Establishing Forgiveness and Peace Gardens Around the Globe: Dr. Ani Kalayjian

Forgiveness is not an occasional act It is a permanent attitude – Martin Luther King, Jr. – Published: Kalayjian, A. (May 2014). Establishing Forgiveness and Peace Gardens Around the Globe. International Psychologist. 54.1 (B). pp 19-21.


Although an abundance of peace organizations, non-governmental, as well as related university affiliations exist; conflict continues to flourish around the world. The roots of these conflicts and violence may be political, religious, territorial, tribal, generational, as well as those motivated by greed, rigidity, ego centrism, and shortsightedness. Since 1988 I have organized and delivered programs in over 45 countries to bring peace, conflict resolution, post trauma healing, forgiveness, and meaning-making through our organization, the Association for Trauma Outreach & Prevention, Meaningfulworld ( We have noticed repeatedly that in spite of the establishment of a number of peace centered groups there are at least a handful of oppositional groups, or extremist groups being formed in opposition to another group. In addition, many states including their police force have used extreme force, torture and violence in the name of peace and security. In the Middle East, we have seen Israeli government building a wall all around Palestine and complicating and delaying the check points. We have also seen many Islamic extremist groups formed to defy these new developments. Similar oppositional groups are formed in Africa, such as in Kenya, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi, all in the name of peace and security while destroying lives and ecology. In addition to our educational and empowerment programs, we have recently integrated the establishment of Forgiveness and Peace Gardens around the world, in countries where we have collaborative centers and programs. These gardens have been welcomed as an alternative ecological connection, as well as a reinforcement of our educational programs. Forgiveness & Peace Gardens are a place where people can visit privately, or in a group, to renew their commitment to peace, and to be mindful of the importance forgiveness plays in establishing peace within, and all around. We can use these gardens to gather around and have educational, ecological, and emotional healing programs, especially on United Nations International Day of Peace annually 21 September. Peace begins in every individual, first on a personal level, and then spreads through our actions, behaviors, thoughts, and intentions. This extension happens both energetically as well as in learned and reinforced behaviors. Many individuals, as well as States, are not mindful of inconsistencies they engage in; they may talk about peace, yet yell, hit, or destroy in anger and rageful reaction. If one’s thoughts, actions and intentions are not harmonized we will not be able to establish peace on any level. We need to harmonize our head (thoughts), heart (intentions), and hands (actions) in order to be in peace. Central to our educational programs is the 7-Step Integrative Healing Model (Kalayjian 2002, Sofletea & Kalayjian 2012). This innovative model incorporates various theories including: psychodynamic (Freud, 1910), interpersonal (Sullivan, 1953), existential and humanistic (Viktor Frankl, 1962), electromagnetic field balancing (EMF, Dubro & Lapierre, 2002), learning theory, ecology, forgiveness (Kalayjian & Paloutzian, 2010), flower essences (Bach & other flower remedies), essential oils, physical release (yoga, martial arts), and mind-body-spirit chakra balancing exercises, prayers, meditation, indigenous rituals and celebration. The 6th step of this Model integrates ecological principles of Mother Earth, for engendering inner peace, peace all around, as well as physical, mental & spiritual health. Creating gardens as sanctuaries is important to reconnect with Mother Nature and honor our presence in this world in harmony with our Mother. Whether we have a window seat, a terrace, a porch, a corner in our room, or a garden is irrelevant; instead, what matters is a corner that we create with thoughtfulness, intention, and love to house a work of art that celebrates our connection with the earth and our unconditional love. Our feelings of fear, isolation, hopelessness, and uncertainty will decrease immensely once we establish and frequent this special sanctuary. We may explore a variety of themes, such as angels, flowers, wood, trees, bells, gongs, crystals, candles or colorful flags or scarves, with each theme representing an aspect of the earth. We need to be mindful to include something to represent love, something for passion, another for forgiveness, love, nurturing abundance, gratitude, and compassion. Therefore, we are mindful of including 7 elements: Water, such as a fountain or running water; earth, such as a plant with a planter; fire, such as candles; wind, created with chimes; rocks and crystals, especially rose quartz, jade or turquoise; sculptures, representing peace and forgiveness, and incense. We have sown the seeds to create these ecological peaceful places for students, faculty, clinics, hospitals, and community centers in eight countries in the Middle East, Haiti and Africa. Community is invited to gather around the garden to engender inner peace, to help forgive oneself and others, to raise consciousness on being mindful of one’s own feelings, managing and transforming negative feelings of anger, rage, envy, and greed, and replacing them with positive and uplifting feelings such as love, gratitude, forgiveness, empathy, compassion, abundance, and acceptance. These gardens will be in every house, in front of every university, secondary and primary schools and kindergartens, including in the slums, refugee centers, and other private or public community centers. Garden description: The garden should be circular, representing natural space. Evergreen short bushes are to be placed all around to mark the circularity, which represents unity, as well as follows the shape of a medicine wheel. Large river stones or rocks could be placed around the perimeter for definition and grounding. A small cedar tree could be central. The following flowers and herbs are recommended, with special attention to perennials for their endurance and practicality.

> Hybrid Tea Roses, such as Peace, Pope John Paul II, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and Innocence

> Baby’s Breath, to connect us with our innocence and purity of our heart

> Gardenias, for purity of purpose

> Magnolias, to activate our heart

> Allium Gigantean, for nurturing unity

> Gladiolas, for sincerity

> Bird of Paradise, central for meditation

> Iris, for appreciation of friendship and instilling hope

> Blue Scylla, for forgiveness

> Honey Suckle, for letting go

> Jasmine, for transformation

> Lily of the Valley, to open our heart to let love in

> Lilies in general, to strengthen our commitment to be the change we want to see

> Larkspur, to open our heart even when we are in pain, and we have been hurt

> Clematis, for nurturing peaceful thoughts

> Hosta, for devotion to our inner health, and

> Yarrow, for healing.

Other flowers could be added based on your garden’s exposure to sun, type of soil, water needs, and season. I encourage you to add tulips, daffodils, crocus, iris, bergamot, butterfly catcher, bearberry bush, lobelia, evening primrose, poppies, mums, bachelor buttons, and so forth. Inside the circle I recommend to plant the following healing herbs: lavender, mint, rosemary, sage, thyme, and other local healing herbs. If the Forgiveness and Peace Garden is within an institution, all departments would get involved in the establishment of this garden by donating one of the flowers or herbs mentioned above. The art department could be asked to conduct a contest for the best sculpture signifying peace and forgiveness. The winner’s sculpture would be placed in the center of the garden with a plaque that states:

Meaningfulworld Ecology Project Forgiveness & Peace Garden (name of institution, city & state)

Brochures and informational material could be prepared to have an opening of the Forgiveness and Peace Garden, and press releases sent to the community at large, to disseminate this concept widely. Liaisons will be assigned to mentor community members on the importance of these gardens, how to start them in their homes, how to begin a practice of mindfulness for peace and forgiveness, and how to utilize these gardens in a meaningful way. Forgiveness is shifting from the automatic ego reaction (anger/self-protection, hurting back), to a non-reactive conscious response of empathy; considering that the other person is ALSO a human being, perhaps not mindful, and there is no peace without forgiveness (Kalayjian, 2010). How to use the Forgiveness and Peace Garden? Meaningfulworld liaisons will mentor the community on how to use this garden daily for prayers, meditation, and a time for refuge, silence, renewal, commitment and mindfulness. This Forgiveness and Peace Garden could signify that no matter how challenging life circumstances become, we can surround ourselves with love, peaceful plants, herbs and flowers, and reinforce the importance of peace for our health, for generations of healthy people who are guided by peace, forgiveness and love. For forgiveness is not an innocent act of Pollyanna but rather is self-love above and beyond anything else, as well as love of others, engendering inner peace as well as peace all around us. Gratitude: Special gratitude to Antonia Gentile, Sandra Delcioppio, and Leysa Cerswell For further information on how to start your own garden contact the author Dr. Kalayjian at selective gardens would be displayed at our website:

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