“World peace must develop from inner peace.
Peace is not the absence of violence.
Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.
– Dalai Lama

22 miles later and 3000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and my body is asking me, “And you want to do what?” My level of endurance and determination are increasing, but when I think I’m making gains, the universe lovingly reminds me that it is not I that will make this happen…and that is when the grace rolls.

I’ve tested a lot of axioms as of late. I have chosen to take Jesus’ and Buddha’s call to action as seriously as possible. I wanted to test, as a scientist, if their assertions were true. The only way to see is to put them into action. Who would have guessed it would be so hard…or so rewarding.

After reading and studying a fair bit (one could always study more), I feel that I have arrived at a somewhat humble list of “experiments” to try. One could always expand upon the list, but it seemed must fundamental to start with an approach that a seven year-old could understand, and thus make it universal. As my friend Scaughdt has often said, we “already know” that which is truth, and it is to him that I credit the idea of doing ‘experiments’, for it was his own that I found so inspiring as a concept. We must just remember it is only one simple decision really that moment when we, “choose to care.” The Dalai Lama says that compassion is the key to enlightenment, happiness, and joy. Jesus said that the most important commands are to “love your neighbor as yourself, and to love God with all your soul, mind, heart, and strength”. All of this really boils down to LOVE. For me, it all started with Gratitude.

The Axioms that I tested had to have measurable results attached:

  • Was it True? Did the thing promised/implied come to fruition?
  • Was I happier and more joyful because of the experience?
  • Was the recipient happier more joyful because of the experience?
  • Did negative repercussions manifest because of applying the axiom? i.e. Did what ‘people’ tell you to fear happening…happen?
  • Because of the experience would you want to repeat the behavior/action again in the future?

Here then are some of the axioms that I’ve been trying to test/implement:

  1. To Give is Better than to Receive- This one we have all had experience with. Even when I was young, I would get more excited about the gifts that I got for others than those I received myself. But, it gets harder when the ‘thing’ is more ethereal; i.e. It is better to pass on your raise to your underlings than take it yourself. It is better to give someone else the day off, while you stay and work on a sunny day. Test results: True
  2. Turn the Other Cheek- I had A LOT of experience with this one as of late when other people were deriding and cutting down my decision to do this pilgrimage. They said that I was going to become a “bum” and a “leech” on society. I said nothing in retort and instead beamed them love. I haven’t had (thankfully) to test myself or the axiom with regard to physical violence (yet), and I hope not to, but as Gandhi said, “An and eye-for-an-eye only leaves the whole world blind. Test results: True
  3. Give Everything to Anyone Who Would Ask it of You. If they ask you to walk a mile…walk two- This one was and is hard. When someone asked me for $$$, I gave them $$$$. When someone asked me to help with one chore, I helped with more. Test results: True
  4. Love Your Enemies & Pray for Those Who Persecute You- No joke, this one is hard. But, I found that every time I focused and beamed love at a person that has professed to “hate” me. I was happier, and I saw that the relationship improved. Test results: True
  5. Give to the Needy in Secret- This one has been hard, because of the nature of this Blog of my experiences is just that, a documentation of my (hopeful) metamorphosis into a better version of who I can be. But, I do not tell all here, and I always meditate on the concept; what would provide the greatest good. At some point the results of my experiments in order to inspire others to try their own tests. Test results: True
  6. Forgive- I always mention that “It all begins with Gratitude”, but for me, forgiveness was the very next step. It has been my experience without a doubt to be the most freeing event of my life. It truly allowed me to take every new occurrence in life and experience it anew. You don’t have to put the present through a filter of the baggage from the past. The future isn’t written, and the events of one’s past are not portents of it. Forgiveness of others and oneself is the most logical step after one has a sincere experience with gratitude. Test results: True
  7. Don’t Store Up Treasure, Freely you have received—freely give, Sell all that you have to feed the poor- These three all go together. This was one of the most scary things I’ve ever done. Everyone tells you to worry about your ‘security’. What about all your stuff!!! Money, money, money, and more money. It all amounts to fear. Fear that I am not going to be ‘safe’. Ha! Your not! You are going to die. But how many of us have truly lived??? I gave away all that I owned except for what I think I need for this trip. I gave away all my clothes. It is an interesting experience and real way to challenge your cultural biases about worth to offer a man you find digging through the trash an $1000 leather jacket. 🙂 I tell you however, no matter how many pairs of socks I’ve owned or how much joy they have ever given me. None compares to the joy that I had in giving away socks to the homeless after a big rain storm. Their gratitude for the gift was priceless. As the original Peace Pilgrim said, “The more you own the more you have to take care of.” The few things I have left I have come to terms with parting with. This computer, my camera, cell phone, art supplies, sleeping bag, tent, and my buggy are all for giving to others. If at sometime the universe asks me to give them away, and a brother or sister has a greater need; I am prepared to answer the call. Test results: True
  8. Don’t Worry & Do not be Afraid; You will be cared for- This one is hard. We are conditioned by our society to worry. Our nightly news tells us constantly that we are being ripped-off and we don’t know it. We are subliminally taught to not trust anyone. Told that all people are out to get us. Made to fear that any man sitting and watching children play in a park is a pedophile. Fear, fear, fear. We have becomes slaves, and we are our own captors. I tested this one in earnest as of late, and especially today, but more on that in a moment. Test results: True
  9. Do Not Judge- Ha! We are a nation of judgmental pricks! Cosmo has a whole section on fashion don’ts. We have programs like “What not to Wear”, “Biggest Looser”, and the current glut of ‘talent’ shows that have us riveted with Simon’s terse words for less capable. Secretly in our mind we judge the homeless, the fat, the ugly, the rich, and the other races. The Buddha talked of three poisons, one is passion, the other is lust, but the third I find the most fascinating…aversion. Most people recoil when a filthy homeless man approaches them, or a leper extends their nub. The moment I find myself in judgment, I begin to breathe Hamsao, and compassion follows as I realize, “I am that”. We have all wrestled with body issues, so it is easy to see an obese or anorexic person and have compassion, for I am that. It is easy to have compassion on the dirty, disfigured, or less fortunate, for “I am that”. The beautiful realization is that the converse is true as well, when you see someone happy, joyful, and healthy…”I am that”. Test results: True
  10. Forget Father, Mother, Son’s, Daughters, even give up your life in order to find it- This was the hardest test I have experienced. I had a big bonfire on the beach before I left San Francisco, and I was thankful for my friend Susan’s help. She watched as I burned it all. Old pay stubs and bank statements, credit card receipts and tax documents all went into the fire first; they were the easiest. Next was the identification of the person that “I was”. Passports, Social Security Cards, Frequent Flyer cards, Student Body cards, I.D.’s. Then came family photos, photos of the boys I’ve coached, and the cards friends, families, and gymnasts have written me. Next came the gold watch I had received for being a four year varsity athlete in college, the ring my father gave my mother, the ring my father gave me. Bracelets, necklaces, keepsakes all given by loved ones all given significant meaning by me. Finally, came the “Book of Love”; the diaries and journals of my travels, lovers, hopes, dreams, and future plans. Susan questioned why burn all of these? I had to, I had to love these ‘things’ less than I did the path. It was a lot to give up for an experiment, but it was one of the last and probably the greatest of them all; to die to self. All given freely, without compulsion, given in order to serve. Test results: True

So today I had to test another premise, would the universe provide for me, and could I humbly receive? Could I allow another to give to me? Knowing now how it feels to give, could I allow another to give to me and allow them to feel that feeling of deep joy?

I started out my run, and I passed a guy who was panhandling. Across the street was another woman who was obviously homeless. I had $20 in my pocket, but I wasn’t really dialed in to the divine. I ran by them both, and after I was a block past, it occurred to me, that I was not mentally where I should be. I was not being The Peace Artist. I asked the universe if I should go back, and the impression that I got was to get them on the way back. In the past I would have been really miffed at myself and really let myself have it. I would give myself a good dose of guilt.

Instead of that, I resolved to breathe and be more generous with the next person I saw. The next man I met was Jim. Jim has been coming to the Federal building every Sunday from 2-4 and placing a peace sign over the Federal words so it says Peace building. He has been doing this for 9 years—every Sunday. He and other friends beat drums outside the building in a solemn protest, their sign reads “The Drums of Peace”.

I ran on, and came across another man who was begging. His sign said, “Asking for Random Acts of Kindness”. I felt that that was my cue, and I obliged and gave him half what I had. Now we each had a tunic.

I ran for a good long while and ran far out of town past where their are no stores. How now was I going to finish my run. No water, no food, I was going to “trust” that the universe would provide, and provide it did. Straight away I simply looked to the side and found wild raspberries. Blackberry vines are everywhere in Oregon, but none are ripe yet. Raspberries are seldom if ever found because they get choked out by the bigger and more aggressive blackberries. But, there they were, and they were delicious.

I next met Troy and Zoe. Troy had heard of the Peace Pilgrim, and was familiar with the concept of what I was doing. We had a pleasant conversation, and he took my picture. He commented that I had no water bottle. I told him of the raspberries, and that I had a belief that all would be well. I then ran to the top of the highest hill in the lower valley, upon reaching the top I found large craters in the rock where rain water had pooled. I buried my face in it and I kid you not it was the best water I’ve ever tasted.

Running back down I happened into more raspberries, and some thistle leaves. (They are delicious) But at the edge of the city I found a Safeway…with a Starbucks. Upon completion of my order a woman behind me had read my tunic, and began to ask me questions. Alison was also a fellow artist, and a delightful person to boot. She volunteers with the missions, and is an artist in residence and helps wayward and trouble youth. She uses art, in all its guises to help others. A truly compassionate, loving, and giving person.

It is upon this last point, the giving, that I faced my latest test; that of receiving. I obviously had some money, I was in line in front of her, and I already had my drink, and yet she wanted to give me something. I know that when this trip starts in earnest, I will have to open to others “taking care of me” although I don’t ask. It is hard. It is humbling to admit that you need help. She asked me if she could give me a Starbucks card. I thought to myself, “OK great, this is a good test, I’ll say OK.” Then their were no cards, so she went in search of one. This compounded my feelings of uncomfortableness (just like the universe wants it). Now she was working to serve me, a total stranger. I tried ineffectually to dissuade her, but she persisted undaunted.

At this point, I had to just let go, and I sat down and waited for her. Next, the card wouldn’t work, and so she just gave me cash. Now the original Peace Pilgrim never accepted money, and neither does Scaughdt. In fact, Scaughdt almost as an aversion to it and doesn’t even like to touch it. I have wrestled with this thought and the idea of what to do when I encounter this dilemma on the trip. Already in the last week I’ve had several people forcibly stuff money in my pockets. Is it more loving and compassionate to fight them, to keep them from feeling the joy of giving? All because of what? Jesus told his disciple not to not take any money belt of coins, but he didn’t say not to accept them should they be offered.

I thought too about how when a woman comes and pours expensive perfume all over his head, the other disciples were indignant and ask if it could have been not used to feed the poor? He was compassionate with this woman and her gift. I have have chosen similarly. In the future, should anyone like this lovely woman Alison chose to give me money, I will accept it, but I will ask the giver if I may use it to help others. If they agree then the greatest good is done. Should I need it, then I have another test in receiving. Either way they, like Alison, have the good fortune of feeling their compassion toward their fellow man is not rejected.

Leaving her with a big hug, I began to run again…happy. Returning the way I came, I hoped to run into the gentleman that I had callously run by earlier in the day. Upon reaching the area, I saw my friend Jesse that I had drawn earlier last week. The friends he had gathered around him kept asking, “This is the guy who drew you.” Apparently, the drawing had done its intended work. Although he lives in a tent in the park, he kept this item, and had shown it around. One of his male friends came up and kissed and hugged me he was so overcome. We sat and talked about the trip, compassion, love, inner peace, and I gave part of the money that Alison had given me to them.

I ran on another couple blocks and found Stacy, Troy, Larry (the guy I’d drawn earlier), and Curtis. Curtis and Stacy were the persons that I ran by earlier in the day. I was so happy to have found them again. I explained that I wasn’t in the right mind frame when I came by earlier, and hoped that they would understand. Stacy and Curtis hugged me, all that remains is love.

But there are other tests. Things I’ve not yet encountered. They are coming. Some I might fail, but I have learned from these failures and have been able to grow.