This is the third of four weeks of posts on pilgrimage as part of the seasonal ritual Walking the Ways of the Summer Light. The pilgrimage posts began with Departure from the Threshold and continued with Journey.
Pilgrimage is a spiral practice. Within pilgrimage’s ample container are many practices and rituals that circle together to form the whole of your experience. The work of one phase repeats but deepens or expands as you continue on your Way.
Then you reach the Center.
The practices and rituals from the journey have been your teacher, but as you approach the Center, you must let go of the teacher and embrace the call of the moment. On your final approach to the Center, you improvise, are present to the Now, and allow yourself to sense Presence.
The Center is hard to express; it is Wholeness in a fragmented world and any words to describe it are just little slices shaved away from that completeness.
No Center is the same because no journey is the same, and the Center may show itself at any moment or perhaps hide in plain sight. .
I can not tell you about the Center because it will be yours alone to experience. I will instead share my story of a trip to a Center. Read this story not as instructions, but as an offering to your imagination as it guides you on your Way.
I prepared. I was spontaneous. Though my annual August trip to Maine is what I think of as my pilgrimage time when the inspiration to go the Wisdom Rocks on the Mill River came to me on a quiet Sunday, I set off with cards, notebook and camera.
I followed my inspirations of the moment. As I walked the path, I let myself be drawn into the water. I listened to the message I heard inside: “Approach by water.” To walk in water on a hot summer day is no penance, but there was resistance as I walked upstream and I had to be careful in my footing on the rocky river bed. The flow of the water and my extra attentiveness heightened my senses and my feeling of connection to all that surrounded me.
Bring nothing into the Center. The Wisdom Rocks are in slight bend and drop of the river so the current is stronger there. There was a chance I would fall into the water so I left behind my pouch with cards and camera. It was a practical precaution, but it also felt right to take nothing with me, to have not possibility of documenting the moment other than in my memory. I moved very slowly here where the water was fastest and rocks slickest. Then I stepped into the center of what is like an open circle of rocks, and the current calmed.
Be in the Center. I had no ritual tools. I had no specific plans. I even forgot to think specifically about my question. I just spread my arms wide. I stood there for a while. I moved in a circle.
Take nothing from the Center. As I prepared to leave, I reached down into the water for a small rock, what I thought would be a memento. But there were living things attached to this rock and a black, centipede-like creature almost crawled up my arm. I returned the rock quickly to its dark home.
Return as attentively as you entered. I had to leave with the same attention with which I entered. The current’s power returned as I stepped from the ring of rocks. I moved carefully and attentively until I returned to the river’s edge.
Take time for integration at the Center’s edge. Between the intensity of the Center and the return to commonplace is the space between, an ecotone where Spirit and Earth mix. Linger here letting the lessons and messages sink in, come into focus, or just implant themselves for a time of later emergence. I sat on a log feeling the cold aliveness of my legs for a long while. Then I played with thread and rock and cards. I shall leave you with that image as a rest from words.
You can look for the final pilgrimage post early next week on the theme of Return.