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Lions Roar : March 2016
had decided to turn into a “national park for the benefit of Jerusalem residents.” Feeling helpless, many Al-Walaja farmers stopped farming these threatened lands. Yaser was an exception, but one day he said to us, “I cannot hold on alone. All my neighbors have stopped coming down here. So what’s the point?” In response we organized monthly work days in which Israeli volunteers assisted Yaser on his land. Yaser got his motivation back, and even started to expand his organic vegetable plots and plant new trees. Within a year, the land he cultivated had grown three-fold. And seeing the unique knowledge Yaser had, we invited Israelis to learn traditional Palestinian agriculture techniques from him. Then more families from the village asked our volunteers to help them take care of their olive groves. The work days and agri- cultural workshops attracted Jerusalemites who were previously oblivious to the dispossession of their neighbors. Their joint love for the land proved a quick route to break through the barriers between them. Such encounters shake long-held beliefs and self- images and provide ample opportunities for deep practice. Doing this peace work over the years, and in particular dur- ing periods of increased violence, we began to identify a “con- flict mind-set” that prevails in Israeli society. Indeed, research has shown that a society entrenched in an intractable conflict will inevitably develop a collective psyche that perpetuates con- flict, justifies violence, and blocks change. Despite the extensive theoretical understanding of the psycho- logical barriers to peace, very little has been done so far to develop effective methods for transforming these cognitive and emotional patterns. So a group of Israeli dharma practitioners decided to develop a protocol that applies mindfulness, inquiry, and loving- kindness practice to transform the conflict mind-set and encour- age attitudes that support nonviolence and reconciliation. Mind the Conflict is based upon the fundamentals of the dharma, namely that the psychological obstacles to peace are inner constructions that are only believed to be real. People are invited to look beyond denial and suppression and become aware of their automatic emotional and cognitive patterns. Over the past few years, we have witnessed the transformative potential of this approach. As dharma practitioners, we have found that peace work summons us to step out of our comfort zone, put ourselves in the shoes of the other, challenge injustice, and face the demons inside our own minds. Our whole life of spiritual practice is called upon. We need to practice when we are not in conflict and apply it when we are. We need a great heart—compassion and friendliness, a sense of softness with life, letting the energy of the heart flow naturally toward ourselves and toward the other. ♦ LION’S ROAR | MARCH 2016 28