During a recent trip to Washington D.C. I had the chance to read the book Peace Pilgrim, Her Life and Work in Her Own Words, which is a compilation of Peace Pilgrims lectures and saying compiled by her friends.
Peace Pilgrim renounced material possessions and walked across the United States seven times as a prayer for peace, logging 25,000 miles on foot with nothing but a comb, a toothbrush, a pen, and the clothing on her back. Her vow of “walking until I am given shelter and fasting until I am given food” is inspiring and it is hard to read this book and not come away with a deep sense of respect and admiration for this woman’s life of service.
One section of the book deals with correspondence she received and how she replied. Her answer to “How can I improve my life?” is very telling and almost summarizes the book, it is brilliant in its insight and simplicity. Here is her answer in her own words:
“Look within for your answers. Your divine nature – your inner light – knows all the answers. Spend your time bringing your life into harmony with divine law. Work on overcoming evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love. Work on establishing a good lifestyle for yourself. Whether or not in the family pattern, these things are important:
1) A means of livelihood which is a useful task in society.
2) Good living habits, including rest and exercise and good eating habits, but most of all good thinking habits – don’t think negative thoughts.
3) Inspirational things in your life, things that will lift you up: read beautiful words, listen to beautiful music, experience the beauties of nature.
4) Serve as much as you can, do as much as possible to help others – for in this world you are given as you give.”
Let’s look at them more closely.
A means of livelihood which is a useful task in society.
Now more than ever is this necessary. When people only chase money and material things a big gaping hole is left in their consciousness. You would be surprised how many people join the military who were extremely well paid lawyers, bankers and investors. Yes, they were making lots of money but their lives were hollow. They joined the military and took a huge paycut, but felt a much greater sense of mission, purpose and camaraderie. I know because I have met them, heard their stories, and served with them.
On the opposite site of the spectrum are those who are not even earning a livelihood. While there has been a lot of talk about people who receive federal assistance on the backs of those who pay taxes, or how someone on welfare/unemployment can get more money (about $2,000 a month) for doing nothing than a young active duty soldier who is risking his life ($1,532 and $1,717 for E-1 and E-2 pay), a person who is not earning a livelihood and being useful is hurting themselves more than anyone else.
How high can your self-esteem be and your sense of self-worth be if somebody else is paying the tab for your life? Now EVERYONE can go through a short spell where they need assistance to get back on their feet and work, however when someone “milks” the system and remains “needing help” as long as they can THEN they NEED to make earning a livelihood in a useful way their number ONE priority in life if the want to improve.
My wife just told me how she went to a theater show where the main actress was in her sixties and demonstrated great vitality and energy: she danced, she threw herself on the floor and got back up gingerly, and was able to project her voice throughout the hall. She was happy, vibrant, full of energy and at the end of the show she was hugging audience members while thanking them for coming. This is what happens to your health and happiness when your livelihood is aligned with who you are while doing something useful for society.
Good living habits, including rest and exercise and good eating habits, but most of all good thinking habits – don’t think negative thoughts.
We are an overstimulated society. We can keep the light on 24/7 and stay up all night with stimulants on the basis of “getting more done” or just “partying all night.” While I admit to having done both, rest and exercise are key to living a truly fruitful life. If you spend all day sitting down then the most valuable thing you can do is to set a goal to walk 10,000 steps daily. You can get a fitbit or similar fitness tracker for $100 or just a simple $10 pedometer that you can get at any pharmacy. A daily movement goal is all you need for health. Peace Pilgrim mentioned that she got all the exercise she needed by walking and that since she started her pilgrimage she never got sick.
Good thinking habits are the most important. My friend Vince Uttermohlen mentioned something very true – “have the kind of energy that other people want to be around.” If you have negative thoughts and a mopey attitude you are going to bring everyone down with your problems and people are going to start to avoid you. If you are bright and cheerful with a desire to add value wherever you go then people are more inclined to want you around because “good things happen” in your presence, even if all you do is cheer someone up.
Inspirational things in your life, things that will lift you up, read beautiful words, listen to beautiful music, experience the beauties of nature.
I take trips as an opportunity to catch up on my reading. I have a list of books that I want to read, but during my “regular workday” there is little time for that. When I go on travel I take advantage of the time in the airport and airplane as well as the time created by being away from my family to read a book that will add something of value to my life. In this trip I read about Peace Pilgrim and now I am sharing it with you.
Also, making the time to listen and enjoy relaxing music can do wonders. Hey, I used to be a guitarist in a heavy metal band and can still play “Four Horseman”, “Master of Puppets” and “Enter Sandman”, however listening to this kind of music 24/7 will overstimulate you as easily as drinking too much caffeine.
My favorite is being in nature because it really becomes the easiest meditation to perform. If you just walk barefoot on the beach with the intention of slowing down and trying to match the rhythm of nature you will naturally link up with the Schumann frequency, this is also called grounding and has a myriad of health benefits.
Serve as much as you can, do as much as possible to help others – for in this world you are given as much as you give.
It is my sincere desire that whatever I write is able to help at least ONE person. If you think back on your life you may find that some of the happiest moments were when you were able to help another human being. It is amazing how good I felt when I started a morning group when I was studying Chen Style Taijiquan with people who wanted to work on their physical health. A lot of people do Taiji because they feel it is the only thing they can do as they are not “fit enough” to do anything else. During this morning group I taught everything I was learning in track and field. Some people lost 100lbs and others dropped 12lbs while normalizing their blood sugar, but everyone regained their smile and zest for life. It was completely free and it started at 4:30 am. You would be surprised how the “healthy” people objected to getting up early even though there was no cost involved, but how gladly people who were obese, recovering from cancer, or fighting diabetes showed up with no complaints.
I also give free acupuncture to family and friends. Few things are as rewarding as seeing the wide eyes and look of wonderment when someone who is in pain suddenly becomes pain-free through an acupuncture treatment.
No matter where you are in life right now there is something you can do to help someone else, it can be as simple as giving a smile to someone who has not seen one in a long time or lending a helpful ear to someone who needs to get something off their chest. Sometimes it can be telling the truth in a compassionate way to someone who needs to hear it. I can only imagine what certain artists must feel when they have made it and they walk into some small bar and see a band with great talent that no one knows about and they lend a hand in making them successful. I believe this is exactly what happened when Gene Simmons from KISS financed a demo for Van Halen.
Well my friends there you have four solid pieces of advice from Peace Pilgrim that will help you improve your life. Try them out and see if they add value to you.
All my best,