we have to be in contact

peace paris

In Plum Village in France, we receive many letters from the refugee camps in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and the Philippines, hundreds each week. It is very painful to read them, but we have to do it, we have to be in contact. We try our best to help, but the suffering is enormous, and sometimes we are discouraged. It is said that half the boat people die in the ocean; only half arrive at the shores in Southeast Asia.

There are many young girls, boat people, who are raped by sea pirates. Even though the United Nations and many countries try to help the government of Thailand prevent that kind of piracy, sea pirates continue to inflict much suffering on the refugees. One day we received a letter telling us about a young girl on a small boat who was raped by a Thai pirate.

She was only twelve, and she jumped into the ocean and drowned herself. When you first learn of something like that, you get angry at the pirate. You naturally take the side of the girl. As you look more deeply you will see it differently. If you take the side of the little girl, then it is easy. You only have to take a gun and shoot the pirate. But we cannot do that. In my meditation, I saw that if I had been born in the village of the pirate and raised in the same conditions as he was, I am now the pirate. There is a great likelihood that I would become a pirate. I cannot condemn myself so easily. In my meditation, I saw that many babies are born along the Gulf of Siam, hundreds every day, and if we educators, social workers, politicians, and others do not do something about the situation, in twenty-five years a number of them will become sea pirates. That is certain. If you or I were born today in those fishing villages, we might become sea pirates in twenty-five years. If you take a gun and shoot the pirate, you shoot all of us, because all of us are to some extent responsible for this state of affairs.

After a long meditation, I wrote this poem. In it, there are three people: the twelve-year-old girl, the pirate, and me. Can we look at each other and recognize ourselves in each other? The title of the poem is “Please Call Me By My True Names,” because I have so many names. When I hear one of these names, I have to say, “Yes.”

Do not say that I’ll depart tomorrow  because even today I still arrive.

Look deeply: I arrive in every second to be a bud on a spring branch, to be a tiny bird, with wings still fragile, learning to sing in my new nest, to be a caterpillar in the heart of flower, to be a jewel hiding itself in a stone.

I still arrive, in order to laugh and to cry,in order to fear and to hope, the rhythm of my heart is the birth and death of all that are alive.

I am the mayfly metamorphosing on the surface of the river, and I am the bird which, when spring comes, arrives in time to eat the mayfly.

I am the frog swimming happily in the clear water of a pond, and I am also the grass-snake who, approaching in silence, feeds itself on the frog.

I am the child in Uganda, all skin and bones, my legs as thin as bamboo sticks, and I am the arms merchant, selling deadly weapons to Uganda.

I am the twelve-year-old girl, refugee on a small boat, who throws herself into the ocean after being raped by a sea pirate, and I am the pirate, my heart not yet capable of seeing and loving.

I am a member of the politburo, with plenty of power in my hands, and I am the man who has to pay his “debt of blood” to my people, dying slowly in a forced labor camp.

My joy is like spring, so warm it makes flowers bloom in all walks of life. My pain is like a river of tears, so full it fills up the four oceans.

Please call me by my true names,so I can hear all my cries and my laughs at once,so I can see that my joy and pain are one.

Please call me by my true names, so I can wake up, and so the door of my heart can be left open, the door of compassion.

Reprinted from Being Peace (1987) by Thich Nhat Hanh with permission of Parallax Press, Berkeley, California, www.parallax.org

#1 asset

My writing is scattered around various blogs, groups, and journals.  I set up this blog last year when I left the UN. But I didn’t come back. It took about a year of puttering before I found my stride. And now I’d like to write more regularly and collect my musings. Please leave me a comment to let me know you’ve stopped by!

In the past 18 months, I’ve created my own law practice. It’s thriving. I’ve learned how to run a small business. I’ve started creating systems and operating procedures. And I realise more than ever the need to take care of my key asset – myself.

It’s so easy to look at email and troll Facebook before I’ve done anything else in the morning. And I hyper-focus on taking care of my business, to the exclusion of movement, rest, and recreation. This is not a set-up for success. If I stay the same, I will get stiff and fatter. If I make the effort, I will feel better, have more energy, and enjoy life more.

So last week, I decided to create a success ritual.  Three simple steps:

  • drink two glasses of water
  • eat breakfast
  • add some exercise to my morning routine. Just 20 to 30 minutes. My choice of intensity.

Great idea. And today, I’m sitting on the couch with a wicked sore throat and a fever.

Good thing I have coffee. 🙂

This week, I am adding to my list

  • get enough sleep

That means I probably need to keep the iPad out of my bedroom. Being sick messes with my routine. I love binging on Netflix cop shows. Elementary is my current addiction. I do love Sherlock as well, but for different reasons.

My little success plan is simple. And that’s why it will work. I famously create elaborate project plans, only to get distracted and forget entirely. These simple steps are concrete and small enough that I don’t encounter much resistance. And that’s a win.


Here I am!


I’ve left the UN and I am now “open for business!”  It’s been so very exciting and busy that I forgot to “turn around” the sign on my front door (this blog).  In February, I will complete my certification training for teaching TRE™ trauma and tension release exercises, which help people release stress and tension  You can learn more about TRE™ here.

Tension and trauma releasing exercises are a form of stretching that helps release stress and tension from the body naturally.  They evoke a muscular shaking (process) response that releases traumatic stress, physical tension and emotional trauma. Always under the individual’s control, these neurogenic muscle tremors originate deep in the body core in the psoas muscles and “reset” the fight-or-flight response, inducing a sense of relaxation and well being.

TRE™ is being used by thousands of people around the world as an effective tool to release traumatic stress and physical tension and to heal emotional trauma.  It is also a popular way to release the ordinary stress that arises from every day life.

If you work in the field of international criminal law, you will be exposed to the suffering and pain of the survivors who bear witness to unimaginable atrocities committed during armed conflicts.  As we work with these trauma survivors, our own coping strategies are taxed and we can experience stress. Left unchecked, mounting stress can lead to burnout and vicarious traumatization.   Thankfully, there is a simple way to restore ourselves, maintain our resilience, and release accumulated stress or tension.

I am now accepting new clients in administrative, disciplinary and criminal matters before international tribunals, and consulting on career development, performance management, secondary trauma recovery and resilience.

That’s a rather long way of saying, how can I help you?

Please email me at cms.dahl@gmail.com for a free introductory consultation.

Or fill out this handy contact form:

leaping lizards


and with this new website I am launching myself into …. well, where exactly am I going? business? play? reality? the internet?

I am turning towards joy, passion, excitement, fulfillment, creativity – while continuing to offer help to those in need, including myself.

If you like watching people grow, come on back. This space is sure to change as I venture out into my brave new world.