September 25, 2006

"Traveling Souls"

Contemporary
Pilgrimage Stories
Edited by Brian Bouldrey


Foreword by Pico Iyer
Reading the wonderfully varied and unexpected stories assembled here, I was struck by how much the notion of pilgrimage today has to do with retrieving a sense of purpose (and simplicity, and constancy); with putting oneself, quite literally, in the footsteps of the past. Once upon a less secular time, almost everyone made pilgrimages, and most of the great works of our early literature--Dante's ascent into the stars, Chaucer's wanderers to Canterbury, the tales of Orpheus and Odysseus and Hercules--commemorate both inward and outward journeys; these days, I suspect, many of us travel in part to experience pilgrimage by proxy. Most of the travelers in this volume leave home, as I have done, to partake of someone else's pilgrimage, and so to learn what animates people to undertake such sacrificial tasks; the destination of pilgrimage is pilgrimage itself.

Meaningful Quotes:
Pico Iyer

Like anyone, I've taken my pilgrimages in every direction of my inner compass, and to every corner of the shrine I carry around inside me. Our souls are always traveling, of course, and whatever we find in Jerusalem, we could also find at home.

...we travel partially to return to selves we have forgotten, or people we didn't know we were (for worse as much as better).

Of course the pilgrim, like any traveller, is mostly traveling inside herself, to a destination not found on any map.

A pilgrim, ultimately, is a traveller moving toward the light. A light she hopes to collect and scatter across her path. Where an adventurer may see out a distant planet, the pilgrim seeks the sun.

For (the Buddhist monks) pilgrimage was not only paying homage to a place of power, but also the transformation of the inner and outer environment through the physical act of walking, every step and breath altering the atmosphere. Path and goal becoming the same.

Every step up is a movement away from the realm of human sorrows, from the middle kingdom teetering between heaven and hell, from all suffering.

Unlike a typical adventurer, the pilgrim seeks not to conquer the worlds he visits but to surrender to them. He seeks not to preach but to listen. A pilgrim does not have to be moving toward something holy, so much as toward whatever resides in the deepest part of him. In an age of flashing screens and jumbo jets, the pilgrim is a traveler into candlelight. The final redeeming beauty of the pilgrimage is that no step on such a trip is wasted. And whatever happens, however difficult, is good.

Malcolm X

I remember one night at Muzdalifa, with nothing but the sky overhead I lay awake amid sleeping Muslim brothers and I learned that pilgrims from every land - every color and class and rank, high officials and the beggar alike - all snored in the same language.

Gretel Ehrlich

Nations can be shattered, cultures can be laid on history's anvil, twisted, flattened and decimated. But a mountain remains a mountain.

Barbara Wilson

My mind seems to expand widthwise, so that I'm capable of holding different thoughts, separate but visible at once.

I knew I wasn't prepared, but then, nothing could have prepared me. Everything that I fear and everything that is strong in me is here for me to look at and deal with.

The joshua tree grows new limbs in response to the weevil of irritation, pain, and fear. It keeps growing in new directions.

There was a moment - there were many moments on that pilgrimage away from fear or right into it's heart - when my old, constructed stories fell away and I was no longer a brave, stubborn, active child, nor a timid and fearful one. I was only desert wind on bare skin.

Satish Kumar

By being away from the main roads, I was much more intimately in the heart of nature, without disturbance. On these rural paths I met the trees, animals, rocks, rivers and birds, and realized the sacredness of all nature. The churches, cathedrals, mosques and synagogues, shrines and temples are not the only holy places. But the whole creation is divine and sacred. My pilgrimage was in every moment and in every place.

Sometimes I came across a tree which seemed like a Buddha or Jesus: Loving, compassionate, still, unambitious, enlightened, in eternal meditation, giving pleasure to a pilgrim, shade to a cow, berries to a bird, beauty to its surroundings, health to its neighbors, branches for the fire, leaves to the soul, asking nothing in return, in total harmony with the wind and the rain. How much can I learn from a tree! The tree is my church. The tree is my temple. The tree is my mantra. The tree is my poem and my prayer.

Dogen

To study the 'way' is to study the self. To study the self is to forget self. To forget self is to be enlightened by all things. To be thus enlightened is to remove the barriers between one's self and others.

Father Laurence Freeman

It is in seeking truth that we find enlightenment, not in declaring it.

Traveling Souls available at Powells and Amazon