BePeace Workshop at Whidbey Institute
with Rita Marie Johnson




SingPeace! sponsored a four-day workshop, the BePeace Foundations Course, at the Whidbey Institute on Whidbey Island in Washington State, from Aug. 1-4, 2011.

The BePeace Foundations Course, a 32-hour experiential workshop, was conducted by the guiding light of BePeace herself, Rita Marie Johnson, founding director of Rasur Foundation International.

The goal of the workshop is to teach us to "feel peace, speak peace and teach peace."

To learn to "feel peace," participants practiced techniques based on fostering "coherence" through appreciation. Coherence is a physiological state in which the nervous, cardiovascular, hormonal and immune systems work efficiently and harmoniously together. It improves brain cognitive function and our overall sense of well-being. Thus, it helps us create an inner state from which we can deeply and sincerely express ourselves in a peaceful, compassionate way (as opposed, for example, to trying to express ourselves peacefully and compassionately while actually feeling disconnected, or dominated internally by anger or fear).

To learn to "speak peace," participants practiced communication techniques based on connection to universal needs, empathy and honesty. This aspect of BePeace is inspired by Nonviolent Communication (NVC), a methodology developed by Dr. Marshall Rosenberg, involving moving from observations (observable, neutral data), to feelings (e.g. happy, sad, angry, afraid), to universal needs (e,g, understanding, respect, connection), and finally to requests (clear words asking for concrete, well-defined, do-able actions to satisfy an identified need).

Having absorbed these techniques on a gut level through small group practice, participants become empowered to pass the teaching on, i.e. to "teach peace."

"The techniques are really pretty simple," says attendee Mike Hurwicz. "But when you think about it, it makes a lot of sense: If you can get calm, clear your mind, and generate a feeling of appreciation inside yourself, you're going to change everything: your physiology, your emotions, your cognitive function. And then that sets you up to be more open, so you can connect with someone else more easily. Of course, it's not always easy to 'simply' feel appreciation if you're upset or whatever. But I do find it's been working for me, as I practice it more and more."

Mike attended the workshop with his partner, Sharon Abreu. The two were also the official SingPeace! musicians for the event, interspersing much appreciated songs of peace, celebration and inspiration throughout the four days at the Institute.

Other musicians brought in by SingPeace! included the Songweavers, from Port Townsend, who led a "sing 'n mingle" session following one of the classes.

"It was really fun and invigorating," says Sharon, "and quite magical to walk around and hear the different harmony or melody lines fading in and out as you passed by different people in the group. It was like strolling through a big melodious stew, and tasting different mixtures of the ingredients at every step."

"I deeply appreciate Pushkara Ashford and Julie Vosoba, who organized the event,," says Rita Marie, "as they recruited such a lively, talented group of participants and pulled the logistics off seamlessly. At the same time, Whidbey Institute was so inspiring on every level – its natural beauty, welcoming staff and heavenly food were like taking big doses of well-being.”

"It was a great course," concludes Julie, "I watched people having breakthroughs and 'aha' moments, as they applied what they were learning to situations in their lives. I think everyone should take this course!"

And Rita Marie was so impressed by Julie that she hired her as Program Director for the Rasur Foundation International !

BePeace (Rasur International)
HeartMath (source of "coherence" techniques)
Center for Nonviolent Communication
Laurence Cole
"Peacemaker, singers will meet for weekend at Whidbey Institute"
     (South Whidbey Record, June, 2011)

Irthlingz: Sharon Abreu and Michael Hurwicz
Sharon Abreu
Irthlingz (non-profit)