Times when I have wanted to gain a deeper spiritual connection or make sense of my life, I’ve gone on a pilgrimage—a sacred journey. And when I haven’t been able to make the journey, physically, I review those I made previously. In other words, my desire to understand the interconnectedness between my psyche and spirit with various relationships I’ve had, places I’ve lived and worked, and spiritual teachers I’ve had the good fortune to study with was so that I could access and remember the wisdom I found during those pilgrimages. Separately, and together as one, pilgrimages have become the placeholders and guideposts for my personal and spiritual development.
Phil Cousineau wrote one of my favorite books, The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred. In it he says, “For millennia, this cry in the heart for embarking upon a meaningful journey has been answered by pilgrimage, a transformative journey to a sacred center. It calls for a journey to a holy site associated with gods, saints, or heroes, or to a natural setting imbued with spiritual power or to a revered temple to seek counsel. To people the world over, pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul.”
He goes on to say, “Pilgrimage is the kind of journeying that marks the move from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful travel. The difference may be subtle or dramatic; by definition it is life-changing. It means being alert to the times when all that’s needed is a trip to a remote place to simply lose yourself, and to the times when what’s needed is a journey to a sacred place, in all its glorious and fearsome masks, to find yourself.”
Pilgrimages are a wonderful way for paying homage. The sacred journey is not just through nature but through history. During the Pilgrimage to the Mother Pearl in Israel, we will more than pass by the sacred sites along our travels. We will make connections with the stories of the people associated with those sites and find deeper meaning in the events of our own lives. We will be honoring our ancestors, offering gratitude for who they were and how they’ve influenced our lives today. We will find the Mother Pearl.
The thing about a pilgrimage, like most other things in life, is that there is no way to experience it except to do it.