Life as Pilgrimage
Pilgrimage: A journey into the unknown undertaken for the purpose of uncovering deeper meaning and connection*
*defintion by me but inspired by others more quote worthy : )
I am at a transition point in my life, a pilgrimage of sorts. Like all pilgrimage, it requires me to let go of the creature comforts to which I have become accustomed. This means releasing the security of operating my business as a “side endeavor” so that I can remain less attached from its success or failure. It also means leaving a community I love, once again, to take a step into a future that looks more solitary for awhile.
In plain terms, I have been running my business while also being a full-time student. I am leaving school in order to try this thing for real. Am I scared? Yes. Yes I am.
While vacationing in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina last week, I read the story of another fearful but determined pilgrim in the novel The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.
In this novel by Rachel Joyce, Harold embarks on a 500 mile trek with no preparation in order to accomplish an impossible task: saving a woman dying of cancer. In the long run, the walking itself becomes the point. He states, “life is very different when you walk through it.”
As Harold learns, life walked through is harsh. Being subject to the uncaring elements leaves him sunburned, windblown, drenched and aching.
His life walked through is also somehow more beautiful. There are early hours drenched in morning light, shining dew on spider webs, and passing conversations with other travelers along the road.
These two realities, difficulty and beauty, are true of life as pilgrimage as well. Stepping into mystery hoping to gain greater meaning and purpose leaves one vulnerable and subject to dangers that don’t exist in the comfortable known. At the same time, life as pilgrimage can lead to a greater sense of presence in one’s own life, more beauty and more authenticity.
In Pilgrimage- The Sacred Art, author Kujawa Holbrook cites poet R.S. Thomas stating, “the point of travel is not to arrive but to return home, laden with pollen you shall work into honey the mind feeds on.”
In this context, “returning home” from the pilgrim’s travel is a return to truer self. When one has been away, all things become new again. The ordinary self becomes a self renewed.
The inconveniences of travel are just the cost of admission.
In an interview with Krista Tippett, Paulo Coelo discusses the modern pilgrimage as a duty for us all. He claims we, “have the responsibility of going on a pilgrimage every single day, because pilgrimage implies meeting different people, talking to strangers, and paying attention to the omens. Basically being open to life. We have, every single day, this possibility, this chance, of discovering something new…”
What will any of us discover today? Not one single person in this universe can know. And isn’t that such an adventure?
How is your life a pilgrimage? What have you lost to enter the journey? What have you gained?