Emmaus Community in Sonoma County
Every step has meaning: Our Spiritual Journey
Pilgrimage, a journey with deep meaning, is a very old concept – much older than Christianity. Every culture has had places of pilgrimage – special places which attract those who are responding to a deep inner voice. It seems that there is a universal yearning in our spirits that can only be quenched with a walk that elevates us from our everyday lives and leads us into a different world, a different way of thinking and feeling.
We walk to respond to this deep-down restlessness, a voice inside us that is part of every woman and man urging us to find some deeper meaning in our lives. We are all pilgrims.
A pilgrimage is not a vacation; it’s a transformational journey during which significant change takes place. New insights emerge. A deeper understanding is attained. New and old places in the heart are visited. Blessings are received and healing takes place. On return from the pilgrimage, you see life with different eyes. Nothing is ever quite the same again and if it becomes all a daily routine… we have the key: A pilgrimage to the back yard or a walk in the park or a hike into the redwoods which refreshes us again.
On pilgrimage, we open ourselves to whatever happens and capture all the sights, sounds and smells of the journey.
We hear, as if for the first time, the sound of our own rhythmic breathing, the tapping of our walking stick, our footsteps on stone or gravel or grass, the greetings of other pilgrims or the sound of the voices of people we pass along the way, the bells of churches and animals in their pastures, the sound of bees and birds, thunder as the storm approaches and the patter of rain on our umbrellas. We hear more clearly the sound of laughter as we end the day in the place of shelter.
We see more too: The sun rising high in the sky as we begin to walk, the forever changing views of hills, emerging mountains, and the road itself as we step through the landscape. The movement of clouds and sky. We have time to study the faces of our fellow pilgrims and the people we meet along the road. The woman walking with her child, young boys playing soccer, the person on the way to work. We view slices of their lives, sometimes for days as they walk with us, sometimes for fleeting moments.
We feel more: The warmth of the sun and wind on our faces, the pain of a blister, the longing for cold water and a glass of wine. At times we are bone weary and feel that we cannot go on. We feel the emptiness of hunger, the dryness of thirst and the trickle of sweat. The pleasure of cold water, the glass of wine, and a good meal at the end of the day, gratefulness for a field of flowers, a lovely doorway, and a camera to help us remember the moment.
We think more may not always be such a good thing. Especially at the beginning of the walk, we torture ourselves with memories and anxieties that are deep and may not be so healthy. Why is it that we so often turn toward the cares in our lives, the hurts as children, our failings, the heartbreaks, the stupid things we’ve said, that seem to well up as we walk?
It seems to me that no matter how much good we've done, the thousands of days of being good children to our parents, and good parents to our children, the many acts of kindness we have dispensed, the amazing work we've done, the meals we've cooked for others... those negative feelings seem to rise to the surface much more quickly and get stuck.
But somehow in the swinging of our legs and bodies and making ourselves vulnerable to whatever happens on the road, we untie the knots of sadness and let the road take over. We raise our spirits by walking and become grateful for the beauty of the environment and the small acts of kindness visited upon us by our opening to strangers. The old cares and worries don't go away but are part of the pattern of our lives which the road helps us to put into context. By walking we allow ourselves to breathe, to free ourselves from anxiety and to concentrate on the journey. We remember the good times, the campouts, the sailing days in clear weather and the funny things that have happened. And sometimes we even laugh out loud for joy and for the pure pleasure of laughing.
During this year we examine our lives as the practice of pilgrimage, as we walk together as a blessed community. It’s a practice which means consciously opening ourselves to the possibility of hearing the call and then acting on it by walking into the world.