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Transcendent Moment

Thank you, Jabali, for passing the talking piece to me.

Hi everyone, my name is Keiko; its meaning is a child of the tree “Cercidiphyllum japonicum” or “ Katsura.” According to a Chinese legend, Katsura means high ideal in the moon. I love trees and I love my name. I have been living here in Seattle for about 16 years. I am a Japanese immigrant growing up in Japan, living in the United States for almost 20 years. I raise my son in the United States, and now he is in a mid-twenty working for an accounting firm in New York. I moved to the United States with him because Intercultural experiences attracted me. I believe that diversity is the seeds for creativity: it should richen our human life. However, Be careful what you ask for. DIversity should be beautiful, but it could also create chaos, confusion, conflicts, and even violence. Our society always seeks an instructional manual to deal with diversity, which is such an attractive but sometimes dangerous living creature. This picture was taken on July 25th, 2012, when I was formally introduced to Peacemaking Circle. Eighteen diverse people spent six intensive days in the racial healing circle. My experience in this circle was life-changing; it enabled me to connect to my deeper self, heal my pain, transcend my boundaries, and connect with people I usually did not feel connected with. I began my journey for peacemaking with this experience.

Before I met this beautiful process called Peacemaking Circle, I grew up in Japan, where I worked as an organizational, intercultural consultant. I moved to Seattle with my son in 2005, hoping to learn about intercultural work with real experiences. However, this action learning about diversity and intercultural communication happened to be very difficult. Living in Seattle became a big challenge for me because I felt a sense of isolation for more than seven years. While my friends compassionately supported me in Seattle, I felt disconnected from this land, culture, and the local community. Therefore, I also deeply struggled to find myself in Seattle.

One day, one of my friends sent an invitation to racial healing done with the Peacemaking circle process. Though I had no idea about Peacemaking circle, this invitation caught my attention because I was writing my dissertation about the group processes where a group of people achieves both expected and unexpected outcomes. At the same time, individuals acquire their peak experiences in groups. I originally came from Japan, whose culture is relatively collectivistic, easily suppressing individual needs for collective needs. On the other hand, today, I live in the United States, where culture is individualistic, focusing on individual needs rather than harmony. I find significance to embrace both “I” and “We” to craft a healthy community and society. My dream is to uncover a collective process where people with different backgrounds such as race, gender, and culture live and work together. My experience in the racial healing circle gave me some insight into my dream.

In the circle, people passed a talking peace; when the talking piece comes to you, it becomes an opportunity for you to speak. When you do not have a talking piece, it is an opportunity for you to listen to others. In the circle, people can practice speaking the truth with respect and listen to others without judgment. When the talking piece came to me, I could just share my stories from the beginning to the end without being worried about other people’s reactions. This was the moment when I felt that I was a part of the community and the moment that I felt my voice was heard. To me, the circle process became a way of liberation from my internal and external oppression.

As I got engaged in the circle process, I was intrigued by a person named Luwis (the name is fictional), a third-generation Japanese American woman who grew up in California. During the circle, she talked about herself as if she was a Japanese woman. As she was introducing herself, I felt uncomfortable since she identified herself as Japanese. Inside my mind, I was thinking, “why is she identifying herself as Japanese even though she does not speak Japanese and has no experience living in Japan?” Although I tried to listen to her without judgment or criticism, I still felt very awkward. Lewis shared the stories about her experiences in the internment camp during World War II after introducing herself. She thoroughly expressed that her Japanese identity had supported her during internment camp and supports her life even today. As she authentically shared her story, I was so moved by it and even embarrassed about the thought that I am Japanese, and she is not. I felt as if she was more Japanese than myself since I realized that my Japanese identity had been taken for granted. In the circle, this was one of the many transcendent moments I had. Her story made me realize that I created boundaries. After the realization, the boundaries I had created disappeared, as they never existed in the first place. Today, I do not need to have a concept of “us versus them.” In our daily lives, we create boundaries by assuming that we cannot understand each other since we have different socio-economic, political backgrounds. However, Peacemaking circle process enables us to build a healthy, just, and inclusive community where everyone can embrace each other’s differences. After the racial healing circle, Luise became one of my close friends.

This story is a piece of myself. Thank you for letting me introduce myself. I am sure that I continue to sit in the circle with you, so I am also looking forward to knowing your stories. To be continued….

I pass this talking piece to Wesley?

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