Wednesday, September 9, 2009


September 21 is approaching. For those of you who didn’t know, that is the United Nations International Day of Peace. Every year on this day, the UN asks all nations at war to consider taking a one-minute ceasefire at noon, as well as asking citizens of the world to acknowledge peace.

I can imagine that many of you are concerned with the state of the world and think about issues of peace and social justice. I have spent many years living and working with people around the world and have discovered that, even though our customs may be different, we all desire the same things, we fear the same things and we get confused about the same things. It’s comforting to know that, after all the externals are removed, we can always find common ground. For instance, we all want to be happy, we all want to be free of suffering and we all want to be understood.


The question I often ask is: given all the knowledge and resources we have, given the ease with which we can connect anyone around the world, the ease with which we can export products and download information, the fact that we have truly evolved into a global community, why are we still playing out the same scenarios of war, power struggles, hunger and unrest?

Oh, I could write a book on this! And I’m sure that many of you could as well. However, I would like to bring up an idea that may help shed some light on the situation and may also provide us all with some clear practical ways that we can have a positive impact on ourselves and those around us.

Some of us who hold on to a 1970’s view of peace - we will all be dancing in the meadows with flowers in our hair. We think that peace is the end result of a long struggle that once it is achieved, we will all love each other and we will always have peace. If you think about it practically, this is a dream that can never really come true.

Some of us hold on to this idea that peace is simply the absence of war; that when all countries declare a ceasefire, we will live in a world of peace. This is also not realistic. What happens to all the unresolved feelings, the centuries-old patterns, the hunger and unbalanced distribution of resources and power?

So the question is not how do we reach peace but how do we maintain lasting peace? I believe that lasting peace is possible and that the absence of war is the point when the real work begins! Lasting peace is not static – it requires a constant awareness of our own aggressive, reactive behavior and the skill to resolve issues before they escalate into conflict. It is very easy to have enemies and keep them at a distance. It is much harder to connect and engage with those who share different views and really speak your truth without aggression and have the courage to hear another’s truth.


But what can we do now to help have a positive impact on ourselves and the world around us? The problems seem so enormous, how could we possibly make a difference? I believe we can have an enormous impact by starting today with some small things. Here are three:

1 – Give up the need to be right. Try to hear someone else’s perspective. If you think about it, any situation can be seen in many different ways. Every person experiences the world from their own perspective and that is their truth. So, that means that there is not one single absolute truth. When you give up the need to be right, you can truly hear the views and opinions of others. There is a little bit of truth in everyone’s story, so listen to the stories of others – you will learn more about your own truth. When you give up the need to be right, you can find consensus and creative solutions to all problems.

This doesn’t mean you have to give in; you simply have to acknowledge and validate someone else’s perspective. I often use this quote in my workshops: “If you have to have the last word, then let it be ‘Well, I guess you’re right.’” Try it, and you’ll see peaceful changes – at work, with your partner and friends, even with strangers.

2 – Find ways to engage with others you don’t know, especially if their views differ from yours. If you think about it, many of the conflicts we have witnessed have to do with the fact that we separate ourselves from those we don’t know, or who are different. The bigger the separation, the more judgment we have about them and the more negative stories we create to make sure we don’t have to engage with them. This of course leads to a defensiveness and suspicion, and oftentimes a need to dominate or disempower. You can see this in our history and also in our own personal lives.

Think about when you are at work, or at the store or at the gym, for instance. Who do you connect with? Who not? Who engages with you? Who doesn’t? Why? It usually has to do with physical appearance or type. Well, what would happen if you chose to connect with the person you are least drawn to? What you would discover is that they are an amazing person with an amazing story. In fact, every person on this planet has an amazing story! Imagine how rich our lives would be if we took the time to learn about other people – their triumphs and struggles, their fears and the wisdom. We would all grow and find creative, new ways to build a better world. We may surprise ourselves and find a good friend, a business partner or even a teacher in someone we never would have expected. So next time you are at work or the gym, connect with someone you would never think of connecting with. You’ll be amazed.

3 – Find creative ways to empower others, like mentoring, community work and tutoring. If you look around you, you see we still live with old paradigms around power. Somewhere in our past, we started believing that power was limited, and therefore we had to dominate others to get power, enslave them and make sure they would never be as strong as we were. This is a very combative approach that is motivated by the viewpoint, “If I want to win, you have to lose.” Well, I believe that this is old and outdated. You can see the shifts in power and the jargon of world leaders who are now talking about cooperation and seeking out diplomatic solutions to problems. You can see that old ways of doing business are crumbling.

We are looking at power differently. We are beginning to see that there really is enough for everyone; we just need to distribute it in a better way. As our world gets smaller and we notice how dependent we all are on each other, we are opening to a new viewpoint - that the only way to truly win is if those around us also win. We are seeing that we are truly strong if we take the time to empower those around us.

So, what can you do to empower others? Is there someone younger than you who you could mentor? Support them in their growth? Is there someone older than you who you could mentor? Is there someone who you could teach how to read? Someone you could help find a suitable exercise program? Share your knowledge of meditation and spiritual concepts? Is there someone in your neighborhood who could benefit from learning English or some other language you speak well? Just think about it – when we are all empowered we lose our defensiveness and insecurity; this allows us to live out our true potential and be a vital force in our society.

So, until we actually have a world with no war, these are three things you can do right now to bring us closer to that goal, to start practicing the way we will need to be with one another in order to maintain peace. I encourage you to try it out, keep doing it and make it a new habit. I guarantee that your world will change for the better. Get in touch and let me know how it goes!


Would you like to do something special for the United Nations International Day of Peace on September 21? I am the founder of the HEARTWALKER PEACE PROJECT. Since 2003, we have walked through cities around the world in heart-shaped routes as a way to connect with others who share a common commitment of collaboration, cooperation and hope to create a new vision of lasting peace. This is a new kind of peace walk – not anti-anything, but a true celebration of peace.

Feel free to join us! I will be doing a Heartwalk in San Francisco on that day. Or you can walk your own heart in your own town. You can walk alone or with others, walk in your living, garden, at work or on the streets. All you do is have one minute of silence at noon and then walk your heart! We are trying to create as many Heartwalks as possible throughout the world. We already have people walking in Greece, Amsterdam, New York, Washington DC and many other cities.

Commit to yourself and to lasting peace. Please join us on this important day. The path to lasting peace has to start somewhere – get up and walk towards peace… one step at a time.

Check our website for details on how to set up your own Heartwalk, how to get in touch and let us know you will be walking, or to join us for the Heartwalk in San Francisco.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Age of Diplomatic Warfare

This past week, President Obama gave a speech in Cairo, speaking to the world and most specifically to the Muslim world. I believe he was successful in accomplishing what his goal was: to show respect to the Muslim nations and religion, and, ultimately, weaken the terrorist movements. If you look at it from the perspective of a “diplomatic war,” he launched a major offensive and succeeded.

Obama’s opponents say that it didn’t accomplish anything, that it’s all words and no action. That when you compare Obama to Bush, “Bush at least freed the Iraqi people.”
Well comments like that go to show us the lack of subtlety of these opponents. They don’t understand the power of “diplomatic warfare.”

For them, warfare is based on bombs, guns and the murder, or overthrowing of a leader or government. Let’s take a look at the US-led attack on Iraq in 2003. What was the goal? To weaken the terrorists. The Bush administration convinced us that Saddam Hussein was supporting terrorists and it was our obligation to overthrow the Iraqi leader’s regime. Many people and nations believed the lies they told and we took action. We used old-fashioned warfare to obtain our goal: weaken the terrorists.

Yes, we did “free” the Iraqi people from their leader. But at the cost of breaking many international laws, creating more hate of the US and the west amongst the Muslim communities, thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And really, when you think about it, we didn’t even achieve our goal. We didn’t weaken the terrorists, we only strengthened their resolve to destroy even more. These are the ways and tactics of short-term thinking and old-fashioned warfare. It’s about breaking down the enemy at all costs, overtaking land, and no respect for those who think differently. It fosters more separation and hate, resulting in an unending cycle of destruction. You may win the battle, but the long-term consequences are frightening.

Now let’s take a look at diplomatic warfare. This type of tactic focus on the building of relationship, of acknowledging and respecting differences. The missions, or offensives, are mostly through words! So you may not see immediate results like you would when you bomb a palace and capture a leader, but you can see steady progress towards lasting peace, cooperation and mutual respect. Leading to the protection of land and resources and life.

Obama’s main strategy was very clever. If he can show those in the Muslim world respect, that he has taken the time to learn about their customs, that he doesn’t see them as his enemy and welcomes more dialogue and cooperation, then it will be more difficult for them to hate the US and its allies. It’s hard to hate someone who wants to understand you. Terrorism can only survive on hate. If there is less hate, then individuals might be more reluctant to support terrorists. This, in turn, will weaken the power the terrorists have on others and on the impact they are currently having on the world.

So, from the perspective of diplomatic warfare, you could say that Obama’s speech was perhaps just as aggressive as the illegal invasion of Iraq by the US and its allies. And this time, this offensive succeeded! Without a single death, without spending trillions of dollars and without creating deeper chasms between the US and the rest of the world. Just take a look what is happening in Lebanon and Iraq at this very moment.

The nation should be out in the streets celebrating. There should be parades!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

What's wrong with sharing?...

Is anyone else as perplexed and discouraged by the current response to Obama, and more specifically by the “tea” parties and the complaining about taxes? Is it too much to ask for a bit of common sense? Are we that frightened and angry that we can’t see that Obama is simply doing his best to pick up the pieces of 30 years of a way of governing and doing business that has resulted in the mess we are in?

And is anyone else shocked by the strong resistance to contributing to the good of the whole? We keep hearing that raising taxes and supporting social programs makes people lazy and kills the creative, entrepreneurial spirit. Well, that’s just not true. That’s based on fear and inability to let go of control. It has been proven to work around the world. I have proof. I lived in the Netherlands for almost 18 years and I see how a more social system can both take care of those in need and support the uniqueness and success of the individual.

What ever happened to sharing? All religious and spiritual traditions advocate it. The Christian bible emphasizes the holiness in giving to others and sharing. We are taught as children that sharing is a virtue. And it is part of the blueprint of a society based on higher consciousness. Wouldn’t you say? So what are we so afraid of?

I think I know. I think it has to do with the fact that since 1948, we Americans have been so brainwashed that we can’t see reality anymore. We have been bombarded with images, propaganda, movies, TV, books etc. that have convinced us that the Soviet Union and China and any country that supported them were inherently bad and that their main objective was to destroy the United States and “the free world” (whatever that is…) We were told that Communism and Socialism was the way of the enemy, and anything that resembled these systems were evil. This was finally crystallized with Ronald Reagan’s speech in the early 80’s when he called the Soviet Union “the Evil Empire.”

Think about how brainwashed we all were. We either believed him or we actually let him get away with it. Clinical psychologists would call that sociopathic behavior, right? Yet, we accepted it as normal. And how could we not? Look at all the rhetoric and propaganda that was created to justify our actions at home and around the world. Look at the horror of the House Un-American Committee in the 50’s. Look at the destruction that the US created in Africa, Southeast Asia and Latin America. All in the name of democracy and freedom. Look at all the movies and books of the 50’s and 60’s that all had to do with some kind of evil force from the outside, whether human or extraterrestrial, that tried to take over America and “American values.” Look at the proliferation of nuclear weapons creating a reality on this planet that no human being has ever had to face – complete annihilation. We had no choice but to be traumatized.

Well, times have changed. Now is an opportunity to wake up out of the 60-year nightmare and take a good look at the facts and common sense. The first thing we need to realize is that Communism and Socialism are economic systems and not political. The “evil” of the Soviet and Chinese regime was not how they distributed wealth, but the dictatorial, tyrannical tactics of power hungry, ideologically blinded men who had no problem murdering and destroying to maintain power. Communism doesn’t kill and take away freedoms, people do.

So, what we all should do is some soul searching and find a way to overcome our Pavlovian Dog response to the words Communism and Socialism, and realize that supporting and voting for programs that strengthen social programs and ask us to pay more taxes won’t annihilate us. And I’m not only talking to my Conservative brothers and sisters out there, but also to my Liberal ones as well. You may talk the talk, but look down deep and feel deep in your body how you still flinch when you hear the C word or the S word. When we can let go of this trauma and reactive response, we will see how powerful sharing is and see that an individual can be strong only if the entire community is strong.

Yes, it is possible to pay a lot of taxes and still follow your entrepreneurial spirit and realize your personal goals. It is possible to get welfare for a while and be a vital part of society. Yes it is possible to have governmental social programs and still have freedom. I know it to be true. I lived for 18 years in a country where it happens. And if you look at your statistics, the people of the Netherlands and Denmark (two examples of socially free-market societies) are the happiest, healthiest, and financially stable in the world. Look at the facts! And if you are one of those who say you don’t care how other countries do it, you are only interested in what is happening here in the United States, then remember – that’s sociopathic behavior according to clinical psychology.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Pro-Life Movement I Would Support

I would love to join a pro-life movement! I can’t think of anything better to put my energy into. The pro-life movement I would support would take on the following tasks.
To get all governments to:
Create and enforce an international ban on the death penalty.
Place an international tax of at least 75% on the profits of all weapon making companies, as well as establish a yearly quota of how much can be produced.
Instill an international mandate that every politician or leader who chooses to go to war - or their son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter - must enlist for battle.
Introduce an education system where all high-school level students are required to live and study abroad for 6 – 12 months.
Create and implement programs to effectively eliminate hunger around the world.
Create strict regulations on how animals are slaughtered for food, as well as enforce a quota of how many animals may be killed for food per year.
Fund companies to invent pesticides and poisons that only repel insects and rodents and don’t kill them.
Change the prison system so that no private company or individual makes a profit, and any revenue is distributed for social services and programs to eliminate crime.
Decriminalize the use of soft drugs.
Create well-funded planned parenthood institutions that focus on pregnancy prevention and fully inform pregnant women of their options, as well as enforce a law that requires thorough sex education in public and private schools.
Instill educational programs for pre-schoolers where boys are taught to respect girls and women, and girls are encouraged to be independent, self-sufficient individuals.
How about you? Are you interested in a pro-life movement? What would yours look like?

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Goodbye and thank you, Mr. George W. Bush...

"January 19th, 2009. The end of an era in American history, the end of a decades-old regime.
The end of "if you're not with us, you're against us" diplomacy.
The end of "every man for himself" economics.
The end of "power means domination".
The end of "if your views are different from mine, then you must be a threat" morals.
And thank you, Mr. George W. Bush for accellerating the process for us to get there.
Thank you for taking on the role of being the symbol for this dying system.
Thank you for leading the system that taught us so clearly that war is stupid and never benefits anyone.
Thank you for leading the system that woke us up out of our haze by continuously taking away our rights and liberties.
Thank you for leading the system that proved to us that unregulated capitalism does not work.
Thank you for leading the system that took America's standing in the world from fear to ridicule, forcing us to review our suppressive, imperialistic world policies.
Thank you for leading the system that has abused our planet so much, that we now take action to protect our planet and not just sit around crying about it.
Someone had to do it and it happened to be you. Thank you for taking on that role.
Because without you, we probably wouldn't be where we are today - a time of possibility, of tearing down the old and opening to new paradigms and ways of being.
A time where cooperation, personal responsibility, collaboration, respect for others and their beliefs, a sharing of power and resources and ideas will be the norm and default.
Thank you, goodbye and farewell.
Joe Weston"