Activism: Peace Pilgrim, Mildred Norman’s A-Ha Moment

Nobody in Mildred Norman’s family expected her to become a saint.

In her early days, she was daring, intellectual and moral, born to a family of pacifists. But the altruism, love and surrender of an activist for peace were not present in her personality at first. She was known to have sharp words for others at times. She quarrelled with a husband her family thought she shouldn’t have married. She spent more time on her appearance than the rest of her family. She enjoyed success in a traditional sense: income, possessions, popularity.

But after her father’s death in a car accident and her mother’s subsequent illness, as her marriage continued to disintegrate, Mildred Norman experienced a turning point: the first of a number of spiritual experiences that inspired her to grow in a new direction. She said of this experience:

I became increasingly uncomfortable about having so much while my brothers and sisters were starving. Finally, I had to find another way. The turning point came when, in desperation and out of a very deep seeking for a meaningful way of life, I walked all one night through the woods. I came to a moonlight glade and prayed. I felt a complete willingness, without reservations, to give my life—to dedicate my life—to service. “Please use me!” I prayed to God. And a great peace came over me.

The experience was not instant enlightenment – she would spend fifteen years continuing a quest towards unbroken inner peace – but it became something from which she could not turn back to the life she had known. She began to simplify her life, reducing her wardrobe to two dresses and living on ten dollars a week (in 1939 dollars). Over fifteen years, she would move through a struggle between her “lower self” and “higher self” – a self-centered nature and a God-centered nature. She eventually expressed the steps as follows:

Four preparations:

  • right attitude toward life.
  • bringing our lives into harmony with the laws that govern this universe.
  • finding one’s special place in the universe through inner guidance.
  • simplification of life

Four purifications:

  • of body
  • of thoughts
  • of desires
  • of motivations

Four relinquishments:

  • of self-will
  • of the feeling of separateness
  • of all attachments
  • of all negative feelings

These relinquishments bore fruit in an experience of complete inner peace:

In the midst of the struggle there came a wonderful mountaintop experience– the first glimpse of what the life of inner peace was like. That came when I was out walking in the early morning. All of a sudden I felt very uplifted, more uplifted than I had ever been. I remember I knew timelessness and spacelessness and lightness. I did not seem to be walking on the earth. There were no people or even animals around, but every flower, every bush, every tree seemed to wear a halo. There was a light emanation around everything and flecks of gold fell like slanted rain through the air. […]
The most important part of it was not the phenomena: the important part of it was the realization of the oneness of all creation. Not only all human beings — I knew before that all human beings are one. But now I knew also a oneness with the rest of creation. The creatures that walk the earth and the growing things of the earth. The air, the water, the earth itself. And, most wonderful of all, a oneness with that which permeates all and binds all together and gives life to all. A oneness with that which many would call God. I have never felt separate since.

Finally, she awoke one morning “back on the spiritual mountaintop with a wonderful feeling. I knew that I would never need to descend again into the valley. I knew that for me the struggle was over, that finally I had succeeded in giving my life or finding inner peace. Again this is a point of no return. You can never go back into the struggle. The struggle is over now because you will to do the right thing and you don’t need to be pushed into it.”

That morning, a vision of a spiritual pilgrimage for peace came to her. Mildred Norman had become Peace Pilgrim.

Continues in part 2


Pranada Devi is a communications professional living in Toronto, Canada. She is the Managing Editor of Parvati Magazine, and serves as an advisor on marketing communications for Parvati’s various projects.