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Walk in peace

For years, I’ve wanted to hike the El Camino trail in France and Spain as my own form of spiritual pilgrimage. But every year, work or something else seems to intervene. As someone who does walking meditations and loves labyrinths, I acknowledge the grace and power of walking with slow, intentional steps, observing breath and thoughts. Joseph Campbell says: “Pilgrimage is poetry in motion . . .a winding road to meaning.”


An informal group on the Sunshine Coast, the Peace Walker Society, leads 10-day trips on the El Camino. I like their purpose and stated aims: “The Peace Walker Society is a group of concerted, committed citizens who recognize that peace is a process, an exquisite journey of enriching ourselves and giving back to the planet we live on. For us, there is no final destination.


“Our ongoing journey promotes unity and reconciliation, which transcend past conflicts and support the development of a sustainable future. Along the way, we hope to rediscover the “true self,” for in order to change the world, we must begin with ourselves.”


I’m currently writing a book about my seven months of solo travel in India, living out my own version of Heal Yourself, Heal the World. I’ve long admired the now-deceased woman known as Peace Pilgrim, who gave up all possessions and committed herself to walking the earth to promote peace. She refused to accept any money and survived solely on others’ offers of food and shelter.


Peace Pilgrim displayed tremendous trust in life and commitment to her cause, speaking informally to groups, media, and anyone who stopped their car along her path to chat. She died in 1981 — ironically, as a passenger in a car — but her spirit and vision live on through an organization dedicated to her memory and goals of peace.


Satish Kumar, the editor of Resurgence magazine, did an 8,000-mile peace pilgrimage in 1962, inspired by Bertrand Russell’s civil disobedience against the atomic bomb. Without any money, he dedicated himself to a peace walk from Bangalore, India to the four capitals of the nuclear world: Moscow, Paris, London, and the U.S.


After settling in Devon England, Kumar did another pilgrimage when  he turned fifty. Again, for this walk, he carried no money. (I would love to know his secret.) He visited the holy places of Britain, including Glastonbury, Canterbury, Lindisfarne, and Iona.


Kumar wrote of his travels in his 1978 autobiography No Destination; Green Books has since published an updated edition. I recommend his book to anyone who enjoys contemplative journeys and spiritual reflection. Throughout his life, Kumar has aimed to promote Gandhi’s values of peaceful coexistence and land reform. In 2001, he received the Jamnalal Bajaj International Award for Promoting Gandhian Values Abroad.


I wish that we had more grassroots people and leaders who incorporated peaceful and spiritual values into their advocacy and activism. Although it would be great to have more more Peace Pilgrims and Satish Kumars, we can all create greater peace every day through loving thoughts and actions. Are you up for the challenge?

June 14, 2010 at 3:40 pm
1 comment »
  • May 2, 2013 at 2:52 amMehul Teli

    Dr. Satish Kumar became a living example of both spirituality and social work. He gave up his Jain monk life and went to live in a Gandhi Ashram in Bodh Gaya. Read more about Dr. Satish Kumar on the Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation website.

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