What Pilgrimage actually is -
Moving from seer of sites (or blind to what is around us and inside us) to seer from our own souls.
Pilgrimage is a way in. To you. It’s a way to get to your essential self. It’s a spiritual yet practical journey. It takes you to regeneration. It’s a moving meditation. It’s a contemplative practice. It gets you to silence.
Either way . . . through this lens, I work with seekers struggling with finding a way to stay balanced in their day to day lives who feel frustrated or at their wits' end to get calm and more productive in less time.
WHAT I DO: I walk on the phone or in-person with adventurous people struggling with uncertainty about what to do next who feel they'd prefer to go outside or get exercise than sit for a session to get grounded and find a clearer way forward.
Any conscious intention to move toward a sacred place whether that place is an internal place as in the sacred place in our own heart, or an external place like the bones of St. James (Santiago) on the Camino de Santiago di Compostella or Stone Henge or Mecca or your childhood home. It is the intention to move toward the sacred that is pilgrimage. You may or may not arrive at the intended destination, so, as the cliché goes, it is the journey not the goal that is the point.
Pilgrimage is a way to bring you closer to love, truth , wholeness and unity both within and for yourself as well as with and for the people and places around you. There emerges a relationship that opens both inner and outer facets of life and integrates them as you respond to the environment more deeply and it responds to you.
I know in my heart of hearts that in order for humanity to shift forward to be sustainable and resilient we need to honour what calls us! Not knowing where you are going, could be the most important opening. Go ahead! Get Lost!
As I’ve heard my colleague Tenneson Woolf say, “Start somewhere, follow it everywhere.”
Here’s the cool bit – you can walk for 10 minutes or a couple hours and that may be enough. Or at least it may be a start, the first step on a path to allowing that break through.
As the urge to “just go” comes over you it might feel like wanting to escape. It might feel like irritation. It might feel calm. It might be scary. It might feel exciting. It might feel like your body screaming for your attention and saying, “Let’s take a walk so I can tell you something important!” You will be able to hear that “something important” if you are able to stay with that feeling and move: walk, bicycle, drive, scooter, roll your chair, skip, surf or dance. “Walking” can be a fast track to opening up enough to hear what is calling. Approaching walking as pilgrimage offers the challenge you are having space to be what it is instead of what you think it might be. Typically many of us sit and think, and then spin endlessly on those thoughts and THAT can keep you stuck. So go ahead! Get Lost!
It’s an important urge. It may well be that the greater the urge, the more uncomfortable it feels, the more likely something important to you is trying to break through. And it may be that it’s having trouble breaking through because of routines or other ways in our lives we get stuck. Walking, movement, can help you to relax in the midst of the discomfort.
And further to that, the urge may be part of greater spiritual yearning, a calling that we need to sit up and pay attention to – stand up, walk out, walk on, pay attention to, get lost, and then, come home!
There is no happiness for him who does not travel, Rohita! Thus we have heard. Living in the society of men, the best man becomes a sinner; therefore, wander! The feet of the wanderer are like the flower, his soul is growing and reaping the fruit; and all his sins are destroyed by his fatigues in wandering; therefore, wander! The fortune of him who is sitting, sits; it rises when he rises; it sleeps when he sleeps; it moves when he moves. Therefore, wander Rohita! ~ extract from a sacred Indian text
“I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s very silly not to do some form of pilgrimage. It would be the slowest possible way to get through a break through or something you are trying to change! Any break through: job, career, money, self-love, relationship, creativity, emotional upset, confusion, illness, self-image, . . . . One of the best ways to nourish, fuel, or bring about a big breakthrough, is pilgrimage."
~ Alex Baisley
And here’s the thing. You don’t get to enlightenment by paying your $10,000 for a weekend workshop that promises that by Sunday at 5:00 pm “You will have arrived! Halleluia!”. WISH that it were so easy! Wow, I would do that in a heartbeat!
But there are steps. Sometimes the steps are obvious, sometimes they are mysterious, but there are most certainly steps. It’s just like any project, you can’t get to the endpoint of a kitchen renovation without laying a solid foundation to start with and then working on it step by step until you get to the finished glowing new kitchen. Same with pilgrimage.
With pilgrimage, the cool thing is that the steps can be literal or internal; physical or metaphorical. Sometimes, the physical action of walking relaxes and opens up other aspects of themselves – emotional, intellectual, spiritual, heart, social – and that can speed up the journey.
I’ve been on a few major pilgrimages over the years. They have profoundly helped me along my way in. I was realizing that I wasn’t going to be able to go on another one for quite some time. That was disappointing and so I was musing over that with a friend when it hit me, wham, I didn’t have to GO anywhere – I could just walk out my front door. Walking around the block could be as much of a pilgrimage as anything! Didn’t I already say that ‘my life’ was pilgrimage? It was so obvious and close that I missed it.
I want people to know that pilgrimage is attainable regardless of time, responsibilities, available cash or any other limitation.
One way to look at this is that life, LIFE is a big “P” Pilgrimage. If we take that as a starting point, then the shorter than life-long Pilgrimages are small “p” pilgrimages that feed our big “P” Pilgrimage life. OK. I’m looping myself down into a bit of a rabbit hole here, but you get the picture. Small pilgrimages feed life. And since life, aliveness, manifests as YOU, then pilgrimage nourishes you.
For me all pilgrimages are pilgrimages home. Home, ultimately is inside of each of us. So it’s a physical place, just not necessarily with a roof and walls as we might usually envision. Thich Nhat Hanh says: “I have arrived – I am home – My destination is in each step.”
lHave you ever gone on an Accidental Pilgrimage?
Say one day you walk to the grocery store – or the local park or drive to a week long get-away to the beach – and returned changed, more centered because of an event that happened there. That's what I call an accidental pilgrimage.
For example, one day I was standing in line at the local grocery with my then very young daughter. The woman behind me was in a scooter and had an assistance dog with her. For some reason I overheard her conversation with the teller. Perhaps I heard it because the tone of the conversation was strained. She didn’t have enough money for the groceries she had chosen and was in the process of deciding which of the items she would leave behind. I didn’t have much money myself at the time, but I had enough to pay for the other woman’s groceries so I turned around and offered to pay for them, and she accepted. The relief and gratitude in the air was palpable. She thanked me and I haven’t seen her since. On our walk home my daughter said, “Mommy, that was a good thing you did.” I replied, ”Yes perhaps, yet it really feels like she gave me a gift because I’m feeling very good.”
That’s what I mean, for me, in retrospect, that wee voyage on foot with my daughter to get a few things to eat became an event that changed me. I’m not a saint, but somehow that spur-of the-moment gesture to pay for the woman’s groceries opened ME up. It was an unanticipated, accidental pilgrimage. Using pilgrimage as a frame can bring those accidents into a more common occurrence, into consciousness, into the main stream of your living.
Stay Tuned and soon I'll have these short ebooks available for you here!
. . . . in process :)
10 Minute Pilgrimage
Put Some SPWING in Your Step: Support, Presence, Intention, Wholeness, Noticing and Ground ~ 6 Facets of Pilgrimage
Hiking - "I don't like either the word or the thing. People ought to saunter in the mountains - not hike! Do you know the origin of that word 'saunter?' It's a beautiful word. Away back in the Middle Ages people used to go on pilgrimages to the Holy Land, and when people in the villages through which they passed asked where they were going, they would reply, 'A la sainte terre,' 'To the Holy Land.' And so they became known as sainte-terre-ers or saunterers. Now these mountains are our Holy Land, and we ought to saunter through them reverently, not 'hike' through them." - John Muir