A pilgrimage is not a vacation. Or a holiday. Or a time to do as you please.
A pilgrimage begins when you make a conscious decision to enter an environment where your only option is to trust something or someone greater than yourself.
Going on pilgrimage takes preparation. The objective is to ensure you do not waste pilgrimage time being consumed with easily avoidable mistakes.
The pilgrimage itself is a process. A process of detaching from everything nonessential, which is pretty much everything we spend most of our time and energy on (don’t worry, Frannie, this does not include relationships with loved ones).
Let me give you some examples. I now live with two changes of clothing, an embarrassing number of medicines, one pair of boots, one pair of sandals, a ziplock bag of first aid stuff, some rain gear, sun block and a ziplock bag of miscellaneous stuff. I also walk with a day pack that contains two water bottles and I use two trekking poles. I have an iPhone I use to take pictures and do this blog. I could easily store all this stuff in the trunk of my Honda Civic with lots of room to spare.
And I don’t need anything more. At least for my pilgrimage. I have detached from all the stuff that occupies most of the space in my life.
I don’t take or make phone calls, do emails, read the paper, chase the endless things that either I or others think I should be doing. I have no lists and no need to make one. I have even forced myself to decide whether I am willing to detach from being comfortable. To endure discomfort. Like when we have just finished lunch, and I am tired, and sore, and longing to just lie down and take a little nap. I am faced with a choice. Am I on pilgrimage or not? Are we going to start walking again so we can get to wherever it is we are trying to get to this evening, or not? So I pray, “Lord, I turn my life and my will over to your care; free me from the tyranny of self.” I trust. And I slowly rise; and start walking.
When I walk, there are times my feet are sore, or my back hurts, or I am so thirsty I feel I could drink a gallon of lemonade, or so hot I am not sure how much longer I can keep on walking. But there are also times when, in the midst of some meditative prayer,I know I am one with all there is that is important. When I can smell the fields, see not just the vineyard or the vines but the grapes themselves, be overcome with the beauty of the roadside flowers, feel the breeze as it rushes past, hear that same wind as it rustles the leaves in trees nearby, creating the sound of a gently flowing waterfall. And then it all makes sense.
Detaching from all the stuff that seems so important but really isn’t creates space for the Divine.
And as I walk along I feel more alive, more free, and more connected than I ever have. It is a sensation of being filled to overflowing.
I wonder if this is conscious contact?