For anyone thinking of embarking upon a pilgrimage, retreat or spiritual journey of any kind, I hope the following insights on my Wayfarer pilgrimage shed some light as to how incredibly enrichening such an experience can be! Having hiked in the Colorado Rocky Mountains for three days, camped in below freezing temperatures with my fellow brothers and lived to tell the tale, I cannot fully describe the effect it has on one’s character, perspective and spirit. This pilgrimage was by far the most challenging experience in my short 20 years, and looking back it now, I doubt any other could have fundamentally shifted the way I look at the world as this one did. I truly believe faith must be practised and embodied through action and prayer, but living it within the context of a pilgrimage is a whole nother realm that brings with it a unique set of graces.
1. Nature, Reflection & Learning About Oneself
There’s something about being in the middle of the mountains, in a place only accessible by foot that allows a person to completely disconnect from urban life and simply exist in the present moment and reflect. I don’t know whether it’s the isolation, the quiet or simply the physical challenge to keep a steady hiking pace, that ultimately leads the mind to a state of calm and peace where the worries that plagued one’s head at work and home or life in general, most unusually, vanish. In its place, one enters a state of mind completely detached from one’s usual thoughts and instead one fully immersed in nature and accepting of the hike’s challenges and beauty. With continuous songs, daily prayer and conversations with my fellow hikers, I would find that many of the worries I previously had seemed almost silly in many respects and when I least expected it, a glimpse of a ‘resolution’ to my worries would appear out of thin air. Call it perspective or whatever you wish; there are few things I can recall that provide it as much as taking on the forces of nature head-on. A very humbling experience indeed. One thing is to meditate at home for a couple of minutes, but the length of the pilgrimage and the location of the reflection offer a truly unique experience the likes I would encourage anyone to partake in if they have the chance!
2. The Universality of the FNE Brotherhood/Values is Present & Powerful
Since the moment of arriving in Denver, to leaving three days after, there was never a moment I did
not feel like I wasn’t in good company. Being picked up from the Denver airport by my American counterpart at midnight, after our flight having been delayed nearly 4 hours, felt no more unnatural than having been picked up by a patient family member. Although we had only communicated briefly over email and knew next to nothing of one another, we both had a common understanding of why we were in FNE, what the movement can be, and how the pilgrimage played an integral role in establishing a precedent in North America. That is not to say we viewed the world in the exact same lens, but ‘WHY’ of us being there was solid enough that from the very first interaction the conversation was genuine, the feeling of solidarity was present, and I was happy to discover this in every single brother I met on this journey. Age, profession and background was no impediment in forming deep bonds with my brothers and as such listening to each of their stories and understanding what they had learned was both easy, super interesting and invaluable. I always knew the values of our faith was something special and worth aligning to, but the real-life embodiment in them through my FNE brothers and seeing what is possible when they are lived is truly awe-inspiring.
3. Nourishment of the Soul is Key to Continuously Achieve & ‘Explore’
I can’t say I slept, ate or physically felt any better on the hike than I would normally have. What I can say however is that my willingness to live a bold, virtuous and ‘exploring’ life after the pilgrimage has been magnified by a factor of 10; the likes I know will aid me in my studies, my career and my family life for the long run. Having conquered the hike with the support of my fellow brothers, it feels that many of my day to day ‘crosses’ simply do not compare in proportionality. Even now, when I am slightly annoyed or impatient with a certain task I say to myself “But does this even compare to hiking three days in sub 0 temperatures” and surprise, surprise I do what I have to and move one. Furthermore not are my daily crosses easier to bear, but I find myself inadvertently searching and questioning for more! This can be witnessed most notably in my general attitude towards my friends, my family and even towards strangers. The strangers whom I very easily could have ignored or treated indifferently, and yet the spiritual ‘gas’ in my tank is 10x that all of a sudden there is more to go around. I remember a priest saying that in order to spread grace to the world around you, your own ‘cup’ must be full first. Staying true to the metaphor, this pilgrimage and future FNE events like them are in my a fantastic way to ‘replenish’ one’s soul and by extension facilitate living one’s ‘best-life’ wherever one is. Being open to new possibilities, continuously improving as a person and staying true to our faith’s core values is not only more deeply ingrained, but carries a much greater purpose in my life the likes keeps me open and unafraid to deal and triumph over the unknown.
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