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 later studied Regional and International Development at the University of California, Los Angeles (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 and permaculture designer.
It has taken me to Kansas City, where I co-founded Cultivate Kansas City and spent eight years working with diverse urban communities to facilitate a dialog about growing food in cities and sustainable urban design.
It has taken me to the South of France, where I lived for two years in Plum Village, the monastery of Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh. Besides studying meditation, I helped guide the establishment of Happy Farm, where mindfulness and Earth stewardship are cultivated alongside organic vegetables. And most recently, it has taken me back to Germany and the Prinzessinnengarten Kollektiv Berlin under the heading of “healing and seeing anew.”
I have worked with refugees in Berlin and Kansas City. As an adjunct professor I have taught sustainable urban design at the University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), discovered the healing power of transformative mediation in a restorative justice program and volunteered in a prisoner rehabilitation program, walking with inmates the often difficult journey toward self-acceptance and self-love.
In Berlin I completed training to be a Certified Mediator. This is in addition to similar training I received in the USA in 2014. I am thrilled and grateful for the opportunity to realize my long-held intention to contribute to greater understanding and peace in the world. In these difficult times, I really cannot think of a more meaningful challenge for myself.
And so 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, pandemics, economic insecurity and war, I am encouraged that simple practices such as mindfulness, meditation and new ways of handling conflict can change the way we speak and listen to one another 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.
Plum Village. Thenac, France. Two 12-month residential retreats.