"If the religions can bind together in a common cause, they can transform and heal anything in the world," said Will Bowen. Bowen is pastor of a modest congregation in north Kansas City. "The word religion means to bind together." In three short years, his life has been transformed by an idea borne from his desire to help his flock. That idea has turned into a worldwide movement called a complaint-free world.
"Complaining is challenging. First, it keeps us focused on the problem rather than looking for potential solutions. It keeps us focused on what is at hand rather than looking for what we desire. It is damaging to our relationships and to our careers." Bowen said the idea of going 21 consecutive days without complaining came from Edwene Gaines' book Four Spiritual Laws of Prosperity. "What I came up with was adding the purple bracelet" as a means to monitor the process.
Since then millions of bracelets have been requested with the goal of 60,000,000 bracelets worldwide. "That's 1% of the population," he added, "a tipping point" for human consciousness. He is looking forward to giving author and poet Maya Angelou the 6 millionth bracelet next week.
Missouri Poet Laureate Walter Bargen from Ashland, Missouri, captured the spirit of the day with a poem called "In the Round." The poem took on special meaning as the monolithic Peace Dome rose behind him. Rev. Sam Price of Wood Street Baptist Church in Lebanon, Missouri, offered the invocation.
Grandmother SilverStar, an American Indian elder peacekeeper, whose ancestors are from the Cherokee and Lakota people, offered a prayer for peace for 200 Native American Tribes. She was sent by the World Peace Prayer Society with whom she is connected. The Society is an international organization whose mission is to spread the prayer "May Peace Prevail on Earth" around the world.
Dr. Daniel Condron, director of the College of Metaphysics, spoke on the place a still mind, the present moment, and an open heart holds in the experience of peace. He has committed his life to living the universal principles of discipline, service, and teaching.
President of the School of Metaphysics Dr. Laurel Clark connected the day's activities with the Parliament, a nonprofit organization based in Chicago which seeks "to create harmony among the world's religious and spiritual communities to achieve a more just, peaceful and sustainable world." Parliaments have been convened every five years since 1993. The next one will be held in December in Melbourne, Australia.
"This pre-Parliament event is one of dozens designed to bring the spirit of the greater Parliament to regional areas," Clark said. A true resonance in this spirit surfaced through the story of how Phil Jones came to open the day by playing the digideroo. His appearance at the event was an example of what Clark calls Universal Law in action. "The originally scheduled musician had a heart attack three days before the event. We were glad to hear that he is going to be okay, but his illness left us with a need. It actually opened the door for an Australia connection that we had been seeking," Clark said. She is the author of The Law of Attraction and other Secrets of Visualization and has a remarkable ability to see metaphysical connections between people and events that most allow to pass them by.
"A world traveler, Phil just happened to be traveling from St. Louis to Tallequah, Oklahoma the day before our event. He could have been in India or South Africa, anywhere in the world, but he was a few hours away from Windyville. Most people would call this a coincidence, I see it as an excellent example of the workings of universal law."
Many would have seen the last minute change as a crisis, not Christine Madar, coordinator of the event. She took it all in stride. "Staying focused on a goal is one of the benefits of earning a doctorate in metaphysics. I learned of Phil through a connection with the Springfield SOM director and began an email dialogue. At first, he was reluctant to amend his plans. He was tired from traveling and everyone involved was contributing from the heart, not for economic reimbursement. Since this is his livelihood, he had to think it over. Then the day before, he experienced sinus problems, a real challenge for a wind instrument player."
The faint-hearted might have given up, not Madar. "Her willingness to embody the ideal of thinking peacefully is what opened the door for Phil to say yes," said Clark. Friday evening, 18 hours before the event was to begin, he confirmed he would be there.
Vocal music was performed by an multi-state ensemble under the direction of COM graduate teacher Laurie Biswell. Performers included COM students Walter Hrycaj and Emily Ashley, Elizabeth Horton of Louisville, Kentucky, Dr. Pam Blosser of Urbana, Illinois, Kimberlee Otto of Palatine, Illinois, Bryon Parrino and Terrence Bellows of Tulsa, Matt Valois of Kansas City, KS, Jesse Kern of Des Moines, IA, Stephanie and Cori Cartwright of Springfield, MO. Ariadne Conner played violin and Wes Harris, guitar.
The song chosen was "One Voice", an original composition by College of Metaphysics students which captured the spirit of the day. The Living Peaceably day -- billed as a drug-free, tech-free, complaint-free gathering -- proved to be a living example of Bowen's message as featured speakers from six states shared their journeys to become complaint free.
Speaking at Living Peaceably was a significant step in college professor Nelson Kraus' life journey. With four college degrees, active duty as a medic in Vietnam and Desert Storm, 15 years in medical practice including allopathy and homeopathy, 10 years in radio and television, experience as a motivational speaker and standup comic, Dr. Kraus describes his life as "quantum composting". "No matter your life experience or how chaotic and diverse the struggle of anybody's life, these experiences can always be composted to create a positive quantum outcome," Kraus said. Being asked to share his story gave Dr. Kraus the stimulus to discover how his seemingly divergent choices came together, bringing him to an understanding of universal principles.
Balbir Mathur said he always felt like a foreigner in life, even as a child living in his native India. This all changed when a mysterious two-year illness that left him unable to walk ended as suddenly as it appeared. The spontaneous healing happened when a vision inspired him to promise to fight world hunger. Mathur left a successful career as a business management consultant to found Trees for Life, an organization committed to planting trees and empowering community leaders worldwide. "We are a movement of people gathered together in the spirit of service, not to change the world or not to force our will on Earth, but to simply serve, just like a lover gives his beloved a flower in loving service."
A pioneer in consciousness studies, Jean Campbell has been experimenting and researching group dreaming for individual healing since the 1970s. Learning that she was not alone in dreaming of the 9/11 disaster before it happened awakened Jean to the potential of using group dreaming for global peace. "On the eve of the invasion of Iraq, over half of the (peace dreaming) group dreamed about the children in Iraq," Jean told the crowd. "It was an indicator to us we need to help the children, and so we did." Since then, due to her efforts on behalf of the World Dreams Peace Bridge, an international dream research group she founded, $16,000 has been raised to aid Iraqi refugees.
PeaceJam is a worldwide organization designed to connect youth with positive role models -- Nobel Peace Prize laureates. Regional representatives Scott Minea and Jill Flanke told several stories of how Nobel laureates have directly affected the lives of students through personal contact. These kids go from "a life impacted by the world to a life that will impact the world. It just makes a difference," Flanke said. The PeaceJam message came to life later in the day with "The Invitation," a four-movement play based upon the words of eight laureates including Albert Schweitzer, Dr. Linus Pauling, Martin Luther King, Jr., Alva Mydal, Betty Williams, the Dalai Lama of Tibet, Mother Teresa, and Shirdin Ebadi.
Panel speakers reflected Parliament themes. When Melanie Rudolph was eight years old, her mother committed suicide. Decades later she discovered Laughter Yoga, a spiritual movement using breathwork to connect people "with deep joy within". Kenn Parks founded our1planet.org to connect people with one another as a mean to create a sense of "global family". Lynn Wieties practices the Baha'i faith. Bahai's believe that world peace is inevitable which is in keeping with their view that "all religions come from the same Source". Former corporate lawyer for Barnes Hospital, Jack Sisk has dedicated his life to providing a space for all faiths to come together in joy. He gave his life savings to found the Living Insights Center in St. Louis, a universal place with a temple for every faith and every individual.
Since the Peace Dome was constructed in 2003, the east retaining wall has supported a 9 by 18 foot relief map of the world. The map was created by children ages 8 to 14 that summer and school officials are collecting stones from around the world with the intention of enlaying them in the wall.
In the closing plenary, Judy Highfill of St. Louis came forward to present stones from China, Taiwan, and Crete. On behalf of the children of the world, they were received by 13-year-old Lia Bowen, Will and Gail Bowen's daughter. Grandmother SilverStar gifted the wall with a native stone from Antarctica. The stone was a gift to her from her brother, and "the stone told me it wanted to be given to the Healing Wall." Grandmother SilverStar and Grandmother Golden Bear blessed the stone which was received by 14-year-old Hezekiah Condron, son of Daniel and Barbara Condron.
To date 192 stones have been received from 36 countries. The Antarctica stone established receipts from all seven continents. The effort to collect stones from people around the world is being directed by Barbara Condron, who has devoted much of the past decade to the School of Metaphysics' peace work. She described the vision of the Healing Wall as an expression of the seven generation principle. "The founding fathers of the United States were inspired by the Iroquois nation," said Condron. "Part of their philosophy was to make decisions based upon seven generations into the future. The same was true for the Tibetan people under the Dalai Lama's rule. Children have been a part of making this a healing wall from the beginning and it is an endless line of children who will enthuse it with the healing spirit."
As the event came to a close, Judy Highfill said she had waited two years to give her rocks to the Healing Wall. "I can't think of a better place for them to find a home." Come the spring of 2012, SOM faculty and students anticipate hosting hundreds of people as they bring a small piece of their homeland to the Peace Dome.
If indeed "Peace is achieved by those who fulfill their part of a greater plan" as the Universal Peace Covenant states, then there will be more Living Peaceably days for all of us ahead.•