Creating A Pilgrimage From Home

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My starting point is overwhelm and fear.

There are concentration camps in the US. 

There is a 10(ish) year countdown to whether or not humans had destroyed our planet so badly that our children and grandchildren will face extinction. 

Our current political climate seems to be fraught with corruption and ineptitude.

Tired and burnt out on news, I just don’t know what to do.

I don’t know what to do but I know I want to do something.

I’m desperately seeking a way to do something. Gazing at my daughter, currently 1 ½ years old, I know I don’t want her to have these same fears sitting over her head. 

My job is to keep her safe, but how can I keep her safe from all of these things? How can I teach her to be calm when I’m full of anxiety? What can I do to make her world a better place? 

I have no idea what I need to do, where to focus, or what action I need to take. All I know is that I need to think and then take action.

Sidebar: 2019 is my Year of Action… I have a tendency to think and talk but not always DO, and I would like to be a doer. A couple years ago I decided I’d go with a yearly theme instead of New Year’s resolutions and I find it works for me.  

Feeling the Call

I have “felt the call” before. 

5 years ago when I was experiencing a deep sense of fear and pain I felt called to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela – after a great deal of planning I unexpectedly ended up at a yoga ashram.

Instead of finding resolution in Spain I found it in Honesdale, PA; the call had been answered, albeit in a different form, and there was no need.

I feel that call again. 

The call to seek clarity and wisdom.

To seek to define what’s important to me.

To once again learn to address this deep bone-numbing fear.

What is a pilgrimage, exactly?

Helena Guzik from the University of Oxford defines it as:

“… a devotional practice consisting of a prolonged journey, often undertaken on foot or on horseback, towards a destination of significance, removing the participant from her home environment and identity… means and motivation vary but the act blends the physical and the spiritual in a unified experience”.

Most pilgrimages involve taking time away from home, and that just won't work for me.

There is no way I can take a month off from my life the way I could pre-kiddo. Even if I could get childcare figured out taking an extended trip is not in the family budget.  

I have this feeling in my gut that’s telling me I need to journey. I need to walk and contemplate and pray (or my version of agnostic prayer). 

The phrase, “…in a month of Sundays…” crosses my mind and sticks with me. 

Through conversations with a good friend who is becoming a minister, I have gained an understanding and appreciation for having a holy day. 

I’m going to walk for a month of Sundays or 30 weeks of Sundays. 

I may not have the Camino but I live in Canada - beautiful country with a myriad of trails.

In 2017 the Great Trail (previously know as the Trans Canada Trail) was completed. It is over 24 000 kms (almost 15 000 miles) of local, provincial, and national trails that reach together to cross Canada. 

I’m not planning to cross Canada, but I used the Great Trail as a guide to picking my own path. For 30 weeks I will walk from my home to an end point. Starting in Kitchener, Ontario I will putter along the trails to Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

I’m going on a Pilgrimage from Home: A month of Sundays on the Great Trail.

I named my journey to make it feel fancy and official, and my first Sunday coincides with my birthday weekend. 

I have shoes, a backpack, the app on my phone, sunscreen, and a water bottle. Specialized equipment or clothes will need to be added as I learn what’s necessary, but that is a future Tamara problem at the moment. 

Can you REALLY create your own pilgrimage?

Short answer: Yes. #doingit

Long answer: Whether or not you believe you can create your own pilgrimage is based on how you choose to define pilgrimage. 

Although it is not traditional, this pilgrimage will be a devotional practice that involves a prolonged journey on foot and is of moral and spiritual significance.

Bruce Feiler from the PBS show Sacred Journeys breaks pilgrimage down into 6 stages: the Call, the Separation, the Journey, the Contemplation, the Encounter, and the Completion and Return (read more here). 

Using his definitions as a reference, I know that I am not fully separating from my life. Separation allows you to let the YOU of home slip away and give space to a different variation of self that is unencumbered by daily living and the roles your regularly inhabit. 

Although I am unwilling to disengage from the world for a prolonged period of time, I am willing to take some space on a regular basis to follow the call. 

My physical destination is a placemarker I’ve chosen to represent the end of my journey but is not of religious significance. 

If you feel that these definitions are important to being a pilgrim then I am someone who’s going on a series of contemplative walks with a presumptive attitude. 

I believe that you can create your own pilgrimage. Although it may not be traditional, I am choosing to devote time and energy to a physical journey where I’m hoping to gain clarity of mind and spirit. 

I know that I may not find what I seek.

Life throws curves at you. I know that sometimes what you seek when you walk to walk a Camino (or end up at a yoga ashram in rural Pennsylvania for) may not be what you find. 

I’ll be writing my way through this and if you decide to join me vicariously, I appreciate your company. 🙂 

Quote, "It's about the Way not the destination."
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