Why make a pilgrimage either secular, religious, or spiritual?
Because of the following reasons:
You Have No Idea Why…
The motivations are as varied, as individual, and as unique as you. There is no right or wrong explanation just as there is no right or wrong way to “do” or to “have” a pilgrimage. What ever, where ever, and how ever is meaningful–even sacred–to YOU is all that matters.
What are intentions for a pilgrimage that appeal to you? Feel free to share in the comments below. Thanks!
When we say or hear the word pilgrimage we think of some sort of religious or spiritual journey. We may think of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales or the medieval practice of visiting Camino de Santiago de Compostela and other Holy Shrines, or we may have images of people of today crawling on their knees up steep hills and along sheer cliffs as they follow in the footsteps of their prophets, sages, and holy people. Also, the word pilgrimage may conjure images of travel to Israel, India, Asia, or other distant lands.
As I alluded to in yesterday’s post, going on a pilgrimage does not have to be religious and you don’t have to travel anywhere, either domestically or to foreign lands. Your pilgrimage can take place in the midst of your every day life. In fact, there are websites dedicated to digital pilgrimages.
I also think that you don’t have to prepare for your pilgrimage–there is no elaborate practice or ceremony or blessing required.
To me, a pilgrimage–whether you stay where you are or if you travel to a far-flung place or if you visit a Holy Site–is all about the inner journey and how it opens your mind, spirit, heart, and soul to discovering and connecting with and honoring the Divine within. And, in so doing, you discover, connect with, and honor the Divine within all creation.
In other words, you can start right here, right now, right where you are. I encourage you to do this now.
This week we’ll be talking about how the life each of us is living is one big soul-prospering pilgrimage.
Recently, I came across a few quotes from Pema Chödrön, an American Tibetan Buddhist, that are relevant to this week’s topic.
Without loving-kindness for ourselves it is difficult, if not impossible, to genuinely feel it for others. ~ Pema Chödrön
This quote sums up the underlying theme of the lives of each of us. On the days when we find it’s really tough to be understanding, compassionate, and kind to others, this is our spirit’s error message telling us that we, ourselves, need loving-kindness. We need to care for ourselves–that piece of us that feels deprived or neglected–so that we have a spirit overflowing with loving-kindness that then we have plenty to share with others.
Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world. ~ Pema Chödrön
It’s the little things in life that we need to focus on in order to lead a soul-prospering life of joy, peace, loving-kindness, and abundance. We wish and hope for, and intensely focus our stare and wait for the Big Stuff that we’re sure will bring us happiness, peace, and fulfillment. Sure, sometimes the Big Stuff comes along, but those times are few and far between. And the happiness we derive from it does not last.
Taking pleasure and satisfaction from the little moments and letting those simple joys infuse us is how we step into our soul-prospering life. The really fantastic news is that we don’t have to worry about sustaining joy, contentment, and peace because every moment of each day is brimming over with little pleasures and happy surprises so we’re continuously renewed and refreshed.
We think that by protecting ourselves from suffering, we are being kind to ourselves. The truth is we only become more fearful, more hardened and more alienated. We experience ourselves as being separate from the whole. This separateness becomes like a prison for us – a prison that restricts us to our personal hopes and fears, and to caring only for the people nearest to us. Curiously enough, if we primarily try to shield ourselves from discomfort, we suffer. Yet, when we don’t close off, when we let our hearts break, we discover our kinship with all beings. ~ Pema Chödrön
It’s when we uncover our hearts and spirits–those tender, vulnerable places within us–that we begin to see through, beyond, and underneath the heartbreak and travail of the world and can experience Creative Intelligence that nourishes and sustains all in the cosmos, both seen and unseen.
This is why this week we’re going to talk about pilgrimage and what it means to each of us personally.
Think of the act of self caring as making a pilgrimage to feed and nurture that part of you–those parts of you–that gets dismissed and trampled by every day Life.
The pilgrimage doesn’t have to be traveling to a Holy Site, a basilica in a far-off country complete with a centuries-dead saint’s relics; the pilgrimage only has to be holy to you. This is what elevates self-indulgence to an act of self-care.
A pilgrimage of self-care is a form of honoring, connecting with, and even consecrating the place within you that is deep, rich, and eternal.
Sometimes I need to sit on my deck at night or in the early morning and gaze at the stars in astonished wonder at the exquisite magnificence of the heavens. Other times I need the camaraderie of my family or my very good friends. At another time, I may need the nurturing comfort of a bowl of soup that I’ve made from scratch or the sustenance of a freshly baked batch of cookies made from a recipe handed down from my mother.
Then there are times when all I need is to take a breather by gazing out my window and daydreaming, or pulling out my bottle of bubbles and filling the air with shimmering, iridescent bubbles.
My pilgrimage of self-care morphs and shifts to what I need in the moment. It’s all good!
For instance, my pilgrimage today is reading. I’m reading a book about an autistic person’s experience and fascination with language, and another book on a person’s spiritual journey.
Of course there are those who would say that nothing good will come of this reading: these aren’t books to choose if you’re looking for entertainment; they aren’t books that I can somehow use to further my career by making my skills and knowledge more marketable.
But they’re feeding me and nurturing that part of me that’s feeling pushed to the side and overlooked.
They make me see the world from another’s point of view. My mind considers ideas I wouldn’t have had on my own. As I go about my other tasks today, I ponder a sentence, a phrase, or a whole thought from each of the books. I know I’ll continue to do this in the weeks and months to come. I know this pondering and considering will lead to insights that will smooth some of the rough spots on my path or show me beauty and goodness I would have otherwise been blind to.
So, if eating gourmet chocolate while sipping a fine wine is an activity that restores calm, peace, and balance in your life; if it fills you with hope and reinforces your belief that beauty, love, and goodness in all forms out-weigh the negative in the world, then I say you’re on the right track.
What self-care pilgrimage are you currently on? Feel free to share in the comments below. Thanks!
This week, we’ve been talking about self care and how it helps us stay balanced in the midst of the pressure in our lives. Self care is instrumental in helping us restore balance if we’ve gotten discombobulated.
We also talked about self care versus self indulgence so that we can choose the techniques that will not only soothe and comfort us in the moment but also sustain that peace and well-being as we move forward.
I want you to know, though, that you aren’t going to get it right every time so don’t have the expectation that you’ll always choose the right thing to do in a particular moment. Sometimes, instead of reaching for a nutritious pick-me-up to soothe you, you’ll reach for and eat that bag of potato chips or that pint of ice cream.
You’ll choose the self-indulgent thing instead of the self-caring thing.
Don’t worry about it. If this happens to you, it isn’t the end of the world. You can always make another–a different–choice. That next choice will be better because you now know what may give you a little bit of comfort and calm for a short while, but it really doesn’t sustain you. And it’s finding techniques that sustain the feeling of calm and well-being that you truly crave.
Recognize that the particular experience of self care in that moment includes doing something that may work for a tiny while but then you move on to another technique that has more staying power.
Give yourself the elbow room, which is a part of self care–experimenting, trying things, combining techniques, and the like.
Sometimes we’re in such a state that it’s difficult to figure out if we’re indulging ourselves or if we’re caring for ourselves.
When we feel ourselves feeling out of sorts or discombobulated, it’s because we’re out of balance: we have too much of one thing and not enough of another. Usually, we have too much of the world and Life pushing us, prodding us, and making us feel not enough and that we have to rush, rush, rush to try to catch up. On top of that, we don’t have enough of feeling good about ourselves, feeling capable and competent, and that we’re enough just as we are.
Self-care is the key to getting ourselves back on solid ground. To do this we need to pause, check in with ourselves, and identify what’s causing the imbalance.
Here are a few questions to ask ourselves so we can nurture and nourish ourselves in a way that will comfort and soothe us now as well as sustain us going forward:
What do I have too much of right now?
What do I have too little of right now?
When was the last time I laughed, or even smiled?
When was the last time I did something just for the pleasure of it?
What am I resenting or angry about in my life right now?
What is making me sad right now?
What am I starving for?
What am I yearning for?
What do I wish I had right now?
These questions are a starting point. You might come up with questions that are more tailored to your needs and circumstances, and that’s perfect.
Take the time to ask yourself these questions, listen to your answers, and FOLLOW THROUGH WITH ACTION—doing something about it!
Sometimes it seems as if we have nothing to learn from those who have gone before us: their times were much different than ours today; they lived a simpler life and had less to worry about; people were more polite and kind; life for them wasn’t frenetic with rushing here and there; they didn’t have to deal with downsizing and layoffs from work; there wasn’t the pressure to “keep up with the Joneses”.
The truth is that none of this is true.
Back in The Day, those who’ve gone before us were just as worried, stressed, frustrated, sleepy, lazy, selfish, sad; just as happy, optimistic, active, forward-thinking, kind, generous, achievement-oriented as we are today.
There’s very little difference, really.
Even the socio-economic and political landscapes are similar. There has always been strife and upheavals and, as long as there are still human beings around, there will always be strife and upheavals. But so there were—and there always will be—progress, breakthroughs, achievements, kindnesses, goodness in all forms, and celebrations.
The loved ones and the others who have gone before us still do have something to offer because they see through the “baloney” of Life to that which is True and Lasting.