Peace in the Midst of War

Recently, during a podcast interview, I was asked a question I’d never been asked before or even considered to ask myself.  The question was, During my long career in mental health, what was my best day?  The day came to me in a flash, full blown, surprising me so much that I had to pause for a moment to adjust to the intense feeling that washed over me.

“This isn’t what the interviewer is looking for,” I thought to myself and I tried to quickly come up with something else, but this memory wouldn’t be pushed aside for something less. It was like it wanted to be remembered out loud. So I launched into it.

My best day in my career, I said, was on the fourth day of a group I was co-facilitating with my colleague Louise Franklin, 20 years before, with victims of the Bosnian War, in a room inside a bullet riddled building in Osijek, Croatia, on the border with Serbia, with genocidal Serbian forces just across the Drava River.

For most of the Croatian men and women, this group was the first time they had been given the space to really talk about the horrible things that had happened to them, working through the trauma with principles that could empower a new attitude for relating to what they had been through and were sure to face again in their war-torn country.  Each day, the group opened up a little more, psychologically and spiritually, and then on the fourth day the group reached a kind of heroic shift in consciousness where we found a place of peace inside that transcended what was happening outside. It was a place of power and dignity, where the outside did not prevail … did not have the last word … could no longer refute or diminish the peace we felt as a result of the One Self our sharing and caring had created. It was a miraculous moment of discovering that we had achieved and could even sustain a higher state of mind, which is love, as we lived through whatever egregiousness the world had done to us and would continue to do. The realization of this truth placed smiles on faces that hadn’t smiled in a long time.

That was my best day at work.