The US had been hit hard on 9/11. Like never before in history, the world immediately came together as one. America had its many problems, but all in all, America was a beloved presence throughout the world. It had taken a stand for freedom, for liberty, for human rights, for dreams. A beacon of light, it offered so much hope to so many.

A great deal of its strength, prosperity, and glory were the direct byproducts of incredibly noble efforts (though American history is of course also deeply scarred).

America had an extraordinary opportunity to respond to the situation in a way that would capitalize on the collective good will and redefine its idealism and excellence, but instead was opting for a path of exclusion, power, and self-interest.

nudepeaceYou may or may not agree with this perspective, but many of the world’s citizens did, as peace rallies flared up across the globe like never before. The majority of the people on this planet felt they knew better than the small group of leaders in control, and we were trying everything we could to get them to change course… there was still time.

My friends and I went to the demonstrations in San Francisco. They were largely fun and celebratory, but also sometimes angry. Everyone cried out
for peace and it made me reflect on “peace” and what it really means.

There were times in my life where I – or the egoless self – had experienced a genuine sense of peace. The severity of this situation felt like it couldn’t be ignored or watched from the sidelines. I felt that perhaps the greatest gift that I could possibly give was to “Be the change” – to offer genuine peace to this situation and to America. Real peace was not something I could pull out of my pocket at will. It was something that would have to be delicately discovered.

At the time I was doing website design for the Circle of Life Foundation. Its founder, Julia Butterfly Hill, was putting together an event called We The Planet, that would take place in about 6 weeks. The event would be a great demonstration of a better world to come – a completely eco-friendly festival celebrating the coming together of all. In these dark days where the riot-armed police guarded the San Francisco streets, this event seemed like a beacon of hope in the storm. The symbolism of the event was striking. It was taking place on Earth Day, which also happened to fall on the Spring equinox, symbolic of renewal, and also on Easter Sunday, symbolic of resurrection. And butterflies, naturally, are also symbols of transformation.

civic07Throughout the world, the peace movement was ablaze. The strongest fire was in the US itself. Within the US, the energy was greatest in the Bay Area, and within the Bay Area, the focal point of it all was in the Civic Center Plaza, where most of the peace marches terminated and demonstrations were held. If ever there was a tantric center to this situation, this seemed to be it.

I decided that I would start a meditation circle at the Civic Center Plaza – one genuinely aimed at finding and offering real peace.  It would start on April 1st 2003 and end at the We The Planet Festival on April 20th. I understood that this could potentially catch fire. If it were to grow strong in San Francisco, it would be likely be replicated throughout the world, and a genuine feeling of peace would make its mark during this troubled time.

Since I couldn’t pursue any deep inner peace and work effectively to promote the event, I decided simply to go within and let it unfold as it would.

Friends came together to support the effort. It was something genuine and something that we all felt like we wanted or needed to be a part of. Still, I had walked away from my job at Woodshanti to do this. Everyone else was busy and could only commit what they were able. Though I had extraordinary support, it was a long stretch and the real weight of the effort was almost entirely on me.

Though in my mind, the potential of this effort was extraordinary, as soon as the US attacked Iraq on March 20th, it deflated the collective energy and hope that had been building and building. My efforts and intentions were still as appropriate as ever in a time of madness and destruction, but the public support that could have emerged simply wouldn’t.

Now, I faced a horribly difficult situation. In my soul, I knew that I had only one choice. This path for me was life itself. To engage in this was to engage in everything I believed was important and to step away from it was to fall asleep, to give up on being awake, vital, and alive. I had to keep walking forward. I felt a vitality in my veins as I had only several times before. I knew with certainty that where I was in the universe is exactly where I needed to be. I stood on the very cutting edge of change – one so subtle that very few could see it. Knowing this might have been plenty, but I was way too human and way too delicate.

As a shy person, I had put myself up front and center. Though I was now engaged in an action that was true and needed, it was one that would not catch on, thus all reason made it feel like I was engaged in something off the mark. I felt embarrassed and humiliated on a daily basis, but I sat in this space and continued on, knowing it was alive. During this time, I wrote daily journal entries, which expressed both the hope and difficulties I experienced.

firstcircle1There came times when my self-doubts began to overpower my resolve, but with the encouragement of many extraordinary friends such as Scott, Gavi, and Karmeshwar, and particularly through the support of Loveleen, ShantiDeva, and Bhuvanesh, I made it through.

Probably what this taught me above all else was the power of my fear of social rejection.  Having gone through this experience, I am now so much more aware of my capacity to handle being up front and center.

Though the event may have not made much of an impact on the world, it was something that made a difference to those of us who participated in it – a very special and bright gathering of friends during a very ugly time in history.