Lydia Ray is a peacebuilder, artist and musician from Annandale, Virginia. With over seven years of mediation experience, Lydia has a flourishing career in conflict resolution. Having studied Global Affairs with a minor in Conflict Analysis at George Mason University – Schar School of Policy and Government, Lydia joined MBBI with an ambition to forge her international relations background with her skills as a mediator.
There were several roads to mediation for Lydia. After being introduced to peer mediation in elementary school, which not only gave her the skills to help others, but also allowed her to deal with her own conflicts at school in a more structured way, Lydia later decided to study International Relations and Conflict Analysis as a way of exploring and understanding her heritage. As a Palestinian-American, Lydia tells me that her father’s story was hidden from her “for a very long time.” She credits this process of uncovering her father’s Palestinian roots as the thing which helped her to better understand herself, where she had come from, and “what I wanted to go towards.”
A flourishing career
Lydia is currently volunteering as co-chair of MBBI’s Children and Youth Alternative Dispute Resolution Project, which covers topics related to family mediation, peer mediation and restorative justice. Her role involves connecting with webinar presenters to organise a web series where members give talks on their specialisms. The most recent web series has been focused on restorative justice, and it is inspiring to hear Lydia speak of the impact that of restorative justice programs, witnessed both in her own work and through learning from other mediators. Lydia is also currently involved in welcoming new members to MBBI, and thus may be a familiar face to many members.
In tandem with her work with MBBI, Lydia has also recently started a new role at the Northern Virginia Mediation Service (NVMS) Conflict Resolution Center. At the center Lydia initially began working as a mediator after completing her training. Now, her role has two facets: she spends time at court advocating for mediation services and coordinating the mediators who work and volunteer there. There’s also a mentorship component to her role, which “brings those souls who want to get into peacebuilding” onto a mentorship program to gain skills and experience. Most recently, this has involved working with students from Georgetown University.
Developing a holistic approach to mediation?
Lydia continues to develop her own private practice, Guided Mediation LLC, and hopes to create a more holistic, meditative mediation practice. While she is “still working our verbiage,” Lydia is already offering a variety of alternative services to her clients, and part of this involves seeking to make her mediation practice more a mindful experience for the parties involved. This may involve conflict coaching, a deep dive into conflict styles, or guided meditation to ensure parties are fully engaged and present in the mediation. For Lydia, presence and truth are the keys to successfully resolving conflicts. In the future, Lydia is also hoping to utilise energy work to better serve her clients. Her mediation style involves bringing people together through holistic and spiritually based means, although she describes this as “still a work in progress”
Despite her obvious success, Lydia tells me that “I’m still forging my path.” She explains that, just as healing or growth is not linear, Lydia does not “believe your chosen path is necessarily linear.” This should not, however, be a source of discouragement. Instead, Lydia tells me that the key lesson in life is to “never, never, never give up.” Her continued determination, optimism, and the resulting successes are a clear indication of just how seriously Lydia takes this life lesson. I leave our conversation, excited to see where Lydia’s journey takes her, and hopeful that her unique, meditative approach to mediation will take her far!
Article by Natalie Dewar, MBBI Writer