In the Stillness of the Night, the Light Shines Bright
by Audri Scott Williams
Peace Walkers at the Agape International Spiritual Center. Back row, l-r: Mary Woods, Baba Ojiji, Elizabeth Sterling, Audri Scott Williams, Karen Watson, Rod Bower, Tixo Bower, Kai Bower. Front row, l-r: David Defebo, Mama Natalie, Art Brown.
My mother became my confidant at a very early age. She was the one with whom I could share my experiences — no matter how “strange” they may have been. She would listen, not just to the words but to the silence as well.
She taught me to embrace my authentic self and gave me permission to be “me” and the confidence to walk the path that I felt born to walk, a path that would be revealed one step at a time and often only recognizable in hindsight!
She also protected and nurtured what she believed was my reason for being, making sure it took root in my conscious mind. I realize it was this sacred trust between us that enabled me to embrace all aspects of myself as “real,” as a valid expression of my soul journey.
My mother often told me that before she went to sleep at night she would come into my room to check on me when I was a baby and able to pull myself up in my crib to stand, holding onto the rail. When she expected to find me sound asleep, she would be surprised, instead, to find me standing in my crib staring into the dark, seeing something she could not. At first, this frightened her but as she watched me from the doorway, she was aware that I was “someplace else, having an experience that was unknown to her.”
Later, when I was old enough to share my “journeys,” I would tell of the Angels and Ancestors who would come and play with me or teach me things about life, nature, creation, healing, being — going beyond the veil to access an expansive world apart from the physical day-to-day world in which we live our lives.
As time passed I traveled many paths: a mother, grandmother, college dean, employment and training planner, peace walker, mystic, producer, photographer, speaker, author, inventor, activist ,and now a candidate for the U.S. Congress. In every way that I show up, I do so with all of me, with my Ancestors and those Angels who continue to guide me; they are my spiritual “Grandmothers.”
Audri at the Ashé Cultural Art Center in New Orleans, preparing to walk with the community.
This was certainly true in 1999, when walking became an integral part of my life. Little was I to know at the time that I would spend a substantial part of the next 15 years walking for healing, human and environmental rights and global transformation.
I travelled to Wales in the summer of 1999 to witness the coming together of the World Peace Flame at the invitation and support of friends in the Washington, DC metro area, where I lived at the time. There was something magical surrounding this journey.
When my friend Anne and I arrived in Wales, we settled into the guesthouse where we would sleep during the next few days. From the guesthouse we would walk nearly 45 minutes every day to Snowdonia. Each day was full of excitement around the flames being flown in from five continents around the world.
The evening following the ceremony where all of the flames were united into the World Peace Flame, Anne and I walked back to the guesthouse. On this particular night there was a full moon, and I mean a FULL moon. Since there is very little light pollution in that part of the country, when the sun goes down, you cannot see your hand in front of your face, which made the light of the moon that night a giant compelling spotlight in the night sky.
As we slowly walked, occasionally sharing our excitement, I began to see into my future. As though I were watching a movie, I saw myself returning to the U.S. and preparing to walk an ancestral journey from Pennsylvania to Georgia. This walk was to be called the Trail of Dreams walk and its purpose was to heal the energy of our ancestors who were brought to America during the Atlantic Slave Trade and our Native American ancestors who were tragically displaced from their lands in the East during the Trail of Tears (I am of both African and Native American ancestry). The Walk was called the Trail of Dreams because in the vision I was told the purpose of the walk was to “return the dreaming to the children.”
Audri and Anne Devine on the Trail of Dreams 2000 walk.
On April 21, 2000, a team of walkers (Karen Watson, Anne Devine, Ricardo Myrick and Nefertiti Allen with the support of Sylester Williams and Elizabeth Neal) joined me as we walked through the Appalachian Mountains from Pennsylvania to Georgia.
In 2002, we continued our walk in Ghana, West Africa, walking the path of our ancestors who were captured and taken from the forests, forced into the slave dungeons and through the “Door of No Return,” shackled and marched aboard ships bound for Europe, the Americas and the Caribbean. We performed healing and reconciliation ceremonies in the slave dungeons and we cried; we cried tears that came from so deep inside they had to come from the Ancestors themselves.
On October 21, 2005 we (the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walkers: my mother, Natalie Scott Williams, Karen Watson, Tony Shina, Chandelle Binns, Lessie Pat Randal, and later joined by Rahfiya Carrion, Zenobia Mustafa, Brenda Kay and Poalo Lalicafini) set out once again on another Trail of Dreams “walkabout.” This time the mission was to walk around the world for three-and-a-half years to effect change leading to global transformation.
Karen Watson on the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk in Dharamsala, India.
Engaging in a walk such as the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk means letting go of everything you think the walk should be and letting the power of the Creator, the Ancestors (our own and the Ancestors of the lands we walk through), Angels and Guides lead the way.
This required us to learn certain skills to stay on the path: giving and receiving unconditional love; deep listening; rituals to keep the energy around us clear; patience to keep us in the moment; one-step-at-a-time consciousness; embracing all experiences and observations as essential with courage; joy; and an openness to bear witness to life.
The Peace Walkers have carved over 50 peace poles and planted them in communities around the country; this peace pole was planted in Baltimore, Maryland.
These skills we now refer to as “steps” to inner peace. I invite you to join us:
- Establish a healthy relationship with self.
Walking requires time with self. Use this time to feel, rather than “think.” Feel your way into recognizing your internal landscape where healing and restoration may be needed. As you take in this awareness, take a deep breath and gently, lovingly release everything to a power greater than yourself. Walk a while feeling all negativity float away.
As you walk, with each breath say, “Right here, right now, in this moment — all is well. I allow this awareness to open me to love. I open myself to the Creator and call on the power of love to fill me with Divine Wisdom to guide my footsteps through this day. And I give thanks.”
- Develop a spiritual practice.
Having a spiritual practice keeps you connected to a “Source” greater than yourself. It grounds you in the potential that you are. It enables you to walk with open eyes and an open heart, witnessing awe-filled moments that only a power greater than you could have created. As you walk, be aware that people of different faiths, Indigenous wisdom, cultures, lifestyles and privileges are walking with you. Nothing is outside of us. Greet God, the Creator, in All.
- Spend at least 20 minutes a day in nature.
Nature heals. Nature fills us with her breath, the very breath of life. It is in nature that we inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide in a beautiful process of life-giving exchange. Nature reminds us that we are a part of a great unfolding story of Creation.
When we begin a walk, we find our mind wandering but, as we continue and become attuned to what is around us, we begin to see with greater detail — flowers that nestle in a quarry of rocks, birds that sing and whistle as we pass by, the deer looking in our direction as we take a break for water, the orange-glowing mushroom on the side of a tree; the rainbow that forms a complete circle in the sky… Breathe it in. Reach out and touch the trees, grass, flowers. As you continue to walk you may find yourself entering the zone — that place where you just are — lost to the oneness of everything!
- Build supportive relationships.
Relationships are sacred. The ultimate success of our life work, individually and collectively, comes down to the relationships we build and that mutually support us on our paths. To many indigenous cultures around the world, all relationships are sacred. Take the time to build and sustain relationships, even when the relationships look different than what we thought they could be. Trust that every relationship is a mirror and helps us to see ourselves so we can grow. Every relationship is a gateway to your future self. Honor the good and the bad and learn from each.
- Help somebody.
Service to others is something we can all do, And if we all did it, we would transform the world into a place of harmony and balance. All the Great Masters who walked this earth did so with a mission to serve humanity. We all need help sometimes and will never forget those who reach out during those times. So be a blessing to others. Practice unconditional love in all that you see. Be in service to help someone not simply when it is convenient, but when the need is present. We discovered that when we helped somebody, we received so much more.
- Enroll in a program or activity that expands your awareness of self.
We often find ourselves stuck in old routines that seldom provide us the opportunity to grow, to experience ourselves in new territory, to have new and different experiences. What generally keeps us from venturing down a path of self-discovery is fear — fear of the unknown or fear of losing what we have or changing who we perceive ourselves to be, and even fear of what others may say. I encourage everyone to include programs and activities in your practices that enable you to learn more about yourself in relationship to the world around you. Dare to step outside of your comfort zone!
- Develop the strength and courage to follow your passions, even when there are times you must walk alone.
Follow the path of your passion. Ask yourself: What makes me resonate joy? What makes me feel I am completely doing what I came here to do? What activity, when I am fully engaged, makes me feel good about myself? So many of us lose sight of our passions, our joy as the stuff of life becomes so pressing. We forget the dreams that awaken us to our potential. We forget that we are all powerful and settle for getting by. But our core dreams, those dreams deeply embedded in us, have a way of rising up when we least expect it, begging for an opportunity to shift our reality.
Know that following the path of your passion will lead you down a trail of many twists and turns but, if you have the courage to go the distance — even through the times when you may have to walk alone, may be misunderstood, or may be talked about — you will discover the gift of your passion and discover that YOU may be the very one we have all been waiting for. In fact, you may discover what so many dream of but never realize…the true meaning of life.
I am an elder now, and I still find myself sitting under the stars late at night staring into the now familiar pool of mystery and creation. The metaphor I often use to describe this experience is that the stars remind me of what I have come to know, and the dark matter of the midnight sky represents all that I have yet to discover. Put another way, all that I have yet to imagine.
I still hear the Angels, my Ancestors and the Grandmothers teaching and dreaming, bringing me into the fold of an eternal gathering of souls who ignite the spark in each one of us that will engage our imagination and our passion strong enough and long enough for us all to fall in love with Creation over and over again. Only then will we realize that WE are the change!
Audri Scott Williams is the visionary who led the Trail of Dreams World Peace Walk over six continents (2005-2009), and the 13 Moon Walk 4 Peace across America to over 50 communities (2010-2011) for human and environmental justice.
Audri is a Global Trustee for the United Religions Initiative. She served as the Interim Global Indigenous Coordinator for the United Religions Initiative (2013-2014) and co-convener of the historic Hidden Seeds Global Indigenous Gathering in Northern California (2014). She was an Apprentice with the WorldWide Indigenous Science Network, where she escorted and documented indigenous wisdom keepers around the world.
She is a former Dean of Instruction at the Institute of Divine Wisdom in Atlanta, Georgia, and Dean of Continuing Education and Community Service at Charles County Community. Audri also co-founded Uprising, a performing arts company in Washington D.C. She has authored several books and produced documentaries about her journeys.
She has received numerous awards for her service to humanity including the Presidential Certificate of Merit (from President Bill Clinton); HBO’s Hearing Her Voice, Telling Her Story Award; Volvo for Life American Heroes Award; and the 2008 URI Bowes Award to the Trail of Dreams Team (awarded in India). She holds a Masters in Liberal Arts from Naropa University in Indigenous Science, a BA in Criminology from the University of Tampa, with post-graduate studies at Harvard University, University of Maryland, and American University.
Audri Scott Williams is currently a candidate for the U.S. House Representatives, in Alabama, for the 2018 elections.