Across little planet earth people journey to a multitude of external sites seeking to answer an immensely overwhelming or underlying urge for a pilgrimage to the birthplace of their roots – their genealogical, cultural and spiritual roots. This search for knowledge seems to have two distinct routes: the external journey and the internal journey.
When I was young, I recall having deep yearnings, an emptiness within for which I had no name, no words to explain, no conscious comprehension for which I was searching. This deep desire for discovery, I came to know as “a burning desire.” As the years progressed, and I began to awaken more fully to these desires and as I gained bits of understanding, I came to call them “spiritual awakenings” or “moments of clarity.” This feeling of a burning desire remains a vibrant flame glowing within me today and it is a force of nature that continues to propel me forward.
No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path. – Buddha
Recently, I stumbled upon a term I highly resonate with: “Yatra,” which is a Sanskrit term that connotes “journey,” “procession” or “pilgrimage.” And Pad Yatra generally refers to a walking pilgrimage to sacred sites. One who goes on a yatra is known as a yatri.
To traditional Hindus, the journey, the yatra, itself is as important as the destination, and the hardships of travel serve as an act of devotion in themselves. Visiting a sacred place is believed by the pilgrim to purify the self and bring one closer to the divine.
I suspect we are all on a yatra of one sort or another – searching for meaning, searching for our purpose, searching for clarity, searching, wandering.
For me this has come from a deep place within my be – ing. At times, I have gained insight from a physical journey to a “sacred place.” My sacred journeys have been more of the simple kind, a mountain climb or a point of discovery such as experiencing the ancient petroglyphs in Utah or the unveiling of the red rocks of Sedona, or as the plane lands at the airport in Rapid City.
Enlightenment on my journey has come in other ways as well. When I retired from politics and choose a different route of community participation, I found a different peace within and a different way to effect change. I have often been challenged to consider the question, “What’s more important: what people think or how you feel within yourself?”
I didn’t have a closet to come out of in regards to my orientation to personal relationships, it just never occurred to me that it was “out of the ordinary” to enjoy the companionship of women, nor did i have much hesitation in divulging that I was an alcoholic | drug addict, as a mentor once said, “Annie – you didn’t have regard with who knew you were a drunk and obnoxious, why would you be concerned with who knew you are getting sober and putting your life in order?” – my aha thought “hmmm – good point!”
Today though – my coming out process of being a spiritual wanderer has been much more difficult – it is my more challenging pilgrimage – my yatra –
As a hiker, I greatly enjoy ascending the mountain and although, as I ascend, I tend to suck air and get winded and I enjoy the rhythm of the crunch of the earth below my boots, the click of my walking stick, the goal to reach the next point, I have learned to turn around and look out over the landscape of where we have come from pausing to breath it all in.
I have also learned that descending the mountain takes much greater concentration, it is often more physically challenging, easier to slip or even to crash, a conversation going up is much easier from some perspectives then a conversation descending.
Discovering what fits for me today, in regards to spiritual practices, has been a constant journey of exploration. Some of the practices resonate; some do not. I have become more interested in the consistency of the practices. Because of my experiences, I have the gift of seeing how the little things make a great difference over the long run in my life, the daily acts of discipline bring greater clarity, the daily acts of willingness bring forth the perseverance necessary to scale seemingly impossible mountains both the physical mountains and the mental and emotional ones as well.
I believe in the wisdom expressed to me many years ago, it is the many experiences and growth points on journey that are most important, not the destination. I have come to believe that there is no spiritual aspect of my life that “spirit” and I are a unified entity in affiliation and association with all other energy in the little and yet vast planet earth in the whole of this mighty universe. The Lakota people speak of the Great Mystery, with which I have come to have a relationship for I have learned to continue to walk in the faith of believing and knowing I exist to serve with harmony and compassion.
In answering the desire for a greater depth of experience, I will be leading a half-hour silent meditation on Friday mornings at sunrise and Wednesday evenings at sunset at Shadow Rock Mountain Campus. The mediations will be inside until the weather warms up and is more congenial to us desert beings!