Lenore Bryck is a health care professional and educator, providing pain relief therapy and holistic health coaching to clients in chronic pain and illness. She currently writes blogs about The Peace Education Program (PEP) in Latin America. Recently, Lenore interviewed Sr. Edwin Lopez, a PEP facilitator in Peru.
Our modern world has a tendency to cast aside its elders, but Sr. Edwin López, an 83-year-old retired civil engineer and longtime volunteer, refuses to be marginalized. Instead, he helps to empower others, including society’s disenfranchised, such as prison inmates and senior citizens. In our conversation, he shares what a humbling experience it is to be a volunteer facilitator with PEP and witness people coming to know their true value as they discover their own peace within them.
“Dignified tranquility” is how Sr. López describes the manner in which he conducts PEP sessions, so people can best listen without distraction. Dignity is not just a buzzword in The Prem Rawat Foundation’s mission statement. As Sr. López and I speak, I realize it is integral to every aspect of the work and unassumingly guides each step of the PEP approach.
Lenore: How do you help ensure an environment conducive to learning?
Edwin: My focus is to honor the participants’ dignity and not interfere with their personal process.
Lenore: How does your work with one group inform or clarify your presentation with other groups?
Edwin: I understand the need to keep learning like everyone else there. I don’t want to be perceived as a leader who has the answers and knows better. I don’t stand up as much as I used to. When we’re talking, I sit with the group. They can feel that my need is the same as theirs. They are more relaxed and trusting, not like, “I have to say something profound because the professor is going to grade me.” They don’t feel judged.
Lenore: What differences and similarities between the various groups have you observed in their responses to PEP?
Edwin: I realize people in prison are confined because of what they’ve done, but that confinement can sometimes serve them, motivate them to reflect and concentrate more. Therefore, ironically, prisoners have a unique opportunity to reflect because they are confined, if they are exposed to the right information.
Lenore: That’s quite a paradox—perhaps what we call freedom doesn’t always help people to actually discover their own freedom.
And how do seniors, who’ve had a long life with strong beliefs, respond?
Edwin: They may come with some strong beliefs. I simply tell them this isn’t a philosophy or religion and with time you decide for yourself if it rings true for you. This program is about what is inside of you already and to help you access that inner experience. You realize for yourself that this doesn’t conflict or interfere with your religion. It’s for you, personally, to have peace.
Lenore: How does participating in this effort affect you personally?
Edwin: When I was younger, I felt like a stranger in a strange land. I studied business administration and learned to elbow my way through, to compete in a dog-eat-dog environment. How could I tell my daughters to go forth into this jungle of a world? Like a stray cat in a dark alley, I was looking in dumpsters to satisfy my hunger. Then I had the good fortune to meet Prem Rawat and learn to find my answers inside me. I feel the deepest gratitude and want to give back ‘til my dying day.