Going on pilgrimage
The realization that life isn’t our doing; we’re a movement of nature. Everything, just as it is in any moment, is the already complete and pure expression of existence; it’s never been a person accomplishing anything. — Darryl Bailey, Essence Revisited: Slipping Past the Shadows of Illusion
It's 5.04 am.
The coffee is poured and I'm listening to the Thievery Corporation.
I feel strangely calm. There's very little thinking save that I've got my father-in-law very much on my mind. I've said nothing about his recent fall (he's 83) or the fact that he's a very sick man. He's been in hospital for over three weeks but, thankfully, is coming home on Monday. If you're OK with it, I'd prefer not to say too much more until I've been able to see him for myself (social distancing rules being obeyed), but speaking to my wife — his youngest daughter (she's also a twin) — I understand what's at stake; namely, end-of-life care. Sorry, that's not a great thing to land on you but I've known for a while that he's been living on borrowed time — as I'm sure he does. Once I've seen him, I'll be able to write in a more open way and whilst it's going to be a difficult few weeks or months (if we're lucky), one thing I can say, without a shadow of a doubt, is that Brian — or BTP as we fondly call him that or Captain Chaos — has lived a full life. A very full life. In fact, he's probably lived two or three lives.
I laboured long and hard about today's title — not the content. I wasn't sure if, instead, I should have called it My inner pilgrimage. I don't think it really matters or perhaps I'll leave you to be the judge of that.
So here's the thing. I've been prattling on for a while about going on a pilgrimage around the United Kingdom (UK). I've mused on whether I'll do it on foot or by car (my little van more like). I've also talked about taking my typewriter with me and simply turning up, unannounced in someone's high street, and, either on request or for the sheer hell of it, bashing out some poems. But then again, I might not. I might be content with a slow, contemplative experience where I record my journey in a diary with a view to that being published in some form or another. How likely it is I'll actually undertake this pilgrimage is still unclear but I'd say it's very likely.
But then it hit me.
I'd already been on pilgrimage.
Well, I was on a Zoom call this week and, as I was waiting my turn to speak, I suddenly had this uprising of what I can only describe (please don't laugh) as a warm glow of love suffused across my entire being, remembering that I had in fact been on or rather was expressed to go on a deep dive, inner pilgrimage for the last decade. It was a heady feeling — I wasn't gloating — thinking that even if I never got to travel around the UK it didn't matter because I'd already covered many hard but wonderful miles exploring the depths of my soul.
Sorry, that sounds pretentious but that's how it felt. I knew, for whatever reason, I'd been claimed by something (or no-thing) where I'd been forced to confront some of my biggest life issues — e.g. anger, lack, love — only to come out the other side reborn. And I don't use that word lightly.
I know what you're thinking, this guy is so up himself it's untrue. And I'm fine with that but the truth is — my truth — that had I not had to endure a nasty whack to the head and a process of deconstruction or letting go, then god knows where I'd have ended up. More than just a nervous wreck. In fact, for the sake of my family, I'd rather not say too much but I'd have ended up in a bad place.
I've said this before but coming to true self or being awake — take your pick which you prefer (if at all!) — is not something I'd recommend to anyone unless that is they're wracked with a sense that there's an unlived part of them that needs or wishes to be unearthed or rediscovered. In my case, I was broken asunder by that heart-wrenching question "Who am I?" but not just that but a willingness — without having any real control (we don't will our will, remember) — to stay open to whatever came up. That meant for a time I didn't have a bloody clue what I was doing with regards to my career, my relationship with my wife and all the other things that I was supposed to be interested in. The best metaphor I can conceive is that I was shorn of all or the majority of my social conditioning. Nothing was sacred anymore.
Thankfully, there's no longer a sense of having to do anything, be anything or try to work out, minute by minute, what the hell's going on.
In this regard, two things sustain me:
1. Everything is changing — i.e. we lived in the unformed, always; and
2. I'm not directing anything, less still my life. What happens, happens.
Of course, this is my experience and it's not something I'm selling or looking to brand. It's just my ordinary, day-to-day experience. That doesn't mean to say I don't have crappy thoughts but I'm no longer at war with myself. I know that thoughts will enter my head, they'll swim around, some might stick for a while (not very long these days) and then they'll be gone. And this process, much like everything else we see, feel and experience is always changing and moving on to something else. Just to be clear there's none of this witnesser and the thing seen model that is often espoused in spiritual circles. There's just everything happening. Period.
(One of the reasons I spend so much time watching the River Avon or any river or stream is it subtly reminds me that my thoughts are much like water. They're always moving on to something or somewhere else. That's not woo-woo. That's a fact.)
And there it is.
My pilgrimage. But it's a life thing. I might say it's been happening for the last decade but I know that it never stops and that feels beautiful to me. It's a bit like my writing and poetry. I've started again to find my rhythm (it's actually found me...) and so long as I keep sitting down at the computer and typewriter something always emerges.
Just like life.
It still blows me away.
Blessings 🙏, Ju
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