Pondering the Pilgrimage
Pilgrim. Sounds antiquated, stale and heavily religious. It makes you think of weather beaten, stooped souls, miserable; trudging along a road to nowhere carrying heavy religious symbols around. It makes you think of thousands of souls bowing down in fervour to some mythology stone god. It makes you think of the pilgrims that sojourned to the New World.
None of the imagery, (maybe its just me) seems to equip itself with the modern world. I had to think about this for a very long time after reading multiple books referencing how going on a pilgrimage is very useful.
Now I am not "religious" but I am spiritual (or at least I am trying to be). So this thought very much intrigued me.
I remember it hitting me very clearly when I was devastated about having to leave my marriage and home. I read, prayed and meditated a lot, mixing in a lot of other chemicals and activities to numb the pain. But the thought of a long pilgrimage, symbolising an end to one life, and the beginning of another life; galvanised and inspired me.
In short, I left Sydney and walked to Canberra. There was some basic training before hand, but for me it was isolation of myself, a walk to a destination, raising awareness for charity, but most importantly sort out the demons in the head and be re-born.
I have read many definitions of Pilgrimage and Pilgrim. One that I feel is most true and the origin of the pilgrimage is the one that discusses "stepping out of ourselves that we may encounter the divine". Another way of putting this "to leave the present behind to resolve a matter of moral and spiritual direction." This is very true in my experience; the physical is only the symbol of the journey one is undertaking from within.
I remember watching The Way with Martin Sheen. Wow. Excellent movie; so impressive in the whole design and the shape of it all. I wont spoil it but it is set in France and Spain and based on the famous St James Walk or "Camino de Santiago". The point is the transformation that happens on the inside when you are out in the wild, away from comforts, habits and routines.
My favourite all time movie The Kingdom of Heaven, has a great symbolic message about the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Where one can go and atone for their "sins" and begin again. Is it relevant that it is a place in the middle east? Or a gathering of stones in a grassy land? Or an appointed place anywhere? For me; I think not.
But any journey, symbolic of an inward journey, where one can off load the burdens of the past, find gratefulness, understand our place in harmony with nature, endeavour for something and come away with achievement; is a good journey. Whether this be Mecca, Jerusalem, The Stone Henge, Temples, Idols or Legoland. What is sacred is what is within.
The Maya is the meaning behind the illusion; not the illusion itself. (This is a whole new blog)
So why go on a pilgrimage?
- Break your routine and pattern
- Get the benefits of exercise
- Spend time away from technology
- Leave things behind
- Build new goals
- Appreciate nature
- Accomplish something
- Strengthen your spirituality
I have since, after walking 100km from Sydney to Wollongong, setup a pilgrimage, or a hike if you like, that I intend to do twice a year. Looking forward to doing it with some folk not only to raise money for the cause, in educating the poor in developing countries, but to help with people learning and letting go and questing forward to become better.
As I think of it; Charity, Therapy and Community.
Onwards, Inwards & Upwards.