The Maktab Tarighat Oveyssi, or MTO, Shahmaghsoudi School of Islamic Sufism in Berkeley celebrated the International Day of Light on Sunday with a virtual roundtable discussion on light, peace and sustainability.
MTO is a global nonprofit with more than 30 centers around the world that teaches Sufi meditation, according to event co-host and MTO student Margarita Gallagher. Guest speakers at the discussion included Terry Taplin, Berkeley City Council member; Jan Kirsch, climate activist at 350 Bay Area; Manohar Croke, U.S. Esogetic Colorpuncture Institute director; and Stephanie Johnson, California State University Monterey Bay visual art professor.
After the guests introduced themselves and their work, roundtable host Mina Karimabadi asked panelists how light and peace are connected.
“My background is in psychotherapy — the idea is that light informs spirit, soul and body on one continuum,” Croke said at the meeting. “Light is the baseline for everything that exists, when it is not filled with misinformation it leads to peace.”
The concept of light has been present in all the disciplines Kirsch has been involved in, including medicine and yoga. Johnson added that many cultures have celebrated the sun, light and fire in rituals for thousands of years.
Though darkness, in contrast, is often seen as scary or representing evil, it should be seen as a period of gestation and looking inward, according to Johnson.
“You can’t have light without darkness, you can’t have the shadow side without the bright side,” Johnson said at the meeting. “It’s really important — metaphorically, atmospherically, physically — to recognize both parts of that whole and bring them together for harmony.”
Karimabadi then asked participants how sustainability and sustainable development plays a role in creating peace.
Sustainable development, such as rooftop pollinator gardens, requires the consideration of species other than just humans, according to Taplin.
Kirsch emphasized the necessity of pushing for change when thinking about sustainability.
“Sustainability is not a static word like it sounds; it requires change,” Kirsch said at the meeting. “We need to approach this with love, but sometimes in getting justice and getting an economic system that works for everyone, we have to face off with systems that aren’t necessarily loving, and we have to be willing to call people out.”
Panelists ended the roundtable with advice to younger generations.
Taking time to focus inwardly on one’s own trauma and healing is important to align with one’s consciousness, according to Manohar. Karimabadi added that people should take time for themselves as personal strength enables greater focus.
Kirsch noted that by getting involved in a community of activists, people can accomplish a lot.
“If you see something and know in your gut that it is wrong, please reach out,” Taplin said at the meeting. “The best thing you can do is be involved. No act of kindness is too small to make an impact.”