I have been braking from social media this year. Driving a school bus requires time and attention, and staying upbeat despite the continual talk of Covid-19 also requires time and attention. I have needed this time for attention to my self, my life, and to try to feel my way into the next phase of activity. My husband is sixteen years older than me, and beginning to show some signs of memory loss. This saddens me in the light of his intelligence. Still, I have to meet life where I am. It does me little good to hide from reality. Instead I am choosing to face whatever comes, day by day, on my own merits. I try to do the best I can by those in my care, and to rise up best as I can from the fear and negative emotions that are occurring in people around me. To me it feels like America has lost its center, and that the glue that ought to bind us – love of God, love of country, and love for each other no matter what our differences – has been covered up by a load of political rhetoric that smells worse than the barnyard compost that my father-in-law used to haul away from the cow barn. I do love my country and all that the high flying flag stands for, but America has a shadow at its underbelly too, and that is a history of slavery and oppression of persons of color, and a trickery that cost the First Americans their tribal lands, and later still a careless attitude toward the gifts of the wild, natural environment.
What can one person do?
I think maybe this is why I have sought solitude away from most social contact this past year. I have been looking at what I stand for. What I believe should be the foundation of my life as I live it. In some ways I have harmonized the two, but in other ways I still have a long way to go. What I am searching deeply for is a life rich in meaning.
I picked up an old pamphlet I had from Peace Pilgrim last night. This interesting woman wandered into my life in the words of Carolyn Myss and in a folk song by Pat Lamana, a local NY folksinger. I never met Peace Pilgrim, but I revere her message and the way she chose to honor her calling. I have read this pamphlet before, but I think I am finally ready to begin to honor its message.
I will walk until I am offered shelter, I will fast until I am offered bread, I will walk until all mankind learns the meaning of peace.Peace Pilgrim
Peace Pilgrim said that early in her life, after a night of walking in the woods, soul searching, she felt a complete willingness to give her life over in dedication to service. This was a point of no return, and she began to live to give what she could, instead of to get what she could. She felt deeply the duality of her two natures, which she calls in psychological terms, ego and conscience, and entered into a struggle between them. There are two wills within us with two different viewpoints. Indigenous Americans (the First Peoples) had a similar example, about two wolves living within us always fighting. The wolf that wins is the one that you feed. We can lead a life of service, or we can lead a life of self-centeredness. If we choose the life of service, we may not or may not become wealthy, but we certainly will be happy. We gain a center that is present and accessible to us, clear and unchanging, that gives us the resources to meet life’s situations with clarity and equanimity. Peace Pilgrim’s struggle came to an end one day when she experienced a feeling of inner peace such as she had never known. Her struggle was over because she had aligned her own will with the desire to do the right thing, and she never went back to the way she had been.
I wish to quote Peace Pilgrim here, to let her own words serve to share what she knew and practiced. “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’a 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 on that concrete floor and go to sleep, and it obeys. I can say to my mind: Shut out everything else and concentrate on this task before you, and it’s obedient. I can say to my 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.”
Peace Pilgrim moves me with her trust, her devotion, and her faith.
If you wish to find a copy of this small pamphlet – Steps to Inner Peace – here is an address I am copying off the back of it.