Like the joke about how one eats an elephant (or a whale!) how one does a long pilgrimage is – “One Step At A Time.” Somehow, though, that lesson must be relearned each time, which is why some people go on pilgrimage over and over. That would be me. So I am off to Europe tomorrow to begin the many days and miles that are the Via Francigena.
Even Steps Have Steps
Being old, and responsible, I am not doing it all in one go. That would take months – 100 days minimal for me – and neither my spouse nor my bank account are that generous. Instead, I am planning – hoping would be more accurate – to do it in 2-3 week segments. Steps have steps: divide 100 by 2o and it becomes ten segments; do it twice a year, and that makes five years. This is a very big elephant.
Pain is Not the Point
While in older times the effort and discomfort were part of the process, a way of paying for your sins and flogging yourself to prevent more, that is not my desire. Oh, there will be effort and discomfort, but only because the experience overall is so fortifying.
You could say this is my sport. I was never competitive, nor had any great talent for competitive sports when I was young. Even when I was jogging I never raced, and despite years of weight lifting I never became a power lifter or body builder. Winning never mattered to me. Challenging myself was what appealed, seeing if I could do it – running, bench pressing, distance walking.
“Your Body is a Temple”
That is what Paul says, but not far from the pagan Roman phrase, “mens sana in corpore sano,” a sound mind in a sound body. That our minds are connected to our bodies is obvious, though we like to think they are distinct. Medicine and science, though, keep finding out that emotions are chemical, secreted by glands. Thoughts create physical reactions, such as fear making the heart race.
That’s why spiritual practices like fasting or yoga or chanting have persisted over the centuries. Shamans deprived themselves of sleep, medicine men and women ate psychoactive plants, monks and nuns eschewed sex, all because they knew the body was connected to what they called the soul.
We Do Not Stand, We Move
When someone challenged a Universalist (my community) to say where they stand on this or that doctrine, he replied, “We do not stand, we move.” For me spiritual balance is like riding a bicycle. It falls over when you stop. Pilgrimage of body reinforces the pilgrimage of mind, reminds me to keep goping, put one foot in front of the other, and even when it’s very steep and rocky, take it one step at a time.
Making my legs do that teaches my mind, if you will. For sometimes it is the body that knows. Sometimes it is the leader, the teacher.
This also means that for the next month I shall be absent from this platform as time and location may not allow me to post. If I can, I shall. I will also resume my ‘other sacred sites‘ list. Sorry to leave you with little. However, if you wish, I may be posting to Facebook along the way, and you can read my account of the Kumano Kodo by purchasing it on Amazon.