Consecutive Days Riding: 101 Days Blogged: 94
New Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 773
As I ride the bike this morning I am reminded of the scene from the movie Peaceful Warrior in which the young man followed his newly discovered mentor/teacher on a three hour hike to see “something special .” As they neared the top of the hill, the young man, who was obviously excited and joyful, notes that he hopes they are close to arriving at their location. His mentor notes they have arrived, to which the young man asked: “what’s the special thing we’ve come to see?” The old man points at a rock at the young man’s feet. The young man grows puzzled and frustrated at this proclamation until he comes to the sudden realization that the special thing was “the journey “to that place. It reminds us that the destination does not matter as much as how we journey. Ultimately, we all end up as nothing more than a cold granite tombstone, a plaque on a memorial garden wall, or a wisp of ashes dancing on the breeze. It’s what we do with our lives, with every day and every moment on this journey toward our final breath.
My progress as a stationary pilgrim on a virtual search for pilgrimage sites across Florida, the nation, and eventually the world, has helped me to clarify the nature of my trip. I have recently posted the connection to a new website at www.pilgrimagesite.com. You can find it by clicking on the pilgrimage site tab at the top of this page. This site allows me to record the presence of retreat centers and potential pilgrimage sites that I find in my internet search. This webpage contains no pictures or extensive descriptions, just a classification of with respect to its potential interest as a site and a webpage address. This allows my fellow pilgrims to look at a site and decide on its personal significance to them. Sites that might hold special significance in my journey, prompting questions and answers for me, might mean little or nothing to other pilgrims. Even if we share an excitement about a particular site, you might be drawn to the spiritual significance of “the grotto” while I get lost in the spiritual significance of a nature trail.
This search for potential sites has led me to questions concerning how to differentiate and classify these potential sites. A pilgrimage has been defined typically in religious or spiritual terms as a journey or search of some great moral or spiritual significance. All of the world’s major religions have specific pilgrimage sites. Typically they are found in the lands where the faith originated. For example within Buddhism there are four major pilgrimage sites these are associated with Buddha’s birth place, the site where he attained enlightenment, the site where he preached for the first time, and the site at which he slipped away from his material body. But a pilgrimage sites need not attain that level of significance to function as a journey destination, it need only have some level of spiritual significance for a group or an individual. Many people make personal pilgrimages to honor their “fallen” ancestors on Memorial Day. Other people may journey to the site of a special relic or the “first church” of their faith in the New World; I would call this an historically significant site. I have created a classification system whereby I identify sites as having potential significance on various dimensions: Artistic, Architectural, Historical, Scientific, Educational, Religious, and Natural (Nature).
It seems that a pilgrimage journey is often undertaken when we seek an answer to some spiritual question or reconnection with some aspect of our faith. Retreats on the other hand, seem to represent more of a temporary change or break from our normal daily routines, a chance to have some “down time” to seek silence and solitude. This can be a time for prayer, a time to let go of pain, negative emotions, stress and reconnect with the things that are significant to us personally. Retreat centers, which there are many, seem to have as a principal feature the feelings of solitude and tranquility. I find that retreat sites offer differing degrees of nature based solitude as a primary component. As such retreat sites will range from what I call a Nature Site such as the Everglades National Park or at the Grand Canyon where an immersion in nature’s awe inspiring beauty is the sites primary offering. In fact if you are lucky such site will offer at least a port-a-potty to service your non-spiritual needs! More common for the retreat sites I have previewed is what I would call Nature Tranquility which features things like a walking trail through the woods, a bench beside a tranquil river or a vista over a quiet valley. Somewhat less significance with respect to nature are those sites that offer small but beautiful gardens, often next to a church or on the surrounding grounds. There are also retreat sites that offer solitude but within an enclosed structure like you are what you might find in a large metropolitan area or in inner-city Zen temple with a simple garden and meditation rooms.
Now that I have my pilgrimage site and retreat center webpage up and running, I’ll find it easier to navigate on my virtual journey. When I come across sites that we will not visit, perhaps they’re too far out of the way or in some cases I’ve already traveled past the site’s location, I can simply post it for my fellow pilgrims to preview and perhaps visit on the own either virtually or in person. This serves to free my search as I can simply post all potential sites whether we may or may not visit in the future them as part of our virtual journey.
On Saturday we will visit a Monastery on the outskirts of Tampa, I have found that monasteries and convents, which dot the countryside of our nation in larger numbers then you might think, make for popular retreat centers. Remember that each breath, each step, each day is as important on our journey as making it to a specific destination!