When you decide you’re going to make a pilgrimage, you’ve already begun it. Every step you take is a preparation for the day when you take that first step on the desired path; mentally, in your heart and mind, you’re already there. It’s not that your mind is elsewhere, but that you have invited the pilgrimage into your daily life. Not only that, when you decide to go on this path, you make it that much easier for someone else to begin. We raise consciousness together, one person at a time.
In 2015, I’m planning to hike 500 plus miles across the north of Spain, from St. Jean Pied Port to Santiago de Compostelas. Emilio Estevez’s film “The Way,” starring his father, Martin Sheen, has recently popularized this ancient pilgrimage. Called el Camino de Santiago in Spanish, or el Camino Francés, in English it translates as the Way of St. James.
My reasons for making this pilgrimage vary. I was raised in a traditional, Catholic family, although I am not a practicing Catholic. Maybe because I spent so much time in candle-lit churches, I feel a strong connection to the poetry of Catholic mystics St. Teresa de Avila and St. John of the Cross.
But a long time ago I became disenchanted with what I perceived as the dogma and rigidity of Catholicism. And I have some wounds related to my upbringing that keep me from embracing this faith. I also disagree with some of the basic church policies about women’s reproductive health and the ordination of women.
Today, my spiritual life centers around mindfulness meditation, long walks in nature, and cultivating peace and love in the world. But my hope is that by walking 15- to 20-miles a day, from cathedral to cathedral, I will reclaim my childhood religion in my own way, on my own terms. No man-made set of rules can or should prevent me from experiencing the divine as I walk across Spain or as I hike up Kennesaw Mountain, the place where my pilgrimage has started.