All my belongings are back in boxes.
My long winter coats. Silk Indian scarves. Short summer skirts. Leather boots, salsa shoes and my favorite old cotton t-shirts. The odd jewelry collected from countries around the planet that wrapped a time, place or memory around my wrist, finger or neck. My bank statements. My checking books. Renewed credit cards with verification stickers still unpeeled and signature boxes unsigned (some tasks for which I’m happy to have never found the time). Spices, seeds, teas and other treats whose form of bulk are repacked for the next sedentary life period. Hair combs, colors, brushes and clips. Soaps, mascara, and lip gloss sticks. Back into clear plastic bags a fashion-influenced face is zipped.
I am not yet catching a flight out of this country (still not for awhile). But today I move out of my den of seven months retreat (and only the distance of a couple miles) to sit a friend’s house down the street. And as I strip. The closet. The desk. The bathroom. The kitchen. I come again to the conclusion that pilgrimage has less to do with physical measures of time and distance than it does with change, movement and rotation. And that the path has always had so much more to do with departure, than it ever did destination. The revelations, realizations and enlightenments I forsee I will find, hint at having much less to do with what I bring with me, than that which will be left in these boxes behind.
Is pilgrimage essential for spiritual awakening?
I don’t know. I feel myself still sleeping. And every time I think I have just shaken off the sleep, I pinch myself, wake and find myself sitting up in the bed of another dream. But if I had to answer, I would say that “going somewhere” is not essential but that “leaving something” is. Knowing it’s not so much one task, as a lifelong discipline of recognizing, choosing and clearing away. And to each her own on the “boxes” with which we part ways. To name only a few that I’ve now labeled with a black sharpie marker; “guilt”, “ entitlement” ,“prestige”, “costume” and “class”. “ Ignorance” ,“discrimination” “ego” and “arrogance.” Titles, ideals and faulty definitions of self always teeter, totter and stack high on my storage shelves. And like Santa’s famed sack, it doesn’t matter what I put in, as I am forever finding more to surrender and discard to bottomless boxes accommodating endless additions. Perhaps the biggest boxes though, that I am ever struggling to find a way to wrap my arms around, are those labeled, “past” and “future”, which for pilgrimage I’ve found particularly heavy, awkward and cumbersome.
And when it’s all packed and put away, what do we find in the lull? Well that would be the mystery reserved and awarded, after a good dig through direct experience, to each unique individual. But it is at the very bottom of THAT box where I think spiritual awakening awaits rediscovery – which I do not think to be foreign, apart, untouched or unknown. A most basic sense of awareness in which we reveled in the years closest to before and after birth; grown from the seeds of intuition, instinct and unexplained inclination with which we were born. A presence that was buried by the louder voices in our lives, but I have recognized to still stand, just a little behind and to the side. Reaching its arm across my back, tapping the shoulder farthest away, and snickering wickedly when I look the wrong way.
In any case, kudos to those who can leave without leaving, not answer to names their egos find pleasing, and pack up their mental boxes while physically sitting. I have found such people in rural caves, monasteries and like places off the map and I admire them with depth undefined and awe equally uncharted. Although I do fancy such a period in my life that will be as long and still as this one has been dynamic, the same that taps my shoulder whispers into my ear that I am not ready for that phase yet. It’s an interesting and perhaps illogical equation, to move everything in order to discover what’s left. But for me it’s never been about any outcome, goal, static state of being or heaven. To be “awakened” has never been the objective, nor any other country or destination. It’s the “ing” that interests me; packing, unpacking, leaving, challenging, redefining, changing, walking, being. Let Irony laugh, but I find stillness in moving. Stillness that I do not envision at the end of my peregrination. But stillness as small smooth stones that, along the path, I find, touch – hold only for a moment – and let go.