"In the case of one of the major events happening in our world today, the war in Iraq, one of the things I am trying to offer is that people must realize that, if they don't agree with a war or the president that is prosecuting it, they don't have to be angry with what's happening or hate the president for causing what's happening," she said. "In fact, one person's anger and hatred, along with that of others, contributes to this overall atmosphere of anger and hatred."
Gaitskill believes that, in many cases, people who are "angry at a situation in which they are not personally involved" and who "hate a person they have never met" often reflect "issues and beliefs and situations" that date back to their childhoods.
Their hearts were filled with anger and hatred before the war and the war offers them an opportunity to vent.
"It's not that those people who are against the war aren't genuinely against it. It's that they are tapping this reservoir of anger and hatred that already was there and using it as the way to express their opposition," she said.
"In the long run, the solution to war is for everyone to find and develop peace and compassion in their own hearts."
"Peace begins with each person," she said. "The process of achieving peace on earth begins with each person living with peace in his or her heart."
Gaitskill, who grew up in Michigan but has family ties to Kentucky that date back to the early 19th century, earned bachelor's and master's degrees from Northwestern University and a law degree from the University of Washington.
She received her certification as a yoga instructor in 1988, went through the Nine Gates Mystery School program, studied meditation and metaphysics under a transpersonal psychologist, learned Huna and Hopi meditational practices and explored Buddhist practices.
Providing "tools" for developing peace in their hearts
In her workshops, Gaitskill provides "tools" for people to use in developing peace in their hearts, and these tools are for all people and all situations, not just people angry about the war in Iraq.
She cited the war in Iraq as an example of a situation where peaceful attitudes and expression are absent, both on the part of those against the war as well as those for it.
The tools have universal application, for dealing with relatively small personal matters to global warfare, she said.
Gaitskill's workshops generally begin with her helping participants "explore seeds of anger" within their own hearts, find their sources and discover ways to remove old issues that are still creating anger.
Then she offers a series of tools to accomplish that, including "right speech," the "loving kindness chant," affirmations and meditations.
"'Right speech' is something from Buddhism that involves spiritual communication," she said.
"One of the basic tenets is that your speech should be of benefit to others and never, ever do any harm. The 'loving kindness chant,' which is a little prayer, is based on the same tenet."
While Gaitskill has drawn several of her tenets and tools from Buddhism, she has borrowed from other spiritual and faith communities and cultures, including Hopis.
"I use various techniques as well as tenets from a variety of spiritual and cultural sources, all intended to help people toward a heart change," she said.
Gaitskill encourages workshop participants literally to practice what she preaches, with family, friends and neighbors, adding that "we first must practice with the people closest to us and then go on from there."
"I tell people not to expect a transformation in one day," she said of her workshop. "It may take many years and generations but if more and more people follow the 'journey of peace' and develop peace in their hearts, the chances for a peaceful world will greatly increase," she said.
Anyone who is interested in more information about Leigh Gaitskill's "journey to peace" workshops or who wants to schedule a workshop may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.