Abbey Bookshelf: Pilgrimage

And it was then that in the depths of sleep
Someone breathed to me: “You alone can do it,
Come immediately.”

-Jules Superveille, from ‘The Call”

You cannot travel the path until you have become the path.

-Gautama Buddha

Wayfarer, the only way
is your footsteps, there is no other.

Wayfarer, there is no way,
you make the way by walking.
As you go, you make the way
and stopping to look behind,
you see the path that your feet
will never travel again.

Wayfarer, there is no way –
Only foam trails to the sea.

-Antonio Machado

I have written here before of the family systems work I have been engaging in as a journey toward my own deepening spiritual growth.  It is certainly some of the most meaningful and powerful work I have ever done. For several months now I have been planning a pilgrimage for this summer.  This is a journey connected to my father’s side of the family and includes Austria, Latvia, Germany, and Belgium.  Latvia is the only place I have not been to before, but it has been many years since I have been to any of those other lands, and I come this time with new eyes and many new questions. 

With all of the practical details of such a trip taken care of, I have been turning to the emotional and spiritual preparation for the journey these last couple of weeks. One of my favorite books on helping you to prepare for such a journey of meaning is The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau.   A couple of gems from his book:

“If your journey is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous.  Ancient wisdom suggests if you aren’t trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn’t the real thing.  The sacred, in its various guises as holy ground, art, or knowledge, evokes emotion and commotion.”

“A vacation is easy to embark upon; everything has been laid out for us to have a predictable, comfortable, and reassuring holiday. But a pilgrimage is different; we are actually beckoning to the darkness in our lives. The fear is real.”

I love this book, because he looks at the mythical and symbolic qualities of pilgrimage and then invites the reader to consider ways to prepare for this journey through ritual and imagination as well as ways to engage in the journey itself, not as a consumer of experience, but as a seeker of the sacred.  He also points to the pilgrimage as a microcosm of life — walking our path with reverence and expectation of holy encounter.  I prepare for it with excitement and anticipation as well as fear and trembling, knowing I will have to confront some shadowy sides of my family system.  But it is in facing the dark depths that I no longer have to live in fear of them.

Make sure to visit this week’s Poetry Party and submit your poem before Friday to be entered into a drawing to win a copy of my newest zine Season by the Sea: A Contemporary Book of Hours.

If you would like to place any orders from the Abbey Store, please do so before July 8th!

-Christine Valters Paintner @ Abbey of the Arts

(the quotes above are also from the Cousineau book and are going into my travel journal to accompany me along the way)

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