backpack 01In both my dreaming and my waking life, I’ve been going through a lot of dramatic changes very quickly since my mother’s death last April. After three difficult years when change came only slowly and laboriously, I found myself broken open by grief and loss, so that I could be finally, fully available for transformation. My family, my work, my friendships, my health, my identity and my understanding—everything has been swept into this cascade of change.

When such spiritual opportunities arise, however painful, the one vital life task is to keep on opening up to whatever comes next. What comes next will necessarily be unexpected—because all ordinary expectations have been overturned in the surging events.

What came to me was pilgrimage. A pilgrimage is a way that this wide open, empty, swirling space of transition becomes a movement, a journey, a compelling process rather than an end in itself. A pilgrimage is an inward and outward journey shared with strangers, shared with Spirit, shared with the landscape of our larger lives. It is a passage through and beyond the fears and obstacles that seemed to define us, a passage through and beyond ego and ignorance, through and beyond the separate struggles of our personal history… and into our interconnectedness, our interdependence. It’s a long, humbling walk through the wilderness—a wilderness made up of familiar features seen in strange new ways, familiar patterns shattered and reshaped.

In short, a pilgrimage is a lot like a dream. As we go to sleep each night, we empty ourselves, willingly, of our identities. We put on our pilgrim’s robes (or pajamas), and we lie down and let go. Then, we walk into other worlds where we encounter the impossible as possible.

We walk toward the light of the coming morning, but, on the way, we find our whole lives scrambled and spread before us in a different light: the light of possibility. Our embarrassing secrets are revealed; our true hearts are touched; our pet peeves come out to play; and the overwhelming, creative abundance of the universe becomes inescapable. The dream is inexhaustible, and it utterly exhausts our efforts to grasp the gist of it. Later, we may unfold the dream story—but in the midst of the dream itself, we simply meet each moment of experience as a step that carries us forward, followed by another step, another moment, and another. Continue reading