Much is happening that has spurred us to write about pilgrimage. As we discussed in our previous article about National Geographic’s affirmation of pilgrimage as “the next post-COVID travel trend,” we believe a pilgrimage revival is underway—and one that can’t be stopped.
Today, people are pursuing mindful and spiritual travel on a scale unseen since perhaps ancient and medieval times. National Geographic’s article helps confirm this, but more so our years of pursuing and closely watching the rising popularity of “going on a pilgrimage”.
We’ve undoubtedly reached an era where humanity could benefit from—needs, even—pilgrimage. Modern humans are a confused species. Many of us feel directionless and disoriented in a confused world. We feel we’ve been robbed of our inherent gifts to bestow on the planet. Even worse, we feel we don’t know what those gifts are. This confusion is compounded by various crises occurring on the planet. We live in a time where humanity’s disorientation is harming nature.
It is through pilgrimage, such as the journeys offered by Sacred Earth Journeys, that we can find the clarity to begin anew. Pilgrimage is the vehicle by which we imbue ourselves with inspiration from sources larger than life. This is why people are becoming more desperate for pilgrimage. They’re finally answering the call back to themselves.
What is a Pilgrimage?
A pilgrimage is any journey toward a destination of significance. Traditionally, pilgrims took such journeys on foot or horseback and for religious purposes.
According to the United Kingdom’s National Trust, “Pilgrimages still enjoy great popularity today, although the definition of what constitutes an ‘authentic’ pilgrim is debated. The modern pilgrimage, while still a strictly religious exercise for many, has also been embraced as a more fluidly spiritual experience, open to all participants, regardless of their beliefs.”
We believe that pilgrimage is being redefined through the ages to better suit the masses rather than tailoring solely to religious devotees.
We focus on creating itineraries that explore the world’s spiritual, indigenous, and timeless traditions while finding the sacred in ancient sites, ceremonies, and even everyday activities.
In our recent chat with author and journey leader Phil Cousineau, we discussed how we’d go as far as to say that a meaningful walk to a local park or other natural areas to clear the mind constitutes pilgrimage.
The point is for the pilgrim to leave behind the “normal” flow of their everyday reality (no matter how small that escape is) in order to reorient their perceptions, thus allowing them to move forward with more precision and meaning.
At Sacred Earth Journeys, however, we create journeys of a lifetime ranging from 9 to 16 days to connect with the ancient energies that exist at some of the most important sacred sites around the world.
These journeys are much more potent than local, micro-pilgrimages, and require participants to fly across the world where they’ll experience things unlike anything they have before, all while making lifelong friends in the process.
The Importance of a Pilgrimage Guide
Go at it alone, sure. But we believe the journey leader has a treasured role to play in ensuring the pilgrim’s effective passage between their known world and the new world opening before them. Finding a trusty guide is absolutely an important piece of the pilgrimage revival going on.
On our journey, Finding Buddha with Dr. Miles Neale and Special Guest Geshe Tenzin Zopa, Dr. Miles Neale will be leading us into a world much different than the world many of us are accustomed to: the Tibetan Buddhist lands of Nepal and India.
Our friend Miles is an extremely educated Buddhist psychotherapist, having compiled twenty years’ experience integrating the mind science and meditative practices of Tibetan Buddhism with psychotherapy.
With a read of his recent Gradual Awakening, Miles makes it obvious that a pilgrim couldn’t find anyone better to act as guide through the vibrant terrain of Indian and Nepalese Buddhism. The lone traveler may find gems of their own, learn some things, and obtain insight worthy of a life transformation. But a pilgrim under the wing of Dr. Miles Neale, as our journey description describes, ensures the “pilgrimage will be an adventure of profound transformation.”
We got to sit down and chat with Miles, actually, back in March 2021. Therein, he grants us his view of pilgrimage by speaking about Joseph Campbell’s monomyth and its relation to the living pilgrim. Then, he shares something special about the Buddha. He shares how before his death, the Buddha advised his followers to take pilgrimage.
Here’s what Miles says:
“[Before his death], Buddha advised that those that can should make pilgrimage to each of these powerful places: the site of the Buddha’s birth, the site of the Buddha’s enlightenment, the site of the Buddha’s first teaching, and the site of the Buddha’s passing.”
We do just that on our pilgrimage with Miles. We visit Lumbini where the Buddha was born, Bodhgaya where enlightenment was gained, Sarnath where the first Dharma teaching was delivered, and Kushinagar where the Buddha passed away.
To be able to lead such a pilgrimage with Miles, one that traces the ancient legends and wisdom teachings of the Buddha, is an incredible honor. We feel it represents our long-held commitment to reviving the powerful process of pilgrimage.
Join the Mass Pilgrimage Revival
As pioneers of pilgrimage and a travel company responsible for leading groundbreaking journeys around the world for nearly 2 decades, we’d be silly not to recommend our journeys as a premier way to experience pilgrimage.
Our offerings range from learning from the Maya in the Yucatan to embarking on mythical journeys with Phil Cousineau in Italy. We have writing retreats, journeys to India with spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey, and even a pilgrimage to the Sacred Valley of the Inca to study with a traditional Andean medicine man.
We agree that going on small, more local journeys holds transformational power and can be considered pilgrimage. Yet we know that more grand journeys such as our own hold a special power.
It is because of such journeys that we consider ourselves pioneers of the pilgrimage revival, one that, as National Geographic describes, could flourish even further in the post-COVID world.
~Jacob Lopez, staff writer