Mildred Norman, known simply as ‘Peace Pilgrim’ decided to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food." With only the clothes she wore, a toothbrush, comb and map, she set out on a walking pilgrimage that lasted 28 years and covered over 25,000 miles. She gave her message of peace to anyone who would listen but only accepted offers of food and shelter when they were freely offered. This meant that at times Peace Pilgrim endured hunger and inclement weather, but nothing deterred her. It would be reasonable to assume that her deep desire for peace fueled her single-minded effort, but her dedication was founded on something even greater.

If asked, nearly everyone would say they want peace, but in the last 5,600 years, there have been only 292 years of peace, 14,550+ wars and over 4 billion dead as a result. Evidently what many of us really mean is peace on our terms, peace that will serve our interests. This doesn’t mean that we necessarily have any conscious intention to harm others for our own benefit. It can be as simple as thinking only from our own perspective, harboring the belief that our way of life is superior; wanting to keep the lifestyle we enjoy or fear that our loved ones won’t be safe. These thoughts may seem harmless, but they all contribute to the lack of peace we see in the world.  How do we move from thinking about peace in terms that would serve our interests and start thinking in ways that would benefit everyone? Peace Pilgrim came to understand that to offer peace, we must be peace.

Mildred didn’t come from a religious background, but she began to search for the meaning of life during high school. Her self-questioning led her to an inner knowing that God was an “ever-present, all pervading spirit—which binds the universe together and gives life to everything.” Like so many of us, Mildred became engulfed in the cares of everyday life, but when she entered a particularly difficult period of her life, her thoughts returned to Source. Mildred prayed for God to use her, and willingly dedicated herself to a life of service to others. During her years of service, Mildred also began to gradually divest herself of every possession and attachment she felt was unnecessary.

 Although Mildred was living a selfless and peaceful life, she began to understand while it’s possible to control our actions and behave in peaceful ways; behaving peacefully and having real imperturbable inner peace is not the same thing. She realized that deep and unshakable inner peace would be hers only when she let go of the separate self that stood between her and oneness with the Divine. The transformation from the self that was Mildred to the true Self that would be known as Peace Pilgrim took 15 years. Finally Mildred felt she was ready to reflect her peace to the world.

In Peace Pilgrim: Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, a book compiled by friends after her death, Peace Pilgrim related her personal experiences of oneness with All That Is. These experiences sealed her initial belief that the Divine permeates and binds together all life. Her reawakening to oneness was the foundation of inner peace that stayed with her for the rest of her life and fueled her 28 year pilgrimage for peace. Her direct, personal experiences of the Divine taught her, “You are within God and God is within you. You could not be where God is not.” For that reason, Peace Pilgrim concluded, “The sanctuary of peace dwells within.”

The brain is convinced that peace is a goal; the heart knows that peace is not an achievement but a state of being. Einstein observed, “You cannot prevent and prepare for war at the same time.” And yet, those who claim to be peacemakers are usually the same people who plan for, declare and wage wars. It makes as much sense as claiming you’re a concert pianist when you’ve never touched a keyboard. You might be able to sell some tickets to your concert, but the results will speak for themselves when you sit down to play. Obviously, these ‘peacemakers’ can’t understand that true inner peace sees no conflict and takes no sides, but only desires the highest good for all involved. When we understand that any permanent peace can only be attained by those who have become peace, it’s easy to see why our world is wracked by conflict.

It’s common to see children irritating each other. When they’re told to stop, they usually will say, “I’ll stop when s(he) stops. The problem continues since neither will make the first move. Unfortunately, adults playing at peace rarely behave any better. It takes far more courage to be the first to offer peace than it does to be the first to fight. Fighting is easy compared to the risk involved in being completely vulnerable, yet peace will never be ours, either personally or globally, until we’re willing to let go of the concept of separation and embrace the truth of universal oneness. Peace Pilgrim was one who was willing to see the Divine in all and let go of her attachment to separation. Imagine joining her in taking that first risky step toward the reward of imperturbable peace.

Lee and Steven Hager are the authors of The Beginning of Fearlessness: Quantum Prodigal Son, a spiritual quest and scientific adventure.

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