As I make my slow pilgrimage through the world, a certain sense of beautiful mystery seems to gather and grow.
I watched a documentary last night that was filmed by people all around the world capturing moments of their life on a single day: July 24, 2010. Everything from kissing to eating to working to dancing to preparing food to celebrating to grieving to being. Moments that aren’t particularly spiritual or profound, but that together formed what I experienced as a spiritually tantalizing film and another reminder of the thin line between the sacred and the mundane.
Watching this movie got me thinking again about the idea of pilgrimage- not as a colossal sacred journey that requires travelling across the world in search of God, but as a daily experience of living intentionally. As a dear yogi friend reminded me at the yoga studio the other day, the sacred can be found in silence. No need to go anywhere but within. And then she sent Kabir’s poem A Great Pilgrimage to me:
I felt in need of a great pilgrimage
so I sat still for three
and God came
I read those words, and I had a moment of great relief. There is nothing I need to do to find the Divine, and perhaps “doing” gets in the way sometimes. Or, maybe, working too hard gets in the way (especially when I’m on the yoga mat). Either way, it seems to me that the most important lesson is to live life and to take time to notice everything from the people I love to the experiences of self (body, mind, and spirit) to those small and seemingly insignificant times.
I’ve been trying to look at my life lately as a metaphorical pathway, and the people that I’ve met and continue to meet along the way as potential life guides. Even the people in my life who have been incredibly challenging or frustrating have at times been my greatest teachers- sometimes because of the way they acted (or didn’t), and sometimes because of what I learned from my own response. And, obviously, I have been shaped by my experiences (good, bad, and everything in between) and the places I’ve been and the things I’ve done or have had done to me. This doesn’t make me special, but it makes me uniquely me.
I think of my most recent pilgrimage beginning nearly three years ago when I first received the call telling me that I was diagnosed with cancer. An ordinary day that was instantly and drastically changed by a few words. Suddenly, I was snapped into seeing my own body and my future in a radically different light. Those words made me pack my figurative bags and set out on a pilgrimage of sorts without looking back at the burning building that was my life.
Several years later, I’m still searching. And maybe even more intensely now that I’ve distanced myself from labels and expectations. Every pilgrim needs time to rest, and my own rest involved trashy magazines, long weekends of watching predictable movies on the couch with my sweetheart, and comfort food. All of these acts (as well as the others I refuse to name) helped to prepare me for the space that I’m in now; living my yoga and seeking a connection with something bigger than myself. It’s the idea of throwing a pebble in a pond and watching the ripples reach shore, throwing the ecosphere into just a little bit of a different space than it was before that rock was lifted from the beach. Every instant holds the possibility of transformation.
What I’m struck by lately is that everyone in this world has complexity- not one person is absent a unique story. Occasionally this idea overwhelms me, but then there are the times when I have an appreciation for the connections that can be created when people open up to share just a little of their story. This week alone, I experienced and was witness to deep personal connections both in a training at my yoga studio and again in a volunteer training at my work; occasions for people to share a bit about what brought them forth to engage in work that requires compassionately offering support to people who need it. And both reminders that though my story is unique, I am not even close to unique in my need for connection or my complex history of personal loss.
The scars on my body serve to remind me of a blend of my humanness, my mortality, strength, courage, faults, mystery, beauty, and normalness; my everything and my nothing all at the same time. I am not these scars. Just like nobody is. But my scars represent a part of my journey- my path- and they are a map, of sorts, to a place that my journey began. My experience of having cancer helped me to enter into what I consider a pilgrimage; a journey into the unknown and, hopefully, into the sacred. I am a yogi wayfarer. And I never want to quit shedding my skin to make the journey lighter.