Pilgrimage in its simplest definition means sacred journey. It combines elements of work, travel, play and dedication in a way that asks everything, demanding presence, attention, response to unforeseen needs and the willingness to be guided by vision. Moving in this way gives the gift of witnessing an emerging new mythos unfolding in many areas of the globe.

Alone and together, we listen for how to build common ground, sustainability and environmental solutions to common problems like energy, water treatment, housing, relationships between people and the natural world, ancestry and how so many efforts are being made toward a positive future for all. As one pilgrim put it:

“This is the most comprehensive and demanding education and training I have ever done, because it requires my whole person, calling both my inner and outer life work to merge into one daily act.” Shay, Beyond Boundarian.

We choose an inner and outer journey; walking day by day knowing that our willingness to learn and grow affects the learning and growth of the whole; living in integrity and truth, with who we are and what we say, living council, listening inside and out; and being willing to carry ourselves into the world, ready to engage, to stay awake, to step up or down as needed.

As pilgrims on the BB pilgrimage, we stepped into the bigger planetary story of our unknowing in a conscious way, choosing to treat the entire year like a wilderness fast—choosing to listen in that way at each point along our path.

…We need to renew ourselves in territories that are fresh and wild. We need to come home through the body of alien lands. For some, these journeys of change are taken intentionally and mindfully. They are pilgrimages, occasions when Earth heals us directly. Pilgrimage has been for me, and many others, a form of inquiry in action.

Joan Halifax, A Fruitful Darkness

To enter the mystery, come into contact with the divine and honor the good work being done around the world. In this time, so much attention is given to crisis areas, our minds are filled with bad news stories. By bringing our attention and presence to these centers of life, we become part of and support the growing net-work of healing work being done on our planet.

Siri, Beyond Boundarian

The Roots of Pilgrimage

The roots of pilgrimage go pretty far back for me. It was during fifth grade that I initiated my first pilgrimage, inciting the class to run away from Mrs. Mitchell.

I can’t say I was aware enough to know what was missing then in our education, but sitting day after day at those little desks responding like robots to Mrs. M was enough to drive any and all to head off on our own into the world. It was quite a community building process over a month-long time of preparation. Each student had to pay their way or bring whatever they could from home to support the expedition. Any spare change contribution to the kitty was welcomed.

The day finally came to depart despite last minute doubts and numerous stomach aches. At recess time we all, the entire fifth grade class, slipped through the fence – what was for us, Into the wild. We walked down at least four or five suburban blocks, passing our neighbors, waving hellos, until reality, or should I better say, fear, set in. It took a couple of rounds of council, everyone getting to speak about what to do before we eventually turned around to head back. We had the excuse or alibi that re- turning was necessary for the good of one girl who wasn’t feeling well. And yet, we all knew she was simply representing all of our fears and had held the shadow for the whole journey. She spoke our hearts and call to return.

Even though our pilgrimage had lasted only three hours total, we celebrated success. Mrs. Mitchell and the headmaster were frantic and grateful for our return. They brought the whole lower school together to hear our story. Council, a chance for our voices to be shared, a respectful listening, had begun for me. We spoke our grievances, our motivation to run away, and our longing to have fifth grade be different while Mrs. Mitchell sat in tears. For the remainder of the year and perhaps much longer, the experience changed us all.

Years later, I look back realizing that many of the seeds were there for what we are up to today… the path of pilgrimage, seeking education, the call to travel and grow through a journey as a community, questing for true change, listening when to go and where to be, the value of having every participant strongly choose, raising money alone and together, sorting out food, finding support of any kind needed, taking the time to hear everyone’s voice and vision, being willing to speak up and make tough decisions, standing up for what doesn’t work anymore and asking for new ways, being willing to walk out, take risks, embrace the unknown, greeting neighbors along the way. Not all of the ingredients of this BB pilgrimage were found in ancient teachings or spiritual texts—but also through the hearts and minds of fifth grade girls, living and acting on the truth of their situation. I dare say the roots of council and pilgrimage are within us all.

Gigi Coyle