Sunday, September 28, 2008

The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau - EXCERPTS

The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker's Guide to Making Travel Sacred. Phil Cousineau. 1998. ISBN 1-57324-509-7


Besides hearing a thousand complaints through the years by bored and disappointed travelers, I'm also aware of the spate of angst-ridden travel writers complaining we've gone from a world of classical ruins to sites simply ruined by too many (other) tourists.

... we may log impressive miles in hour travels but see nothing/ we may follow all the advice in the travel magazines and still feel little enthusiasm.

I don't believe the problem is in the sites as it is in the sighting, the way we see. It's not simply in the images that lured us there and let us down, as in the imagining that is required of us. Nor does the blame lie in the faiths that inspire throngs to visit religious, artistic, and cultural monuments, as much as in our own lack of faith that we can experience anything authentic anymore.

If we truly want to know the secret of soulful travel, we need to believe that there is something sacred
waiting to be discovered in virtually every journey.

There are as many forms of travel as there are proverbial roads to Rome. The tourism business offers comfort, predictability, and entertainment; business travel makes the world of commerce go 'round. There is exploration for the scholar and the scientist, still eager to encounter the unknown and add to the human legacy of knowledge. The centuries-old tradition of touring to add to social status endures, as does traveling to ancient sites for the sheer aesthetic "pleasure of ruins", as Rose Macaulay described it. In the seventeenth century emerged the custom of the Grand Tour, which recommended travel as the last stage of a gentleman's education. Most recent is the phenomenon of the "W .T.", the World Traveler, renowned for drifting for the sake of drifting, and the "F .B. T .", the Frequent Business Traveler .

What if we have finally wearied of the paladins of progress who promise worry-free travel, and long for a form of travel that responds to a genuine cri du coeur, a longing for a taste of mystery, a touch of the sacred?

For millennia, this cry in the heart for embarking upon a meaningful journey has been answered by pilgrimage, a transformative journey to a sacred center. It calls for a journey to a holy site associated with gods, saints, or heroes, or to a natural setting imbued with spiritual power or to a revered temple to seek counsel. To people the world over, pilgrimage is a spiritual exercise, an act of devotion to find a source of healing, or even to perform a penance. Always, it is a journey of risk and renewal. For a journey without challenge has no meaning; one without purpose has no soul.

What legendary travelers have taught us since Pausanius and Marco Polo is that the art of travel is the art of seeing what is sacred.

Pilgrimage is the kind of journeying that marks just this move from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful travel. The difference may be subtle or dramatic; by definition is it life-changing. It means being alert to the times when all that's needed is a trip to a remote place to simply lose yourself, and to the times when what's needed is a journey to a sacred place, in all its glorious and fearsome masks, to find yourself.

... if the journey you have chosen is indeed a pilgrimage, a soulful journey, it will be rigorous. Ancient wisdom suggest if you aren't trembling as you approach the sacred, it isn't the real thing.

The Art of Pilgrimage is designed for those who intend to embark on any journey with a deep purpose but are unsure of how to prepare for it or endure it. As the title suggests, this book emphasizes the art of pilgrimage, which to my mind signals the skill of personally creating your own journey, and the daily practice of slowing down and lingering, savoring, and absorbing each of its stages.

What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what when contemplated transforms us utterly.

Our days stretched on. The hours seemed to contain days, the days held weeks, as in all dreamtime adventures.

In the uncanny way of spiritually magnetized centers of pilgrimage, I felt a wonderful calm exploring the derelict pavilions, abandoned libraries, and looted monasteries.

We travel as seekers after answers we cannot find at home, and soon find that a change of climate is easier than a change of heart.

Centuries of travel lore suggest that when we no longer know where to turn, our real journey has just begun. At that crossroads moment, a voice calls to our pilgrim soul. The time has come to set out for the sacred ground – the mountain, the temple, the ancestral home – that will stir our heart and restore our sense of wonder. It is down the path to the deeply real where time stops and we are seized by the mysteries. This is the journey we cannot not take.

Imagine your first memorable journey. What images rise up in your soul? They may be of a childhood visit to the family gravesite, the lecture your uncle gave at a famous battlefield, or the hand-in-hand trip with your mother to a religious site. What feelings are evoked by your enshrined travel memories? Do they have any connection with your life today? Have you ever made avow to go someplace that is sacred to you, your family, your group? Have you ever imagined yourself in a place that stirred your soul like the song of doves at dawn? If not you, then who? If not now, when? If not here, where? Paris? Benares? Memphis? Uncover what you long for and you will discover who you are.

This pilgrim is a wayfarer who longs to endure a difficult journey to reach the sacred center of his or her world, a place made holy by a saint, hero, or god. Once there, the desire is to touch a relic, have a vision, hear an oracle, and to experience what psychologist Stephen Larsen calls the "irruption of the divine in a three-dimensional place."

This is what the risk is for, the confirmation that the mystery exists at all in a modern world seemingly determined to undermine the sacred as mere superstition.

Integral to the art of travel is the longing to break away from the stultifying habits of our lives at home, to break away for however long it takes to once again truly see the world around us.

The traveler's lamp is also an illuminating metaphor for the light that shines forth from the wisdom of travelers who have walked the path before us.

Think of the ways that questions illuminate the world around us. Questions tune the soul. The purpose behind questions is to initiate the quest.

Take your soul for a stroll. Long walks, short walks, morning walks, evening walks -whatever form or length it takes. Walking is the best way to get out of your head.

Carl Jung wrote about his midlife crisis in his memoirs, in which he asked himself which myth he was living by. He discovered to his horror that he didn't know. "So I made it the task of tasks of my life to find out."

By what sacred story are you living? What task have you set for yourself? Can you tell your life story, accomplish your task, from where you are/

... the melancholic side of the questing spirit. The blue wave that overcomes us, the knotting in the ribcage is a signal that we have reached an impasse. How to adequately respond to this? The first step is to treat the melancholy as a force to be followed into its depths.

If the treasure – the truth of our life – is so close at hand, why is it so difficult for us to wake up, rub our eyes, and reach out to find what is within arm's reach? Why risk time and money and risk our necks to venture somewhere far, far away?

All of the answers are within us, but such is our tendency toward forgetting that we sometimes need to venture to a faraway land to tap our own memory. Our intuitive self has shut down; our light into the transcendent has gone out.

The irrepressible desire to see deeply into ourselves and the world evokes what Hindus call dyana, "the long pure look."

There is another call, the one that arrives the day when what once worked no longer does … The heart grows cold; life loses its vitality. Our accomplishments seem meaningless.

The long line of myths, legends, poetry, and stories throughout the world tell us that it is at that moment of darkness that the call comes. It arrives in various forms – an itch, a fever, an offer, a ringing, an inspiration, an idea, a voice, words in a book that seem to have been written just for us – or a knock.

Not a day goes by when the world doesn't cry out for us, signal us with signs and sounds, calling us home. Listening closely is nearly a lost art, but a retrievable one. The soul thrives on it. Words heard by chance have been known to change lives.

The call to the sacred journey your secret heart longs for won't come by expectation, will not arrive in a logical way. If you imagine that something is trying to call to you, try to practice stillness for a few minutes each day. Be still and quiet and you may be surprised what you start to hear.

Ask yourself what is absurd in your life right now. Then recall that the roots of the word refer to being "deaf”. If you have stopped listening, try to begin again, first with what you love, then with what is difficult for you.

... to name something is to imbue it with a soul.

Always the call summons us to the hidden life.

First there is the personal restlessness, the feeling of being nowhere in the place they are now; then there is the need to feel something deeper than the surface glare of things, a longing to be somewhere else where that is possible.

Imagine the last time your faith failed. Faith in yourself, your family, your God, your country, love, the arts, even faith itself. Of course, faith is Janus-faced. One face is blind, unquestioning; the other sees far and deep, trusting what is unfolding in your, in life. It takes courage to trust the voices that mayor may not be genuine calls. With that in mind, what or where has called to you recently?

... the notion of transformation implicit in secular pilgrimages, such as the writer's journey to Paris or the artist's to Rome.

I am proposing a way of looking not only at but through the road, through our moments of travel to their past and future dimensions, to consider each encounter as a chapter in a long novel, each person along the way as one of the characters in our soul journey through life.

Imagine slowing down, becoming aware of the voices in your dreams, your unexpected encounters.

Practice listening – to your friends, your children, music, the wind, your dreams, the ancient wisdom of sacred texts. Listen as though your life depended on it. It does.

Timeless art is like that. It anticipates you. Without it there is no sacred journey.

Try to imagine that you are leaving for a journey from which you may never return. How would you "mark" the time? Would you hold a feast? Would you chronicle and record every moment? Rituals mark time, set space apart – two ways of defining what we mean by the sacred.

Before setting out, remind yourself of the purpose of your journey. From now on, there is no such thing as a neutral act, an empty thought, an aimless day. Travels become sacred by the depths of their contemplations. As in myth, dream, and poetry, every word is saturated with meaning. Now is the time to live your ideal life.

The venerable tradition of traveling with one satchel or bag symbolizes the fundamental philosophy of pilgrimage: Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity!

The pilgrim's staff is unnecessary for city travels but is indispensable for long walking tours.

Crossing over means confronting the guardian at the gate, the personification of the forces trying to keep us in the village, the ordinary world … 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.

When you leave home, you are a stranger, and a stranger is always feared. That is why the wise traveler carries gifts.

The shift from the tourist emphasis on "taking photographs", "taking souvenirs home", "taking a break", to "leaving" something behind is the pilgrim move … Coins dropped into a fountain or well or poorbox, letters left behind at a national park office for the goddess of the volcano, pencils and postcards of your hometown left behind for beggar children rather than candy or cigarettes - all are simple "gratitudes", acts of gratitude that you have been blessed with on this journey. Ask yourself what your gratuities will be before you leave. Keep one pocket in your satchel just for these.

A second task once you have crossed the threshold is to listen intently to everything around you. A pilgrimage is an opportunity to reconnect with your soul. But that is difficult if the radio frequency is jammed. Solitudinous time listening to music is a remarkably effective way to get back into the habit of listening closely when traveling.

Recollection is an effective way to illuminate your true motivation. Recall past journeys, incomplete journeys.

In sacred travel, every experience is uncanny. No encounter is without meaning. There are signs everywhere, if only we learn how to read them.

Everything matters along the road, but what matters deeply is what is invisible and must be seen with the inner eye.

If there is a trick to soulful travel, it is learning to see for yourself. To do this takes practice and a belief that it matters. The difference between pilgrim and tourist is the intention of attention, the quality of the curiosity.

The traveler soon learns that it is difficult to unlearn a lifetime of habitual seeing, the ordinary perception that gets one through a day at home but is inadequate to the task of comprehending the suddenly unfamiliar, strange, even marvelous things.

The artist and pilgrim, soulful travelers in parallel realms, are by nature similar; like Siamese twins, they are connected by the tissue of desire to experience the world directly.

To allow room for surprise and improvisation is to begin the apprenticeship of learning the way that is no way.

Imagine the way you see yourself seeing. How are you seeing your way? How do you plan to record it, remember it, observe the journey as if it were a work of art? Try to see yourself as a peripatetic artist whose job it is to capture in words, art, music, or story the essential secret of the day. How would you do it? The practice you pursue will determine the quality of your pilgrimage.

Imagine that the task of the pilgrim is to deepen the mystery for himself or herself, not have it handed over. If you find yourself facing disappointment, try to ask yourself where your attention has wandered. The real work on the journey has begun; you have to meet the gods at these ancient sites halfway.

Because so much of what is encountered along the road is novel, it is important to honor it by recording our thoughts as we move along. Thinking that we'll remember the smell of the pine cones or the shimmering of the sea is as illusory as trying to convince ourselves that we'll perfectly recall a dream … Why is this so important? Because you are changing as the miles click off and the destination draws nearer, and there is nothing more fascinating than to closely observe the process of change and
deepening, and how we respond to that quicksilver phenomenon.

We can only plan so much. Then we must let go and trust in Kairos, the old god of synchronicity.

Remember, those who don't ask essential questions don't find what's most authentic. The soul of your pilgrimage, the heart of your destination, disappears, will be invisible, like the Grail Castle if you are too afraid or too proud to appear as you really are at the moment – someone far, far from home, without all the answers, without the soul map to the city.

Each day … you will have to choose – between the image that is being offered to the great run of people alongside you, or the imaginative, active encounter with the place. Do not be fooled by glamour, an old Scottish word for spell.

The secret, of course, is that there is no secret. No one way, just your way.

Everywhere has a secret room. You must find your own, in a small chapel, a tiny cafe, a quiet park, the home of a new friend, the pew where the morning light strikes the rose window just so. As a pilgrim you must find it or you will never understand the hidden reasons why you really left home.

Patience, silence, trust, and faith are venerable qualities of the pilgrim, but more important is the practice of them.

How will you answer the voice who asks you now to describe what you are enduring halfway through your pilgrimage? For every time we move toward a significant goal, the world has a tendency to through terrific obstacles in our way. [WMC: Not really the right perspective. There are obstacles when we move in ANY direction. It is the MOVING itself that causes me to encounter obstacles, NOT my goals specifically! It is the obstacles, or our perceptions of them, that kept us from moving earlier.]

At a fundamental level, all pilgrimage sites are oracular. But we must be careful how to frame the question and how to interpret the answer.

If we leave home with a fundamental question in our hearts and minds, we are moving toward an oracular encounter, the "sacred well-spring", the source where we can replenish our lives.

We learn by going where we have to go; we arrive when we find ourselves on the road walking toward us.

Imagine your return journey as the last act of an epic story. Which moments gleamed brighter, gave you pause, challenged all your previous beliefs, reconfirmed your belief in the power at the center?

This is the key to the poetry of pilgrimage: The story that we bring back from our journeys is the boon. It is the gift of grace that was passed to us in the heart of our journey ... The boon … is a presence in the soul of the world that can be sensed and honored and carried home in your heart.

Prepare yourself. It will be harder than you think to find an audience for your stories.

... the challenge now is to use the insights gathered on the road to see your everyday life as a pilgrimage. Remember again and again that the true pilgrimage is into the undiscovered land of your own imagination, which you could not have explored any other way than through these lands, with gratitude in your satchel and the compassion for all you see as your touchstone.

The challenge is to learn how to carry over the quality of the journey into your everyday life. The art of pilgrimage is the craft of taking time seriously, elegantly.


There came a day when the clouds drifting along with the wind aroused a wanderlust in me, and I set off on a journey to roam along the seashores …

Ambrose Bierce
Pilgrim, n. A traveler that is taken seriously.

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

Helder Camara
When your ship, long moored in harbor, gives you the illusion of being a house … put out to sea! ... save your boat's journeying soul, and your own pilgrim soul, cost what it may.

Joseph Campbell
Furthermore, we have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heroes of all time have gone before us. The labyrinth is thoroughly known. We have only to follow the thread of the hero path, and where we had thought to find an abomination, we shall find a god. And where we had thought to slay another, we shall slay ourselves. Where we had thought to travel outward, we will come to the center of our own existence. And where we had thought to be alone, we will be with all the world.

Joseph Campbell
The ultimate aim of the quest, if one is to return, must be neither release nor ecstasy for oneself, but the wisdom and the power to serve others.

Joseph Campbell
Unless you leave room for serendipity, how can the divine enter in? The beginning of the adventure of finding yourself is to lose your way!

Loy Ching-Yuen
The beauty of the Way is that there is no "way".

Rene Daumal
To return to the source, one must travel in the opposite direction.

Fyodor Dostoyevski
Thou shall love life more that the meaning of life.

Meister Eckhart
The Wayless Way, where the Sons of God lose themselves and, at the same time, find themselves.

Betty Edwards
Drawing isn't the problem, seeing is the problem.

Alexander Eliot
Personal answers to ultimate questions.
That is what we seek.

Theophile Gautier
The pleasure of traveling consists in the obstacles, the fatigue, and even the danger. What charm can anyone find in an excursion, when he is always sure of reaching his destination, of having horses ready waiting for him, a soft bed, an excellent supper, and all the ease and comfort which he can enjoy in his own home! One of the great misfortunes of modern life is the want of any sudden surprise, and the absence of all adventures. Everything is so well arranged, so admirably combined, so plainly labeled, that chance is an utter impossibility.

Liz Greene
I stood at a crossroads and fate came to meet me …

Michael Guillen
Bring home an aspect from every journey for your altar at home. Make it part of your altar at home. What's important to me is this is the domestic part of Latino life; our altars protect our home. So bring something home to re-create the altar – a smooth mineral, a touchstone. This is an important part of pilgrimage, the recreating of memory rituals to help remember people you lost. Another way for me is to remember others and to remember myself honestly.

Dag Hammarskjold
The longest journey
Is the journey inwards
Of him who has chosen his destiny

Zora Neale Hurston
Travel is the soul of civilization.

Alan Jones
We are impoverished in our longing and devoid of imagination when it comes to our reaching out to Others … We need to be introduced to our longings, because they guard our mystery.

Soren Kierkegaard
Above all, do not lose your desire to walk. Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from every illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts.

Antonio Machado
Traveler, there is no path
paths are made by walking.

Joan Marler
... a new outlook can lead to a realignment of intuition that awakens perception of where you need to be next in your life.

Joan Marler
Be prepared – then let go of expectations!

Henry Moore
The secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring
everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is – it must be something you cannot possibly do.

Richard R. Niebuhr
Pilgrims are persons in motion – passing through territories not their own – seeking something we might call completion, or perhaps the word clarity will do as well, a goal to which only the spirit's compass points the way.

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche
Never trust a thought that didn't come by walking.

Flannery O'Connor
No matter what form the dragon may take, it is the mysterious passage past him, or into his jaws, that stories of any depth will be concerned to tell.

Martin Palmer
True pilgrimage changes lives, whether we go halfway around the world or out to our own backyards.

Walker Percy
[Inward seeking] is what anyone would undertake if he were not sunk in the everydayness of his own life. To become aware of the possibility of the search is to be onto something. Not to be onto something is to be in despair .

Peace Pilgrim
A pilgrim is a wanderer with a purpose.

Peace Pilgrim
Think of how free I am. If I want to travel, I just stand up and walk away.

Arabian Proverb
It's not the road ahead that wears you out – it’s the grain of sand in your shoe.

Eskimo Proverb
Glorious it is when wandering time is come.

Objiwa Proverb
Sometimes I go about in pity for myself, and all the while a great wind is bearing me across the sky.

Rainer Maria Rilke
The necessary thing is great, inner solitude. What goes on inwardly is worthy of your love.

Mevlana Rumi
As you start on the Way, the Way appears.

Mevlana Rumi
Don't be satisfied with the stories that come before you; unfold your own myth.

Huston Smith
The art is to learn to master today's unavoidable situation with as much equanimity as we can muster, in preparation for facing its sequel tomorrow.

Huston Smith
The object of pilgrimage is not rest and recreation – to get away from it all. To set out on a pilgrimage is to throw down a challenge to everyday life. Nothing matters now but this adventure.

Freya Stark
A good traveler does not, I think, much mind the uninteresting places. He is there to be inside them, as a thread is inside the necklace it strings. The world, with unknown and unexpected variety, is a part of his own Leisure; and this living participation is, I think, what separates the traveler and the tourist, who remains separate, as if he were at a theatre, and not himself a part of whatever the show may be.

Freya Stark
This a great moment, when you see, however distant, the goal of your wandering. The thing which has been living in your imagination suddenly becomes a part of the tangible world.

Robert Louis Stevenson
For my part I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move.

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

Henry David Thoreau
A traveler. I love his title. A traveler is to be reverenced as such. His profession is the best symbol of our life. Going from – toward; it is the history of every one of us.

Qingyuan Weixin
When I had not yet begun to study Zen thirty years ago, I thought that mountains are mountains and waters are waters. Later when I studied personally with my master, I entered realization and understood that mountains are not mountains, waters are not waters. Now that I abide in the way of no-seeking, I see as before that mountains are just mountains, waters are just waters.

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