One day it dawned on me that I don’t have to travel halfway around the world to have a pilgrimage. I realized that some of the greatest pilgrimages I’ve done were actually the ones closest to home.
A pilgrimage is about taking a journey, usually to a holy and/or completely foreign place, to seek meaning, or a deeper understanding of the nature of life, or to understand one’s own self more clearly, or a combo thereof, in hopes to be transformed into the person you want to be. Or to remember the person you were, before some life calamity put out your light.
In truth, very few people will get (or make) the opportunity to take a winded pilgrimage in their lifetime. Yet the power of the pilgrimage can still be accessible to an overworked and overstimulated human tied up in the busyness of the modern world. (That was just a description of myself, do you relate?) It just looks a little differently, but the results can be the same. You can receive inner healing and renewed inspiration to support you in showing up well in the world, simply by creating your own mini pilgrimages. We are all pilgrims in some fashion- finding our way though this mysterious life journey. You never know what is around the corner.
Sundays are my pilgrimage days. All week long, I look forward to it. I grab a jar and some rue oil, and I head up the mountain to Robert Frost Creek Crossing. On the way, I let my mind replay the week’s events, the ups and downs, the highs and lows. Sometimes it’s just one issue that has a grip on me that I need to process the whole way up. Usually it is a smattering of small regrets and huge gratitudes. The creek is my pilgrimage destination. Once I have arrived, depending on what is up for me in my life, I may burst into tears, laugh, sigh, or just stare into the water.
I place my hands in the water and wash my face, drink from the stream, give thanks, greet the four directions, pray and sing. Sometimes I need to cry a lot. I collect water into the jar from the stream and then anoint myself on my third eye with the rue oil, asking for any negativity of the past, present or future to be cleared away. Any ugliness- especially that ugliness that can be my thoughts- my own self deprecation- I ask that it may fade.
I take my holy water back down the mountain, and it swooshes around in the jar making resonate sounds like a water drum. The sound feels like a spell of contentment being cast upon me. On the walk home, I am lighter in spirit, and sourced with feelings of rejuvenation. I notice beauty everywhere, even where the snow falls on the gravel in the driveway.
Each morning, before the sun has risen, I dab some of that creek water on my forehead as a touchstone for remembering life’s beauty, and in prayerfulness, ask for a good day and that all beings may know love. It is a simple prayer but it is consistent and sincere. I have found that regularity and sincerity are the roots that will bear those significant life-learnings, like perhaps a long pilgrimage to an unknown land, into full bloom.
I offer this piece to you in case creating mini pilgrimages may be something tangible, and helpful. It can be anywhere near you, just somewhere that you go to with intention and purpose. If I lived in New York City, it would be to that huge Hornbeam Tree, that Carpinus betulus, in Central Park, and I would pick up one of its leaves to take with me and keep as my touchstone for the week.
We all need ways to cope, as life is full of lots of suffering. Ain’t no getting around that. And those coping mechanisms don’t have to cost money. It’s really the simple things in life that nourish us the most. I wonder, is there a spot near your home that you can walk or drive to, each week or month or whatever seems reasonable for you, to make your pilgrimage? It can look however you want it to look. You are the pilgrim.