Peacebuilding from the Inside Out: The Work of the Soul as a Key to Working with Others


Fields that deal with human conflict focus mainly on relations among people. Their results can be enhanced with a supplemental focus on the domain within people: the identity and values held within the deepest self, often considered the realm of spirituality and faith. Words attributed to Jesus of Nazareth summarize the connection: “out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34)—i.e., the domain within us shapes our behavior in the world among us. In this within, contemplative spirituality—as practiced by monastics and mystics in several faith traditions for centuries—has a substantial contribution to make. Its central purpose is the “encounter with Oneness” (named in various traditions as God, the Universe, Brahman, emptiness, and so forth). Over time, asserts contemplative thought, this encounter transforms people at their very core, embedding in them the values that, according to many traditions, live at the heart of Oneness, especially compassion, gentleness, and peace. Energized by the encounter, deeply reoriented toward these values, individuals are empowered to bring them into the world. While making the points above, this paper examines the encounter with Oneness as detailed in several faith traditions, especially Christianity and Buddhism. Two areas are discussed in detail. First, the text describes a selection of widespread spiritual practices used by contemplatives to facilitate this encounter, including silent prayer, meditation (particularly zazen), and encounters with “sacred texts.” Second, the paper presents the idea of living in harmony with other traditions not just by respecting them, but by practicing them ourselves. Included are the experiences of both the author and a monastic organization dedicated to this approach. Throughout, the paper makes the connection between venerable spiritual practices and the enhanced capacity to make peace across divides. It also, wherever possible, rearticulates spiritual practice for a broader audience, rendering it more inclusive and accessible across belief systems.

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Backman, John (2018). Peacebuilding from the Inside Out: The “Work of the Soul” as a Key to Working with Others

Journal of Living Together, 4-5 (1), pp. 71-80, 2018, ISSN: 2373-6615 (Print); 2373-6631 (Online).

Title = {Peacebuilding from the Inside Out: The “Work of the Soul” as a Key to Working with Others}
Author = {John Backman}
Url = {}
ISSN = {2373-6615 (Print); 2373-6631 (Online)}
Year = {2018}
Date = {2018-12-18}
IssueTitle = {Living Together in Peace and Harmony}
Journal = {Journal of Living Together}
Volume = {4-5}
Number = {1}
Pages = {71-80}
Publisher = {International Center for Ethno-Religious Mediation}
Address = {Mount Vernon, New York}
Edition = {2018}.


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