As my blog is about Spirit of Place and how everything is interconnected, the word pilgrimage has been whirling around in my mind for a while. Looking up the origins of the word what jumped out to me were the words foreigner, beyond the country… The implication is that the person has travelled far. There are many different responses to the word pilgrimage: a quest of some kind born out of desire for something different (perhaps sometimes to escape the mundane world), it is an internal journey of discovery and reinforcement of spiritual faith, it is a physical journey to a sacred place like Mecca, Jerusalem, Machu Picchu and Stonehenge for instance, it is an adventure based on curiosity about other places in the world. A common factor seems to be the importance of what happens on the path and how that affects us personally.
Recently, I watched Simon Reeve’s programme on BBC2 on Pilgrimage which covered Christian pilgrimages from Lindisfarne to Jerusalem. Two things struck me: one was in Istanbul when a guide at Hagia Sophia said that the memories of what people had seen would eventually fade and what they would remember was the feeling of peace and Simon said something along the lines that he thought that peace was the rock upon which our future could be founded; the second was the expression during medieval pilgrimages about women that “they left pilgrims and sometimes returned whores”! Two very contrasting statements around pilgrimage.
So do we naturally gravitate to places that feed our deep desire for peace and can that journey be so challenging and arduous that we fall by the wayside as the price is too high? Are we too dependent on that external feeling of peace and the belief that it might rub off by visiting certain places? Are these places imbued with other people’s faith? Does it matter?
To me it does matter, otherwise I wouldn’t be mulling this over. There is an image in my mind of the world being crisscrossed with pilgrimage pathways, sometimes incredibly long and sometimes short , but somehow they are all interconnected. I have a theory, shared by others, that the physical pathways were already there and that many sacred sites where built upon node points that naturally possess a sense of peace. I have to say that, paradoxically, there are places that give me a sense of unease and pain and in hindsight they are often places where something painful or disruptive has happened.
I can see all this as a metaphor for both my internal and external quests. So as not to fall by the wayside when the challenges surface, I have learned that I need to do what I would do for any form of journey – prepare! The preparation is both literal and energetic and there are many different ways of doing this. The challenge for me is I realise I am always going to be on that pilgrimage on a daily basis and that my desire for peace is my rock, if I lose that I am lost. I once heard a shaman say that one of the most effective ways to visit sacred sites is firstly to go there and then in the safety of your own home revisit them through meditation and truly absorb what you need; the great advantage is you can do this any time. Meditation is a fantastic form of internal pilgrimage to feed our soul and the sacred space is then securely within us.
The videos in this blog are also forms of pilgrimage one a literal journey to Kamakura in Japan, another into the wonder of the minutiae in our garden, and thirdly part of the collective pilgrimage forming a field of peace on We Are All Cranes of Peace. Writing Healing the Ouch of Disappointment has also been a pilgrimage through my life and the lives of others http://amzn.to/1bxxbgn.
To finish, I had a fantastic gift today which was a reminder that I am a Third Culture Kid and there is a book called Third Culture Kids: Growing Up Among Worlds by David Pollock & Ruth E. Van Reken. I have a very varied DNA enhanced by living in many countries, travelling all over the world tracing my roots, at times feeling an outsider and misfit. Some of you may resonate with this but I discovered we are a multicoloured tribe. I can value this interesting DNA today and feel at home anywhere in the world as long as I live in the day. It makes me smile to think that this great reminder was given to me freely on my pilgrimage into Facebook – a journey I have resisted for a while. A bonus is I got a great cure for my cold too…