Pilgrims rarely set out as happy folk. Someone who has recently won the lottery, for example, or married the crown prince, is not your typical pilgrim candidate. What forces a person to undertake (and it’s an apt word for someone who is hoping to kill the ego) the spiritual journey is usually not success or fulfillment. It’s more often a crisis or lack, a longing that is hard to understand. In a word, this is often the initiation to an arduous path of seeking refuge in the source: suffering.
I’ve had an incredible journey through exotic lands. I’ve met with wise women and men who have shown me wisdom, even if I am not always ready to hear it. I’ve been exposed to magic and witnessed miracles. There’s no doubt that I am a fortunate being who has been blessed with the opportunity to travel the path of a wandering yogini.
But pilgrimage does not alleviate suffering. If anything it makes it worse.
A pilgrim suffers from a sense of not belonging, wherever she goes. She never really feels that she belongs anywhere. She doesn’t have her own family, and the temporary tribes that take her in are transient at best. At their worst, they are destructive.
The pilgrim is often lonely. That same impulse that propels the pilgrim along her path is the same seed that makes her fierce and independent, necessary traits for someone facing the unknown. The pilgrim is unable to settle blindly into a conformist norm. She reel when thrown into mundane routine, lashes out when lulled into complacency. She can’t tolerate submission for the sake of custom. She yearns for a partnership, someone to share this long journey, but somehow the pilgrim always ends up alone. Sometimes she is a complete disaster at relationship.
Which is, I suppose, what allows her to continue along this path. Her heart suffers, and so she is compelled to seek solace. In the absence of human love, she seeks peace, which she does find from time to time. It’s a small consolation.
She suffers from a hunger to know her place in this universe–to understand the reason she was born, because most days she has no fucking clue. The best she can do is to trudge along with a gentle smile, one moment to the next, watching for signs of beauty and waiting for opportunities to help.
The pilgrim needs to learn just one thing: that she is here to help others along the path.
Only then will she realize that her journey ended the day she began.
What an incredible relief it is to understand
that the ultimate pilgrimage
is right in the center of our own hearts.