by Virginia Thomson, Dulce Murphy and Carol Miskel
Since 1980, Track Two: An Institute for Citizen Diplomacy, formerly the Russian American Center, has provided new spheres of influence for Esalen.
For Track Two, in partnership with Esalen's Center for Theory & Research, traveling to Russia, the Middle East and now the Far East, brings with it the culture and practices that Esalen embodies. As Esalen allows selected individuals and groups to explore the "self" as part of the "whole," Track Two encourages people of all nations to explore their individual and collective parts in creating a more peaceful world.
As a result, its networks form, expand on and deliver the learnings from Esalen and the many traditions and practices it has celebrated, to individuals and entities in some of the most contentious international battle grounds. Track Two has embraced the traditions of other nations and cultures as it disseminates the religion of no religion through its exchange work.
Track Two/CTR leads people in the United States and in countries in conflict to challenge their belief systems and predispositions in order to create new narratives. We gather invited influencers at Esalen to discuss a topic set forth through our program objectives and over the course of five days, we watch as extraordinary transformations unfold.
We also hold invitational conferences in our program regions in Russia, the North Pacific and the Middle East. At each conference we invite Esalen practitioners to join our group and lend their particular expertise to our discussions and activities. In our conferences, participants discuss their areas of expertise, listen to others and begin to reimagine their positions and opinions. Friendships form, collaborations are seeded and change in behavior is initiated.
The Track Two conferences have led to extraordinary events. In 1989 Esalen and Track Two invited Boris Yeltsin to visit the United States to experience the notion of democracy at work. This trip inspired Yeltsin to question Communism and the theory behind the Soviet State. In 2000 the first library of psychological literature was established with Track Two/CTR in Russia at Moscow State University.
Previously such literature was rarely available to students, professionals and medical practitioners in Russia. Track Two also inspired the creation of a collaborative Space program between Russia and the U.S., a tradition of joint activity that continues today, despite the repetitive bantering of the two nations. Learn more about our history here.
In 2018 we developed a project to include a next generation of citizen diplomats titled "Whom Do We Trust." We brought Russian and American college students together to discuss the current state of the media, particularly as it relates to the relationship between Russia and the United States. We partnered with Herzen State Pedagogical University of Russia in St. Petersburg. The success of this first event led us to a second conference in 2019, where we invited students to discuss and find solutions for four global threats: mass migration, environmental degradation and climate change, nuclear war and cyber systems.
Students and professionals with expertise in these four threats and in media, the arts, science and other fields worked together to define problems and generate solutions. Students and the experts attending left the conference with hope, a new appreciation for the imminent dangers of the global threats, ideas and early plans for solutions, and friendships born of working and reimagining together. Friendships from the 2018 conference have endured, as evidenced in social media postings and letters we receive from participants.
And while the coronavirus has dampened some of the follow-up from 2019, we are beginning to see renewed interest from students in participating in one or two projects that are direct solutions for issues raised and explored during the conference.
In 2020, our 40th anniversary year, Track Two has responded to the coronavirus measures by holding a conference for our International Abrahamic Network (IAN) online over three days in April, replacing our Esalen conference during the same period. We discussed the threat of Israeli annexation and the ongoing peace-building efforts that are attempting to focus on individual well-being rather than political positioning between Israel and Palestine.
We also discussed the impact of the current pandemic and how different governments were addressing the threat. As ever, the activity that occurs after our gatherings give credence to the importance of building friendships. Several Track Two network members participate in Anna Vassilieva's Summer Symposium on Russia at Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey for PhD students. Collaborations on machine-learning projects, blockchain solutions and other tech-driven activities have taken shape since that April meeting.
In May of this year, Track Two held a webinar with Track Two Board member Mac McQuown on the potential for microgrids to power the world. Microgrids, providing power to small communities and even individual houses, allow for energy distribution outside political manipulations and within best guidelines for no or low emissions.
Several webinar attendees have since extended the story of microgrids to communities across the U.S.—and some beyond. And Masha Vorontsova, PhD in Marine Biology, joined us to offer a powerful webinar on the intersection of coronavirus, the wildlife trade and climate. This webinar was recorded and shared across Track Two's networks.
Looking ahead, Track Two is optimistic and hopeful that Esalen will open its doors to a small group of Track Two practitioners in October when we engage in a discussion about the nuclear threats and how our work, in partnership with Esalen, proceeds and expands over the coming years regardless of the circumstances we might confront.
Projects in the arts, science, news and information will continue to develop and extend to new arenas as Track Two and its growing network quietly and forcefully build a more peaceful world.
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