled in his book, “Legacy of Love” would determine his future life as he came to understand and embrace his family’s response to racism and violence. He is a veteran writer-editor and author of eight books, as well as founder of the M.K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence, which is located at Christian Brothers University in Memphis, Tennessee where he is a scholar-in-residence.

Arun held the Scottsdale audience spellbound for two hour as he shared information on a variety of peace-related topics. For example, he followed the profound statement that “Peace is not the absence of war” with a remarkable insight into why most of us think of violence as only physical, therefore missing the awareness that we daily contribute to passive violence.

According to Arun, we do this in many oppressive and disrespectful ways, including gossiping, name calling, teasing and insulting, as well as venting our anger on others. He compared passive violence to gasoline and physical violence to fire, and indicated that passive violence is what fuels physical violence.

He further explained that passive violence generates anger because the victim isn’t aware of how to deal with anger positively, and the only known recourse to the victim is to resort to some form of physical violence.

Arun believes that as a result of society’s pervasive fear of anger, and its subsequent ignorance of how to utilize anger as a practical and constructive force, we are losing a vital opportunity to curb the culture of violence that permeates our world today.

As someone who was slow to learn about conflict resolution and using anger constructively, I agree. Now that I know that anger itself is a natural human emotion, I can use the powerful energy behind it to seek a constructive resolution. While conflict resolution is now being taught in some elementary schools across the nation, what we also urgently need is remedial training in anger management and conflict resolution for every adult in America.

I was also fascinated by this next bit of information: Arun’s parents never punished their children for any breaches of behavior; instead they themselves paid the penance. They believed that their children’s errors in judgment were an indication of their failure as parents in not teaching them the proper behavioral guidelines. Their penance often took the form of fasting and the time frame for going without food depended on the seriousness of the transgression.

I couldn’t help but think about my three adult offspring with children of their own and wonder how they would feel about this concept. I also thought long and hard about the amount of retroactive penance that would be required of me. I realized for certain that I would never have had to think about diets or weight loss ever again and I probably wouldn’t live long enough to complete the penance.

After seriously contemplating that thought, it wasn’t long before I realized that this concept goes hand in hand with modeling nonviolent responses for our children from the time they are born. After all, the punishment concept has not worked at any level of our culture, and it’s time we recognized this and chose a more enlightened way.

Since change of any type takes time and commitment, we need to realize that unless we are willing to change individually, there will never be a collective change. I feel a powerful quote from Arun Gandhi’s grandfather rising up: We have to be the change we wish to see.
Copyright 2009 by Fern Stewart Welch

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available to readers from, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

It's Time for Us to Grow Up and Become Mature Adults

Whenever I asked my late mother how she was feeling, she always replied – even in her ninth decade – that no matter her age, she felt the same inside as she did when she was a teenager. I admit that I also experienced that feeling most of my life, until an incident a few weeks ago.

I was at a large luncheon-book signing for my recently released book, and was photographed, as my mother would say, “Six ways from Sunday.” When I received a full set of the photos for publicity purposes, I had no alternative but to admit, “Well now, I am old.” Since in my family we tend to be totally grey by our forties, I had long since come to peace with my hair color. Also, I had decided years ago that how I lived was more important than resisting the natural aging process. But, I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

I was surprised by the extra poundage, the double chin and the wrinkles – in addition to the grey hair that now defined me externally. Naturally, I mourned the loss of youth, but I soon realized that I still felt the same way inside, which was a remarkable gift. I also knew immediately that this was a wake-up call.

There were two important messages I gleaned from this situation: First was the reality that life on Earth is not forever, and I had only an uncertain number of years left to complete my life’s purpose, for which I desired optimal health and well-being. This meant finally getting with the program and losing my laxity concerning diet, exercise and nutrition. And second, the sad realization that I had let so much of my precious time on Earth go by before I was motivated to grow up, look at my life and take full responsibility for it.

If you look around, you will notice that being a grownup and taking responsibility for our lives isn’t a well-known or widely practiced concept. This is due pretty much to the fact that we live in a society in which the prevailing thinking is that our needs should be met by others, such as our families, our mates, our doctors, our jobs or the government. The error in that thinking is that in order to buy into it, we must relinquish our power, becoming totally dependent on them or “it” to take care of our needs. This approach is diametrically opposed to growing into a mentally, emotionally and spiritually mature human being.

We are facing a critical point in human history with all the attendant anxiety, fear and uncertainties, and we’d all rather talk about something less foreboding; me too. But it is patently obvious that it is time for us to answer humanity’s evolutionary call to grow up. In order for us to safely and peacefully negotiate this time, we will need far more conscious, aware and mature adults.

How to do that in today’s world seemed a mystery until a number of visionary authors and speakers focused on this theme, and now millions of individuals around the globe have discovered the real and inherently natural way to grow into spiritually mature adults. And it has nothing to do with erasing wrinkles or liver spots. By turning within and connecting with the eternal and sublime energy within us, which we call God, we discover the source of unconditional love, peace, wisdom, guidance and support that is every person’s birthright and heart’s desire.

Once we align ourselves with this energy-wisdom, the natural maturation process is evoked and we are led to become grownup human beings, which has always been the evolutionary plan for humanity. We then automatically seek to create better lives and a better world.

It is up to us. We can be like Scarlett O’Hara and choose to think about all the changes and challenges tomorrow, which means hoping they will go away and we won’t have to think of them at all. Or, we can take the journey within, grow up, and help co-create a glorious future for ourselves, humanity and our planet. Time and tide wait for no man – or woman – whether we’re blessed with the bloom of youth or the symbols of wisdom and experience.
Copyright 2009 by Fern Stewart Welch

[The information on how to connect with God can be found in the author’s book “The Heart Knows the Way,” and at]

The author’s books: “Tea with Elisabeth,” “You Can Live A Balanced Life In An Unbalanced World” and “The Heart Knows the Way – How to Follow Your Heart to a Conscious Connection with the Divine Spirit Within” are available to readers from, other online booksellers, bookstore chains, such as Barnes & Noble and Borders, and to the trade from Ingram Book Co., Baker & Taylor and other wholesalers.