Where Peace Begins – Part 4

I don’t know what inspired me to write the story yesterday. I think I wanted to communicate to people who feel pain when they witness hurt in others that the pain they feel is God’s compassion shared with them. It is “that of God” that Quakers like to talk about. Another name is the indwelling Christ. It is the “higher self” that Peace Pilgrim preached about as she walked across the country. She was not a judgmental person. She understood that people who lacked compassion, who were self-centered or mean got that way because of their early experiences. In my story, these people would be those who grew up in places as dry and unwelcoming as a trodden road or places that lacked depth and understanding like rocky soil or places where souls are hurt like plantings that grow among thorns. This is the reason that people develop the lower-self, a façade that they believe will help them maneuver in their less than favorable or even dangerous environment.

In my story, God gave humans the gift of choice, knowing they might use it wrongly but hoping they would choose to take care of themselves and the world. Most people are conflicted when it comes to doing God’s will for them. They are fearful that if they let go of their egoic self, there will be no self at all. Who will protect them in this dangerous world? I understand this. I said in an earlier blog that surrendering to a Higher Power is like jumping off a cliff. It is not easy but once one does it, one is greeted by serenity. At least, that is what happened to me.

The path to inner peace was not easy for Peace either. Once she got there, she wanted to help others so she laid out steps one must go through in order to find peace. She talked about various preparations. Here is what she says:

The first preparation is to take 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…Be willing to face life squarely and get down beneath the surface of life where the varieties are to be found.

Those in recovery from addiction are encouraged to accept life as life is. Peace says, “If only you could see the whole picture, if 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. Problems are opportunities in disguise.” A difficult concept to believe but it is the message of those who have walked through darkness and come out the other end. It is a beautiful thing when one can say that they are grateful for the pain because of what they learned from it.

A second preparation, Peace says, has to do with bringing our lives into harmony with the laws that govern the universe. The 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous move a person to begin to live his or her life in harmony with God’s will. The founders of the program used the phrase “Higher Power”, or “God as we understood Him”. Jokingly a member would say, “It doesn’t matter what your higher power is, just so that it isn’t you.” When Peace talks about the laws of the universe she does not mean the Ten Commandments. One might use the phrase, “laws of nature”, but that doesn’t quite grasp it either. She gives a couple of examples of what she believes to be the laws of the universe: “evil can only be overcome by good; only good means can attain a good end; those who do unloving things hurt themselves spiritually.” These laws are for all human beings, she says and obedience to them are the only way to harmony. She is in harmony with Mahatma Gandhi in this belief.

The third preparation, she said, “has to do with something unique for every human life, because every one of us has a special place in the Life Pattern and no two people have the same part to play in God’s plan.” In my story, I had God directing people to do what he wanted them to do by pouring into them compassion for those who suffer. I believe that when we feel compassion, it is God’s leading for us to act in some way. Continually following this leading is what will give shape to our personal calling. If a person doesn’t know what they are supposed to do with their life, they are often advised to ask themselves what they feel passionate about.

The fourth preparation is the simplification of life. She says that to experience inner peace, we need to bring inner and outer well-being into harmony in your life.” For her it was to free herself of all material thing except those needed for her survivals. For some people, clutter is about the activity in their lives and she says that if we have too much to do, we are probably doing work that someone else is called to do.  For me, it also meant letting go of the addictions that got in the way and for these I needed help.

Peace Pilgrim didn’t address addictions in her book. Funny, because while she was developing this beautiful philosophy of life, Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob were doing the same. It is striking the similarities between Peace’s work and the twelve steps to recovery from addiction that these two men conceived. That makes me wonder about how it is that wisdom comes. I sometimes have imagined that the wisdom of the ages floats around in the atmosphere above and there are people who are like funnels…it is into these that God is able to pour his wisdom and through them that God’s wisdom and guidance goes out into the world.

Saint Frances of Assisi knew this well: “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace”.