Bowls of colored sand stood ready on October 15th, 2015. Across the hallway people were preparing vegetarian food. Hanging from the walkway ceilings were flags and banners with quotes on peace, the environment, and faith. A walking mediation labyrinth was being laid down in bright blue tape. Stages were being prepared. The words of spiritual leaders and seekers were about to fill the rooms of the 515,000 square feet Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah.
A pattern was forming. An empty convention center transformed into a sacred space, a microcosm of life on earth. Ten thousand people from every continent and corner of this round earth filled the space with consciousness of the devastation and the challenges the community of humanity face but also hope, love, and a commitment to peace. There were turbans, scarves, yamaks, crowns, masks, robes, crosses, and all manner of symbols as people of faith talked together from their respective vantage points on how best to show gratitude for the blessings of life.
Five days later the bowls of colored sand were transformed in the hands of Tibetan monks into a stunning mandala for some people: a tool for gaining wisdom and compassion. For others a mandala is a geometric piece of art that blesses this world with beauty and gives pause to all of us consumed in a busy life. The pattern emerges only through the work of someone willing to have patience and dedication to express themselves in compassion.
The vegetarian food, prepared by the Langar Sikh community brought nourishment and joy to thousands. It also won the heart and minds of everyone open to seeing the strength and magnificence in the face of the men and women who welcomed each person. "Thank you for coming, Kimberly," a Sikh man said each day I visited. Giving for no other reason than because there was a need to be filled and a desire to be of service, a beautiful pattern emerged from the work of the Sikh community.
Nearby the spires of the LDS (Mormon) temple were recognizable with the gold statue of the angel Moroni on the top. The yellow leaves on the mountain trees, the cool water in the fountain, and decorative pumpkins all converged in a warm and welcoming pattern of the fall in Utah.
The 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions graced us with a glimpse of what this world can look like when people of all faiths listen to the other and see in their eye a neighbor or relative. What do you need? What can I share? What can we do together to take our message of peace into the world?
"It is difficult to change how you read a text but ask a new question: Do I need to read the text in a new way as I find myself in a new situation?" Brandan Robertson noted, "Many communities fear, unnecessarily, that there is a relationship between change in belief and decline." How can we find success in breaking out of a negative pattern and gain an expanded vison of love?
"We have had thousands of years of hatred and slavery. Let's try a little friendship, " said Wande Abimbola, a Yoruba man from Nigeria. In other words, let's change the pattern where it is not working for us.
The Imam Jamal Rahman started his presentation with a Koranic whoooooooooo huuuuuuu, creating with sound a pattern of peace. "Silence is not the absence of sound. It is the absence of the little self," he said. Can you find your pattern of peace in the silence?
"Mother Earth the source of life not a resource," said Chief Arvol Lookinghorse. Take a little and give back some. Breathe in a little and give some back. This is how we can all continue to live in peace and abundance.
"God is Echad," said Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, quoting from the Jewish Shema prayer: God is One. "One is not a person alone but all connected into oneness," she added. Can you find yourself in the pattern of oneness?
Participants at the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions also had a chance to see films and theatre productions weaving poetry and light into a pattern that can change the world. Born Into Brothels: Calcutta’s Red Light Kids teaches us that we can break free of the patterns that keep us in poverty, prostitution, or uneducated. But it is easiest and most successful if someone gives us a hand and we take their hand, and work with them.
Referring to her home on the other side of the world in New Zealand, where they are already in tomorrow, Rangimarie Turuki Rose Pere said, "I have come from the future. What do you want to know?" She also shared an image of her land where 6000 hectares of indigenous trees grow. "Children come in with intuition. We only have to love them," she said.
Arnold Thomas taught us, "Relatives, what if this is—heaven all around us? Are we behaving in a manner that our grandchildren seven generations from now will enjoy this earthly heaven?"
In this microcosm that was the 2015 Parliament of the World's Religions we learned that peace and harmony are possible. Today, we begin again to put into action what we learned.
Kimberly Burnham, PhD (Integrative Medicine)
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