Thursday, May 6, 2010

Peace Pilgrim

"As I looked about the world, so much of it impoverished, I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving.  Finally, I had to find another way.  The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all one  night through the woods.  I came to a moonlit glade and prayed.  I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life - to dedicate my life - to service.  'Please use me!' I prayed to God.  A great peace came over me."  Peace Pilgrim

A serious student of yoga often begins a well rounded practice with studying and learning how to apply the first limb of yoga called the yamas.  The yamas are guidelines which form a foundation for our spiritual practice in terms of our relationship with other humans, plants, animals, architecture, city planning, growing food, daily living tasks; all aspects of our human existence.  The yamas include nonviolence (ahimsa), honesty (satya), nonstealing (asteya), wise use of energy (brahmacarya), and nonhoarding (aparigraha). 

Satya or honesty focuses our awareness on the true relationship between the actions of our body, speech, mind and the effects of these actions on our world.  For there to be true change in our world toward one of respect for all beings, both human and nonhuman, we must still the distractions of our minds to "grasp the truth" (Mahatma Gandhi) of how we affect our world.  As the Dalai Lama  states, "I believe in justice and truth, without which there would be no basis for human hope."  Through this moving into stillness of mind, we are able to live our true, higher purpose; that of serving and supporting others where there is suffering with compassion and justice.  Our interconnectedness results in our choices having a significant effect on others and our world, which may move us towards hope for the human condition or that of despair.

How does one still the mind?  What are the choices we have that could have such an effect?  The brain is a magnificent organ which is able to process thousands of subconscious stimuli while allowing us to focus on one thought at a time.  Over the course of time, these thoughts begin to flow one into the other, much like waves in the ocean.  Thoughts may be about our trying to relive a past event or worrying about future events.  In yoga, we attempt to keep our thoughts focused in the present moment, releasing ourselves from a preoccupation with our personal history.  Often, our minds will focus on what is known and comfortable, whether it is painful or joyful.  It is far easier for us to fall into thought patterns that are comfortable, habitual, and prejudiced rather than being open minded, interconnected, and intimate with ourselves and others.  We must bear in mind that "thoughts we entertain are a force that goes out and every thought comes back laden with its own kind" (Ralph Waldo Trine). Remembering that for this moment we are safe in who we are, we can chose to release those thoughts that do not help us to attain our highest purpose.  We are more than our thoughts...

"To be at one with God is to be at peace...peace is to be found only within (one's self), and unless one finds it there he will never find it at all.  Peace lies not in the external world.  It lies within one's own soul."  (Ralph Waldo Trine)  Yoga is a path of peacemaking in our thoughts, words, and deeds.  The emergence of peace will only come about when we have learned to respect the rights of others: people, animals and other living things, our planet earth.  Respect is evident by our honest appraisal of our lives in relation to others, sensitivity to the injustices endured by our brothers and sisters, and experiential changes that are consciously determined by what we know to be true.  We do not turn from our own or others suffering.  Rather, we look through the lens of compassion at the reality of our world.  In honesty, we see the injustice around us and we begin to look after ourselves and one another in a kind, sensitive, and healing manner.  We find our voice and begin to speak out in love and truth for those who cannot, ourselves included.  As Jimi Hendrix sang, "when the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace."  Where once we routinely closed our eyes and returned to the safety of our habits and unconscious actions, we now have the ability to open our eyes to what is happening around us and respond with honest actions out of compassion.  This is our spiritual journey, moving from unconscious to conscious choices in our thoughts, words, and deeds leading to a life of simplicity and harmony.  This is our path to peace.  As stated by Martin Luther King, Jr., "Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal."

Mildred Lisette Norman, better known as Peace Pilgrim, was just a normal person, like you and I, who took on a personal mission for the last 28 years of her life to bring awareness to peace among mankind.  On January 1, 1953, she began her personal pilgrimage for peace and walked 25,000 miles until her death on July 7, 1981.  On her pilgrimage, she vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food."  She lived a simple life as a pacifist, vegetarian, and peace activist.  There was no organizational backing for her pilgrimage and no money to provide food and shelter.  Her only belongings were literally the clothes that she wore, a  blue tunic which read "Peace Pilgrim" on the front and "25,000 miles on foot for peace" on the back of the tunic.  Her message was simple,  "This is the way of peace:  overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."  By the end of her life, Peace Pilgrim became a frequent speaker at churches, universities, and for local and national radio and television programs.  Peace Pilgrim was able to respond to the suffering she saw in the world around her by opening not only her own eyes, but those of the people around her.  She was able to bring awareness to others of the need for peace through the simple act of walking.  "No one walks so safely as those who walk humbly and harmlessly with great love and great faith."  (Peace Pilgrim)

I simply step out into this world with my eyes open to the suffering around and within me.  With simplicity and harmony, I seek the path of peace through my thoughts, words, and deeds.

May you find gratitude and peace in every moment.
Namaste, Joan

"When you find peace within yourself, you become the kind of person who can live at peace with others.  Inner peace is not found by staying on the surface of life or by attempting to escape from life through any means.  Inner peace is found facing life squarely, solving its problems, and delving as far beneath its surface as possible to discover its verities and realities."  Peace Pilgrim

"We who work for peace must not falter.  We must continue to pray for peace and to act for peace in whatever way we can.  We must continue to speak for peace and to live the way of peace; to inspire others.  We must continue to think of peace and to know that peace is possible."  Peace Pilgrim

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