As we enter the season of giving, I want to share with you some of the gifts to take with you through the darkest time of the year and on into the growing light of next year. These are the gifts for the pilgrimage, out in the world or at home. These are intangible gifts that don’t come wrapped neatly in a bow but gifts that grow the heart and remind us of our essential nature.
Ceremony: This is the conscious interaction of giving and receiving. When you are at a sacred site you honor the spirit and energy of the place with a ceremony. The ceremony is totally of you, in the way you choose. I prefer to do a ceremony that doesn’t draw attention to myself or the act. This is a very personal moment and can be shared with others or just for your personal connection and thanksgiving. The elements are a prayer or words of connection and thanks, a desire to receive the gifts and energy of the site and a gift back to the site. These gifts can be a prayer, song, holy water, traditional offering of tobacco or sage, flowers or anointing oils. The gifts should be appropriate to the site and not interfere with the energy or physical space of the site.
Prayer: Formal, informal, walking or just breathing, pilgrimages are a living prayer. These are the words that form the devotion and connection to the Divine. All religions have prayers, and the repeating of those prayers bring power to the space and comfort to the pilgrim. I went to the cathedral in Santiago early in the morning and sat in a small chapel with a few pilgrims that were saying the Rosary. That beautiful prayer of longing that has been repeated billions of times was perfect for the time and place that morning. Choose a prayer that you are comfortable with and that is appropriate for the place or find the spontaneous prayer that comes from your heart. Thank-you is prayer enough.
Maps: For millennia, map makers have been trying to make sense of our world by making symbols on a piece of paper. The coastlines, forest, mountains, deserts and rivers become accessible in our minds with maps. Without a map, we don’t have directions to find our goal. The modern GPS may give us the next turn but there is nothing like a large paper map to see our world. A pilgrimage needs a map to see the overall experience, to learn the terrain, see the obstacles, find the right road or path. Our heart also has a map and as you step out into the world the map of your heart is drawing new territory. You have the abundant rivers of the good times, the forest of the unknown, the cities of community, the oceans of knowledge, deserts of sorrow and mountains of attainment. On a pilgrimage you will remember your personal map of your past and make new routes for your future.