July 9, 2014

By the Reverend Dr. Johanna McCune Wagner
Director of Spiritual Life

The Hindu sacred text The Bhagavad Gita begins with the two sides of a family, drawn up against one another in battle lines on a field called “Truth.” There is the fearful rumbling of war drums and the clash of cymbals. Earth and heavens tremble. Warriors blow conch shells with names like “Eternal-Victory,” “Sweet-Sounding,” and “Jewel-Blossom.”

BhagavadGitaThen, just as the flight of arrows is to begin, prince Arjuna commands his charioteer, Lord Krishna, to drive out into the open plain between the two armies. With a sinking heart, Arjuna recognizes, on both sides of the battle,

“Fathers, grandfathers;
sons, grandsons;
fathers of wives, uncles, masters;
brothers, companions and friends.”

Grief-stricken, he turns to Lord Krishna and says,

“Shall we not, who see the evil of destruction, shall we not refrain from this terrible deed?”

So begins one of the classic texts of world spirituality. In the midst of conflict, a warrior takes a moment to consider the justice of what he is about to do. The ensuing conversation (18 chapters worth) ranges over a variety of topics: everything from the principle of karma to the nature of passion, ignorance and happiness.

In the end, Arjuna will fight, but not as the same heartsick and confused man he was at the beginning of the dialogue. By taking the time to search out the meaning of the situation in which he finds himself, “Arjuna who masters the bow” has come to understand and accept his vocation as a warrior.

This week in Culver Summer Schools & Camps’ Constructive Meditation we too will be learning how to slow down and think through our options in situations involving conflict.

  • Campers will consider the impact of basic self-care on their capacity to stay calm in the midst of conflict.
  • They will learn the importance of reality testing when their emotional temperatures begin to rise.
  • Campers will gain a different perspective on conflict through a guided meditation designed to teach them how to reframe the experience in time.
  • They will be encouraged to “strategize for self-respect,” not just in situations involving conflict, but in all situations in which they find themselves faced with difficult choices.

It is not by accident that the conflict Arjuna faces on the “field of Truth” involves those closest to him. There is no human relationship exempt from strife, not even family. The trick is, to learn how to negotiate conflict wisely: to make this thing, so much a part of life, an opportunity to clarify our values and to behave honorably. Conflict does not have to be something we dread. It can be an opportunity to stand for something skillfully and with integrity.

This Sunday in Constructive Meditation we will steer our chariots between the battle lines to ponder how we might become more calm and adept in the midst of conflict.

Editor’s Note: Constructive Meditation has been offered to Culver Academies’ students for the last several years. It focuses on building age-appropriate mindfulness skills and fostering wisdom through journaling projects and group activities. These are based on disciplines as diverse as Quaker clearness committees and the study of the sunnah by the Prophet Muhammad. This is the first year for Culver Summer Schools & Camps. In this article, the third of a series, the Rev. Dr. Johanna McCune Wagner, director of Spiritual Life, describes some of what campers will be doing week-to-week.

Week One: I’m Upset. Is that OK?

Week Two: Plugging back into the ordinary life

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