A common man marvels at uncommon things. A wise man marvels at the commonplace. CONFUCIUS

Sunday, 20 July 2014

The Next Pilgrimage

The long straight track.

Much of the time, we are willing to do almost anything rather than face the unknown, the wilderness. When we drive in our cars, we'll go on for endless miles, rather than admit we're lost. We drive our lives that same way until a crisis stops us. But that fear blunts our experience of the world, doesn't it?

. . . if you're lost enough, then the experience of now is your guide to what comes next. None of us knows what comes the next second.


Oh, a storm is threatening / My very life today / If I don't get some shelter / Oh yeah, I'm gonna fade away THE ROLLING STONES Gimme Shelter

The pilgrimage I'm undertaking soon may well be a challenging one: many days, if not weeks, of solitude — with cheap accommodation, or indeed any accommodation, thin on the ground. I'm taking a tent. And this time I'm making sure my pack weight is nearer a manageable 20lb than a punishing 30lb. I came up with the following 'ideal' guidelines, which I'm carrying with me in my head (zero weight!). Wish me luck.
Twelve Zen Guidelines for the Long Distance Pilgrim and Walker

1. To walk — and live — fully in the present.

2. To neither regret wrong turnings (the past) nor yearn for destinations (the future).

3. To walk — and live — mindfully, aware of and focused on what’s going on around, through the five senses, and what’s happening inside, through thoughts and feelings.

4. To try to get beyond desire, craving, negativity and division.

5. To let go.

6. To welcome intuition and the imagination, and to use them creatively.

7. To walk — and live — simply, thriftily and economically, consciously making each coin, each morsel of food and each mouthful of drink, count.

8. To be grateful for the luxurious, comparative freedom of a long-distance walk: going where I want, quickly or slowly, directly or obliquely.

9. To be grateful that, for a period of time, I am not subject to the usual routine dictates and compromises of family and society.

10. To consider walking a kind of art form.

11. To consider each step, breath, mile, thought, feeling, action, encounter, sight and insight a kind of prayer.

12. To try to love unconditionally.

Footpath through poppy fields.

For some time now it has seemed to me that the two questions we should ask of any strong landscape are these: firstly, what do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? And then, vainly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know myself?



am said...

Just picked up the copy of The Old Ways that I had put on hold through our public library, and I plan to start reading it tonight.

William Stafford, Gimme Shelter, and Robert MacFarlane go well together.

It's good to learn that you will be starting another pilgrimage soon and that you will be carrying those guidelines with you.

12. To try to love unconditionally.

Rubye Jack said...

I like that last question so much. What does this "place" know...
And so a new adventure begins.

Nick said...

Have a good journey.

David said...

Good luck! Where are you going?

George said...

Be well, my friend, and stay true to those excellent Zen guidelines. I look forward to hearing the report on your next great adventure, both the interior one and the exterior one.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Now I intrigued to know where this journey is taking you.

Bonnie said...

Journeying in such a mindful and en-light-ened manner is a skillful way of gifting and blessing yourself, Robert.

No need to wish you 'bon voyage' for whatever happens your intent will be met.

John O said...

Thanks for the inspiration of the journeys you've shared. Good wishes go with you on this next one. John

Anonymous said...

Go well!

Looking forward to hearing your reports when you you have time

Ruth Mowry said...

Smiles and cheers!

Laura said...

Great guidelines. Which direction are you pointing yourself?

Vagabonde said...

I read your 12 guidelines and thought to myself, gosh that sounds like Buddhism, and then realized that you had written Zen on top and I had not seen it. I think the walking accoutrement now is much lighter and better than when I hiked in the Sierra with my husband in the mid-1960s. We had joined Buddhism then and we did our walking meditation as Thích Nhất Hạnh teaches, or at least walked in full mindfulness. We did not have a tent and I just could not sleep in the open – sure enough the next few mornings I saw a bear or two not far away. So stay away from bears and have a good time.

Cris M said...

Buen Camino Solitary Walker!
I will be looking forward to reading the posts this new pilgrimage will move you to write!
Safe travels!
Warm hugs
Cris M

The Solitary Walker said...

Thanks for all these encouraging remarks. I'm going south-east, but more later. Trying to avoid flu, a deaf ear, too heavy a backpack, intense summer heat (oh dear), family problems (oh dear) and general malaise like the last time :) Till later.

Bouncing Bertie said...

Those guidelines should serve you well. Looking forward to reading more.
All the best,

dritanje said...

Thanks for all your inspirations. I'm glad you also enjoy William Stafford s words. I don't want to know ahead of time where you will go but hope to travel in a sense with you when you have time to share with us..

John Pendrey said...

Thanks for challenging aims. I start my own pilgrimage in October. Preparation is we know from experience useful. I have tried out my little tent in the garden. But in past I have often found or been offered wonderful places to sleep of at least watch the stars move through the clear cold night.

Amanda said...

i've just returned from my beloved island of ithaka, where i have been returning, like odysseus, for over 20 years. i read the last sentence of your post and it stopped me in my tracks. this is exactly what is on my mind at this time.

what do I know when I am in this place that I can know nowhere else? And then, vainly, what does this place know of me that I cannot know myself?

i don't believe that is a vain statement. it's geomancy....it is real and i believe it goes both ways. after all these years of telling ithaka what i think of it i decided this year to listen instead.

wishing you a blessed and illuminating journey. xo

roselle said...

I imagine you're en route now. Look forward to reading about it - curious as to where (I guess not the Camino, or at least not the well-trodden one; esp since you say 'south east').

I really like your guidelines. Thank you for those.

I imagine you know Phil Cousineau's The Art of Pilgrimage? I take that each time I go off.

Your guidelines are a great addition.

Happy mindful walking! - and hope the malaise dissolves.