Our blog post this week is beautifully written by Chris Franek, a participant on our recent journey: “King Arthur’s Avalon and the Quest for the Holy Grail with Phil Cousineau: A Sacred Tour of England with Special Guest Geoffrey Ashe, MBE.”
It’s hard to believe that the Arthur/Grail journey in England with Phil Cousineau in April was my fourth journey with Phil in four years. This particular journey occurred at a very interesting time not only in my life but at what increasingly feels like a pivotal time in modern history given the intense friction from all of the societal divisions that are erupting in lockstep with a never-ending news feed of announcements of one extreme weather event after another. The intensity of it all can feel tremendously unsettling to me and I’ll be honest that I have found myself wondering on a number of occasions how to find some sense of inner peace in being able to navigate my life in such tumultuous waters.
In revisiting the experience through my photos, one realization I’ve had is that these extreme global circumstances have served as a unique lens that revealed and magnified the antidotal quality of doing one of Phil’s pilgrimages. One of the terms for the grail that Phil refers to is the “inexhaustible vessel.” It is the source of vitality that cannot be exhausted. Phil’s great mentor and friend, the mythologist Joseph Campbell, associated the grail to that still hub (described as “kairos” by the ancient Greeks) at the centre of the movement of the chronos-bound world we live in. It’s something that speaks to me as it’s what I’m certainly looking for in this time of tremendous turmoil. It points to the idea that the fascination that the quest for the grail seems to hold on our collective psyche is perhaps a metaphor for our search for a calm centre within us.
So in a sense, going on a journey with Phil provides me with the opportunity to locate myself. Because my life in the familiar world often moves at a manic pace (in an urbanized environment saturated with hyper-stimulation), my grasp of where I am in time and space sometimes becomes tenuous at best. It’s hard to orient yourself when you are in the chaos of the surf and Phil’s journeys have an elevating quality that enables me to rise above the agitation of the scrum of the daily preoccupation with productivity and achievement. In a world where an ever increasing amount of our connections to one another are being digitized and depersonalized, Phil works with ancient analogue tools for meaningful connection that have held communities together for eons – storytelling and conversation.
On its own, any one of these incredible places in England that our cadre of pilgrims visited are certainly memorable but through Phil’s telling of the associated stories, myths, and legends, ancient stones become animated with the vital wisdom and conversations of those who came before us. Phil’s inexhaustible commitment to the union of story and place created a metaphorical container that insulated us from the pell-mell of activity happening outside in the world of time. There was a palpable sense of everything slowing down and each day felt like the continuation of one long collective sigh.
As someone who possesses a deep affinity for photography, visiting extraordinary places like Stonehenge, Westminster Abbey, Bath, Glastonbury Abbey, Salisbury Cathedral, and Tintagel certainly provides for a cornucopia of beguiling imagery to capture. Interestingly, what I’ve come to appreciate most in looking at the photos is not the stunning visual beauty of these places. For me, the photos are more of a bridge to a largely ineffable multidimensional experience that can only be fully appreciated in the doing of it. My more lasting memories will not be of a cathedral or an ethereal arrangement of stones but of being in a rare state of stasis, where for a brief time, the world stopped and community gathered – to listen to stories of our ancestors and dance with each other in conversation.
~ Chris Franek
All photos featured in this blog post were taken by Chris Franek.
To see more stunning photos from this journey to England with Phil Cousineau please visit our Flickr album. Phil will be leading 3 journeys for Sacred Earth Journeys in 2017: “The Heart of Cuba with Phil Cousineau“, “The Wild West of Ireland with Phil Cousineau: The Myths, Music, and Magical Literature of Connemara, Clare, and the Aran Islands”, and “The Connemara Writer’s Retreat with Phil Cousineau: All New Mythopoetic Writer’s Workshop.” Journeys with Phil Cousineau are always extremely popular so visit our website today to secure your spot on a journey of a lifetime!