Pilgrimage. The word conjures up planned journeys to faraway places. That rare activity you do once in a lifetime. Maybe.
What if we turned the concept of pilgrimage around to embrace those places that nourish our spirit with transformative effects? How can we learn to pay attention to those places that we visit intentionally, and also by happenstance, which upon reflection we come to see how they spoke to us on a deep level?
The traditional concept of pilgrimage involves meticulous planning, a time investment of many weeks or months, and often a substantial investment in walking equipment, travel, and lodging. Things that are out of the reach for most of us – especially the time investment.
In settling into a desire to reinvent the concept of pilgrimage while still being able to have the transformative experience, I’ve come to understand that one of the things those on pilgrimages do is remove themselves from their everyday life to experience something deeper. I’m sure I’m not alone in having experienced getting into a car with a destination in mind only to come to realize that I’m mindlessly driving my normal route by rote (!). The conditioning we experience by maintaining our routines blinds us to new experiences.
The travel to places that I’ve come to define as my pilgrimage places came from me stepping out of my normal routine, which is ruled by schedules and obligations. The wandering, the freedom from routine, heightens our senses to the point that we become aware of how multi-dimensional we are – mind, body, and very importantly, spirit.
I didn’t set out to intentionally to go on these pilgrimages, but upon returning to my “normal” life, I realized that some places to which I traveled had me dialoguing with my soul, with the Divine who resides in all of us. I didn’t hear voices from above or any thunderclaps. I didn’t have to endure the pain of walking many miles with a backpack. What I experienced was a subtle shift in how I viewed myself and, as a result, how I engaged with the world around me, including the natural world. The changes were subtle – like a soft wind shifting something inside of me versus the power of a gale force wind.
My places of pilgrimage have included a church in the Italian-American section of Philadelphia, the River Mersey in Liverpool, England, and Circus Maximus in Rome. I came to these places in different ways: through a vacation to visit my husband’s family in England, a ten-mile drive to the home of my paternal great-grandmother, and a dream trip to Rome. The important thing to remember is that although I planned some of the trips, namely the international ones, the intention wasn’t to have a spiritual experience. The transformative powers of these places was totally unexpected – and this is the power of pilgrimage.
These pilgrimages encouraged me to peel back the many layers of my life, some of which blocked out my true self, my spirit. The subtle changes paved the way for larger changes, opened my eyes to possibilities, encouraged me to move forward, to be open and receptive to the signs and signals I was receiving from the Divine.
What can you do to go on your own pilgrimages?
⭐ Go where you’re directed. If you feel a pull to a certain place, go – maybe not immediately, but before too long. Don’t second guess it.
⭐ Be guided by your intuition. If you’re directed to explore something – do it.
⭐ Lose the grip you have on your life to control situations and circumstances. Throw your routine to the wind, even for a short time.
⭐ Ask for guidance and then listen, notice.
⭐ Notice the lost parts of you that you find along the way as you become a pilgrim.
⭐ Have fun. Be lighthearted. Experience connections with those you encounter along the way.
⭐ See that sometimes the very thing that you are seeking to help in your transformation, is right outside your door.
Ultimately, all pilgrimages end up at home. Notice how effective these pilgrimages are in returning you to your true self.
Anne Greco is a non-fiction writer who writes about her life experiences and travels with humor, keen observations, and the hope that her words will remind us that “we’re all just walking each other home.” Her book, Serendipity: Chance Pilgrimages, tells the story of Anne encountering her places of power. As she reconnects with herself at each site, Anne also develops a deeper understanding and appreciation of her connection to both the seen and unseen worlds. Learn more about her work here: http://annegrecowriter.com.