Be Creative: That is the number one challenge I set myself in ‘7 Steps back to Health’. For me the question is: do I lock myself away in my studio making ‘art’ works? Or do I knuckle down to finishing my book? The answer, of course, is both. But one at a time. And I’ve decided that finishing my book needs to take precedence at the moment as its lain in the wasteland for too long. ‘The Rainbow Ribbon Way’ is the story of a pilgrimage I undertook with my pony, Tommy, back in 2015.
Well over 200 million people go on pilgrimage every year. And the numbers are increasing year on year. These numbers are just the ones that are recorded, (from 2014) from pilgrims to 40 of the most popular destinations around the world.
With recent lockdown measures due to the Corona virus pandemic, people have sought spiritual solace in nature. An activity that has been actively encouraged by the government to improve the mental health of the nation. Consequently, the desire to spend time in the landscape has shown a massive resurgence in recent months. 2020 had been designated the Year of Pilgrimage by Cathedrals as a way to attract more people to their churches. Because of lockdown, pilgrimage has gone virtual.
A pilgrimage implies a physical journey but it does not necessarily need to be along a well worn pilgrim route. It is no longer a journey where sandals, a staff and a pilgrim’s badge are obligatory. Hiking clothes, sturdy boots and a mobile phone with map Apps are more likely to be your companions. It could be an imagined journey you take in your mind from the comfort of your arm chair. It might be a walk in your local forest to a secret glade, or to the the summit of a favoured hill to marvel at the vista. However you configure it, the chances are it will involve you being completely immersed in Nature. In mind, body and spirit.
As a little exercise to limber up, I created an acronym for PILGRIMAGE. And a mini one for LOVE, as a bonus!
10 Key Things to Consider When Planning a PILGRIMAGE
P – is for Purpose. The Path. Planning, People and Places. Peace.
The purpose of pilgrimage is twofold. Not only is it a personal spiritual quest, but it also has a bigger, more worldly purpose. To help to heal the planet from all the destruction we have inflicted in her oceans and on her lands. By undertaking a pilgrimage, you are helping to nurture and care for our Mother Earth and all the creatures who dwell on her, with love, compassion and wisdom.
Planning your pilgrimage is very important. Do your research: Which route will you take? What will you take in the way of equipment? (ie, as little as possible). What time of year will you be able to do it? etc. Decide where you will begin and where you will end your journey, the places you will stay (if it is a long one), and remember to open your heart to meeting many different people from all walks of life along the way. Everyone has a story to tell. Also, although you may have a plan, be prepared to deviate if needs be, because that will be part of your individual path. Go in Peace.
I – is for Intention and Independence.
Your intention is what makes your pilgrimage different to just a walk in the park with the dog. Ask yourself what it is you are hoping to get out of it? Perhaps you are seeking spiritual transformation, or the solution to a tricky problem you are experiencing? Indeed, there many be many different reasons. Maybe your intention is not even very clear and that is fine too. Your might just be responding to a calling.
To go alone or with other people? That is the question you must ask yourself. If you crave the company of other people, make sure there is some time in the day when you can walk in silence. This is time for you. Time to be fully present with where you are, what you are doing. Precious time to deal with and process all the different emotions that will arise for you.
L – is for Love, Life Learning, Laughter and Lists.
L-isten – to your heart
O-bserve – what is around you
V-alue – the smallest details
E-xpress – your true self
Start with yourself. Try and analyse the things that may be holding you back from loving yourself. This journey is about listening, looking and learning. And Laughter. Whatever you do, don’t become so pious that you lose your sense of fun. That would be counter-productive.
What are the other ways in which you would like to transform your life? This may start with finding a place in your heart to forgive.
Make Lists. A good list is invaluable, such as, when you are planning you priorities, your essential kit list, or listing what may be revealed to you. Remember that some of the best and most enduring lessons are arrived at through trial and error. So don’t be afraid to make mistakes. These will be your pivotal moments.
A small notebook and pencil is invaluable. Keep it handy at all times, and by your bed when you sleep, so that you can jot down things that crop up from time to time. Record your dreams if you remember them as they might be particularly vivid and meaningful at this time.
G – is for Growth and Greenery.
Being immersed in Nature is very therapeutic for the soul. Sometimes associated with pink and turquoise, green is the colour that best represents the heart chakra. If you have artist leanings, try mixing as many greens as you can from nature. It will keep you busy for a very, very long time.
If we take the metaphors of nature, such as in the cycles of life, what new seeds are you sewing for the future? Are you ‘germinating’ an idea that has the potential to ‘blossom’ and bring forth ‘fruit’ for you? What are the best conditions for your seeds? What do they need in order to grow and prosper? Are they a part of your true purpose in life? How can you put what you have learnt along ‘the way’, into practice in normal, everyday life?
R – is for the Road.
The one less travelled. Is this journey a reflection of the bigger journey of your life? What do you hope to gain most from your chosen way? Of course, it is the journey itself that is just as important as reaching your destination, and for the pilgrim, it is as much about the inner journey as the outer, physical journey. Remember. A sturdy, well worn-in pair of walking boots are your most valuable piece of kit if you are to spare the blisters. Or maybe a few blisters serve as a ‘penance’ for the true pilgrim? (Perhaps ‘penance’ should go in the ‘P’ section?)
I is for Intuition & Instinct.
Listen to it. This is the perfect time to put your body wisdom into practice. Be aware of what your gut instincts are telling you. If you are unsure, meditate on your third eye chakra, associated with the colour indigo or purple, to see what your intuition is telling you. And take note of your solar plexus chakra, associated with the yellow glow of the sun, to find out what your instinct is telling you.
M – is for Mindset. Motivation, Meditation, Metaphor and Magic.
Having the right Mindset is vitally important. What is motivating you? Is it something that you want to prove to yourself? Are you searching for something or someone? These things, and more, will be easier to answer if you are prepared to spend some time each day in Meditation. Begin to look for coincidences and take notice of chance happenings, in the mundane or magical moments in your day. What are these ‘other worldly’ messages trying to tell you?
A – is for Angels.
Ask your guiding spirits from the angelic world to help you find the answers you are searching for. Take time to truly listen, look and learn (remember LOVE?), as the answers will come in many different forms. Physically and metaphysically. And woe betide you if you forget humour! The spirits are a mischievous bunch and they will make you laugh, particularly if you are taking things too seriously. But all in good heart. There is much healing to be had from laughter.
G – is for Gravity and Grace. Gratitude.
You thought that ‘G’ was going to be for God, didn’t you? Well it is, of course. But it’s also about being mindful of other people’s beliefs. Whatever your sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion, it doesn’t matter. They all share common ground in their individual creeds or cultures. Or just as part of ‘being’ human. Even atheists must believe in the value of life and love? Surely?
Know the difference between ‘being grounded’ in physical reality – Gravity, and being filled with sacred love and wisdom – Grace. There is a careful balance to be struck between the two states of being. As above, so below. A chakra meditation will help to find any blockages you might be experiencing between the crown chakra (connection to the Divine, Heavenly realm) and the base chakra (connection to Mother Earth).
One of the most important lessons for the pilgrim, is to understand the meaning of gratitude. And with it comes humility. When you travel lightly, without any of the trappings of modern life to distract you, you will more easily become aware that we are all simply a tiny part of the big One. And that One, or God (or the Greater Wisdom), is also part of us.
E – is for Epiphany.
These moments are the closest most of us will come to ‘enlightenment’. Notice those ‘light bulb’ moments when something momentous is revealed to you. These revelations can be life-changing.
Finally. Remember, pilgrimage is not how far you travel but how deeply you go.