“Are we there, yet?” The little girl voice in me whines.
An older, wiser voice answers, “No, my dear, this will be a very long journey.”
We’re all getting weary with this pandemic. The isolation, restrictions, unusual working and learning conditions, and upside-down way of life are taking their toll. If you’ve lost a loved one, been sick yourself, or lost your job, you are especially weary. The situation is settling into our bones; we’re realizing the magnitude of the changes and sacrifices that aren’t going away soon.
Living through this pandemic is a journey none of us chose. But each of us can choose how we want to live through it.
Last week, I had a healthy cry and an old-fashioned lament. If you haven’t done this, I highly recommend it. Something washed through me, opening space for a sorely needed inner shift. Breakdowns often lead to breakthroughs.
One of these breakthroughs involved revisiting a childhood memory of traveling with my family. Here’s the scene: I’m the eldest of four and we are all crammed into our big wood-paneled station wagon on a long trip. Trapped for countless hours, uncertain of where we are headed, and tired of being cooped up, we children are restless. “When are we gonna be there?” echoes through the car. Perhaps you can relate?
I turned to a spiritual practice that helps me listen at a deeper level to what’s circling around my thoughts and emotions: journaling. When I journal I often carry on an inner dialogue with God- asking questions and seeing what emerges on paper. It’s not neat and tidy; it’s more like a stream of consciousness soul dump onto paper.
Somehow this messy process often leads to clarity, perspective, and wisdom. My eyes are opened to an inner knowing. It is the Source of Love (God) trying to convey something to me. It’s truly a gift of grace when it happens!
In my journaling, I got curious. Here’s the way it went:
What’s with the child-like voice?
You are not a child in the backseat. You are a grown-up in the front seat. It’s up to you to choose how you want to ride through this thing. Be intentional. I am always here with you. I will help, but you get to choose.
Well, there we go. Pretty wise stuff, right? That’s not the type of guidance that comes from my head. No, it comes from my soul—that deeper, loving, place where God lives.
In other words, I am empowered. I have choices. It’s time to shift my perspective, assume my power, and choose how I want to live through this.
As Viktor Frankl, a survivor a concentration camp, wrote: “Everything can be taken from a person but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way” (Man’s Search for Meaning).
As I continued journaling, this emerged: Make this journey a pilgrimage rather than a trip.
Ha! Such wisdom— a pilgrimage is sooooo different from a trip! The difference is one of intention. In a pilgrimage, we are open, attentive, curious, and willing to be transformed by the journey. As Phil Cousineau writes in his book, The Art of Pilgrimage, pilgrimage marks “a move from mindless to mindful, soulless to soulful travel.” Pilgrimages never unfold as you expect; in fact, lessons learned along the way are part of the grace-filled experience. You discover the holy in new ways.
I’ve been on several pilgrimages, and they were characterized by a slower pace, ample time for reflection, and a willingness to be present to the moment. We looked for the divine in the people and places we encountered. Authentic, soul-connecting conversations helped us pay attention to what was around us and within us. I returned with new perspectives on life, a new awareness of God’s presence, and grateful for the experiences.
Although a pilgrimage generally involves a trip to a sacred site, any journey can be a pilgrimage when made with intention. The sacred is everywhere, and perhaps that’s one of the lessons of the pandemic. I’ve learned that even a trip to the grocery store can be one if it is approached with purpose, an open heart, and a willingness to be changed. Isn’t it intriguing to think that you can turn an errand into a pilgrimage?
So yes, I would say that we are all on a journey through this pandemic. It won’t be a quick trip. Don’t be a child in the backseat. Instead, consider how you want to journey and make choices. What is important to you? How will you be attentive? Curious? Willing to be open to and changed by the gifts (even the unwanted ones) that come your way?
Friends, join me in exploring this as a time of pilgrimage, a time to see with new eyes. I believe that this is a growing up time for all of us across the planet. I pray that we evolve into more loving people, aware of what’s truly important, and conscious of how deeply connected we are to the Source of Love, to one another, and to Earth.