Jacqueline Gautier


March 01, 2000

The world community catapulted into the third millennium filled with contradictions. In spite of revolutionary advances in technology and availability of consumer goods at unprecedented scales, 800 million people to go bed hungry each night. In our wealthiest nations we are experiencing escalating unemployment, violence, drug abuse, social alienation, crime and a widening chasm between rich and poor. Despite major advancements in medicine and science, we see the breaking down of families and communities and the extinction of centuries-old languages, cultures and traditions.

We live in times of extreme paradoxes! In the wonderful words of George Carlin, "We have taller buildings but shorter tempers, wider freeways but narrower viewpoints. We buy more things and enjoy them less. We have more conveniences and less time, more degrees and less common sense, more medicine and less wellness. We have learned how to make a living but not how to make a life. We have mo computers in which to store and process information and yet we communicate less. These are the times of steep profits and shallow relationships, world peace and domestic warfare, more leisure and less fun, more kinds of food and less nutrition. this is the era of throw-away morality, one-night stands, overweight bodies and pills that can do anything from cheering you up to calming you down to making sex better to killing you."
We have conquered outer space, but what distance have we really traveled? What about the journey to our inner space?

Pilgrimage is a method to reclaim the inner journey in an attempt to balance these tumultuous paradoxes in which we must live and function today. Sooner or later we must all examining our lives and whether we choose to name it or not, in this place of self-reflection we become a pilgrim. We must journey inwardly to find our center and call forth our spirit -- it is after all the richest and greatest frontier.

The act of pilgrimage is about the duality of a person traveling unknown territories both externally and internally simultaneously. What matters the most as we undertake the voyage is how attentively we see and how deeply we hear. We must allow our hearts and souls to resonate with each encounter. We are not merely tourists observing and clicking Kodak moments; this is not a vacation for rest and recreation. Pilgrimage is an intentional voyage. We are answering a longing, a call, a challenge to surrender our egos and follow our spirit's compass to a sacred place where we become the geography.

There are certain unifying characteristics for visiting sacred sites. Whether we visit Scotland's Neolithic Clava Cairns or England's Megalithic Stonehenge, the most primitive and widely distributed monuments of human art, or the quintessential gothic cathedral at Chartres in France encoded with the perennial wisdom of the ancients, we are undertaking a heroic act. We enter the classic archetypal and mythological journey of the Hero and Heroine with all its stages. We will experience the answer to "The Call." We will travel "The Road of Many Trials" full of traditional footwork, labyrinthine passages, plateaus, valleys, obstacles, teachers and tricksters. We will descend into "The Dark Night of the Soul" of the "Harrowing", a place where we must enter our personal chaos, the crisis, the reshifting and reframing of the self, a time of true change and growth and finally we come to "The Treasure" which can manifest itself in unexpected epiphanies and joy.

If we are ready, sacred sites have much to offer. They are crucibles for altered consciousness, encyclopedias for self-knowledge, portals to ascent, centres of reconciliation, places to devinate on the future and recover a state of grace. The Hopi peoples say "the stones remember, the earth remembers, if you know how to listen, they will tell you many things."
Pilgrimage is about risk and renewal because a journey with no challenges has little meaning. When things begin to swing out of control, we can be assured that we are on true pilgrimage. As pilgrims we enter the duality of the physical and metaphysical worlds -- a landscape where we encounter people, places, things, thoughts, feelings, visions and happenings that take us out of our comfort zones and beyond any experiences we have ever had before. While there are some physical risks, it goes much deeper than that -- the biggest risk is that we will not return home the same person. True pilgrimage changes our lives. The acid test will be our re-entry into everyday life upon our return. We voyaged not only to reach our geographical destinations but also arrive at a new way of seeing the world.

Pilgrimage provides us with the opportunity to meet our very core self, that diving place which is our true essence and ask the soul-growing question, "Does the path I'm walking have a heart?"

As seen in WHOLifE March/April 2000

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