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Beginning a Pilgrimage

The past couple of years have gifted me with a lot of transformation, some of it catalyzed by changes in our family. Part of this process of change has invited my husband and me to make a 3,000 mile road trip. The various elements of this trip are equal parts joy and difficulty.

As I have prepared for our travels, I’ve been giving extra attention to the stories I’m telling myself about what we’re doing and why. It is so easy to focus on the discomfort, inconvenience and expense, and lose sight of what could be fun, loving, and delightful about it.

Not too many days ago, a gift from Spirit dropped into my awareness. What if I set out on this trip with the intention of it being a pilgrimage?

What makes a pilgrimage different from an ordinary “trip” starts with intention. The purpose is an inward process. Wikipedia defines it as “a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of a new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, after which the pilgrim returns to their daily life.”

Some of the components of pilgrimage are

  • being in an unfamiliar place

  • deliberate engagement in some way with a surrender of control

  • willingness to be changed by the experience

The details of how I’m engaging with this process involve other people whose stories overlap with mine, so  I won’t get specific in this space. The part of the story that is all about me is how I’m intentionally seeking a new perspective on myself and how I engage in relationship with those I love.

As I have talked with my spiritual director about this journey, the theme that has emerged is “self care”. My habitual way of relating to life is to focus on what others need first, putting my own needs so far in the background that I am often unaware that, much less what, I need. In this context, self care isn’t so much about specific activities, as it is about why I’m doing what I’m doing, and whether I’m making space inwardly for all of my emotions and giving attention to my reactions.

So for this trip, my intention is to be as present to myself as I can, listening moment to moment to what my needs are. I hope to share more in days to come about how this attention transforms my inner space.

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