We have all been on a lifelong pilgrimage, a quest. Our individual quest includes magnificent scenery and valleys of despair. And sometimes we wander in the wilderness, perhaps for years or decades or most of life so far. Life itself is the pilgrimage, and whoever heard of a meaningful pilgrimage that doesn’t include some steep terrain, some danger, some relentlessly long passages, the heat and the cold, as well as peaceful, encouraging blue skies.
Embarking on a pilgrimage implies having a destination, but each person’s destination is different, and all routes and landscapes are unique. We are co-creators of our paths and of our intermediate and ultimate destinations. And our itinerary and goals continue to evolve, to surprise, to challenge, and, we hope, to welcome.
How can we move from restlessly wandering to actively co-creating and embracing our quest? Responding to the following questions with emotions, thoughts, sentences, paragraphs, poems, essays, drawings, stories, songs (. . .) illuminates the pilgrimage narrative and moves the journey from the subconscious to the conscious, active mind, will, and spirit.
What strengths do I bring with me on my pilgrimage? What gaps are there in my provisions and preparation? What provisions am I continuing to work to acquire?
Itinerary to Date
What are the main stages and stopovers for my journey so far?
What are the lands and terrain through which I have traveled? Where have I encountered storms and harsh conditions? What are the most beautiful, thrilling scenes I have met? How have the striking scenes of my journey molded me? Do I want to change the scenery for the rest of my pilgrimage; if so, how?
Who are or have been my significant traveling companions for each stage of my pilgrimage? Who among these are or have been my key advocates or my nemeses? Who have been and are my travel guides? What insights and understanding has each companion, including each nemesis, shown to me?
What dangerous settings, situations (including self-created), and figurative devils—negative self-regard, for instance—have I met so far? When and why have I fallen into a “slough of despond”? What stormy weather has blown me off my path? Where did I get lost? How did I get back on my way?
What directional, warning, or welcoming signs have I met along the way? Have I heeded these trail markers, and what has been the result of my response or lack of response to them?
Renewal, Delights, Retreats, and Rest
Where and how, as a weary traveler, have I found repose? Where and when have I encountered renewing joy and enthusiasm for my life voyage? What has nourished and nourishes me on my travels? What is my traveling music, poetry, or other creative food for the spirit?
What destination am I seeking—where am I heading on my pilgrimage? How has my destination evolved in the course of my life journey? How will I know when I arrive? And then how will I live my life within this destination for the rest of my time? How far have I come on my journey, and how far do I still need or hope to travel? (An idea: Draw a map of where I have been and where I am going.)
In the course of my pilgrimage, how am I honoring my life, all who came before, all who share this life with me now, and the Earth that is our home? How is my pilgrimage realizing my possibilities to serve others and to find satisfaction in my heart and spirit?
Wishing you blessed travels. Namaste.
Encountered by the main character in John Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, 1678.