Spiritography Day 4: Imaging the Sacred in Everyday Life
There’s a difference between being a tourist and being a pilgrim.
When tourists visit places of interest, they see the outer reality. They may or may not know the history. They may take a few pictures. And then they move on to the next attraction. It becomes a “been-there-done-that” mentality.
But when a pilgrim visits, she focuses on the inner and symbolic reality of the place. The place becomes more than its physical characteristics or its history. It becomes sacred ground and a place for self-discovery. A pilgrim doesn’t tour; a pilgrim wanders…right into wonder.
I use wandering as one of my spiritual practices. It is a sensory experience that propels me into, through, and beyond the physical realm and into an organic, spiritual one. It is an act of discovery and exploration. It reinvigorates the senses, the spirit, the soul, and sanity (of course, I always take a camera along because there’s always something to discover).
As a spiritual practice, wandering is an art form like no other. It’s easy to do. You can wander on foot, by vehicle, or by animal. You can wander in the country, in the city, around your neighborhood, in the mall…just about anywhere.
To make the most out of your wandering experience, know what you like and don’t like. What areas or things are of greatest interest to you? What things are associated with the things that you like? If I’m in an unknown area, I’ll use a map to find points of interest, and then I’ll meander in their direction. By all means, use caution if you are in questionable areas so no harm comes to you.
Let go of your fears. Practice wandering with the mindset of adventure, discovery, connectedness, and Presence. Immerse yourself in your surroundings for the full experience. Take in all the sights, sounds, and smells. Stop, close your eyes, breathe deep, and listen. As you wander through the woods, stop to listen to the different calls of birds, feel the gentleness of the breeze, smell the rich scent of pine.
If you’re wandering down cobblestone streets of an old village, listen to villagers speaking in their native tongues, smell the aroma of brewing coffee and baked goods permeating the air. Embrace this awareness and you embrace the spirit of the moment.
Let go of expectations. Release the notion that you must get to a particular destination by a certain time. Wandering is not a race. Placing restrictions on yourself restricts your joy.
Expect the unexpected. I love the element of surprise that comes with wandering because there’s always, always, always something to discover when you open yourself up to the experience. Appreciate what you discover. Learn from it. As you make discoveries, allow them to lead you on a series of more adventures that will keep you engaged for as long as you are able. Entertain your curiosities!
There are no dead ends. More avenues open the more we explore, both internally and externally. The possibilities are endless when we step into awareness, and that awareness is what allows us to connect with a greater reality when we place ourselves in the moment.
As J. R. R. Tolkien says, “Not all those who wander are lost.” Lose yourself in the moment and you’ll never be lost.