BePeace – Rita Marie Johnson

IMG_0518I attended the BePeace Foundations course for one week at the Universidad para la Paz, in Costa Rica, in January 2013. It was a rich experience so I have divided it into several posts.

Rita Marie Johnson is a blond, blue-eyed American woman. At age ten, a sunset had burst her heart open with gratitude, and her inner voice said, “You will work for peace.” She had heard how in 1948, Costa Rica became the first country in the world to abolish their army, and was inspired to go there. She formed a friendship with Robert Muller, a former secretary-general of the U.N., and he became a mentor to her. It was he who introduced her to the story of Rasur.

The Story of Rasur

Rasur, an 85-page epic poem, was written in 1946 by Roberto Brenes Mesen. Mesen was a legendary Costa Rican educator.

Rasur is the name of a teacher who one day silently calls the children of the Costa Rican village, Quizur, deep into a mountain. There he teaches them about the treasure within their hearts and their connection to nature. Joyfully they return home to share this knowledge with their worried parents. They return each day to the mountain for more teachings. During that week the whole village is transformed into a place of peace and creativity. Upon Rasur’s departure, the villagers realized that “before directing the lightning in the sky, we must first harness the storms in our own hearts.” A seed of hope was planted–for Costa Rica to become a culture of peace. Just two years after the poem was published, the army was disbanded.

Rita Marie went on to write the libretto, in Spanish, for a musical version of the story, with a children’s choir and orchestra and much more!

Rasur Foundation International and Schools

IMG_0530Rita Marie had studied at the Institute for HeartMath and began by introducing their techniques in a small school she had founded. Later, she studied with Marshall Rosenberg and added Non-Violent Communication (“speaking peace”). Rita Marie began Rasur Foundation International to help carry forward the vision of educating children for peace; the program she created and introduced to the schools in 2004 is called “BePeace.” To date, over 36,000 children have been impacted by her curriculum. In addition, some 50 certified teachers in Texas, Vermont, and other states are introducing the curriculum in their schools. The definition of BePeace: “a synergistic skill set that combines coherence and connection to build social and emotional intelligence. This combination allows us to access our natural wisdom and compassion, which efficiently shifts us from stress to peace.” Evaluations revealed decreases in classroom conflict and aggression.