Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Building Bridges: A World Religions Program for 8th-9th Grades

Alternate Activity 1: Peace Practice

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Optional: Learn more about Roshi Bernie Glassman. The Zen Peacemakers website is a good resource.

Description of Activity

Participants learn that a peaceful spirit is compatible with fervent activism, and practice keeping their cool in difficult situations.

Tell the youth, in these words or your own:

Bernie Glassman, who was given the honorific title "Roshi" by his students, is a sweet, peaceful man, an advanced Zen practitioner and instructor-and a tireless activist for social justice. His meditation and reflection have ultimately led him to raise millions of dollars, create an organization with a 34-acre central campus and 54 affiliate centers worldwide, and travel the world fighting poverty, AIDS, homelessness, and lack of education.

Roshi Bernie says, "When you realize the wholeness and interdependence of life, you have to take care of everyone, and to do that, you have to work with every ingredient of life."

Bernie Glassman is not the only Buddhist whose work carries him into the world. The most famous Buddhist in the world is the Dalai Lama. He has traveled all over the world working for causes of peace and justice. How can these Buddhists continue to be so peaceful when they meet injustice and opposition everywhere they go?

One answer is meditation. While meditation can seem very passive, it can bring people to realizations that allow them to understand themselves enough to stay calm in any situation. The ability to remain calm helps them stay very active indeed.

We are going to meditate for just a few minutes. Then we are going to practice staying calm in challenging situations-since, as we remember from Taoism, if there is to be peace in the world, there must be peace in the heart.

Encourage participants to make themselves comfortable but not to lie down. Sitting up shows respect for the process and helps keep the mind focused. Remind the youth to simply breathe and to observe their breathing. Suggest they concentrate on feeling their breath going in and going out. If a thought comes into their minds, they should acknowledge the thought, then let it go and return their focus to breathing. Set a timer for five minutes, or watch the time and sound the chime gently when five minutes have passed.

Distribute Handout 2, Scenes of Prospective Conflict. Say, in your own words:

Anger usually results from some form of attachment, or desire-for example, embarrassment springs from a desire to be respected. Awareness of how your desires create your anger can help diffuse a bad situation. If you recognize that your bad feelings are the result of your own internal situation and do not have anything to do with anyone else, you will be much less likely to lash out at other people and more empowered to make the world a more peaceful place.

Allow the youth to choose a few scenes to act out-you will not have time for all of the scenarios. Two or more youth can participate in each scene. Make sure all youth who wish to take a role have a chance.

You might suggest actors do each scene twice, first with the protagonist getting very mad and then with the protagonist staying peaceful-whether or not the other people in the scene act peacefully.

Process each scenario. Allow the youth to make suggestions. Encourage them to share strategies for and benefits to staying calm in difficult situations.

Remind the youth that these are scenes of prospective conflict-conflict is never inevitable. Ask if there are times when youth "blew up" in their own lives and wish they had behaved differently. See if any youth will share their story for volunteers to act out, this time envisioning how things could have gone a different way.

Say, in these words or your own:

Whether or not we are Buddhists, we can recognize that being peaceful inside ourselves does not mean being inactive. Rather, if we know how to stay happy and peaceful within ourselves, we can work effectively to make the world a better place, even in distressing circumstances.