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The Peacemakers Art: An Unbiased Heart

Wednesday, November 18, 2009 by Marianne Elliott

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Image of Ishmael Beah by John Madere from Ishmael's website

If you've been reading here for a while then you'll know that I believe in the world-changing power of a story. I believe that listening, with an unbiased heart, to someone's story may be the most important thing we ever do for them. This much I learned in two years in Afghanistan. I also believe that telling our own stories can change our own lives and can open space for wider change in the world. This much I am learning as I find the courage to write my own book this year.

One of the kindred spirits I have met along my own journey to uncover the simple, profound power of story is Laura Simms. I've never actually met Laura in person but we have spoken on the phone and emailed each other at different times over the past three years.

Laura is a storyteller, writer and meditation teacher. She is also the adoptive mother of Ishmael Beah, a storyteller in his own right. If you haven't heard of Ishmael and his story then I highly recommend his memoir, A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier about his experiences as a child soldier in Sierra Leone.

Next month Laura and Ishmael will be leading a workshop at Esalen. I went to a workshop at Esalen for the first time this past summer and I was very impressed. The site, in Big Sur, is stunning. From my cabin I had views out across the beautiful organic vegetable gardens to the ocean. I soaked in the mineral hot pools and walked through the beautiful grounds. Even if the workshop I attended hadn't been amazing (it was!) it would have been worth it just to enjoy the rare luxury of peace and simplicity and community that I found at Esalen.

Here is the overview of Laura and Ishmael's workshop:

the heart of peacemaking is the art of unbiased presence, genuine
listening, and the ability to discern meaning. How we communicate can
plant the seed of compassionate change or it can be the source of
misunderstanding and conflict — in our own hearts and in the world.

workshop will unfold as a deepening process of working with embodied
presence, mindful awareness, and sharing the age-old wisdom of
storytelling and visualization to uncover our inherent capacities for
accessing tools for peacemaking in ourselves and among family and
community, including humanitarian and educational endeavors.

day will begin with guided Chi Kung and meditation practice, and
continue with storytelling and writing activities that promote unbiased
listening and show how genuine presence and story can nurture
nonaggression and peace. Each participant will leave with skills and
practical information, and a personal story that uses mythic image and

I highly recommend this workshop. I would be there if it were a little closer. If you go, will you promise to report back here about it. A guest post maybe?


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One Response to "The Peacemakers Art: An Unbiased Heart"

  1. Meliors says:

    Hey, what a lovely surprise to see my (adopted) cousin Ishmael on your blog. Laura’s my aunt- small world eh! I too wish I could be at the workshop…

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