How can we live together peacefully and sustainably on planet Earth? This question has occupied me most of my life, and it has taken me on an exciting journey through world, nature, and self.
It has taken me from my native Germany to Los Angeles, where I worked as a television journalist and studied Urban Planning at UCLA.
It has taken me on a year-long voyage that started in Istanbul and, after winding through India and China, ended in the American Midwest, where I became an organic farmer.
It has taken me to Kansas City, where I co-founded Cultivate Kansas City and spent eight years working with farmers, urban planners, policy makers, and inner-city communities to promote growing food in cities.
It has taken me to the South of France, where I lived for two years in the monastery of Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh and helped guide the establishment of Happy Farm, where mindfulness and Earth stewardship are cultivated alongside organic vegetables. And most recently, it has taken me to Berlin, Germany.
I have worked with refugees in Kansas City and Berlin. I have taught sustainable urban design at the University of Missouri, discovered the joys of mediation in a restorative justice program, and volunteered in a prison rehabilitation program, walking with inmates the often difficult journey toward self-acceptance and self-love.
When I discovered mindfulness practice and meditation, a spiritual path opened up and I began looking inward at the role my mind plays in shaping my experience. In meditation I observed the endless train of thoughts passing through my mind and practiced letting go of them, not identifying with them so much. I gradually experienced a new freedom and peace and my life started to change in fundamental ways.
In Plum Village Monastery, I witnessed first-hand the many benefits of cultivating mindfulness, compassion, open-hearted communication and simple community living. The wish to further develop and share these practices with others was born.
I hold out hope that we will eventually adopt ways to live peacefully and sustainably on this planet. Amid news of ecological breakdown, climate change, political turmoil, refugee crises, war and economic insecurity, I am encouraged that simple practices such as mindfulness, meditation and organic farming can change the way we speak and listen to each other and to Mother Earth. With practices like these we can learn to be happier and kinder; we can gradually transform the pain within us; and we may stop chasing that which we don't need, leaving more for those in need.