Talking Peace in a War-Torn Country

In a pursuit to find meaning to her life, Dafna Paz ended up learning meditation 15 years ago. And since then, there has been no looking back.

A regular meditator, Dafna has driven her passion to serve towards teaching meditation to thousands in areas of conflict and war-torn countries such as Israel and Palestine. Here she shares with Divya Sachdev some stories where mediation has broken barriers between people and relieved them from trauma.

Q) You have taken courses in Israel where everything has not been so smooth. How does meditation help in conflict resolution and relieve people from trauma?

Dafna Paz: Once I took a group of Arabian and Jewish people to a big camp in Germany. The idea was to make away from conflicts between Irish and Jewish. There, they underwent some conflict- resolution programs. I used meditation as a tool.

They had a dialogue between them. I could not believe how so much negative emotion came out; it was unbelievable. And there were some moments where I did not know what to do – moments when they would not agree to each other, there was lot of anger, frustration and blaming. The only solution was that I took them into meditation. The pain still came out but there was a lot of relief for them after that.

I remember this one woman who had come to learn meditation when a conflict was going on between the Arabs and the Palestinians. Although initially she was hesitant, she finally came. She shared that meditation helped her let go of her emotions and that she felt really relieved.

Q) We have heard that the youth there have to be a part of the army and go through a difficult time. So how does meditation help these youth?

Dafna Paz: Yes, it’s a very difficult time because they are in the age group of 18-21 years. It’s a lot of responsibility for them and these kids, they do not have a choice, it’s compulsory for them. Some of them even go into trauma.

But meditation really helps these youth. It makes them strong from within to face whatever comes their way. It’s like if an ocean is stormy on the surface but you know how to dive deep inside, then you can protect yourself. Same way, these youth dive deep inside themselves with meditation and to protect themselves from storm-like situations. Some youth have shared that in difficult times, meditation acts like a shelter for them. They feel that there is something that is protecting them.

These kids do not have a choice for such times but the ability to go though them smiling lies with them and that’s where meditation helps them.

Q) I have heard that there have been times when bombing has happened outside the venue while you were teaching courses. Didn’t your participants get scared? Did meditation help there too?

Dafna Paz: It’s true! Initially, obviously they were all filled with fear and panic but the meditations they did during the course made them so calm that they did not panic much after that. In fact, they were all charged up to help other people.

The experiences have been transformational. There was this one girl who would go to a shelter every evening with her mother. But due to massive bombing, she would get panic attacks everyday and would faint. She joined one of the courses I took. After the course, one evening when she went to the shelter, she was very calm and did not get any panic attack. She shared that she was so peaceful after doing meditation during the course.

Moreover, because of meditation, she felt very strong within. Once while going to a shelter, she found a lady on the street who was also suffering from panic attacks. She immediately covered her with a blanket and called for an ambulance. So the confidence to help this lady came from meditation.

Q) I read in one of your interviews that it has been your dream to see Israel and Palestine breathe for peace. So how do you see meditation bringing peace to these countries?

Dafna Paz: I feel that true peace can come only through meditation. People cannot be connected only at the level of dialogues, they have to be connected at a deeper level and that’s what meditation does.

When people meditate, they are able to go beyond their small identities of being a man or a woman, from Israel or from Palestine. With meditation, the emotions attached to the identity get dropped.

Moreover, people are able to accept each other and live together, even if they have different viewpoints. So meditation is the best way to bring people together and bring peace to these countries.

Q) These wars and conflicts also have a strong impact on the children of that place. How does meditation help these children?

Dafna Paz: Normally, the children who see war, conflict and violence from their childhood carry these emotions as they grow up. But to bring harmony, what’s very important is that they do not fill themselves with hatred for the other. And meditation prevents them from hating others and fills them with a sense of love and belongingness.

Q) You shared about the transformation that meditation brought in the lives of these trauma-affected people. But we would also like you to share how meditation has contributed to your own life?

Dafna Paz: My thinking has become sharper. I can see things more clearly.

Meditation has enhanced my intuitive knowledge. I can see reality better; beyond what I only see or hear. For example, I want somebody to do something and he says, ”No, I can’t do it”. Normally I would hear, “I don’t want to do it”, but if I listen to him with my meditative mind, I’ll surely hear, “I can’t do it” only on the surface but I’ll know that deep within him, there is something that’s saying, “I want to do it, it’s just I can’t”. And then my reaction would be more subtle.

Q) How have you been consistent in practicing meditation for so many years ?

Dafna Paz: Well, meditating is the best time of the day (laughs). It brings happiness in my life. It is like cleaning the mind. It helps get away from fear.

Once you get used to washing it away, you can’t go back to your old unclean self. All the negative energies, thoughts get washed off. When you go deep into yourself, it is the best feeling in the world which is much more exhilarating than even watching a movie!

Q) Can you recall any specific instances when meditation came as a savior?

Dafna Paz: Yes. We moved into a new house some time back. There are six people in the family. It was very difficult as the new house that we moved in was a much smaller house. There was a lot of tension as everyone had to adjust in different ways and lots of work to be done in a short time. But, in spite of all this, I did not feel the tension and was calm.

Q) What is your meditation vision for your country?

Dafna Paz: My meditation vision is that every person should experience meditation in not only my country but everywhere. I also want it to be a part of the education system because there are millions looking for peace, and meditation is the easiest way to peace and harmony.

Founded in 1981 by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar,The Art of Living is an educational and humanitarian movement engaged in stress-management and service initiatives. Mehr