This time next week I will be in Sinai leading a group to build Gwoona Dam and to go on a desert retreat.
Sometimes we need to get right away from all things familiar in order to find ourselves – to go to a place from where we can look objectively at our lives and at the world. Such a place is often to be found in nature and in living simply without any of the benefits or distractions of modern technology. Then we can listen deeply, to come to know who we are, and to see our place in the world.
The wild places of the world are ideal for this and in the UK we can go on retreats in places like the mountains and islands of Scotland. But sometimes it is not enough to be silent in a familiar landscape or culture with its reminders and distractions, and then travelling to a place like Sinai, where people have been going to retreat for at least 2500 years, can allow us to connect with spirit more easily. The three main prophets of the world’s religions all spent time wandering in the wilderness that is Sinai.
Here we come into contact with a land and culture vastly different from our own and with a people who are used to living in harmony with nature. Reflection on the contrast between the desert and our home environment can bring into sharp relief our usual disconnection from Nature, from spirit, and from ourselves.
At a recent talk, Satish Kumar said, “ A pilgrim celebrates life, places and people. Earth is a sacred place to cherish and to celebrate; it includes the wholeness of life. To be a pilgrim needs a transformation of mindset so that we can see the beauty of the place we are in. It is about adoration, celebration and gratitude for Earth.
A complainer is a tourist in the world. Tourists are escaping from something. They are not interested in the place itself …people want the best hotel, the best food etc and they are disappointed as the reality never lives up to expectations.
For a pilgrim every moment is unfolding, emerging, and evolving. Go into the unknown. Don’t be fixed in mind or spirit. Meet everyone for the first time each day, celebrate every day because when we celebrate we are a pilgrim.”
We can live life as a journey, or maybe as a dance, seeing where it will take us and who we will meet. Then it becomes exciting and adventurous. It may not always be safe but it won’t be boring and there is plenty of opportunity for challenges and growth. Out of this inner journey we can bring out something to the outer world. What is love for, if not to give to or to do something for others and to inspire others?
While living or being a pilgrim we can return the hospitality of generous hosts and give back to our communities. We can offer gratitude, stories of travels and what we have learnt, maybe music or work. Mother Teresa said do the small things with love – not the big things without. And sometimes the power of not doing, of still time, is greater than that of doing.