Training with Meta Peace Team’s Mary Hanna at the Metta Center…
Lou leans into the kitchen, “If we need more room, we can do this training at my house.”
“We’ll be fine,” I reply with a grin.
Walking back into our office, I see that all the chairs have been filled, and some people have moved to the floor. About 16 people, and one or two people spilling out of the door. We’ve all gathered in about a week’s notice to spend four hours with Mary Hanna of the Meta Peace Team who kindly offered to train us in skills related to unarmed peacekeeping (the work of MPT) as well as bystander intervention while on an important visit to our headquarters in Petaluma.
Only an hour earlier, Mary was rushing about, organizing her material, plugging in her flash-drive, looking for her papers, and other preparations. I accidentally kicked over her coffee mug she set on the ground. She’s used to 8-hour sessions, and I’ve halved the time. I wanted people to have an intro to the work, but not necessarily a full day commitment at first go. Leave us wanting a little more. . .
We start the training with centering. I smile at the room full of expectant faces, “Mary usually gets five minutes for centering exercises, but we’re at the Metta Center–we’ll do thirty.” At which point our training began–with half an hour meditation, or quiet walking, or sitting in nature. The main rule: turn off the devices. Centering, she said, is essential when you are on a peace team, and it requires daily practice. She compared it to walking through a forest. You do it day in and day out, so that one night, there’s an emergency and you need to dash through down the path in thick darkness. You don’t need to see because your feet know the path; your hands know where you are. On a peace team, she said, we need that path inward–to our calm center– at our fingertips.
Throughout the morning, Mary came to life–sharing the amazing stories of the work of Meta Peace Team, and her practical idealism about how everyday people like ourselves can work together to strengthen our human bonds and reduce the violence we encounter and experience in our daily lives. Their most recent interventions took during the anti-sharia “rallies” in Lansing, MI, where a neighborhood of immigrants and refugees was a target for violence. They patrolled the neighborhood, provided protective accompaniment, stationed themselves at potential “flash points” for violent confrontation, and managed to report that no incidents of the day were able to escalate into violence against the neighborhood.
“Did this make the media?” someone asked. “Since there was no violence,” she said, “the media wouldn’t pick up that there was even a story there to tell.”
In the course of the training, Mary shared tool after tool to help us de-escalate violent situations with nonviolence. We practiced working in conflict situations related to our families, our neighbors, and strangers. Serious as it was, we had a blast.
“Use humor,” she advised. People don’t expect it. It doesn’t matter if you look like a fool, she said, “if you stopped someone from getting harmed, it’s worth it.”
My hope is to start a Peace Team out of our headquarters in Petaluma. “Why Petaluma?” a friend asked me as we drove back from taking Mary to her hotel by the airport. We need them everywhere, I explained.
What can YOU do?
INVITE META PEACE TEAM TO TRAIN YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS.
And if you’re really daring–start your own peace team, too!
We hope to see you at our next training or just to stop by for a cup of tea to talk nonviolence with us next time you are in town!