A pilgrimage is traditionally a trip to a place with a particular (often religious) significance. But as a modern Pilgrim you will be going on a journey of inner discovery. Normally you will not go for an ordinary journey from A to B. As the famous Vietnamese Mindfulness founder Thich Nhat Hanh puts it in words: “We appreciate in ourselves to have no purpose or a specific destination, so we don’t have to worry or to hurry. Walking is no means but the goal. Every step you take makes you happy, peaceful and serene”. In that sense, you could say: a pilgrimage is to be, it is embracing this moment, to be here and now. And the path is a metaphor for life. With ups and downs – it’s all part of it. And while you’re on the way -in fact, we are all constantly on the way -try to do nothing else than to receive life as it presents itself. Admissibility in that you will start making all sorts of delicious discoveries.
While you walk without aiming at a target, you start experiencing each step as a miracle. And that is in fact reality. It is a miracle that you have two legs and two feet that allow you to move over this planet Earth, which is speeding at 70,000 km an hour through the universe. Walk and sit in conscious attention makes us happy. Slowing down helps. The slower you become, the more easy it is to keep focused. Consciously focusing without wanting anything from anybody, will bring this profound feeling of joy alive in your heart.
The modern, active and generally troubled Western person don’t have time to walk in a relaxed way on paths or to sit under a tree doing nothing. We are engaged in an often overactive mind which endlessly fascinates, directs and commands us. We have no idea how this attention we constantly give to our thoughts and feelings lock us up in ourselves and creates a veil between us and the world. We have stopped looking and listening and see the world no longer as a constantly innovative adventure but as a repetitive predictable, mechanical phenomenon where we try to survive.
Walking along paths in bizarre beautiful nature, to sit regularly with yourself alone without a smartphone in your hand, bringing back the “burden” of property to a reasonable minimum and the confrontation with a completely different world and culture than you are used to activates your senses. That way you break during a pilgrimage through your veils. But that’s not it and you’re not there yet.
You still have to open the windows and allow this wondrous reality to enter, to crash inside you, to pour you. And you learn to stay responsive and to do nothing else but receiving what you are given.
How do you open more and more to all those gifts life is giving you permanently?
Most people need help to answer this question, like I was supported years ago. The proces of opening up is what is called awakening, awakening from a dream, awakening from illusion, awakening from the unreal. You can also say in plain language: awakening from all the stories and feelings whom are locking us up in ourselves and slowly brought us down to small minded, unhappy beings.
The moment you start waking up from all the stories you tell yourself you might discover you are living in this wonderful, enjoyable, sensuous, adventurous world. I would love to see everybody to find this out for himself.
Main photo by Lizanne Croonen during our Christmas safari 2016