The way out is the way in.
We journey without to journey within.
Seeking natural places of magnificence, we contemplate the power of nature and all of its overwhelming grandeur. Rendered seemingly insignificant by the near-infinitude of creation we may come to better accept our own annihilation at the end of this pilgrimage we call our lives. Simultaneously we may find solace in the fact that others will endure without us and that nature, seemingly eternal, will outlast us all. We may experience a sense of forever, beyond even geologic time, to move beyond the reach of history both personal and cultural. In these moments we come in contact with the divine, both without and within. These precious experiences offer us a chance to reconsider our conventional habituation, renewing opportunities for self-actuation and co creation,
The spirit of man and place at one point in space and time influence one another profoundly. In a sacred state of mind, we are compelled to contemplate the interconnectedness of all things.
Often we think we embark on pilgrimages to care for the self, not realizing that in doing so we also become engaged in caring for others. We are ennobled and enliven in caring for others, and these rituals offer us the opportunity to care for creation and eternity. There is a tremendous sense of affirmation and empowerment that comes from realizing these possibilities exist. Truly, we make a difference.
Pilgrimages satisfy the desire for self-improvement. Pilgrimages make one a better person for having made the journey. We make a commitment and fulfill it. Our contact with a special place or thing distinguishes and ennobles us. After the journey, we can say we went directly to the source.
Bridging the past and the future in the ever-present now brings countless insights. Flashes of clarity give rise to moments of grace. Buried resources are released – within (self, memories, dreams, visions, associations) and without (universe, physics and metaphysics, history, tradition, ritual).
In the spell of such places doubt, fear, denial, combativeness and even analysis are dispelled. The objective and subjective are synthesized into the supra rational. It is a supremely holistic experience.
Engagement with the beauty of nature (raw, made, or unmade) inspires. Truth is found in beauty. Beauty is found in truth. It makes so many concerns and attachments seem insignificant by placing them in perspective. Beauty (whether real or imagined) has an uplifting and regenerative power. No other force, save love, has a greater power to inspire awareness, respect, compassion, hope, imagination, and action. To find beauty is to find love. To find love is to find beauty.
A pilgrimage is a journey into the unknown and a return to the known.
The ritual reenactments of pilgrimage revive ancestral echoes (both genetic and cultural) within us. That others have successfully gone before us gives us comfort that it can be accomplished; perhaps on our own, perhaps with the aid of others, perhaps with divine guidance.
Often the place reveals the way. You follow. Moving in unquestioning surrender. You leave the old and are reborn in the new. You are revived.
This instant is all there is. Each meeting is a prelude to departure. Each gain is soon to be a loss. Each birth is a death in the making.
Overwhelming emotions come in torrents and floods cascading and sweeping us away awash in the deepest parts of ourselves.
Whether through purging during the journey or the solace of sanctuary found at the destination – healing emerges.
You find answers to questions you never even knew you had. You find new questions.
These experiences reverberate long afterwards. The new begs integration with the old. Everything and nothing are the same. Staying in pilgrimage on return may be the most difficult challenge of all.
Transport. Escape. Tranquility. Quietude. Solace. Peace. Rest. Contemplation. Discovery. Inspiration. Perspective. Connection. Synthesis. Reintegration. Revival. These are among the things found on pilgrimage.
They are not so much found as actively made.
There are many types of pilgrimages. Not all pilgrimages are religious, well mapped, or planned. Modern secular pilgrims go on less religious but no less spiritual pilgrimages, seemingly undirected, the ways and passages comparatively tenuous but offering opportunities for creative discovery unburdened by convention. If these travelers rise to the challenge of articulating their findings, the unconventional rewards yielded may exceed those found in more traditional modes.
The images we collect and make before, during, and after, play vital roles in our pre-experience, experience, and re-experience of our pilgrimages. They offer invitations to plot real and imagined journeys to places of power. They help us frame goals and make plans for our voyages into sublimity. They help us visualize our journeys, rehearsing for audiences with the exalted. They record the stages and details of our crossings. They hold the ephemeral still, so we can revisit it long after it passes. They make tangible the ephemeral subjective experiences that enliven any performance (not mere notes on the page). They distill the essence of our experiences. They reveal our relationships to the experiences at the time of the experience and the possibility of charting how our experiences change with time.
Our mementos, touchstones of journeys made, offer tangible testimony for ourselves and for others, opportunities for revisitation, rekindling the fires of inspiration that may dwindle upon reimmersion in the mundane and the routine. Even if we or others never make the journey we are nonetheless inspired.
In a pilgrimage we enact and reenact all the stages of a lifetime. A pilgrimage is a special life within a life. In these moments we feel most alive. We instinctively know who we are, where we stand, why we live, and what we live for. The immensity of the moment makes it fleeting to the rational mind. But our discovered holistic understanding gets into the fiber of our being. We carry it with us wherever we go – forevermore.