Inner Peace at Peace House by Elizabeth Hallett

Finding Inner Peace at Peace House    by Elizabeth Hallett     

Living in rural Calaveras County in 1980, surrounded by nature, I enjoyed a simple life, away from the problems of the world. There was a certain inner peace to that life. It was also isolating. I listened to the Bay area’s Pacifica Radio and realized that there was a cultural revolution going on. I became spiritually and politically restless.  For me, being connected to others and involved in social justice issues became more important than retreating to the mountains. I had graduated with a BA in American Studies and was actively against the Vietnam War in the 1960’s.

In response to my activist soul, I left my monkish cold-water cabin in the Motherlode and headed to San Francisco and became involved in legislative efforts to certify Direct Entry Midwives. This actually led to organizing protests against wars in Central America and the Gulf War outside of Concord Naval Weapons Station near Walnut Creek, CA.   Many midwives were active in both movements, feeling moral outrage as well as solidarity with Central Americans and Middle Eastern families who were being affected by US involvement in their wars.  By that time, I had become a mother. Pictures of dead mothers and babies in El Salvador, Guatemala and Nicaragua reminded me of similar ones published during the US war in Vietnam. I could not look at the pictures without deep moral anguish.

By the time I moved to Oregon, I had fully revived my sixties awareness about US interventionist foreign policies and was connected to many others who were actively educating and demonstrating against the work of the School of the Americas and other arms of the US military. 

For many of us, the question we face is: how can we find inner peace without engaging with the outer world and our collective human condition?  Living with the possibility of fires and other climate-related catastrophes, there is little room to hide from the collective situation that disturbs our mind and our hearts, and challenges our inner peace or “WA,” as the Japanese would say. We will not survive long or well if we simply scurry out for supplies and return to crawl under our security blankets. Apart from the implicit isolation, it would be a life of privilege that most of us cannot afford.

We see and are affected the whole enchilada: a litany of materialism, and greed of the 1% at the top that is affecting the less well-funded deeply. Hate speech; increased militarism; skyrocketing rents; prejudice; decreased educational opportunities; poor or no health care; homelessness and food shortages all press on us and our communities.  If we are not, directly affected, we are more than aware that those around us are suffering. How do socially concerned people find inner peace in this state of affairs?

“No Peace without Justice,” has long been a mantra of those who work on social issues. Cultivating a culture of social action can make an impact and lessen injustices. Applying nonviolent strategies, peaceful organizing can cause powerful solutions and voter-based change.

Enter Peace House: At the corner of South Mountain and Ashland, diagonally across from the SOU campus, stands the home of Peace House and South Mountain Friends Meeting (SMFM). So, what does a culture of peace look like inside this building?

Marjorie and Ogden Kellogg Sr. helped found the Ashland Quaker worship group in the 1960’s that later became SMFM in Ashland. Marjorie also helped start Peace House. The two groups have been entrusted with a place to be together in community: a platform for social change and spiritual growth. We share ownership of the building but are separate nonprofits. Both organizations are based in American spiritual and social justice traditions of nonviolent resistance to tyranny, slavery and militarism, and supporting equal rights for all people. Luminaries such as Martin Luther King, Joan Baez, Gandhi, Dorothy Day and the Berrigan Brothers, Phil and Daniel, inform our philosophy of nonviolence.

Part of the peaceful beauty inside this building is that we host many groups who do not have a peaceful space in which to contemplate, organize, celebrate or just sit quietly together.  You will find a large meditation room, a nurturing kitchen and a modest Quaker library upstairs; a Peace library and a small Buddhist library downstairs, along with two smaller meeting rooms and the Peace House office. We also house a Prison Book Project!

Four rental rooms are offered at a nominal fee for all who seek a place to be in community. A quiet and diverse procession of visitors and renters are enjoying it his opportunity. Examples are: a Buddhist group, women’s writers’ group, a Quaker Meeting on Sundays; a monthly Friends’ Song Circle; an Ad Hoc Committee to examine policing accountability; and private counseling sessions. There are also the occasional anniversary celebrations or memorials.

Peace House coordinates Uncle Food’s Diner, a Tuesday hot meal platform offering several other social services and is co-sponsored by Peace House and the Methodist Church. Peace House also holds educational films, discussion groups and meetings in the building or, sometimes at SOU. We also produce our bi-monthly calendar featuring activist events and projects in Southern Oregon, stitching together a wide variety of social concerns. You can subscribe for free at wwww.peacehouse.net and follow local activities weekly.

Peace House has also served as the sponsor for several fledgling organizations until they could become non-profits in their own right. The house Marjorie Kellogg left behind is being put to good use!

There are deer and squirrels that bless us with their presence amongst the surrounding trees, providing a certain balance to our inner peace. This is a good place to be!  I feel better, now, watching our community take big strides to do our inner work while advocating for nonviolence, social justice and an end to the militarization of our culture.

Biographical Notes

Elizabeth V. Hallett is the Program Director at Peace House, Ashland. She first worked there from 1993-1997. She then worked as Program Manager for ten years at the Ashland Community Hospital Respite Center. After its closure, she went into private practice as a Senior Care Consultant, and has been holding support groups for families living with Alzheimer’s for twenty years. She returned to work at Peace House in 2016. She is has also been training with the Berkeley Interfaith Chaplaincy Institute in Spiritual Direction

The above article appeared in the Ashland Tidings Inner Peace Column  on January 5, 2019

 

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    The Inner Peace blog is a place to share wisdom about peace practices and inspire, learn and explore all aspects of inner peace. A team of writers will discuss varied qualities –€” intuition, courage, fearlessness, friendship, forgiveness, gentleness, giving and receiving, tolerance, faithfulness and kindness –€” that help us all through the tough times, the challenges, the joys and the sorrows with inner peace as the ever-shining goal. Whether 2 or 92, your inner peace is up to you.
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