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What are the characteristics of today’s pilgrims?: A pilgrim dialogue conducted on Facebook


WordCloud Pilgrim Dialogue

My beautiful word cloud based on the undernoted dialogue.

ALCvA: Pilgrimages are walking Zen; step by step the practitioner makes his or her way through blue sky temples and white cloud monasteries. Conducted in the traditional manner – on foot, in old-fashioned garb, carrying no money, accepting whatever comes – pilgrimages are among the most demanding, and therefore most rewarding, of all religious disciplines. (Martin Roth & John Steven, p. 108, 1985)

A pilgrim is naked exposed vulnerable isolated. He or she is a person with courage and determination. When the going gets tough the tough pilgrim gets going. What are the characteristics of today’s pilgrims?

IB: You know, I think the main thing is the goal. Being someone seeking that consciously or otherwise. Realising the destination. The whole journey is created thus. What follows is the result of that.

IB: PS I don’t think old fashioned garb or strict poverty is needed these days!

MD: Perhaps the outer attire has changed, but I think the inner intentions of all pilgrims remain the same. To connect with whatever their concept of divinity is, to be in flow with the invisible forces of the universe that guided their first steps, to trust that all is will and will be taken care of…. ultimately,to me, it is to walk with an open heart and to offer that to the world.

BW: Yes, maintain an open heart and the Universe will provide.

JE: A couple of years ago I read about an English pilgrim who wanted to walk to Rome without any money and rely entirely on people’s generosity along the route. He spoke only English and got stuck in Calais, so accept that reality has changed. Not so long ago 95% of the population worked in agriculture, so the landscape was full of people who could "provide" for people with an "open heart". According to my wife, I myself have a heart of GOLD, but it is often difficult to convert that gold to cash. Any advice?

ALCvA: I’m fishing for some understanding of today’s pilgrims. For example in days of old It is likely that many were directed to undertake these journeys as a form of penance by their priests, acting as God’s intermediary. I doubt that few if any pilgrims now receive such directives. So why do it? What are the characteristics we have in common. What pushes us to undertake repetitive long distance walks of a distance few would even undertake by car?

MD: I believe there is a yearning in the human heart for something grander than itself. I think there comes a point where the outer trappings of life cease to have value, and an invisible inner force guides you (or invites you) to understand the higher purpose of your life. Some people do it by retiring to monasteries or ashrams, or meditating for long periods of time…all are forms of trying to find that meaning. I can say that was the case for me. I didn’t set out to be a pilgrim. Pilgriming happened to me 🙂 I set out to create a life with meaning, and the only way I knew how to do that was to leave the old world that defined me behind and go on a search, or an exploration, guided by intuition, not logic (very hard btw for an ex-Microsoftee) towards that goal. That led me to the Camino which led me to Jerusalem. The difficult experiences I now understand to have been opportunities to confront fears or prejudices or patterns of thought that were limiting my advance in my personal quest. Every seeker must confront their dragons! And walking is a great laboratory for that… if you go with that intention.

MD: JE, the Spanish pilgrim I walked to Jerusalem with (who’s now my husband) carried little money. We separated for a while, and during that time, he gave away all his money, little by little to whoever asked him for it. Why? To prove to himself his belief that the Universe will always provide. I’m not sure I’m capable of doing that, but this is an extreme way of really putting to the test your beliefs about money and whether you truly believe that you will receive all that you need. He did btw… we were unexpectedly separated for 40 days, during which time he waited for me in Bosnia with no money. He found shelter with a Spanish-speaking man! He always had a meal, and managed to survive, and I would say thrive in confidence, thanks to this experience. Don’t know if that’s helped you….

AW: Deux chaussures qui marchent et soliloquent sur leur chemin de terre. Si seules avec leurs histoires, si anachroniques dans leur démarche, si vulnérables dans leur existence même. Deux chaussures et cinq mois de liberté pour suivre le bon sens vers l’Insensé. Folie de marcher pendant cinq mois, folie de vivre loin du connu, folie de tenter la survie contre les camions, folie de croire à l’amour, folie de vieillir de plus en plus, folie de s’exposer au temps présent une fois encore, folie de se dévêtir encore et encore de la vieille peau. Aw / Anatolie oct 2006

IB: Yes, it’s all pretty foolish, but a real test of life to try to be in poverty for a period. Practically we can’t all walk without money, and do need to contribute! However, it is the grasping for it amongst some peoples in the South and lack of contribution which might leave us all without the means of survival?

JE: I think what we all have in common is to eliminate as many "layers" and "filters" as possible between ourselves and our surrounding, both mental and physical. Walking alone means that you can concentrate totally on everything you encounter, people, nature, the weather, your inner thoughts. By walking we stimulate our unconscious, our feet and spine. I think we really are looking for instability and the unknown to stimulate our senses and brains. We get bored by stability and predictability. Walking on cobble stones is more stimulating than on flat Tarmac. Read the German author and philosopher Hugo Kückelhaus.

IB: Often it is said that in real spiritual practice, we become naked. Raw. Real. I think a pilgrimage can do that. A real sense of being, and being with.

MD: I think the idea of giving and receiving is a very fluid one, and not necessarily always material. Obviously each pilgrim is unique because they carry along with them their perspectives of the world. And people sense whether a pilgrim is open or closed, trusting or fearful, expecting or thankful… these are all energies we exude. To walk in trust and openness is EFFORT. To exude that positive energy continually is work, difficult inner work. I think pilgrims are working towards being in that state, and even if they are there, that’s no guarantee that difficult situations won’t arise. Again, those situations are for our growth. I’m not suggesting walking without money, but with the notion that you’re carrying much more in your wallet than just cash…concepts, beliefs, attitudes, all of them shaped by your experiences. And that’s what is continually evolving.

IB: All good! I have had the idea that as Pilgrimage can represent the journey and path, it’s necessary to get a balance between giving and receiving. That’s the necessity in life – and in economics. There is reliance on the environment, and the peoples. That can’t be child-like and unhelpful. We return what we can without being juvenile? On the other hand, by being all-giving and all smiling, we can become missionaries! The balance between self-responsibility and the general good is the same issue. We have to return – and accept! All very florid…but a lot of the time it is more basic!

BW: I begins by reducing life to its essentials. Then we begin to peal back the layers of our own being.

GC: How true. How to convey this to Italians? Impossible

BW: On the Via Francigena, I remember running into Italians over lunch. They lamented that they would like to walk to Rome some day. Funny… I was only 30-40 km. from Rome at the time!

AW: You are violent when you think or say "Indian", "Muslim", "Christian", "European", or the other thing ( …Italians…) . Know you why? Because you part besides from the humanity! Krishnamurti

IB: Well, in one school all identifications are described as "glamours" I have an idea that life will reduce the glamours as it goes forward now. But it needs pointing out how simple we actually are – I guess pilgrimage can be a glamour too? Ego becoming attached to it? I have seen it often in the "Santiago" set, and I hope I am not falling intro the same practice!

IB: Andre – that’s right. But for the personality, other personalities are different! Then how to see that, and from what position?

MD: Not to worry IB…we’ll keep you honest and on your toes! 😉

IB: Oh! I have no doubt about it!

ALCvA: I have a stirring that leads me to want to walk in the footsteps of earlier pilgrims and directly experience holy places. No matter how weak and far from the Christian religion I may feel before going on pilgrimage – during the time on the road I’m changing and experience lightness and freedom despite the hardships and on-going uncertainties (the availability of nice nutritious vegetarian food is high on my list of on-going uncertainties), and the monotonous routine of repetitive long-distance walking and daily chores. I explore new horizons. I’m in contact with God.

GC: You express with words what we all feel about getting on the road to our own Jerusalem

IB: It is certainly more convenient on the route to call oneself a Christian – but perhaps in some ways that identification is as much of a barrier than a help to real experience

ALCvA: By the way, "Conducted in the traditional manner – on foot, in old-fashioned garb, carrying no money, accepting whatever comes …" was dismissed. Yet, Buddhist monks continue to follow such traditions in Japan, Thailand, Burma, Cambodia, and even in England. I know from personal experience.

IB: Not dismissed I think – we are perhaps more secular in the West. I wonder how many Western monks are making the journey? (and I wonder if making such a statement with clothes. is not such that it might get in the way of the experience? Few of us are monks and wearing the normal pilgrims clothes of the middle ages doesn’t really serve any practical purpose?)

MD: You have expressed the call to pilgrimage most eloquently, ALCvA.


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