Friday, September 2, 2011

An Invitation: Make Your Weekend A Pilgrimage

Moonlighting Monks Mixed Media (sold)
I am thinking about travel today.  The idea of starting out on a physical journey is strong for me right now for a couple of reasons.  The weather is fine, families have returned home from summer vacations and this is the time of year I have often traveled.  So I feel the call of places other than home.  In a way it is the echo of what I have done in the past, a kind of easy to see karmic call, the urge to repeat what one has done in the past (sobering when one thinks of the less wholesome inclinations one has!)  I am remembering to just breath that in and experience what that restlessness feels like in my body.

And I am thinking about travel in general because a young traveler who has my heart has put on her traveling shoes.  My daughter, not knowing exactly what comes next in her life, has bravely sold much of what she owns and taken to the road.  She had a starting point, but no destination.  This encompasses true bravery in my mind:  an opening into the unknown, an act of faith, a trust in the universe and in a hero's sense the journey of the self toward the Self.

A while back I borrowed a book from a friend called: "The Art of Pilgrimage subtitled "The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred" by Phil Cousineau.  His premise is that any journey can be a sacred pilgrimage if we choose (and perhaps sometimes even if we don't make this conscious choice, it happens anyway).  Cousineau says, "Pilgrimage is often regarded as the universal quest for the self. Though the form of the path changes from culture to culture, through different epochs of history, one element remains the same: the renewal of the soul.....  For the wandering poet, Basho, pilgrimage was a journey that embodied the essentials of Zen, a simple journey in which the path was the goal, yet also a spiritual metaphor for the well lived life."

And even for those of us who are not leaving our homes behind we can be inspired by Thoreau who made his daily life at Walden a pilgrimage, Cousineau reminds us.  The essence of his journey was walking, spending time in nature and seeing deeply, being present.  He was apparently inspired by an inscription from King Tching Thang's bathtub which read: " Renew Thyself completely each day, do it again and again and forever again."

And as a final thought about travel here's a quote from Roshi Joan Halifax's book "A Fruitful Darkness":  "Everybody has a geography itself that can be used for change.  That is why we travel to far off places.  Whether we know it ourselves or not, we need to renew ourselves in territories that are fresh and wild.  We need to come home through the body of alien lands.  For some these journeys of change are taken intentionally and mindfully.  They are pilgrimages, occasions when the Earth heals us directly.  Pilgrimage has been for me and for many others, a form of inquiry in action."

So where will your heart travel this long weekend?  How will you renew your soul at this cross roads of summer and fall?  What will you truly see?  I wish you safe, happy and fruitful travels.

Last night I wandered through the woods, carrying a jar of freshly made baba ganoush, following a delightful hand drawn map to find the back gate of neighbours, where we sat in the dwindling light enjoying a glass of wine.  I think my adventures will lead me up a mountain to a monastery this weekend to find a new supply of incense.  I hope to remain mindful so that my steps are pilgrimages into the unknown, mysterious adventures sewn together into the slightly tattered tapestry of my life.


  1. Our daughters, brave parts of our souls, are on a powerful journey! Mine is settling into the marketplace of Toronto this weekend after years of setting out with no destination in mind. They carry us with them in so many ways - pilgrims of our heart. Enjoy your mountain pilgrimage. Step by breath.

  2. How beautiful - turning your restlessness into a pilgrimage into the unknown - opening to the unknown - answering the call of Being - the hero's journey... I seem to be on a pilgrimage of the Heart lately, opening to the Heart - again and again, letting the light in - remembering...

    May you have a gentle journey - and your daughter as well... Christine

  3. Genju - This is an interesting juxtaposition. My daughter has just left Toronto and set out on her journey! "they carry us with them", yes.

    Mystic - I am loving your journey of the open heart lately! The open heart, the open road, parallel universes? Thanks as always for your caring.

  4. I love this painting - so thoughtful - I'm not a lover of travel away from home, but I do journey every time I enter my workspace and travel my inner self almost daily :)

  5. That is such a powerful piece. And thanks for the reminder of the many meanings of travel -- both near and far.

  6. Jeane - yes the artist's journey and you travel that path with such grace! And a willingness to share with us how each twist in the path unfurls. Inspirational!

    Seth - So nice to see you here! Thanks so much for your kind words.

  7. good luck to your daughter. another thing about travel, along with renewing the soul, is the contrast. i think for me travel, and i do little of it actually, awakens my mind to the what is of where i live my daily life. i see the usual in new ways.

    travel also forces my mind to quickly adjust and translate new paths/places/people and possibly languages.

    i had that book at one time.

    be well on your travels.

  8. Best wishes to you daughter for amazing and safe travels! I admire that gumption, just sell up and go, see what happens! Autumn is here in southern Norway. Rainy and chilly wind nips at our heals. I've often felt autumn to be the real new year, real time of change & energy, rather than January. I'm taking September to take more action in manifesting dreams, as well as to just sit... and meditate. A nice balance of do, nothing and being. ;o)

  9. Suki - it is s true that travel allows us to see our "usual" space in a new way too, perhaps have a little more gratitude for it? And that separation, that physical distance somehow does allow the mind to see the usual in new ways, as you say.

    Tracy - Yes, fall is in the air here too but it is being kind to us with lots of sun, which we are loving as summer didn't really happen until August this yr.

    It's funny my duaghter just said this, "That fall feels like the real new year " to her. Sounds like you are setting some wonderful intentions for the new season. Fall has always been my favourite time of year. There's something about the light and the coolness of the air combined with the bright sunshine that I love.

  10. Each day gives us an opportunity to travel on a new path whether it be physical or in our "quiet time." The act of walking, the repetitive action, allows my mind to soar outside of itself. It is my "healthy must" to bring peace and wholeness to my life. Your art excudes the valued calmness. ......positive energy to your daughter who is "just around the corner" from our Oakville home. ....Karin Lynn

  11. Thank you for your wonderful and wise words again :) I miss travelling very much, as I find it opens your eyes again, not only on the travel, but also coming home ! Good luck also for your daughter's travelling and to you too, to let her go :)

  12. Your painting is like a soft walk in the mist. I recall processions like this in the mornings in Nepal. Traveling.
    There's so much here and so much to savor, as always...however the kernel is the connection to fall as a new beginning time...on the natural wheel of the year it signals a turning, a traveling inward and oh the places we shall go ;-)

  13. Karin Lynn - yes, walking as a journey, the company of nature, we don't need to go far do we, really. It is the state of mind we approach it with.

    Michele - Thanks for your kind wishes. And from your blog I see you have traveled far from your original home, a number of times, to Greece, to Australia and know about creating home in a new place.

    Donna - to our new year! and who said that , something to the effect, "the true journey is the journey inward."

  14. This was really really wonderful. What really spoke to me was the part about making our daily life a pilgrimage just by experience everything- everyday as a new experience because it is.

    " Renew Thyself completely each day, do it again and again and forever again."

    Loved this quote. Thank you for such great writing!

  15. Wow! Wow! Wow! three times, for so much depth packed into one short post . . . I traveled far for a pilgrimage to India, and I am very thankful for it. The real pilgrimage however, and as you so justly allude to, is in the privacy of one's heart and mind. Right here, every moment, and close to home.

    I also love your art piece. Venturing into new territories it seems . . .

    And I wish your daughter all the best in her travels. That she may find her nascent self, and return with a heart filled with wholesome desires and inspirations.

    Much metta, and thanks again for the gift of your words, and your creative talents, so freely shared.


  16. Dya - thanks for your visit and kind words! We are pilgrims in this new spiritual landscape, aren't we?

    Marguerite- nice to see you here in your blog world travels. And yes from your blog I see your travels both inward and outward. Much metta in return and good wishes for your fall retreat with Ruth which must be coming up soon. I look forward to hearing about it.

  17. Beautiful artwork. We are all on a journey into the unknown and things change more than one might want to acknowledge. Even if we are not physically traveling all the changes we go through moment by moment are a journey on its own.