On Pilgrimages

I have long been drawn to the theme of the journey. The notion of finding myself while headed somewhere appeals. As such, I also find myself fascinated by pilgrimages. Most religious traditions acknowledge the value of pilgrimages. Further, the idea of walking something like the Camino de Santiago calls to me. But I don’t have 3 months to spare. And so each Good Friday I walk home from my office.

The distance from my office to my home is approximately 12 miles and takes me roughly 2 and a half hours. This constitutes my annual pilgrimage.

Why do I do this? Like many pilgrims, I do it in hopes that I might develop a deeper connection with the God of my understanding. I suspect there is some old Catholic theme in there about the value of suffering as well. What it often is, however, is yet another lesson in letting go.

Before one of my walks some years ago, I visited with a man who had served as a Catholic missionary. He told me of a meditative walk he had taken in the desert of New Mexico, setting out with only the request that God put in his path something to focus his meditations. Very soon after making this request, he found a crucifix! In the middle of the desert!! I was inspired and set out on my own walk determined to find a similar point of focus.

This very quickly deteriorated. I would see a piece of trash blow by. Is that it? Am I supposed to attend to my inner garbage? But wait! Maybe it’s that telephone pole bidding me to reflect of poor communication!

Then I started to panic, fearing I’d miss the sign altogether. Finally, after about 45 minutes of this, I gave up. No sign for me, I was certain. In that very moment of giving up, I looked across the street and saw a friend waving to me, a woman I greatly respect who works a lot with the marginalized. I chatted with her for a few moments and went on my way.

Then it dawned on me. She was the sign! My spiritual world is heavily introverted and I realized I was being invited to reflect on how to become a spiritual extrovert from time to time. But I also realized that sign only came to me when I gave up. When I stopped demanding and simply remained open.

So it has been every year since. Sometimes something profound happens, sometimes not. Sometimes I like what I hear within, sometimes not.But every year I am reminded. What matters is the journey, not the destination.

Reflection: Have you ever taken a spiritual journey of some sort? How did it affect you?


About richp45198

I am a clinical psychologist and have an abiding interest in matters spiritual.
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3 Responses to On Pilgrimages

  1. susan r beehler says:

    thank you, richard, for your walking reminder……

  2. Thank you Richard. Your post reminds me of some lines from Rumi: “Keep walking, though there’s no place to get to.
    Don’t try to see through the distances.
    That’s not for human beings.”

  3. Dave Hall says:

    This weekend I’ll be going on what is known as a “Visa Run” to Hong Kong..I live with a friend in Taiwan and need to make the trip every couple of months. On Hong Kong Island the Anglican cathedral built in the 1840’s has become a refuge/destination. Sometimes just visiting quietly during the day, sometimes attending services or meditation times, sometimes just checking out the stained glass windows….or discovering the thrift store with very inexpensive English language books (hard to find in Asia). Another place of pilgrimage is taking the tram to Victoria Peak. Nice view of the city. But the walk/hike down has afforded us an opportunity to see nature in the midst of the city. Eagles fly by while walking….lots of wooded nature to see. So going to HK has become a real pilgrimage, a Mecca of sorts….who would’ve thought?

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