Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Way of Peace

"This is the way of peace:  Overcome evil with good, and falsehood with truth, and hatred with love."  Peace Pilgrim

From 1953 to 1981, beginning at the age of 45, a woman walked across North American, more than 25,000 miles on a mission for peace.   Her name was Mildred Lisette Norman and was she was known as the “Peace Pilgrim.”  Ms. Norman was a spiritual teacher (non-denominational), pacifist, mystic, and a vegetarian.  Regarding her mission for peace, she vowed to "remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting until given food.”  She walked across the United States for twenty-eight years.

Her fascinating journey began when she experienced a profound spiritual awakening.  She states, "Then in the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful mountaintop experience - the first glimpse of what the life of inner peace was like... The most important part of it was not the phenomena: the important part of it was the realization of the oneness of all creation. Not only all human beings - I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew also a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth. The air, the water, the earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God."

Along the way, she met thousands of people from every walk of life.  She was also interviewed on countless radio and TV stations across the country, as well as speaking at universities, high schools, civic clubs, churches, and more.  Ms. Norman was always more than willing to share her wisdom, message, and humor.

On July 7, 1981 while being driven to a speaking engagement, the car she was riding in was hit head on and she died instantly.  She was 73.  Because she was so well-loved by so many, her death was a devastating shock to all who knew and loved her.  Her message touched and changed thousands of lives. 

After her death, a small group of friends decided to put together a book about her message and what she stood for.  Writings for the book were obtained from her own words, newsletters, conversations, correspondence, and talks taped from many people over the years, as well as articles and other materials written about her.  The book is titled “Peace Pilgrim” and can be downloaded free at www.peacepilgrim.com/book/ebooks/PeacePilgrimBook.pdf.  I would highly recommend reading more about this spectacular human being.

The Peace Pilgrim set a great example for us as to how we can achieve peace in a world of chaos.  When I read of her journey, it’s easy for me to think that my journey is nothing compared to hers and that I have so much more work to do to bring love and peace to the world, but she gives me something to aspire to.  I do know that I will take her message to heart and work harder on myself because it is only when we find peace within ourselves that we can find and bring peace to the world.

There is a lot of chaos in the world right now, especially when it comes to religion and politics.  It’s easy to lose hope and to think that things will never change.  But they can change and that change begins with each of us. 

In the words of the Peace Pilgrim, I leave you with more of her beautiful messages:

“Of course, I love everyone I meet. How could I fail to? Within everyone is the spark of God. I am not concerned with racial or ethnic background or the color of one’s skin; all people look to me like shining lights! I see in all creatures the reflection of God. All people are my kinfolk—people to me are beautiful!  We people of the world need to find ways to get to know one another…for then we will recognize that our likenesses are so much greater than our differences, however great our differences may seem. Every cell, every human being, is of equal importance and has work to do in this world.”

“In order to help usher in the golden age we must see the good in people. We must know it is there, no matter how deeply it may be buried. Yes, apathy is there and selfishness is there – but good is there also. It is not through judgment that the good can be reached, but through love and faith.”

“The way of peace is the way of love. Love is the greatest power on earth. It conquers all things.”  

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 24, 2015.


Saturday, December 19, 2015

Beliefs Are Just Beliefs

When I was young, there was a TV show called “The Courtship of Eddie’s Father.”  There was an episode that left an impression on me to this day.  I cannot remember the specifics, but it must have been about what people believe and how everyone believes something different.  The son must have been asking his dad about the differing beliefs to which his father replied, “What a person believes…is.” 

Beliefs are only beliefs and they are based upon a person’s upbringing, religion, culture, experiences, and where they live in the world.  Even within those same parameters, people have varying beliefs. 

There was a time when I believed that my beliefs were the only right way and everyone else was wrong.  My religion taught me that anyone who didn’t believe the way I did was going to a place called hell.  I was told by one minister that if anyone I knew died before being saved, then it was my fault that they went to hell.  Talk about a burden!  After that, I tried desperately to force my religious beliefs on all my friends and relatives.  It’s a wonder they all didn’t disown me and I know I turned some people off. 

Then in the early 80’s, life happened and I got knocked off my holy high horse.  I had to re-examine what I believed, as I found that my past beliefs no longer worked because their foundation was not based on unconditional love.  Instead, they were steeped in judgment, fear, and separation. 

About that time, I was led from within to read Shirley MacLaine’s books.  Before then I wouldn’t even touch them because I was taught from some churches that if I read them, something really horrible would happen to me.  After working up my courage, I read all of her books.  Not only did nothing bad happen to me, but my spiritual journey began to take off at hyper-speed.  Ms. MacLaine taught me one of the biggest lessons in my life.  She taught me to keep an open mind in ALL things.  Since then, the wisdom and knowledge I started gaining was extraordinary. 

I began to learn to love and accept people as they are and to love them unconditionally.  I learned not to judge as there is always a bigger picture and we don’t always know someone’s story or what they’re going through.  I learned that people who harm others (physically, emotionally, or spiritually) are in some kind of pain and are living in fear.  I learned that no matter what our color, race, religion, culture, or sexual preference, we’re all made of the exact same energy.  I learned to respect others’ beliefs even though they may not resonate with my own.  I also learned that in the realm of everything there is to know, I don’t know anything.  By keeping an open mind, I’m amazed at all that I have been learning.  Since then, I’ve felt so much more love, compassion, and understanding for all people.

To be clear, I am so not perfect at all of this and it’s always going to be a life-long lesson.  I slip up more times than I want to admit.  I sometimes find myself hating the haters and judging the judgers.  But when I do, and if I’m listening to that still small voice within, she’ll set me straight every time and it’s always with love. 

My beliefs have changed drastically over the years and my beliefs continue to change as I grow and become more enlightened.  I can definitely learn from others, but I can also think for myself and develop my own beliefs which are always based in unconditional love.  I no longer have to believe something just because someone else told me I should.  It’s perfectly okay to question our beliefs or what others are telling us to believe.  Once I started thinking for myself, it was unbelievable how much I learned that wasn’t true (especially when it comes to what is or isn’t in the Bible and about other religions).  I learned that I can have my own beliefs while respecting and learning from other beliefs.  Talk about the truth setting me free!

Dodinsky said, “Always remember we all have our own opinions and beliefs. We have different ways in dealing with life's troubles and joys. To survive our differences without hurting each other is what GOODNESS is all about.”  And as Rumi stated, “I belong to no religion.  My religion is love.  Every heart is my temple.” 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 18, 2015.

Friday, December 11, 2015

A Child Shall Lead the Way

Little Timmy was eight years old and both his parents, Joe and Patty, loved him more than life itself. They knew that when he was born, he would be special.  They agreed that they would raise him right, take him to church, and would always tell him the truth.  They also agreed to try to shield him from as much as they could from all that was going on in the world, at least until he was old enough to understand.

One night, they put him to bed and Timmy fell into a deep, peaceful sleep.  A few hours later, Timmy woke his parents up with the most blood curling screams.  They rushed to his room and scooped him up into their arms while trying to awaken him from whatever nightmare he may be experiencing.  After they were able to calm him down, they asked if he was having a bad dream.  He cried, “I was so scared!  There were so many bad people all around me and I was trying to kill all of them!  There was blood everywhere!  It was awful!”  Horrified at the thought that their son was dreaming about killing people at such a young age, they asked him why he would have such a dream.  Whimpering, he continued.  “I heard you talking with others at church about how bad gays, Muslims, immigrants, and others were and that we should get rid of them all.  So I was just trying to help make them go away.”

Joe and Patty looked at each other shocked that Timmy would overhear them speaking of such things and that it had impacted him so deeply.  They were at a loss as to what to say, so they decided to wait until morning to discuss it further.  After a few minutes, Timmy drifted back to sleep.

The next morning, Joe and Patty were surprised to see Timmy in such good spirits and thought maybe he had forgotten his nightmare.  Joe asked him how he slept and he replied, “After I fell back to sleep, Jesus came to me and we talked all about my nightmare.  He said it made him sad that I heard adults talking such nonsense and that it caused me to have such a bad dream.” 

Timmy was encouraged to tell them more.  “Jesus told me that it really hurts him when he sees people on earth treating each other so badly.  He even had tears in his eyes so I wiped them away with my sleeve.  He said that this is not the way he wanted the world to be and had hoped more people would have taken his teachings to heart to love one another.  But too many religions became controlled by too many men and they forgot his teachings, as well as the teachings of other spiritual masters of other religions.  I told him that I was not allowed to love people of other religions, especially people like Mohammed and Buddha, but Jesus said that even they were his brothers.  All of us on earth are brothers and sisters.”
  
Joe and Patty looked at each other dumbfounded!  Hearing Timmy speak the words of Jesus in his dream caused them to stop and think exactly what it was they were teaching their precious son.  Were they really teaching him to hate others just because of perceived differences?  They hear about so many young people going out and shooting and hurting so many people because of the hate they were taught.  Could Timmy someday turn out to be one of those?  Were they teaching Timmy to have such a dark view of others and of the world?  What kind of life would Timmy have if they continued to teach him to dislike or even hate other people just because they have a different skin color, are from a different race, religion, culture, or have a different sexual preference?

From that moment forward, they decided to really take a hard look at their beliefs.  They went back to the Bible and studied the words of Jesus for themselves and found that he didn’t say a lot of the things they were being told he said.  Jesus was all about unconditional love for all people.  This must be what having a spiritual awakening is like!  Awakening to the truth of unconditional love!

They hugged Timmy and promised him that they would work harder at loving people more and accepting them just as they are.  Smiling, Timmy exclaimed, “Just like Jesus said we should!”

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back in our hearts.”   Marianne Williamson 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper December 11, 2015.


Saturday, December 5, 2015

There's Good News in the World!!!

Guess what, friends?!?  There is good happening everywhere!  There are so many people doing so much good and who are being of service to humanity!  People are working hard to uplift our fellow beings in great and small ways, even if only one person at a time! 

Need some proof?  Just look at websites such as “The Good News Network” at www.goodnewsnetwork.org, “The Daily Good” at www.dailygood.org, “Positive News” at www.positivenewsus.org, “The Optimist” at www.theoptimist.com, and countless others.  There are even many video montages of film clips showing people coming to the aid of their fellow beings.

The purpose of these sites is to report the good news from all over the world. Their stories are uplifting, inspiring, hopeful, and full of positive and loving news!  They show news that is not shown in main stream media.  Main stream media focuses on the negative news in our country and around the world, and that’s sad because it gives people the impression and beliefs that there is only bad happening.  People watching or listening see and hear about all the violence and corruption and they become cynical, many losing hope that good could ever happen anywhere.  Some media and talk show hosts even promote hate and violence because they report from their own personal biased and narrow-minded beliefs and for their own personal agendas.

But there is so much more good than bad!  There are many stories of people helping each other on a grand scale.  There are stories about those from various religions all over the world coming together to promote love, peace, and harmony and who are supporting and protecting each other.  Wealthy people and corporations are using their money to help where needed.  (Not all are greedy and selfish; we just don’t hear about their good deeds.)  Thousands upon thousands all over the world are meeting together to meditate for love and peace!

People are also doing things on a smaller scale.  One story that warmed my heart was about a seven year old boy named Jack who gave all the money in his piggy bank to a Mosque in Texas which had recently been vandalized (the child was non-Muslim).  He only had $20, but to the people of the Mosque, it was a fortune.  Since then, many in the community from all races and religions have come together to help.

Another story was of a woman on a subway who saw a homeless woman with no shoes.  Even though it was cold, she took off her boots and gave them to the woman.  A man who witnessed the act of kindness took warm socks out of his gym bag and gave them to the donor to wear home.  A shoe store found out about it, they gave her a free shopping spree, and she gave everything to the homeless.

People are out there feeding the hungry, giving clothes to those in need, and shelter to those who need a roof over their head.  People from all walks of life are going out of their way to do what they can to help others regardless of a person’s color, race, religion, politics, sexual preference, culture, or whatever.  Good sees only through the eyes of love.  There are even stories of people helping animals and our beautiful Mother Earth. 

How do we see and find the good?  Look for it!  Focus on it!  The more you do, the more you’ll see.  There are countless videos on YouTube that show people doing good, many risking their lives to save the lives of others regardless of who they are. You don’t even have to search further than looking around you where you are at this very moment.  The more you see, the more you’ll believe that there is so much more good than not and that love is winning! 

It also comes down to our thoughts and beliefs.  Are they loving, positive, and optimistic?  Or are they hateful, negative, and pessimistic?  Are you addicted to and constantly watching all the bad news?  Where are you putting your focus?  What energy are you feeding?  Furthermore, it’s also important to be aware of how you see yourself.  Krishna Saagar said, “You don't see the world as it is, you see it as you are.” 

The world is a beautiful place, and you are part of that beauty, even if you can’t see it right now.  Jawaharlal Nehru said, “We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.”  As Louis Armstrong once sang, “And I think to myself…What a wonderful world.”  And that it is, my friends.  That it is. 

Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen December 4, 2015.