A JOURNEY ACROSS AMERICA
by Jill Goodwin
Many of us know the tale of Peace Pilgrim. We read how she traveled around the world with absolutely nothing and allowed the universe to provide for her while she spread her message of peace. One man had the courage to take up where she left off. He calls himself Peace Pilgrim II.
While his journey is not unfolding exactly as did hers, he is just as dedicated and diligent in his pursuit. He originally set out on foot, but he explains in this interview how he came to need a car to get around. His story is one of acceptance and love. He says he never wanted to be a peace pilgrim, but a voice within him telling him that this is his work became so strong that he couldn't back away.
He started walking in 1989. One of his friends told him before he began that he would be walking for millions of people.He says, "I realized it is not me doing it. I knew I needed to go out and shine my light. I have been strutting around like that ever since."
Peace Pilgrim II believes miracles are the norm and expects them wherever he goes. His experiences of meeting wonderful people and spreading his message in the towns he visits are documented in his book, Enjoying the Journey. He is a remarkable 70-year-old English gentleman who focuses much of his energy on teaching children. He loves to visit schools and talk to children about their worth and how much love there is in the world.
His beautiful message of love is simple and straightforward, so simple we often forget how important it is.
Jill: What does being the Peace Pilgrim mean to you?
Peace Pilgrim II: I think there is nothing more important than peace and as a pilgrim I can share this message. The most important thing is to live peace; there is not much sense in simply talking about it. We have done that for years. If we lived it we would be in paradise.
Every bible and every religion talks about the golden rule. But unless we apply forgiveness nothing is going to happen. If I have a message, it is that peace begins with me as an individual, and I need to exude it in my behavior every moment. When I do, peace will ripple out and help others attain peace. If I am peaceful to you, you go out and share that. Unfortunately, the same is true of hostility. If we want peace we have to apply it in our own lives.
We live in a very negative world. People do not want to take responsibility, so they blame everyone else. One way they do it is by putting people down. The more people put us down the more we tend to put down others, and we get into a vicious circle. We need to reverse the spiral and go into a happy spiral.
Everybody wants happiness. Then why aren't we happy? It is because we allow those who are not happy to manipulate us into feeling bad. It is time we took charge of our own lives and say, "I am going to be happy and take control of my own life by looking for the beauty in life instead of the garbage."
If you aim a camera at garbage that is what you get. If you turn it around to a beautiful scene and click it, then that's what you get. Life is like that. Life is like a mirror: it is reflects back what we put out. If I take responsibility for my life, I don't waste half my time telling you it is your fault and blaming, condemning, and judging because I am too much of a coward to look at myself. I have to face myself first and get myself right. When I get myself right, the world will fall into place.
If each one of us concentrated on ourselves instead of putting everybody else down we would be able to do that. I think the world is finally coming around to believe this is true.I feel one of the things that is missing in America is lack of respect-self respect and respect for anyone else and for our own material things. We don't want to take responsibility for ourselves. I am not knocking America, I am American by choice. I have been here 41 years. This is one of the reasons I want to make a difference.
I believe in spirituality. I think all religions are trying to point the way, but they all fight each other, which is not very spiritual. Religions are road maps to our own hearts. Once we discover who we really are, we come from that place of inner love, inner caring, and unconditional acceptance of people. Religions need to get more in touch with applying the beauty rather than just talking about it. We are pouring the nectar into the glass and watching it overflow. When are we going to stop and sip it?
Jill: How do you suggest we apply peace in our daily lives?
Peace Pilgrim II: By using our common sense and using our senses; getting in harmony with our bodies. I believe we are much more than just our bodies. We are literally living in the image and likeness of God. In other words, that total spirit is within us and we touch it when we go to the quiet space in meditation. There we realize we have enormous strength and enormous power.
Statistically, I know I am about 80 or 90 percent water, but I also know there is that within me that is the creator of all that ever was and ever will be. If and when we believe that and grab hold of it we become fearless, powerful, and cheerful. There is no need to bully and beat people up. If someone accuses you of being a thief, just smile and say, "I am sorry you think so, I know I am not." You don't even have to prove it.
Jill: How do you compare to the original Peace Pilgrim?
Peace Pilgrim II: When I became Peace Pilgrim II, I gave up everything just like the original Peace Pilgrim did, but I realized I couldn't walk like she did. I walked from Portland to Oklahoma and my hips gave out. I had to go back to Portland to have them replaced. I needed more amenities. I needed a razor and a change of underwear. So, she and I were different. She had something I haven't gotten to yet, and, it may not be necessary and important that I get to that place.
Jill: I don't understand how giving up all your worldly belongings relates to peace.
Peace Pilgrim II: The reason for it originally was nonattachment. It is the attachment that holds us in prison. For instance, I know a widow who has a four-bedroom house who works very hard to get it tidied up and kept up with a garden and everything that needs to be done. And her friends say to her, "Why don't you sell your home and get a small apartment." She says, "What would I do with all my things." So, she is a prisoner to her things.
Now, if she was detached she would say, "They were wonderful; I had a great time with them; they served their purpose; now let somebody else enjoy them. I will just keep the things I need." Then she owns the items. At the moment, the items own her. That is what happens to people who are millionaires. They own more and more and more. There is never going to be enough.
That is really fear, not love.People hoard things and become misers because there is something missing in their lives. They are missing love. The only way they can fill that emptiness is to go out and get something to make them feel good. When they get it, they do feel good for about a day or a week. Then it wears off and they need something else.
The advertising industry on Madison Avenue knows this, so it preys on us by constantly saying we need more. What they are saying is we are no good without their product. It is a big lie, but people buy into it. We are manipulated into what everyone wants us to believe and we follow the crowd.
When you give up the attachment there is no longer any fear. You just know you will be provided for and you do the necessary things so that you are. I traveled for over a year without a penny in my pocket. People would offer money but I wouldn't take it. I just accepted food and accommodations.
Jill: Did you ever go hungry?
Peace Pilgrim II: I wouldn't say I never went hungry. I might have gone hungry for a day, but I certainly don't look like I am starving. I have managed. The universe provides. There are numerous stories in my book that illustrate how I have been provided for and, in fact, had situations come up that saved my life.
Jill: How do you think you are doing with getting your message out?
Peace Pilgrim II: I am doing great. I am not out to prove anything, even to myself. So I go out in the towns and do an interview like this and by the time it comes out I am gone. I don't see it or know if I did well. I am totally unattached.
Jill: Have you seen any concrete indications that your message and the way you are delivering it are working? Is peace being spread?
Peace Pilgrim II: Absolutely. We are moving very quickly to-ward it now. Through the media we hear about two percent of the population who stab and kill. That is what we are fed constantly. What about the other 98% of us who are not doing those things? Most people are doing the best they can. Those in trouble are simply acting out what they know. That is all they experience, so what else are they going to do?
Somehow we need to learn that anger is energy and energy needs to be dealt with. Rather than let it be bottled up we need to teach-especially young people-to use the energy to run around the block or tidy up their room.I try to get young people to understand they are unique, we all have a different thumbprint. There are no two people alike, even twins. We are very special and precious. If we don't recognize that preciousness, we believe the lie that we are no good. Parents even pass along the feelings of being not enough to their children. They don't know any better because they learned it from their parents. It has to stop here. Peace needs to be taught and regarded as a top priority in children's lives.
We need to be for one another rather than pushing everyone down. Children especially need to learn this. If we can be for one another, we will turn the world around.We all want to be supported. Most of the people who are not supported, who are being pushed down like that, are rebelling inside and then they rebel outside, especially teenagers. If they cannot get attention in a nice way they will get it in a nasty way. But they will get the attention. It is up to us to boost them in the right direction. Usually they simply are asking for help and caring. They are saying, "I need help." Our natural reaction is to keep away from people acting like that, so we have to learn to trust and help troubled teens and adults.
We each need to develop an attitude of gratitude. Even our problems need to be appreciated. Think about your previous problems. It was not pleasant going through it, but didn't you learn something? Would you rather not have had that problem and not know what you know now? Wasn't the problem a blessing in disguise? When we realize that we can know whatever we are going through is really a blessing, we can move through our troubling situations more quickly. We can embrace life rather than fight it.
Jill: Problems always seem more overwhelming and more consuming than the wonderful things in life. Why don't we spend as much of our energy focusing on the good rather than the bad?
Peace Pilgrim II: We fight the problems. You know that song, "Row Row Row Your Boat Gently Down the Stream"? That is what we need to do with our problems. We can move through our difficulties more gently and be easier on ourself when we follow this philosophy. We need an attitude of gratitude. We have the opportunity to control our lives. How we see things is how we project. Our projection is what we believe. We judge everything in our lives, and whether our judgements are accurate or not, in our minds it is how it is. As we become more wise and don't have to judge, we can say, "Well, this may be the way it is, or it may not be."