Recently, I had the opportunity to go on the Pilgrimage to Spain led by Krishnadas and Mantradevi LoCicero, two outstanding spiritual travel leaders of the Ananda Travels program at The Expanding Light Retreat. At many airports I enjoyed the large tracks of moving sidewalks that speed travelers to their destinations. One day I watched as a 5-year-old girl stood at the edge of the moving metal grid clearly in both distress and wonderment in her first encounter with this seemingly horizontal escalator. Her mother lovingly encouraged her to step aboard, promising that her experience would be easy, fast, and most of all fun. But the little girl was unconvinced, and she was clearly leaning more towards the solid carpet to her left, something familiar and comfortable to walk on. I could almost hear her inner thought: “Who needs speed when you can have something familiar.”
This young girl’s encounter with the walking sidewalk became a metaphor on my spiritually rich pilgrimage in Spain. Each day offered its version of the moving sidewalk – would I hop on board a new experience even though it was a bit daunting and unfamiliar? Would I have the courage to celebrate my birthday by flying the zip line over the Rio Tajo in Toledo? Would I unplug from my busy outward life and flow with divine guidance in the unfamiliar cities that we visited? Would I focus my mind and heart and go as deep as possible into meditation in the very holy places – the chapels and churches of St. Teresa, St. John of the Cross, King Fernando, and many others? Would I be harmonious in each moment with fellow pilgrims and local citizens? Could I listen to a new inner spiritual language, as well as an outer one?
The Peace & Harmony prayer became my mantra. (This prayer was given by Yogananda to promote interpersonal peace and harmony. Ananda has adapted it and is using it to help promote world peace. The prayer: “Lord, fill this world with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” [repeated for 1 minute] “Lord, fill me with peace and harmony, peace and harmony.” [repeated for 15 seconds]
Choosing consciously to say, and live, the peace and harmony prayer was like choosing to use the moving sidewalk: Do I raise my energy and choose consciously to say the prayer a few times a day with deep focus, or do I choose the well-worn, safe carpet of my daily life and simply on occasion hope there will be peace and harmony in the world, almost admitting defeat that there is little my praying can do.
After much deliberation, the little girl allowed her mother to lift her into her big arms and carry her atop the magic moving sidewalk. By the third stretch of sidewalk the little girl was running to jump on herself, as well as running on the sidewalk too, weaving skillfully amidst the other travelers.
Each day Divine Mother carried me in her arms as I gained confidence to be a courageous pilgrim in Spain, and now she does the same here at home. Each day I easily and with sincere dedication say the Peace & Harmony prayer with a sense of brotherhood with the very large world, much of which lives in light, much of which lives in sad darkness. And some days I run ahead along the moving sidewalk of life chanting, “Be Peace. Be Harmony. Be a Light-filled pilgrim.”