How about a little peace, love, and understanding? It sure feels like the world could use a whole lot of that right now. Nina Meyerhof’s lifetime mission is to create a brighter future for everyone here, through the simple principles of understanding and tolerance.
To know Nina is to be empowered by her vision of peace. Nina is a visionary thought leader recognized for a life of advocating for children and youth. She is President and Founder of Children of the Earth, an organization that awakens young people to their inner leadership. This innovative work in peace educational methodologies has reached young people in over 80 countries and continues to grow. Nina designed a model of learning — Reflect, Connect, Act — which constitutes a process designed to consolidate spiritual growth and societal actions for sacred activism.
She is completely convinced that empowering young people to become aware of what is going on in the world and address it by becoming part of a local network, then knitting that into a global network, is the way to heal the world. Her passion is backed by expertise, holding Master of Arts degrees in both Special Education and in Counseling, as well a doctorate in Educational Policy, Research, and Administration.
Back in 1970 she started Hearts Bend Camp for special needs children in Newfane, Vermont and ran it for 30 years to address the unique needs of children that she felt were not receiving what they needed from the educational system. Now, along with Domen Kocevar of Slovenia, she has co-founded the One Humanity Institute which “will be a collaborative enterprise developed to attract, educate, and inspire people of all ages and cultures to translate universal values into global actions that generate global harmony and prosperity.”
What is your age?
I am 79, going to be 80, and I would like the 8 to be on the side representing the infinity sign. So I am infinity zero.
Where do you live?
I live in South Burlington, Vermont.
What are you working on now?
I am working now on the project One Humanity initiative which includes the One Humanity Bakery and the One Humanity Institute. I have been working on this for six years. We have acquired two buildings – one from a child survivor and the other from a sponsor and are planning the socially innovative programs now.
What do you understand living ethics to be?
Living ethics means following universal truths that are not cultural nor individual but are the universal understanding of love, peace, justice, and truth. It is our choice to live these as well as the Golden Rule which exists in every religion and cultural tradition for harmony.
Why did you start Hearts Bend Camp?
Hearts Bend Camp, located on a farm, was an expression of placing a philosophy I had about what is best for young people to know themselves versus what I needed to do as an administrator in the school system that often did not serve the individual but rather the system. This summer program was for young people to be exposed to and learn about nature and life, to remember who they really are and choose activities for skills they wish to learn and then also how to learn to live together with others as an extended family.
“Spiritual activism is being motivated by your inner desire to have compassion for the other and create purpose to do actions that serve the greater good”
What is spiritual activism?
Spiritual activism is being motivated by your inner desire to have compassion for the other and create purpose to do actions that serve the greater good. This means understanding what you truly feel about what needs to be done and doing that in your best way possible. Humanitarian efforts are means to do good for society serving from a sense of duty rather than from an inner calling. Spiritual activism is an internal understanding of your personal purpose in life and committing to follow an intuitive understanding of what is meaningful.
How does one have the courage to follow one’s heart?
You make a commitment to take one step at a time without a major plan, allowing your footsteps, trusting life to lead you, and with open heart and commitment, to be willing to turn a passion for good into purpose, thus actionable hope for a better world. This is the driving force. Know Thyself, Give Generously and Love with all your heart. One understands that life is a process and that it is so important to pursue a path of developing one’s consciousness as personal growth.
You speak about following your heart and your destiny. How does one find what that is?
Well, there is a series of questions one can ask oneself like: Who am I ? and What is my purpose? and What am I here to do? You need to go deeper with those questions but that is how you begin to know who you are and what you need to do. You are not your body, you are not your mind, you are not your emotions…then who are you? It’s like a pianist that knows what chords to play on the piano. You find yourself. It is truly an inspirational piece when you live life freely and feel it intuitively. This encourages commitment. No longer following what society deems important, no more boxes to fill, just be you. Your Path becomes a winding road of experiences rather than following what society calls success.
“Education means to draw forth. It does not mean to download information”
As a lifelong educator, what would you like to see as an ideal education for young people?
Education means to draw forth. It does not mean to download information. So the real purpose of education is to allow one’s self to know oneself and then to develop interests and to apply oneself to those interests. As educators, we are facilitators for character building, understanding the local to global situation, and developing personal skills to apply to one’s later life.
What does being free mean to you?
Being free means not defining yourself by externals and what people say. But FREE is really reflecting on what is important and giving yourself permission to believe enough in yourself. Freedom means Rights and Responsibilities as not one without the other. If you believe in yourself and have positive self-esteem then it is no longer that gnawing sense of disenfranchisement that young people most often feel but rather useful and relevant to society.
“Restructuring means that all old systems need to fall aside and there needs to be this breakdown in order to have breakthrough”
Things seem to be moving towards a dark place in many parts of the world. How do you deal with that?
The way I perceive what’s happening in the world is that externally we are experiencing climate crisis and internally we are experiencing Covid. Both are wake-up calls. They both demand changes now. We are beginning our restructuring and now we have an opportunity to regenerate the many systems… Restructuring means that all old systems need to fall aside and there needs to be this breakdown in order to have breakthrough. The beginning of new systems are emerging from working from home to cryptocurrency to business for social responsibility.
What is something we can all do to increase harmony around us?
Increase by learning to not blame other people nor think only of oneself — have deep compassion for others — move through life realizing we are fortunate, being grateful, and seeing what life has to offer. Harmony is the weaving of differences together into one tapestry. It is not compromising but recognizing we all wish for inner peace and harmony with life.
“Harmony is the weaving of differences together into one tapestry”
How are you different now from when you were younger?
I have become more reflective and have had a lot of life experiences that have formed my character and personality. I would say that we all wish to come back to our essence … I am coming back to who I was. That’s the most important thing. And I always tell young people, “Don’t imitate adults. Rather, stay who you are so you don’t have to work so hard to come back to who you thought you were when you were young.” I believe that when you are young your experience of the sense of who you are is so important. I was an observant child and they called me little Buddha because I was quiet and watched attentively. So there is always a call to get back to who you really, really are. I am an extension of who I was and who I am.
You seem to always wear bright colors. Why is that?
I like that question because I love brightness. Colors represent feelings and we should be like the sunshine and radiate energy.
What is the One Humanity Institute and why locate it in Auschwitz?
Auschwitz is the most horrid systematic murdering of peoples that has been preserved for us to learn “Never Again.” Walking through gas chambers is a shattering experience. I realized after 35 years of peace work all around the world that I was returning to my place of origin as to where my lineage was. I understand my grandmother was gassed on the day I was born. This could be significant in terms of my purpose in life. So I saw all the experience I have had working on peace building and knew that here would be a place to put into form all program experiences for others… then helping to move from Hate to Hope. The question is: How can humanity find solutions for us to become unified as one species and truly realize what science has taught us, that we are interconnected and interdependent and are one humanity? This project is to be a living example of how we can learn to alter our individual behaviors from greed and self-serving actions to become a species that cares for each other and acts as a collaborative and a cooperative humanity for creating peace and sustainability in the world…and understanding Oneness.
Cover image by Deborah Parente.
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