The Urban Dharma Newsletter - July 20, 2007
In This Issue: Spiritual Walking
1. Spiritual Walking / An Inter-religious Pilgrimage
2. Walking as a Spiritual Exercise by Maggie Spilner
3. Steps Toward Inner Peace - by Peace Pilgrim
1. Spiritual Walking / An Inter-religious Pilgrimage
Jotipalo Bhikkhu a Buddhist monk from Abhayagiri Buddhist Monastery in Redwood Valley, CA, joined a Catholic monk Fr. William Skudlarek, OSB, Monastic Interreligious Dialog's Executive Director, for a walking pilgrimage along Minnesota's Paul Bunyan Trail in July, 2007.
Day 1, Wednesday, July 11
The On-Star Miracle
Jotipalos parents, Don and Dorothy, were about to drive us to the trailhead when they discovered the keys to the car were missing. After having looked in all the obvious places, Don determined he might have locked them in the trunk. When he called in to report the problem, the service provider asked for his code, and though he had never used it since buying the car a year and a half ago, Don amazingly remembered it. Immediately a satellite was signaled and the car door popped open. And sure enough, the keys were in the trunk!
Arriving at the trailhead, we were met by a reporter from the Brainerd Dispatch who interviewed and photographed us as we began our pilgrimage. We started out around quarter to four under an auspicious light rain. We walked for two hours (about six miles), at times in silence, at times talking about our hopes and expectations. Cautiously ignoring a No Trespassing No Hunting sign (we werent going hunting, after all), we pitched our tents and settled in for our first night on the trail. Yes, the mosquitoes were bad, but only when we left the trail to find a camp site.
Day 2, Thursday, July 12
After a sleepless but uneventful night in the woods (neither one of us knows the reason for our insomnia, since we were both feeling confident about the walk and our tents were comfortable enough), we got back on the trail at 6:40, expecting to meet a photographer from the Catholic paper of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul/Minneapolis a few miles up the trail. However, when we checked, we were told the paper would be using another photo, so we continued on to the town of Nisswa at the 16 mile mark.
Nisswa is a resort and tourist town in the Minnesota Lake Region. Our alms round was not successful. Jotipalo suspects it was because William, who was walking in his lower robe (tunic), unwittingly stopped to put on his upper robe (scapular and cowl) in front of a ladies boutique!
We had chosen to conduct our alms round by standing unobtrusively along the Paul Bunyan Trail, which runs right though the middle of town. A few people smiled, but most simply walked by and pretended not to notice us. After about a half hour we decided to use some of the donations we had received and went to a restaurant for lunch where some people did ask us what we were up to.
After lunch we went to the Catholic parish where William had done some Sunday services the previous summer. The pastor was gone, but Judy, the organist and liturgy director, was in her office in the church. She made arrangements for a place to spend the night, which we gratefully accepted. She also called some parishioners and arranged for us to stay with them the following night.
Our conversation during the walk focused on community life and, in particular, on how the alms round is done. Jotipalo pointed out that an alms round is not about begging for food, but about making Buddhist monastics available to others. This daily contact insures that monastics remain accountable for their actions, because if monks misbehaved, they would probably get very hungry.
Day Three, Friday, July 13
Why are you dressed so funny?
On the trail around 6:20intermediate destination Pequot Lakes (mile 21 on the trail).
Arriving at 9:00, we called Diane, a reporter from the Pine River Journal who had asked for an interview. We sat and talked for about a half hour before continuing our trek. During the interview Jotipalo noted that we had received remarkable signs of supportdonations, publicity, making arrangements along the trail, offering hospitality, kind words from strangersbut most of these offerings came from people with whom some kind of connection, however recent, had been established. At least thus far it has been rare to receive hospitality from complete and total strangers.
There may be a lesson here that can be applied on a global scale. Most people are genuinely generous and hospitable. However, when they meet a stranger, especially ones dressed like us, they are understandably reluctant to interact, especially in an time of manipulated anxiety regarding security.
However, for every rule there is an exception. Vainly in search of todays edition of the Brainerd Dispatch we entered the Silver Creek Trader, where William was enthusiastically greeted by the owner, Jan, with Why are you dressed so funny? Are you a minister or something? To which William responded, pointing to Jotipalo, still out of view in the entry way, If you think I look funny, wait till you see him.
Jan was immediately intrigued when we explained that we were Catholic and Buddhist monks on a pilgrimage, and asked about Jotipalos alms bowl. When she saw that it was empty, she invited us to go onto the veranda to do your Buddhist and Catholic thing, and she would bring us some coffee. We told her we were running behind schedule, so she placed two seven layer bars in the alms bowl. (Bars, as anyone who listens to Garrison Keillors stories of Lake Wobegon know, are a staple of Minnesota cuisine). Jotipalo offered a traditional Pali blessing chant. Jan, touched by the blessing, replied, We celebrate our differences.
We then walked an additional three miles on our way to the home of the people who were offering us hospitality for the night. Turing on to the highway that would take us to their place, we stopped at a gas station, determined to purchase todays paper. The cashier asked what we were doing, and Jotipalo pointed to his picture on the front page of the paper. We had a laugh, and as we left, someone else sent us off with a cheery, Have a good day, you people and your egos!
Half way between the gas station and our destination we met Jerry, who had walked out to greet us. We were taken to a beautiful home and immediately made to feel welcome. Jerry and his wife Sharon began preparing lunch, and we sat down to a delicious meal and enjoyable conversation. Jerry gave us a tour of his twenty-acre yard (literally twenty acres), which contains a wood sculpting studio, a small barn filled with life-sized Christmas figures with which they decorate their yard each year, a one acre berry patch (raspberry, strawberry, blueberry among others), numerous flower gardens, a pond, and an osprey nesting site. Later in the afternoon Jerry discovered that the nest had been destroyed and that some predator had probably killed the two five-week old fledglings.
Several people have already expressed their desire to receive us over the next few days. The hospitality we are receiving has already exceeded anything we might have hoped for and makes us grateful. There still are many uncertainties ahead, but we are enjoying one anothers company and continuing to walk in faith.
Day 4, Saturday, July 14
Talk of the Town
Sharon made us a wonderful breakfast, almost enough for an entire days nourishment. We departed around 7:30 a.m. Jerry walked with us the first half mile to the trail junction in Jenkins. As we parted ways, he slipped William (the banker) a very generous donation, along with the wish that we contact them if we needed anything. We are considering asking them if they could take us from Red Lake to the headwaters of the Mississippi River in Itasca State Park at the end of our journey.
Not long on the trail, we met April, who was bicycling from Nisswa. She stopped and told us that she saw us walking past her shop on Thursday. She said we were the talk of the town. (Funny, because few had approached us.) She even knew what we had eaten for lunch! It appears that one of the comments people were making was, I thought all Buddhists were vegetarians. She thought what we were doing was great and was happy that people in Nisswa were talking about it.
About an hour later we saw a familiar red van in the distance and heard Diane, the reporter from Pine River, calling out cheerfully, No, I am not stalking you! She had brought her seven-year-old daughter Ari to meet us and presented food offerings: bananas, plums, and a snack pack. Ari mentioned that she loved snack packs, so we offered that back to her. We have been very touched by the support we have received from Diane and by her interest in what we are doing.
We continued on, stopping before we reached the town of Pine River to meditate and pray along the banks of the Pine River. Before heading out we made a small meal of the many food offerings we had recently received. A few more miles along the trail we arrived at the Pine River Welcoming Center. John, the manager of the Center, welcomed us warmly. If anyone was ever perfectly suited for a job, its John. According to him, however, it was not a job; he was simply doing what he loved. John explained that the Paul Bunyan Trail was born in Pine River because it was the first municipality to make a town resolution to convert rails to trails. After the last train passed through the town in 1984, he took part in a town council meeting in the basement of the Methodist church. The reason I remember the meeting so well, he said, because carrot salad was served, and I hate carrot salad!
Before we left town Johns wife and daughter came to greet and have their picture taken with us. His daughter, a college student at the U of M, wanted it for Facebookto which William responded, Oh, we could be friends! (Jotipalo didn't have a clue what we were talking about.)
We planned to walk at least ten miles today and then call Mary, who had offered to put us up for the night and to take us to Mass on Sunday morning. Along the trail we met a couple who spotted us as they were driving south on Highway 371. Cindy had read about us in the Brainerd paper and wanted to make a food offering. Her husband had not read the article, and when she asked him to stop, he replied, What are you talking about, woman? Cindy had just returned from Thailand and showed respect by asking if it would be all right to shake hands. They offered a box of Pop Tarts and a banana, all the food they had in the car. As he has been doing whenever someone offers us food, Jotipalo chanted a traditional blessing chant in Pali, the scriptural language of Theravadan Buddhism. As we talked, William discovered that a mutual friend was the Confirmation sponsor of their son, who will be a junior at Notre Dame.
After a slightly longer walk than we had expected, we reached the Mildred church, where we called Mary, who came to pick us up. We estimate we walked between eleven and twelve miles today.
Mary and her husband Donny live on a small forty acre lakeso small, they pointed out, that the loons have to circle it three times to gain enough altitude to clear the trees. Their home, built by Donny, is nestled in a secluded section of the forest, far from the noise of the world. Mary told us she refuses to have a computer in the house; Donny would use it as a boat anchor," she explained, "and a boat anchor is a lot cheaper!
Once again, we have experience the joy of being warmly welcomed into the home of strangers, who have now become friends.
Day 5, Sunday, July 15
Hackensack and Back
Mary invited their neighbors Kathy and Verdale over for breakfast, after which we made our way to Mass in Pine River. The church was full, partly due to the influx of vacationers during the summer. The pastor, Father Bruce, gave us a warm welcome, as did many of the parishioners. During the Mass there was a second collection to support an abused womens shelter sponsored by the parish. We decided to make a contribution from the donations we had receivedand then received almost the same amount back from people who wanted to support our walk.
The Gospel for the day was Jesus story of the Good Samaritan, which Father Bruce interpreted as an expression of compassion for anyone in need, simply because they are human. His sermon was the topic of discussion for much of our afternoon walk.
After church Mary dropped us off at the trail in Backus with instructions to call her if it started to rain and we needed a place to stay. It had been a beautiful morning, but it was now threatening rain. We left Backus at 1:08 p.m. for Hackensack, eight and a quarter miles away. That was perhaps the most peaceful stretch of walk we have done so far, as Highway 371 was a good distance from the trail. Along the way we met Gail from the Walker newspaper, who gave us a bag of cherries and asked us to call the paper when we were approaching Walker tomorrow.
The closer we got to Hackensack, the more it felt like rain; thus we only stopped once for a short break. We started feeling sprinkles after about six miles and a light rain just as we entered town. We checked at the Catholic church, but since the pastor lives in Walker, it was locked. So, without further hesitation we called Mary.
Our conversation that evening centered on locals who were suffering from cancera sobering reminder of what it means to be human.
Day 6, Monday, July 16
Back to Hackensack
Mary drove us back to Hackensack through a rather heavy rain, which let up as we approached the village. We resumed our walk at 6:45 a.m. After walking about 100 yards, we saw a box alongside the trail, which looked like a discarded fruit container. Oh look, a package for us," Jotipalo said. When he looked closer, to his surprise he saw a note that read, To Fr. Bill and Jotipalo. We opened it up and found blueberries, cherries, six peaches, and six fresh ears of corn, with the note, You can eat the corn raw. If you do, youll never cook it again. (He was absolutely right!!)
There was also a card inside the box with the following message: You both walked by my fruit stand in Pine River yesterday. I recognized you from the Brainerd newspaper, which I read last night, and I wanted to pass on a few goodies. About ten years ago I was just a simple Catholic boy befriended by a Southern Baptist gentleman (thirty years my senior). What we did with our collaboration ended up having some amazing results. I believe it started with our mutual respect. I wanted to share that with you both. (signed) The Pine River Fruit Stand Man.
Todays walk was long and grueling. It was the first time we had to use rain gear, and we also walked a long stretch along a busy highway. As we were approaching Walker a couple people stopped and offered us rides. Not wanting to arrive at the door of the Walker newspaper in a vehicle, we declined. As soon as the cars left, we looked at each other and asked what we were possibly thinking of, since we were both exhausted.
About a block from the Walker Pilot Independent newspaper office the journalist who was going to do the interview came out to meet us. During the course of an hours interviewed, Hope expressed her concern that we had a place to stay and were eating well enough, offering us cheese and more cherries. We told her that we had been able to speak with the new pastor of the Catholic church in town, and that he had invited us to stay.
We got to Father Marks house in the early afternoon and discovered that he was in the middle of moving in, having just taken up residence here three days earlier. We spent the next couple hours helping him move furniture. Having received so much generosity over the past six days, it felt good to be of service.
At least for the next two nights were expecting to be sleeping outdoors. (But who knows?) We hope to reach Bemidji on Thursday and possibly be driven up to the Red Lake Native American Reservation on Friday, where four sisters from Saint Benedicts monastery in Saint Joseph MN are in residence.
Day 7, Tuesday, July 17
Beyond Benedict and Back
After an early breakfast, we went to Mass, where Father Mark introduced us as a couple of hobos who showed up at his back door, but whom he welcomed with delight. The Scripture text for that day was about the birth and early years of Moses. Fr. Mark pointed out that even though Moses had a shaky beginning (including killing a man), he became a holy person. The lesson: don't judge people who are currently in a shaky situation.
Because we had been walking for six straight days, we were considering taking a rest day, but finally decided to continue walking after lunch. Before leaving town we bought a few supplies, since it looked like we would not be hitting any sizeable town before Bemidji.
We got on the trail at 12:15 to much warmer temperatures than we were accustomed to (upper 80s). After four miles the trail was no longer paved; it looked more like a well kept logging road. In many ways, it was actually more pleasant than walking on asphalt, though we had to be attentive to removing ticks.
About mid-afternoon William spotted some steps leading down to an abandoned dock on Kabekona Bay of Leech Lake. After a refreshing swim, our first, we continued on to Benedict. Misreading a sign that said it was .25 miles to the right, we continued on for about a half mile. Spotting a couple men building a house we asked them where Benedict was. They sent us to the highway, telling us we had walked a half mile too far.
In Benedict we found three building, one of which was the Fort Benedict gas station-grocery store-post office-live bait shop. We enjoyed a leisurely one-and-a-half-hour tea and got back on the trail about 6:00 p.m.
Before leaving William reached his cousin Ed's wife Marla, who told us we could use their lakeside guest cabin for as long as we wanted and arranged for a friend to pick us up on Thursday afternoon.
After walking for another hour, completing about eleven miles for the day, we found a good enough patch of trees with soft and level ground where we decided to pitch our tents. The only drawback was that it was fairly close to a moderately travelled road. The only noise Jotipalo heard later in the evening was from a rather large deer who was not happy with his new neighbors, and snorted his displeasure on and off for a couple hours.
Day 8, Wednesday, July 18
Nothing to Prove
We got up at dawn and were on the trail around 5:30 a.m., but soon began walking on the highway to avoid the dew. About an hour and a half later we arrived in LaPorte where we indulged ourselves in a typical Northern Minnesota breakfast at the local gas station-convenience store-cafe-mechanic shop. The local breakfast club of about ten people warmly welcomed us and took great interest in who we were and what we were doing.
We settled into a comfortable walking pace, with a ten minute break every two miles. Though it was warm, we were able to walk in the shade most of the morning. About two hours after leaving LaPorte William remembered he had forgotten to pay for breakfast. We decided to call as soon as we could to explain. We are sure we are already the talk of the town in LaPorte!
Shortly before 1l:00 a.m. we entered what the map said was the town of Guthrie. We found a Bible church, two houses, and a stop sign. Pam, one of the residents, kindly allowed us to charge the cell phone in her house and gave us water. We then rested for an hour behind the church. Looking at the map we decided to try to reach Nary, 5.2 miles further north, and then decide what to do for the night.
Returning to Pam's, we explained our situation with the LaPorte gas station and asked if she could find the phone number for us. She offered us the use of her phone. When Kathy, the cashier answered, Jotipalo asked, "Did you have two monks stop at your cafe this morning?" Kathy (rising inflection), "Yes, we did." "Did they leave without paying?" (Another rising inflection),"Yes, they did." "I'm one of those monks." A relieved Kathy replied, "That's good!" William then made arrangements to send a check.
In the course of receiving Pam's hospitality, we discovered that her husband is the nephew of a priest with whom William had been in the seminary.
We reached Nary, which now consists of nothing but a cemetery, around 3:00 p.m. Spotting a house across the road, we stopped to replenish our water supply. There we met Toni, who was busily at work remodeling the house.
Toni welcomed us in, and while William was filling the water bottles, Jotipalo asked about the nearest motel. Because she was new to the area, she called her husband. As she conveyed his directions, she stopped mid-sentence and asked, "Would you like me to drive you there?" Jotipalo waited a full two seconds before accepting her offer. Later William confided, "Am I glad you said 'Yes'!" At this point we had walked fourteen miles and had decided to push on to Bemidji another seven miles and possibly get a motel for the night. But when the offer for a ride came without our asking, we took this as a sign (from God?).
Toni drove us to Bemidji and dropped us off at a motel. On the way she mentioned that her husband was a bit concerned that she was taking two strangers into town. She reassured him that it was OK because we were monks, which didn't seem totally to alleviate his concerns because he said he would be praying for her!
Upon arrival, William called Mary, the person who was planning to pick us up tomorrow afternoon, to tell her that we were already in town. We assured her that it would be no problem for us to stay in a motel, but she arranged for her husband Jim to come and take us to the cabin that Ed and Marla had arranged for our use.
When Jim picked us up, he asked if we wanted to swing by the airport to pick up the truck Ed had left for our use. (Ed, Marla, and their son had just left on vacation.) The blessings just keep coming!!!
Day 9, Thursday, July 19
Rest and Reflection
We've been joking with one another about how grateful we are that we didn't have to walk the last seven miles, because that would only have reinforced our egos!
Mainly we've been reflecting on the generosity we have received. We walked for eight days, covering eighty-five miles on foot, doing this completely on faith. Not a day passed when we didn't encounter some or many acts of kindness. Being on the receiving end of such generosity is both humbling and gratifying.
On the walk that he attempted two years ago, and which he wrote about in Bulletin #76, Jotipalo encounted this same kind of generosity in Mississippi. Because that walk ended so abruptly, he desired to confirm the experience. These past eight days have indeed confirmed that a walk done in faith is not only possible but will exceed expectations.
Prior to the walk, William, who was unfamiliar with the practice of alms rounds, anticipated that he would experience feelings of humiliation and embarrassment. Instead, he too discovered how uplifting it is to make yourself available to gestures of generosity and hospitality. He went on the walk hoping to deepen his understanding of a particular Buddhist monastic practice and the teaching that supported it. What especially impressed him was how interested and supportive others were of this practice and of the interreligious harmony that it demonstrated.
Now that we know that an interfaith pilgrimage can be done, and can be done joyfully, we hope that other Buddisht and Catholic monks might consider the possibility of doing something similar. Since Buddhist monks are already doing this practice in America, Christian monks might also consider doing it by themselves. It is an incredible way of reinforcing a sense of community and of one's dependence on the goodness of others.
This will be our last entry. If we add further reflections, they will be linked to the MID website.
With folded hands and bent knees, we give thanks to all who have supported us with their gifts, they generosity, their prayers, and their good thoughts.
2. Walking as a Spiritual Exercise / Use a long walk or hike to come home to yourself by Maggie Spilner
If you're like most people, you've taken up walking to improve yourself physically, perhaps by slimming down or getting fit. But there's another side to walking, one that supports your emotional and spiritual being, that lets you escape some of the craziness of 21st-century living.
These days, our lives are set at an incredibly frantic pace. We have so much on our plates that we fear we'll never get everything done. And we wonder when we'll find time to do those things that bring us pleasure and joy.
Even when the world seems to be spinning out of control, walking can restore your sense of inner peace. It gives you a chance to slow down, to relax, to appreciate yourself and your life. Time seems to expand, creating a sense of spaciousness in the present moment.
Even if your job is wonderful, your family is healthy and happy, your future seems bright, you can lose touch with the deepest part of yourself unless you slow down enough to breathe deeply, to still your thoughts, to observe the natural world with a sense of wonder. In this regard, walking can help you reset your internal clock and dispel your sense of urgency. After all, it isn't intended to get you someplace in a super-hurry unless you're an elite race walker. By its very nature, it encourages you to breathe more deeply, draining away tension and instilling a sense of calm and contentment.
Plan a Walking Retreat
You can use walking as a sort of mini-retreat. I'm not talking about going away for a week or even a weekend, unless you want to, of course. I'm suggesting that you set aside one day for a 3- to 8-hour exploration on foot--far from the demands of work, home, and family.
First, choose a date on your calendar and mark it as your "retreat day." Then discuss your plans with anyone who might be affected by your being unavailable. You want this day to be yours, for your personal walking adventure. (You can invite a friend or family member to join you if you want. But I suggest that you make all the plans so that they suit you.)
Next, identify a place that you want to explore on foot. If you enjoy being out in nature, call your local parks and recreation department to request maps of your area. If you love looking at homes and gardens (one of my favorite kinds of walks), think of a neighborhood that you'd like to see up close. Try to choose a location that's no more than 15 minutes from your home. You want to spend your time walking, not driving. If you never have to get in your car, all the better.
Tailor the length of your route to your personal limits. You're walking at a leisurely pace, so you can go longer and farther. If you normally walk 2 miles a day, go for 4 to 6 miles. If you usually walk 4 miles, try to go 8 to 10. If you're a beginner, stay under 4 miles.
The night before your excursion, pack yourself a lunch, maybe a sandwich on whole-grain bread, plus fresh fruits and veggies. Make sure that you have a water bottle, too. Put them in a backpack, along with a notepad and pencil in case you want to do some journaling. Other items you may want to carry along: any maps you need; pocket guides for identifying wildflowers, trees, and birds; a magnifying glass for checking out the intricacies of plants; a couple of pre-moistened hand wipes; and some plastic bags for any garbage you have.
Make sure your favorite walking socks are clean. (I have a favorite pair. They're soft and silky, thick and wicking. And they're just the right size, with smooth seams and no holes!) Pick out a pair of shorts or pants that you can walk in comfortably for hours as well as a cozy jacket if the weather is cool. If it's warm, wear a hat or visor. And don't forget your sunglasses--not only to shade your eyes but also to give you a sense of privacy while you walk.
On the day of your journey, plan to get up early, so you can spend a few minutes relaxing and stretching. Stretching is something few people make time for, but it yields great rewards. It leaves you feeling lighter, more flexible, less achy. It makes your walk more refreshing, since you've worked out some of the kinks before you hit the road. So indulge yourself in a long, soothing stretching session. If you have a favorite yoga video, pop that in and follow along.
If you have a favorite book of poetry, read from it before you leave home. The sensuous, intuitive language of poetry may put you in a completely different frame of mind than the articles in the morning paper. Afterward, eat a healthy breakfast and drink plenty of water. Then pick up your backpack and head out.
Remember, this is a retreat, not a race. Training for a 5-K or a 10-K is a whole other objective. This is to refresh your spirit, to get in sync with your soul and your surroundings. Stand tall while you walk; it makes you feel better about yourself and the world around you. Stop whenever you want to eat a midmorning snack or your lunch. Soak up the sun. Stretch again. Savor the moment.
3. Steps Toward Inner Peace - by Peace Pilgrim
The following is the text from a little booklet called "Steps Toward Inner Peace" by Peace Pilgrim. "Steps" is not copyrighted and you are welcome to reprint it in whole or part.
IN MY EARILY LIFE I made two very important discoveries. In the first place I discovered that making money was easy. And in the second place I discovered that making money and spending it foolishly was completely meaningless. I knew that this was not what I was here for, but at that time (this was many years ago), I didn't know exactly what I was here for. It was out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, and after having walked all one night through the woods, that I came to what I now know to be a very important psychological hump. I felt a complete willingness, without any reservations, to give my life, to dedicate my life to service. I tell you, it is a point of no return. After that, you can never go back to completely self-centered living.
And so I went into the second phase of my life. I began to live to give what I could, instead of get what I could, and I entered a new and wonderful world. My life began to become meaningful. I attained the great blessing of good health; I haven't had a cold or headache since. (Most illness is psychologically induced.) From that time on, I have known that my life-work would be work for peace; that it would cover the entire peace picture - peace among nations, peace among groups, peace among individuals, and the very, very important inner peace. However, there's a great deal of difference between being willing to give your life, and actually giving your life, and for me, 15 years of preparation and of inner seeking lay between.
During this time I became acquainted with what Psychologists refer to as Ego and Conscience. I began to realize that it's as though we have two selves or two natures or two wills with two different viewpoints. Because the viewpoints were so different, I felt a struggle in my life at this period between the two selves with the two viewpoints. So there were hills and valleys - lots of hills and valleys. Then in the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful mountain-top experience, and for the first time I knew what inner peace was like. I felt a oneness - oneness with all my fellow human beings, oneness with all of creation. I have never felt really separate since. I could return again and again to this wonderful mountaintop, and then I could stay there for longer and longer periods of time, and just slip out occasionally. Then came a wonderful morning when I woke up and knew that I would never have to descend again into the valley. I knew that for me the struggle was over, that finally I had succeeded in giving my life, or finding inner peace. Again this is a point of no return. you can never go back into the struggle. The struggle is over now because you will do the right thing, and you don't need to be pushed into it.
However progress is not over. Great progress has taken place in this third phase of my life, but it's as though the central figure of the jigsaw puzzle of your life is complete and clear and unchanging, and around the edges other pieces keep fitting in. There is always a growing edge, but the progress is harmonious. There is a feeling of always being surrounded by all of the good things, like love and peace and joy. It seems like a protective surrounding, and there is an unshakeableness within which takes you through any situation you may need to face.
The world may look at you and believe that you are facing great problems, but always there are the inner resources to easily overcome these problems. Nothing seems difficult. There is a calmness and a serenity and unhurriedness - no more striving or straining about anything. Life is full and life is good, but life is nevermore overcrowded. That's a very important thing I've learned: If your life is in harmony with your part in the Life Pattern, and if you are obedient to the laws which govern this universe, then your life is full and good but not overcrowded. If it is overcrowded, you are doing more than is right for you to do, more than is your job to do in the total scheme of things.
Now there is a living to give instead of to get. As you concentrate on the giving, you discover that just as you cannot receive without giving, so neither can you give without receiving - even the most wonderful things like health and happiness and inner peace. There is a feeling of endless energy - it just never runs out; it seems to be as endless as air. You just seem to be plugged into the source of universal energy.
You are now in control of your life. You see, the ego is never in control. The ego is controlled by wishes for comfort and convenience on the part of the body, by demands of the mind, and by outbursts of the emotions. But the higher nature controls the body and the mind and the emotions. I can say to my body, "Lie down there on that cement floor and go to sleep," and it obeys. I can say to my mind, "Shut out everything else and concentrate on this job before you," and it's obedient. I can say to the emotions, "Be still, even in the face of this terrible situation," and they are still. It's a different way of living. The philosopher Thoreau wrote: If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps he hears a different drummer. And now you are following a different drummer - the higher nature instead of the lower.
IT WAS only at this time, in 1953, that I felt guided or called or motivated to begin my pilgrimage for peace in the world - a journey undertaken traditionally. The tradition of pilgrimage is a journey undertaken on foot and on faith, prayerfully and as an opportunity to contact people. I wear a lettered tunic in order to contact people. It says 'PEACE PILGRIM' on the front. I feel that's my name now - it emphasizes my mission instead of me. And on the back it says '25,000 MILES ON FOOT FOR PEACE.' The purpose of the tunic is merely to make contacts for me. Constantly as I walk along the highways and through the cities, people approach me and I have a chance to talk with them about peace.
I have walked 25,000 miles as a penniless pilgrim. I own only what I wear and what I carry in my small pockets. I belong to no organization. I have said that I will walk until given shelter and fast until given food, remaining a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace. And I can truthfully tell you that without ever asking for anything, I have been supplied with everything needed for my journey, which shows you how good people really are.
With Me I carry always my peace message: This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. There is nothing new about this message, except the practice of it. And the practice of it is required not only in the international situation but also in the personal situation. I believe that the situation in the world is a reflection of our own immaturity . If we were mature, harmonious people, war would be no problem whatever - it would be impossible.
All of us can work for peace. We can work right where we are, right within ourselves, because the more peace we have within our own lives, the more we can reflect into the outer situation. In face, I believe that the wish to survive will push us into some kind of uneasy world peace which will then need to be supported by a great inner awakening if it is to endure. I believe we entered a new age when we discovered nuclear energy, and that this new age calls for a new renaissance to lift us to a higher level of understanding so that we will be able to cope with the problems of this new age. So, primarily my subject is peace within ourselves as a step toward peace in our world.
NOW, when I talk about the steps toward inner peace, I talk about them in a framework, but there's nothing arbitrary about the number of steps. They can be expanded; they can be contracted. This is just a way of talking about the subject, but this is important: the steps toward inner peace are not taken in any certain order. The first step for one may be the last step for another. So, just take whatever steps seem easiest for you, and as you take a few steps, it will become easier for you to take a few more. In this area we really can share. None of you may feel guided to walk a pilgrimage, and I'm not trying to inspire you to walk a pilgrimage, but in the field of finding harmony in our own lives, we can share. And I suspect that when you hear me give some of the steps toward inner peace, you will recognize them as steps that you also have taken.
In the first place I would like to mention some preparations that were required of me. The first preparation is a right attitude toward life. This means - stop being an escapist! Stop being a surface-liver who stays right in the froth of the surface. There are millions of these people, and they never find anything really worthwhile. Be willing to face life squarely and get down beneath the surface of life where the verities and realities are to be found. That's what we are doing here now.
There's the whole matter of having a meaningful attitude for the problems that life may set before you. If only you could see the whole picture, if only you knew the whole story, you would realize that no problem ever comes to you that does not have a purpose in your life, that cannot contribute to your inner growth. When you perceive this, you will recognize problems as opportunities in disguise. If you did not face problems you would just drift through life, and you would not gain inner growth. It is through solving problems in accordance with the highest light that we have that inner growth is attained. Now, collective problems must be solved by us collectively, and no one finds inner peace who avoids doing his or her share in the solving of collective problems, like world disarmament and world peace. So let us always think about these problems together, talk about them together, and collectively work toward their solutions.
The second preparation has to do with bringing our lives into harmony with the laws that govern this universe. Created are not only the worlds and the beings but also the laws which govern them. Applying both in the physical realm and in the psychological realm, these laws govern human conduct. Insofar as we are able to understand and bring our lives into harmony with these laws, our lives will be in harmony. Insofar as we disobey these laws, we create difficulties for ourselves by our disobedience. We are our own worst enemies. If we are out of harmony through ignorance, we suffer somewhat; but if we know better and are still out of harmony, then we suffer a great deal. I recognize that these laws are well-known and well-believed, and therefore they just needed to be well-lived.
So I got busy on a very interesting project. This was to live all the good things I believed in. I did not confuse myself by trying to take them all at once, but rather, if I was doing something that I knew I should not be doing, I stopped doing it, and I always made a quick relinquishment. You see, that's the easy way. Tapering off is long and hard. And if I was not doing something that I knew I should be doing, I got busy on that. It took the living quite a while to catch up with the believing, but of course it can, and now if I believe something, I live it. Otherwise it would be perfectly meaningless. As I lived according to the highest light that I had, I discovered that other light was given, and that I opened myself to receiving more light as I lived the light I had.
These laws are the same for all of us, and these are the things that we can study and talk about together. But there is also a third preparation that has to do with something which is unique for every human life because every one of us has a special place in the Life Pattern. If you do not yet know clearly where you fit, I suggest that you try seeking it in receptive silence. I used to walk amid the beauties of nature, just receptive and silent, and wonderful insights would come to me. You begin to do your part in the Life Pattern by doing all the good things you feel motivated toward, even though they are just little good things at first. You give these priority in your life over all the superficial things that customarily clutter human lives.
There are those who know and do not do. This is very sad. I remember one day as I walked along the highway a very nice car stopped and the man said to me, "How wonderful that you are following your calling!" I replied, "I certainly think that everyone should be doing what feels right to do." He then began telling me what he felt motivated toward, and it was a good thing that needed doing. I got quite enthusiastic about it and took for granted that he was doing it. I said, "That's wonderful! How are you getting on with it?" And he answered, "Oh, I'm not doing it. That kind of work doesn't pay anything." And I shall never forget how desperately unhappy that man was. But you see, in this materialistic age we have such a false criterion by which to measure success. We measure it in terms of dollars, in terms of material things. But happiness and inner peace do not lie in that direction. If you know but do not do, you are a very unhappy person indeed.
There is also a fourth preparation, and it is the simplification of life to bring inner and outer well-being - psychological and material well-being - into harmony in your life. This was made very easy for me. Just after I dedicated my life to service, I felt that I could no longer accept more than I needed while others in the world have less than they need. This moved me to bring my life down to need-level. I thought it would be difficult. I thought it would entail a great many hardships, but I was quite wrong. Now that I own only what I wear and what I carry in my pockets, I don't feel deprived of anything. For me, what I want and what I need are exactly the same, and you couldn't give me anything I don't need.
I discovered this great truth: unnecessary possessions are just unnecessary burdens. Now I don't mean that all our needs are the same. Yours may be much greater than mine. For instance, if you have a family, you would need the stability of a family center for your children. But I do mean that anything beyond need - and need sometimes includes things beyond the physical needs, too - anything beyond need tends to become burdensome.
There is a great freedom in simplicity of living, and after I began to feel this, I found a harmony in my life between inner and outer well-being. Now there's a great deal to be said about such harmony, not only for an individual life but also for the life of a society. It's because as a world we have gotten ourselves so far out of harmony, so way off on the material side, that when we discover something like nuclear energy, we are still capable of putting it into a bomb and using it to kill people. This is because our inner well-being lags behind our outer well-being. The valid research for the future is on the inner side, on the psychological side, so that we will be able to bring these two into balance, so we will know how to use well the outer well-being we already have.
THEN I discovered that there were some purifications required of me. The first one is such a simple thing: it is purification of the body. This has to do with your physical living habits. Do you eat sensibly, eating to live? I actually know people who live to eat. And do you know when to stop eating? That is a very important thing to know. Do you have sensible sleeping habits? I try to get to bed early and have plenty of hours of sleep. Do you get plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise and contact with nature? You'd think this might be the first area in which people would be willing to work, but from practical experience I've discovered it's often the last because it might mean getting rid of some of our bad habits, and there is nothing that we cling to more tenaciously.
The second purification I cannot stress too much because it is purification of thought. If you realized how powerful your thoughts are you would never think a negative thought. They can be a powerful influence for good when they're on the positive side, and they can and do make you physically ill when they're on the negative side.
I recall a man 65 years old when I knew him who manifested symptoms of what seemed a chronic physical illness. I talked with him and I realized that there was some bitterness in his life, although I could not find it at once. He got along well with his wife and his grown children, and he got along will in his community, but the bitterness was there just the same. I found that he was harboring bitterness against his long-dead father because his father had educated his brother and not him. As soon as he was able to relinquish this bitterness, the so-called chronic illness began to fade away, and soon it was gone.
If you're harboring the slightest bitterness toward anyone, or any unkind thoughts of any sort whatever, you must get rid of them quickly. They aren't hurting anyone but you. It is said that hate injures the hater, not the hated. It isn't enough just to do right things and say right things, you must also think right things before your life can come into harmony.
The third purification is purification of desire. What are the things you desire? Do you desire new clothing, or pleasures, or new household furnishings, or a new car? You can come to the point of oneness of desire just to know and do your part in the Life Pattern. When you think about it, is there anything else as really important to desire?
There is one more purification, and that is purification of motive. What is your motive for whatever you may be doing? If it is pure greed or self-seeking or the wish for self-glorification, I would say, Don't do that thing. Don't do anything you would do with such a motive. But it isn't that easy because we tend to do things with very mixed motives, good and bad motives all mixed together. Here's a man in the business world: his motives may not be the highest, but mixed in with them are motives of caring for his family and perhaps doing some good in his community. Mixed motives!
Your motives, if you are to find inner peace, must be an outgoing motive - it must be service. It must be giving, not getting. I knew a man who was a good architect. It was obviously his right work, but he was doing it with the wrong motive. His motive was to make a lot of money and keep ahead of the Joneses. He worked himself into an illness, and it was shortly after, that I met him. I got him to do little things for service. I talked to him about the joy of service and I knew that after he had experienced this, he could never go back into really self-centered living. We corresponded a bit after that. On the third year of my pilgrimage route, I walked through his town and I hardly recognized him when I stopped in to see him. He was such a changed man! But he was still an architect. He was drawing a plan and he talked to me about it: "You see, I'm designing it this way to fit into their budget, and then I'll set it on their plot of ground to make it look nice." His motive was to be of service to the people that he drew plans for. He was a radiant and transformed person. His wife told me that his business had increased because people were now coming to him from miles around for home designs.
I've met a few people who had to change their jobs in order to change their lives, but I've met many more people who merely had to change their motive to service in order to change their lives.
NOW, the last part. These are the relinquishments. Once you've made the first relinquishment, you have found inner peace because it's the relinquishment of self-will. You can work on this by refraining from doing any not-good thing you may be motivated toward, but you never suppress it! If you are motivated to do or say a mean thing, you can always think of a good thing. You deliberately turn around and use that same energy to do or say a good thing instead. It works!
The second relinquishment is the relinquishment of the feeling of separateness. We begin feeling very separate and judging everything as it relates to us, as though we were the center of the universe. Even after we know better intellectually, we still judge things that way. In reality, of course, we are all cells in the body of humanity. We are not separate from our fellow humans. The whole thing is a totality. It's only from that higher viewpoint that you can know what it is to love your neighbor as yourself. From that higher viewpoint there becomes just one realistic way to work, and that is for the good of the whole. As long as you work for your selfish little self, you're just one cell against all those other cells, and you're way out of harmony. But as soon as you begin working for the good of the whole, you find yourself in harmony with all of your fellow human beings. You see, it's the easy, harmonious way to live.
Then there is the third relinquishment, and that is the relinquishment of all attachments. Material things must be put into their proper place. They are there for use. It's all right to use them; that's what they're there for. But when they've outlived their usefulness, be ready to relinquish them and perhaps pass them on to someone who does need them. Anything that you cannot relinquish when it has outlived its usefulness possesses you, and in this materialistic age a great many of us are possessed by our possessions. We are not free.
There's another kind of possessiveness. You do not possess any other human being, no matter how closely related that other may be. No husband owns his wife; no wife owns her husband; no parents own their children. When we think we possess people there's a tendency to run their lives for them, out of this develops an extremely inharmonious situation. Only when we realize that we do not possess them, that they must live in accordance with their own inner motivations, do we stop trying to run their lives for them, and then we discover that we are able to live in harmony with them.
Now the last: the relinquishment of all negative feelings. I want to mention just one negative feeling which the nicest people still experience, and that negative feeling is worry. Worry is not concern which would motivate you to do everything possible in a situation. Worry is a useless mulling over of things we cannot change. Let me mention just one technique. Seldom do you worry about the present moment; it's usually all right. If you worry, you agonize over the past which you should have forgotten long ago, or you're apprehensive over the future which hasn't even come yet. We tend to skim right over the present time. Since this is the only moment that one can live, if you don't live it you never really get around to living at all. If you do live this present moment, you tend not to worry. For me, every moment is a new opportunity to be of service.
One last comment about negative feelings which helped me very much at one time and has helped others. No outward thing - nothing, nobody from without - can hurt me inside, psychologically. I recognized that I could only be hurt psychologically by my own wrong actions, which I have control over; by my own wrong reactions - they are tricky but I have control over them, too; or by my own inaction in some situations, like the present world situation, that needs actions from me. When I recognized all this, how free I felt! And I just stopped hurting myself. Now someone could do the meanest thing to me and I would feel deep compassion for this out-of-harmony person, this psychologically sick person who is capable of doing mean things. I certainly would not hurt myself by a wrong reaction of bitterness or anger. You have complete control over whether or not you will be hurt psychologically, and any time you want to, you can stop hurting yourself.
These are the steps toward inner peace that I wanted to share with you. There's nothing new about this. This is universal truth. I merely talked about these things in my own everyday words in terms of my own personal experience with them. The laws which govern this universe work for good as soon as we obey them, and anything contrary to these laws doesn't last long. It contains within itself the seeds of its own destruction. The good in every human life always makes it possible for us to obey these laws. We do have free will about all this, and therefore how soon we obey and thereby find harmony, both within ourselves and within our world, is up to us. - (From a KPFK radio talk, Los Angeles)
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