Saturday, December 2, 2023

It’s Time to Go on Pilgrimage When…

Every journey begins with longing.

It’s not often that we take the time to tend to our longings in everyday life, but they’re there on the periphery or are simmering just beneath the surface. They are yearnings sourced deep within that speak to our propensity for change, our need for inspiration, and the questions of the soul.

As author and contemplative Phileena Heuertz says, “Complacency is a stalemate to the journey. Longing propels us forward.” Our longings are waiting to give birth to our journeys—all we as pilgrims need to do is to say “yes.” Whether that journey takes you on an adventure abroad or a transformative experience in everyday life, here are five ways your longing might be telling you a new journey is about to begin:

1. You’re in a time of transition

To go on pilgrimage is to cross a threshold—from life as it was before your departure to life as it will be upon your return. That time in between is liminal space, and it’s not so different from the in-between seasons in times of transitions—from college to the “real world,” from a full house to an empty nest, from one half of life to the next. What is different, however, is the intention that pilgrimage invites during these often stressful and uncertain times. In fact, pilgrimage celebrates these seasons, because it is precisely at this threshold that transformation can occur.

2. Your spiritual life feels stagnant and you’re ready for inspiration

A pilgrimage is not only an opportunity to leave the monotony of your everyday life and seek adventure—it’s also an invitation to breathe new life into your spiritual journey and experiment with spiritual practices. As we travel beyond our borders, both internal and external, we learn more about our true selves and are stretched to experience God in new and enlivening ways—ways that will continue to influence our journey for years to come upon our return home.

3. You’re in a season of waiting and you want to use that time with intention

Not so different from those times of transition or feelings of stagnancy, seasons of waiting can make it seem as if life has been put on hold while deep inside we’re longing for movement. In such times, the practice of pilgrimage offers an invitation not to escape the waiting, but instead lean into it. By fostering curiosity about what God is conceiving inside us, as during the season of Advent, the practice of pilgrimage encourages us to draw near to the Divine in this season of darkness as if drawing close to a warm flame, transforming our waiting as we learn not to lose patience, but instead keep vigil.

4. You’ve experienced a loss and are ready for new life

Whether it’s the loss of a job, a marriage, or a loved one, seasons of grief can leave us feeling isolated, disoriented, and far from God and our true self. In times like these, the practice of pilgrimage offers the opportunity to both honor what has passed and realign ourselves with who we are and what we long for as we seek to make a way forward under the loving direction of the Sacred Guide.

5. You have questions and are longing for answers

As Phil Cousineau said so well in his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, it is our questions that lead us to our quest. In a world that prizes certainty, it’s easy to ignore our questions or send them away with simple answers. These questions, though, are just like a beach ball, and when we push them underwater they just come back up—and with force! Pilgrimage, however, not only welcomes your questions—it demands them. Your questions serve as a compass for your journey and will guide you down the Path of the Pilgrim. As your journey comes to a close, you might not find the answers you were looking for; however, if you seek to befriend your questions and learn from them, you just might find the answers you really needed all along.

While you might not necessarily identify with one of the reasons listed above, there’s one final sign it’s time to go on pilgrimage: You feel the call. If an opportunity comes across your path that you feel you can’t resist or you experience a sudden inspiration that fills you with life, the invitation is there—the only thing left to do is respond.

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