Author: Sacred Earth Journeys

How To Find Yourself In The Mexican Desert

During most of the 80s and 90s, Daniel Stone travelled the world in search of answers.

He visited Aboriginal communities in the Australian outback and spent months learning about Bon Shamanism in Tibetan temples. He explored the truths hidden within the walls of the Egyptian pyramids and spoke to Toltec wisemen in Central America. He even searched for answers in art and psychotherapeutic theories.

daniel stone

The information he was looking for would answer a question that had been following him for years: Why were his dreams more real than his daily life?

It was in the Mexican desert, after reflecting on his journeys with a Toltec shaman, that Daniel found an answer to his question, finding himself in the process.

The answer came in the form of a language that would forever bridge the gap between day and night: Life as dream.

Upon his discovery, Daniel began devoting his life to sharing its wisdom with others. In 2000, he founded the Centre of the Conscious Dream, a centre located in the middle of Mexico’s San Luis Potosí desert. Since then, hundreds of dreamers from around the world have travelled to the Centre, going on retreats that have been described by many as life changing.

We sat down with Daniel to discuss his journey through the conscious dream and to learn about the teaching that pilgrims from around the world experience when they visit his centre.

Read on to find out more about his life’s work, and to learn what you can find yourself in a Mexican desert.

(NOTE: The interview has been edited for clarity and length)

SEJ: We wanted to start out by asking you about the Centre of the Conscious Dream, which you have mentioned is located in an extraordinary multi-dimensional field of energy that drew you in. Can you talk a little about that process? How did you know this place was “the one”? 

Daniel: I had spent a decade visiting the power points on the planet.  Some well-known, such as the pyramids in Egypt, Uluru, Mount Shasta, Lake Titicaca, Glastonbury, and some not so well known in South America, Asia, Australia and Europe.  I was travelling the globe trying to listen to the planetary body, and learning how it moved, and how each power point related to the others. The context of its discovery was the journey of listening to power points.  This particular power point is the most powerful I have come across, with the exception of Uluru in Australia.  However, Uluru is unworkable, for me, for various reasons, and the land allowed me to visit but not to stay.

In Mexico, the land gave me a huge yes, and this affirmation has given me the strength to overcome the many obstacles that come your way when trying to build a centre with very little money.  I would say that this land invited me to work with it.  We have a relation, and by living here, I build this relation.

centre of conscious dream circle

SEJ: Besides this affirmation, you say you got from the land, what drove you to actually build a centre in the middle of the desert in San Luis Potosí?

Daniel: I began living in Mexico in 1997, and started building the centre in 2000.  During those first three years I worked with all the major indigenous groups in the country, and my experience taught me that there was a need for someone to come in and make a coherent bridge between the indigenous experience and the lifestyle and values of the other people who may be interested in those teachings.

At that point it became clear to me that my goal was to act as a signpost and give tools to enable the participants to communicate with the really big and important teachers of the land, such as the mountain, the planet earth, the sun, the moon, the stars, etc.

SEJ: What can this place teach other people?

Daniel: For me, the mountain is the greatest teacher here.  Every time I wake up and feel it, every time it teaches me in my dreams at night, every time I climb it, even to the foot hills, I am astounded by the depth of its wisdom.  I actually believe that everything I do here, all of the seminars, ceremonies, walks of power, visits to sacred sites, exercises with the dreaming body, they are all so that each human being who visits here has at least a chance of listening and understanding the wisdom of the mountain.

La pyramide de la lune

SEJ: If the mountain is the biggest teacher at the Centre, what is your role as a guide?

Daniel: I see myself as someone who makes spaces – the physical space of the centre for example, and spaces with sound, spaces with colour, ceremonial spaces.  In those spaces, I attempt to create the context in which it is possible for the participant to contact their deepest authentic teacher inside of them.  Once they have that contact, they can develop their profound intuitive wisdom.  It is all there already – everyone is a master teacher whose book is waiting to be read.

SEJ: What do you think participants take away when they come to the Centre?

Daniel: Coming to the centre is a chance for people to let go of their everyday life for two or three weeks and open up to a wider sense of who they are and why they are here.  It is our intent that people return to their daily lives with essential tools that will help them in their own road to consciousness, self-healing and creativity, as well as essential tools in the healing or helping of their families, friends, or in a professional capacity.

SEJ: What does a typical day look like when based in the desert in Mexico?

Daniel: There isn’t a typical day as all days are different.  However, in general, we try and find a balance between the participant working on their own with specific tools to enable them to develop relation with the big teachers – the elements, trees, rocks, animals, the desert in general, the mountain, the planet earth and the sky, and then the ceremonies and seminars in group settings.

SEJ: Who is this journey most likely to appeal to and do participants need any former experience or knowledge in the field?

Daniel: The retreat is relevant and very useful for anyone who needs to clarify their vision for their work, their relations, their living situation, and their sense of purpose on this planet.  It would be very powerful for anyone involved in creative artistic processes, and anyone who is involved in a self-healing or professional healing path.  These retreats typically attract people from different countries from all walks of life, from healers and artists, to business people and professionals. The retreat is in English and Spanish.

SEJ: How can we all benefit from being more conscious/aware of our dreaming selves?

Daniel: Let’s say you are looking at a life size human adult sculpture from the front.  You get a certain perspective.  You go to the back of the sculpture, and get another perspective.  Then the two sides, two more perspectives.  In an ordinary gallery room, it may be difficult for you to get the perspective from above, and even more difficult to get the perspective from below.  What would it be like if you had access to all of the possible perspectives AT THE SAME TIME.  This is possible through the dreaming body.  Unless you know all the possible perspectives of your times and spaces, how can you make informed decisions?  Most of the important decisions we make in our lives are based on a small percentage of the information available.

centre of conscious dream yellow

Find yourself at the Centre of Conscious Dream

Join Daniel Stone and Toltec teachers at the Centre of the Conscious Dream for a practical shamanic initiation and profound healing retreat that will rekindle your creative fires.

The retreat explores the indigenous traditions of Mexico and Central America, and integrates shamanic teachings learned by Daniel from Inca, Australian Aboriginals and Bon Shamanism (Tibetan Buddhism) wisepeople.

Daniel and his team have been receiving groups at the Centre for nearly 20 years, and will provide you with the teachings and initiations needed for your own internal transformation. There’s probably no one out there more capable to give you the tools to make this trip, and the rest of your life, truly special.

Learn more about this journey, which runs from March 24 and April 14, 2018.

The Amazing Benefits Of Yoga : How It Heals Mind, Body, and Spirit

Whether you’re an experienced yogi or are just starting with your practice, there’s a good chance you’ve noticed some of the health and wellness benefits of yoga.

Perhaps you’re sleeping better or feeling stronger or are just more relaxed and at ease in your daily life. Whatever the case may be, you know that something good is happening to your body–even though you may not be linking it to your practice quite yet.

To help you better understand the benefits of yoga, we have looked at the many ways your practice can heal the mind, body, and spirit. We included also links to scientific studies backing these claims.

Curious? Read on to find out the benefits of yoga on the mind, body, and spirit.

The Benefits Of Yoga On The Mind

benefits of yoga on mind

In recent years, scientific research has proven what ancient yogis knew centuries ago: that the mental benefits of yoga are infinite.

On a very basic level, people have known for years that yoga helps quiet the mind. By helping you focus on your breath and movements, it lowers the volume of the endless chatter in your brain during your practice and also helps increase focus and attention throughout the remainder of your day.

While these things are incredibly beneficial, scientists have recently proven that the mental benefits of yoga go beyond what was originally believed. According to studies reviewed by Harvard Medical School, practicing yoga helps reduce the symptoms associated with major mental health challenges such as depression, anxiety and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

How?

The scientists discovered that a consistent practice of yoga helps reduce the quantity of cortisol – a hormone linked to stress and depression – in the body. What the researchers discovered was in fact astounding: that doing yoga could help people relieve stress and handle stressful situations in a much more positive way.

The Benefits Of Yoga On The Body

benefits of yoga on body

In addition to discovering the mental benefits of yoga, scientists around the world have also spent time researching the physical benefits associated with a consistent practice.

What they found out is something that yogis have known for a long time: that Yoga movements and asanas help the body develop strength, flexibility, and balance, as well as improve respiration, energy, circulation and cardiovascular health.

Based on this research, doctors, kinesiologists and physical therapists around the world recommend yoga as a way to ease into physical activity after an injury, and as a way to sustain physical stamina for people of all ages.

In addition to these benefits of yoga, researchers have also discovered that yoga postures can have some unsuspected benefits on our metabolism allowing one to improve body definition, and help with weight loss. And if that weren’t enough, symptoms of asthma, insomnia, chronic pain, and muscular tension are greatly improved with a regular practice allowing for enhanced daily function as well as better sleep at night.

The Benefits Of Yoga On The Spirit

benefits of yoga on spirit

The way the benefits of yoga on our spiritual wellbeing is a very individual process and is much harder to quantify for scientists.

While some efforts have gone into quantifying this impact, we must rely on anecdotal evidence provided by yogis to claim these benefits. According to this anecdotal evidence, yoga’s spiritual benefits are tied to the way it makes people feel a “happier life ‘in the moment'” while also allowing them to feel more connected to others.

In this respect, communal practice is said to have the biggest spiritual benefits for yogis. It allows people to exchange energy in a shared space, teaching them how to build our awareness of others and themselves, generally allowing them to feel part of a greater whole.

Start A Yoga Practice

The great thing about yoga is that you can start your practice at any time!

Not sure how? Try out this super short introductory video as you sit in your office. It will run through a minute long routine of basic poses that you can do right now (YES, RIGHT NOW!) to begin unlocking the healing potentials of yoga.

If you like what you see, consider setting some time aside every week to deepen your practice. You can check out routines on YouTube, download an app, or join a class in a studio or community centre near you!

Stretch your Mind, Body, and Spirit further with a Yoga Retreat in Southern India

If you want to unlock the full curative potential of yoga, join Naturopathic Physician, Yoga and Pilates teacher, and Energy Medicine Practitioner, Dr. Alexina Mehta for a restorative and replenishing 5 nights at the world-renowned Ayurvedagram.

The retreat offers a full immersion into the world of yoga and Ayurveda. As you take a deep dive into this world, Dr. Alexina will guide you through the teachings and initiations for your own internal transformation, giving you the tools to make this a truly life-changing experience.

Find out more about this magical retreat, which runs from March 7-12, by clicking here.

Why Greece Is The Perfect Destination For A Spiritual Journey

Every year, millions of tourists from around the world travel to Greece to experience its vibrant culture and stunning landscapes. But many miss Greece for what it really is: one of the world’s most sacred destinations.

To experience this hidden side of Greece, travellers must dig deep into their own spirituality and explore the country through a pilgrim’s eyes. This means looking beyond the surface of its magnificent ruins and spectacular vistas to connect with the land’s sacred essence.

When this happens, the true nature of Greece (and of the traveller!) are exposed. What makes Greece such a perfect destination for a spiritual journey?

1. Its ancient sites are imbued with sacredness

Delphi Tholos sanctuary of Athena Pronaia

Greece is home to hundreds of sacred sites, including temples and shrines that have housed sacred rituals and attracted pilgrims from around the world for millennia.

A few of these ancient sites, like the Acropolis of Athens and the Parthenon, have become common tourist destinations, while others are away from the large crowds.

Places like Agora, Delphi, the Temple of Apollo, the 13th century monastic site of Mystra and the ancient citadel of Mycenae are just a few of the many sites where sacredness is palpable for those willing to feel it.

2. Greece is home to sacred mythology

Athens at night

Greece is full of mythology. Ancient stories of ancient Gods and Goddesses, of Love and War, and of human triumph and failure are deeply weaved into Greece’s culture and continue to shape the country today as they did over two thousand years ago.

When you visit Greece you stand on the soil where The Myth of Atlantis was born, where Zeus’s successful battle against his father Cronus was first imagined, and where the Goddess Aphrodite’s origins continue to be fiercely debated.

To this day, images of the Gods and Goddesses remain on walls, artifacts, and in the museums of this inspiring country.

3. Greeks still hold a sacred connection to the land

Mycenae burial grave

Throughout history, Greeks have always maintained a sacred connection with the land.

Like in many other cultures, sacred mountains, rivers, and hills dot the country, providing excellent places for spiritual introspection.

But the sacred connection to land goes beyond that. Ancient Greek doctors, for instance, turned to nature rather than appealing to the Gods when treating patients. They used ingredients that are still commonly found in our home today: vinegar, garlic, honey and so on to treat sicknesses.

Today, nature is still an important aspect of any visit to Greece. Its beautiful Mediterranean climate, its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, its quality olive oils and its stunning vistas, from seascapes to forests and mountains, make Greece an ideal destination for any pilgrim hoping to connect with themselves through nature.

4. Much of Modern Culture is Traced To Greece

Odeon of Herodes Atticus

Many of the key concepts that shape our daily lives around the world can be traced back to Ancient Greece.

Things like democracy, sport, philosophy, cuisine, art, and mythology all originated from this land, and continue to fill it with their presence. Tracing these ideas back to a specific time and place allow us to reconnect with their original values, giving them new meaning and importance.

5. Greece allows us to imagine a different world

temple of zeus

Ancient Greece was home to the Temple of Zeus, which housed the Statue of Zeus at Olympia, one of the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. While the statue was destroyed during the 5th Century AD, we can still imagine it today.

Imagining the past whenever you visit a new location is a part of seeing a place through a pilgrim’s eyes. It allows you to connect with a place’s hidden past, and in turn allows you to reconnect with a deeper version of your own Self, which is the most enduring characteristic of any pilgrimage.

3 Ways to Make Your Next Trip A Spiritual One

1. Be open to experiencing the sacred

It’s up to you to open your mind and allow yourself to experience a place with a pilgrim’s eye. To do this, you must be ready to connect with the place and with yourself on a deeper level, constantly asking questions about the past, present, and future.

2. Be self-reflective during your journey

The key to any spiritual journey is to constantly reflect on your thoughts and feelings throughout your trip. Keeping a journal in which you write down what you see and how you feel is a great way to make your experience more spiritual.

3. Travel with us.

Join author, filmmaker, and teacher Phil Cousineau on a breathtaking pilgrimage through Greece’s most spectacular sacred sites on The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau.

The tour will allow you to experience Greece’s sacredness firsthand. It is, as our guests tell us, an experience of a lifetime.

Phil is a seasoned guide who will bring you the teachings and initiations for your own internal transformation, giving you the tools to make this trip, and the rest of your life, truly sacred.

Find out more about this magical tour.

7 Reasons To Take A Sacred Tour of South India

Southern India is the perfect place to go if you’re embarking on a spiritual journey. It has stunning landscapes, vibrant cultures, ancient temples, and amazing people, all of which create the perfect atmosphere for inner and outer exploration.

Even the land is sacred here. This particular area of the world is known for having given birth to many saints and sages, all of whom have impregnated the country with their sacredness.

And while you could jump on a plane and head to India on your own spiritual pilgrimage, a tour is often a better option, especially for the first time visitor to India.

Here are 7 great reasons to take a spiritual tour of South India.

1. You Can Focus On Your Spiritual Journey

statue of shiva on location in South India

Getting around in India, especially for the first time traveller, can be challenging and confronting. While some people love the adventure of navigating in an unknown land, other’s find it extremely stressful.

If you are going to India to experience the rich spirituality, culture, and history, you don’t need to be worrying about the details of where to go, and how to get there.

A reputable tour company has trusted vendors, so you won’t have to question where you are staying, what you are eating, what attractions to see, and how you’ll get there.

2. Your Journey Of India Is Guided

Andrew Harvey Leading A Tour in India

A guide brings your trip alive with their intimate knowledge of the sites and areas you’ll visit.

There is no guide to Southern India like Andrew Harvey.

At Sacred Earth Journeys, we are honored to be working with Andrew for this wonderful journey and are continuously amazed at his wonderful teachings and passion about India.

Born in South India and educated at Oxford, Andrew began his own spiritual journey in the late 1970s. He knows the ins and outs of this sacred land like the palm of his hands and has studied with a number of Indian saints and sages over the past four decades.

Andrew is an award-winning author, activist, and documentarian. This is will be his third, “Shiva Dancing” group tour to South India, and as always, he’ll use his years of training and knowledge of the land to take pilgrims on a journey in the footsteps of great mystics like Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, and Father Bede Griffiths.

Throughout the journey through Southern India, Andrew will not only share his knowledge of the land, he’ll also be bringing you the teachings and initiations needed for your own internal transformation, giving you the tools to spread the revolution of the divine human across the world.

3. Dive deeply into the mystical world of Indian Saivism

Andrew Harvey Savism

To this day, Saivism remains one of India’s best kept sacred secrets.

This mystical branch of Hinduism has very rarely been studied in the Western world, which is why travelling with Andrew is truly unique. His 40-year journey into Hindu mysticism gives him the knowledge and experience needed to guide pilgrims through an unbelievable experience of self discovery that draws its lessons from the astounding vision of God the dancer.

By going on this incredible pilgrimage with Andrew, you’ll be able to learn about the teachings and spirituality of Shiva, dive deeply into the evolutionary vision of Sri Aurobindo, and explore the expansive universal vision of Christ consciousness that Father Bede Griffiths, the greatest Christian mystic of the 20th century, gave to the world.

It is truly unique and transformational.

4. You’ll see the majestic Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram through new eyes

Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram, India

Mahabalipuram, the first stop on this incredible journey, is famous for its Shore Temple. It was also the second capital and a bustling seaport during the time of the Pallava Kings of Kanchipuram. Ravaged by wind and sea, the temple complex, built in 700-728AD by the Pallava Dynasty, retains its alluring beauty and is a must-see site for pilgrims and travellers.

Complete with intricate rock carvings and monuments such as the Descent of the Ganges and the Arjuna’s Penance relief, depicting animals, deities, and other semi-divine creatures, Mahabalipuram is one of those places that conserve a deep kind of sacredness, which will be tapped into thanks to Andrew’s knowledge and experience.

5. Have we mentioned Indian food yet?

indian food

We could spend hours talking about the amazing tastes of Southern India.

Some of the foods you’ll experience in South India include:

  • Dosas – a thin crispy crepe made of fermented rice and lentil offered with a variety of fillings (try the masala dosa) and served with sambar (soup) and coconut chutney.
  • Biryani – rice, meat, veggies, and spices.
  • Appams and ishtu – thin crepes made of fermented rice flour and coconut milk served with an Indian stew.

The meals you’ll have with a tour will be at restaurants that we know are good. The best part, of course, will be the stimulating conversation, which is often the highlight of these tours.

6. You’ll experience the once-in-a-lifetime night walk in Arunachala

Arunachala

Seekers come to Arunachala with the intention of realizing the Self.

Arunachala is the place where Sri Ramana Maharshi lived his life in the twentieth century. It is alive with the presence of Shiva and is one of the most sacred places you’ll get to experience.

7. You’ll find inner peace at the Shantivanam Ashram

inner peace

Father Bede first stayed at the Ashram in the late 50s and took over stewardship in 1968. Under his leadership, Shantivanam became an internationally known centre of dialogue and renewal. The aim of Shantivanam has always been to bring the riches of Indian spirituality into Christian life, to share in that profound experience of God that originated in the Vedas, was developed in the Upanishads and Bhagavad Gita, and has come down to us today through a continual succession of sages and holy men and women.

Accommodation at the ashram is humble and basic: pilgrims sit on the floor and eat vegetarian meals with their hands. This brings a change of pace that fosters reflection and spiritual connection.

Last Call To Join Shiva Dancing: Sacred South India with Andrew Harvey

Join author and teacher Andrew Harvey on a pilgrimage in honour of Lord Shiva to the great temple sites and spiritual power places of South India.

Our tour will allow you to experience this sacredness firsthand, as it weaves through Southern India’s shrines, temples, and natural monuments. It is, as our guests tell us, an experience of a lifetime.

This is Andrew’s 3rd “Shiva Dancing” group tour to South India! It is a journey in the footsteps of the great mystics Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo and Father Bede Griffiths whose lives were dedicated to and paved the way for the birth of the new human: the divine human.

This is the work Andrew Harvey is most dedicated to through his books, documentaries, and seminars and, of course, most potently through pilgrimages like this.

Andrew will be bringing you the teachings and initiations for your own internal transformation and to spread the revolution of the divine human across the world.

Find out more about this magical tour.

The Importance of Pilgrimage in Today’s Fast-Paced World

Our Tour Leader Phil Cousineau recently sent us a copy of an interview he did with another of our Tour Leaders, Virginia Schenck, back in 2006. The interview is compelling reading, delving into the importance of pilgrimage in today’s fast-paced world and how critical it can be in the lives of the younger generation in particular. We’ve edited the original interview a little to make it easy to read in this blog format. Our thanks to both Phil and Virginia for sharing this insightful piece with us.

Virginia: What is it about a pilgrimage that calls out to us?

Phil: Traditionally, the call to pilgrimage came during either a spiritual crisis or an opportunity to fulfill a spiritual obligation. The long walk down what used to be called “the glory road” was meant to give a pilgrim ample time to contemplate deep issues that couldn’t be answered at home. Today, the call may even be more intense because life has become so frenetic that most of us claim not to have enough to think about spiritual issues on the traditional level, but also other deep concerns, such as failing marriages, job crises, or the general malaise. The cry for pilgrimage is an antidote to our over-amped lives.

Phil Cousineau pilgrimage
Phil Cousineau leading pilgrims on a recent journey in England

Virginia: [In your book] The Art of Pilgrimage: The Seeker’s Guide to Making Travel Sacred, you talk about pilgrimage as being a “powerful metaphor for any journey” and a “universal quest for the self”. Would you expand on this?

Phil: When I wrote that pilgrimage is a powerful metaphor for any journey I meant that virtually any journey, whether a family vacation or a business trip, has the potential to be deeper, more meaningful, more purposeful. When interviewed by CNN about the book they asked if the book could be used by people who travel for business and I immediately responded, Yes, if they turned it into a micro-pilgrimage. By this I mean, time is short. For people who take their lives seriously, as a gift, as numinous, there’s no such thing as a “throw-away” trip, no such as thing as small talk. Every person you encounter is an angel in disguise, as the Greeks used to say; every journey has the potential to reveal the divine in life. If, that is, you pay attention, have the intention.

Of course, sometimes we want to just relax. But the potential is always there.

And yes, pilgrimage as “universal quest for the self” is a reference to the mythic dimension of the sacred journey. For me, all art, drama, and myth reveal the various means human beings use on the search for the self. In that sense, pilgrimage provides a road map, the physical counterpart to the psychological search.

phil cousineau sacred travel
Phil enjoying a local meal with fellow pilgrims on a recent journey to Greece

Virginia: Also in The Art of Pilgrimage you outline several ways to make the pilgrim’s way sacred, to practice “the art of seeing” such as choosing a theme, journaling, and drawing.  Do you have more to suggest for the young pilgrim?

Phil: Just because young people aren’t accustomed to writing or drawing doesn’t mean they shouldn’t try. Almost without exception, young people who are at least nudged will learn far more about themselves and the world if they learn to exercise these unused muscles. Otherwise, travel, even pilgrimage, for young people becomes little more than one more video game. Remember, the danger is passivity, for adults as well as youth. That’s the tourist-trap, not just rip-off joints. The trap is passivity, which is a nice way of saying voyeurism. So anything that turns us into active travelers helps move us toward pilgrimage.

However, the other track is ritual and ceremony. Ritualizing the entrance to a site. Walking in silence up the sacred way to Delphi; entering Notre Dame or a little shrine on the road to Santiago, puts us in what I like to think of as “the pilgrim mood,” which is one of respect, even reverence. Lighting a candle, singing songs, reading local poets, Neruda in Spain, Yeats in Ireland, etc. Reading sacred texts and discussing their merits, either alone or in a group also helps.

sacred travel to greece
Phil and our group discussing Greek art, literature and spirituality at Eleusis

Virginia: In your book, Once and Future Myths: The Power of Ancient Stories in Our Lives, you devote an entire chapter to the importance of mentorship. You define a mentor as one who cares for the soul and seeks to draw out the best in his/her student. Is there more you could say about mentorship and the pilgrimage experience?

Phil: I ardently believe that pilgrimage is one of the greatest recommendations that a mentor can make. Traditionally, the shaman or elder recognized the transition moment from childhood to adulthood and announced to the child and the group that it was now time for the vision quest, the walkabout, the pilgrimage, the outer manifestation of the inner transformation. Today, for an adult spiritual counselor to take a youth on a pilgrimage is the very expression of saying, I want to help you more than tell you how to get a good job or get famous; I’m here to help you find yourself, “make up your own mind,” as the very meaning reveals. A youth recognizes the import of this: Wow, he or she is taking time out of their own lives to lead me on this journey!

Virginia: Once we’ve been on a pilgrimage, how do we carry that experience and newfound wisdom with us in our hearts, lives, and communities?

Phil: By keeping it alive. To do that you bring home real souvenirs, not fakes, by that I mean crafts, art, music, and especially something we’ve created out of it all. If our memories are in a shoebox under the bed or on a disc we’ll forget as surely as that dream that was never written down. Only by turning the journey into something new: a scrapbook, a journal, a story, poem, song or now what are called “soul boxes” then the trip will become – guaranteed – just one more hazy memory. If we don’t honour it, it, the memory, will fade, almost as if angry with us for not respecting it more. For millennia it was believed a returning voyager, adventurer, pilgrim, had an obligation to keep the story alive. That’s worth reviving.

lou ann granger
Our participant Lou Ann Granger showing her travel journal during a journey to Ireland with Phil Cousineau. Lou Ann subsequently published her journals as a book, With Love for the Journey

Virginia: In your 1987 film A Hero’s Journey, a biography of noted mythology expert, Joseph Campbell, Campbell states that there isn’t a myth that fits our global world and people often regress to old groups, familiar ways. [Thirty] years later, have we found a myth that fits? Have we created one? If not, how do you see us faring in the world today?

Phil: Oh, but Joe also said, in my companion book to the film, and elsewhere, that there was and is indeed an emerging myth: The Myth of the Planet. Joe saw this in the early ’80s and is being proved prophetic. And to my lights this phenomenon of pilgrimage is one of the most profound manifestations of this vision. To take an authentic pilgrimage is a gesture to our personal and collective souls that the future will be determined by whether or not we, as human beings, stop demonizing the Other. As idealistic as this is, I think it’s virtually impossible to do so without either deep travel or prodigious reading. Otherwise, it’s a fatuous and amorphous idea. We have to have a meal in another culture, dance to their dances, worship in their places of worship, have a conversation that reveals our common humanity. Pilgrimage exhorts us to do this. And it’s the greatest gift we can give our youth. It was in this sense that the greatest American writer of all, Mark Twain, said, “Travel is the death of prejudice.”

virginia schenck sacred travel
Vocal artist, and our interviewer here, Virginia Schenck (in black hat), leading a group on a Singing pilgrimage to Ireland

If you’re inspired to take a journey of pilgrimage after reading this interview you can travel with Phil or Virginia in 2018 with Sacred Earth Journeys.

Phil is leading a wonderful spring-time journey to Paris to discover the literary, spiritual, cultural and epicurean heart of the City of Lights: Passion for Paris with Phil Cousineau. 

In the fall of 2018 Phil is also leading 2 fabulous pilgrimages to Greece: The Heart of Ancient Greece: An Odyssey with Phil Cousineau will transport you three thousand years back in time to the roots of classical Greece and forward to the modern Mediterranean of magnificent land and seascapes. The Hydra Writer’s Retreat with Phil Cousineau is an all-new mythopoetic approach to crafting your story on the beautiful Greek island of Hydra.

If you’re looking for something a little more musical, Virginia Schenck is leading a Sacred Singing Journey to Ireland with special guest Nóirín Ní Riain, Ireland’s acclaimed spiritual singer, in October 2018.