Definitions of words I use and what I mean when I do – you may not see these definitions anywhere else! As “definitions” I do not mean that I think these are the last words on the subject, for me they are living breathing meanings that change as I change, that change as I learn more, that have a life of their own too. These I offer to you as simply a place to start if you need one, or a place to deepen your own definitions if that’s what happens for you. I’ve added a few quotes from other people and links to interesting material on the subject where I have them where it feels right to me.
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. 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 and integrates them as you respond to the environment more deeply and it responds to you.
For me it is this relationship, this knowing, eventually, that there is no differentiation between me and thou that is the core of sustainability, the core of resiliency, the core of environmentalism. You, me and the other ARE the environment, ARE the resiliency, ARE love.
Accidental Pilgrimage –
When, in retrospect, you realize that the above happened when on a trip, at the store, sitting in your living room, having tea out with a friend . . . . You can then use that experience as touchstone to do so more consciously in the future!
Note: You’ll also find a version of this definition in Put Some SPWING in Your Step: Support, Presence, Intention, Noticing and Ground ~ 6 Facets of Pilgrimage which you can get for free by typing in your name and email address on this site.
Presence. It’s simple really, there is only here and now. All other time: future and past, is human thinking. Human beings spend almost all of their time thinking about the future and past and how they affect each other, planning, plotting, striving, regretting, blaming – but the idea of being present is to come right here, right now without any distraction in your thinking. To be present, it’s helpful to drop out of thinking and into your heart and body.
When I do that, for me, presence is a felt experience. There’s a inner gesture of surrender. Isn’t that a lovely phrase? Inner gesture of surrender. Not surrender as in ‘I give up, you win,’ rather, ‘I relax, and open up to right now’, and, ‘I am willing to release, to let go of the past and future.’ Grasping, clenching, anticipating, thinkin’ back, hangin’ on, all drift away and my body physically drops and relaxes.
I remember recently when I was anticipating something that I knew would make me sad, my partner was going to be leaving for a few weeks and I was going to miss him. I was feeling sad in the moment even though the event wasn’t actually happening for several days yet. I’m very good that! Ack. It’s exhausting. Anyway, I remembered to try the inner gesture of surrender and was deeply struck by what shifted for me. My body experienced physical relaxation all through my shoulders and chest that were tightening up as I was thinking about his departure, and my body was preparing to cry. As my body relaxed, the welling of tears subsided too. I still had a felt sense of the sadness in my heart, but at the same time I felt at peace and I was very aware of or present with what I was doing – I was making supper. Veggie stir-fry as I recall. I wasn’t denying the sadness, nor was I denying here and now and the peace in the moment. It was beautiful and lasted for quite some time. Hours. I don’t stay there all the time, and, the more I remember and do it, the more I stay. Perhaps that’s my presence muscle getting exercised.
This inner place, I believe, is our true home. And it must be a thing, because every major spiritual perspective has a way to refer to presence.
“The great mystics and masters have pointed consistently to another way of doing business, another way of orienting our consciousness and receiving our identity: not from eternal principles or the fixed recitation of a story or a set of beliefs (even cherished and “good” ones), but from the dynamic and flowing stream of compassionate Presence itself.” ~ Cynthia Bougeault
So there is a place for trying to be present. But in time, the more you become present, you see that there is tension; there is a me trying to do something and there is the Presence. You see that actually the Presence doesn’t want anything, doesn’t try anything. You start wondering: what’s this? How can I try to be present? Who is trying to be present? And that’s when you allow yourself to be influenced and affected by Presence. That’s when you learn to be vulnerable. ~ A.H. Almaas, Diamond Heart Book 3, pg 209
It’s all nature. Think about that for a second. . . . . . . . It’s all natural and it’s all sacred. What do you think would happen if we all thought that all of our space – built, wild, park, paved – was sacred nature? Can you see nature around and in you?
Mysticism is the art of union with Reality. The mystic is a person who has attained that union in greater or less degree; or who aims at and believes in such attainment. ~ Evelyn Underhill, Practical Mysticism
Spirituality and the Meaning of Mysticism for Our Time:
The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
- Franklin Patrick Herbert, Jr.
“Surrender is not about giving up, not about unconsciously letting things happen. It’s about consciously allowing things to be as they are, stopping the inner or outer war with what is, turning away from distraction & denial, letting what is be & allowing our choices to flow from conscious acceptance of what is unfolding within & around us.” ~ Oriah Mountain Dreamer
To paraphrase Cynthia Bourgeault, wisdom is not about knowing more stuff, it’s about knowing with more of you. In the Wisdom Tradition the heart is primarily an organ of spiritual perception, keeping us aligned with the vertical axis of timeless reality as we journey along the horizontal axis of our life.
Wisdom is a love affair with questions. Knowledge is a love affair with answers.
~ Julio Olalla
. . . . more definitions to come!