Consecutive Days Riding: 117 Days Blogged: 101
New Mileage: 10 Total Trip Mileage: 853
As I climb on the bike this morning I am pondering the fact that it’s been almost 4 months since we started the stationarypilgrim’s journey. In fact we have now passed the 100th blog threshold. I believe this is a good time to share with my readers a few of my insights, especially with respect to choosing and finding a pilgrimage sites and retreats.
So far we have visited 14 specific sites across Florida. We are nearing the Orlando area and will visit four more sites before we head for the East Coast and then turn north toward St. Augustine. In addition to the specific sites we have visited, I have also been busy uncovering potential sites further down the road within Florida and beyond. The list of sites (over 100 and growing daily) can be found on my webpage (go to the Pilgrimage Sites tab at the top of this page and follow the link). It includes entries from nearby states as far away as California and in New York.
As often happens on such journeys, you start off with a sense of where you’re heading and what you’re doing but the process of the journey combined with the unexpected sites and scene on your path to help you clarify and refine your goals. I knew that a Spiritual Retreat is often defined as any kind of solitude experience where you remove yourself from the usual environment in order to immerse yourself in either in a particular subject matter or a particular experience. Retreats may be as simple as sitting quietly in a secluded portion of your yard, or as complex as a weeklong trip to a monastery where no speaking is allowed. Spiritual retreats are often times for reflection prayer, meditation, and rest. They allow time for “taking stock” of one’s life and/or a re-commitment to connecting with the spiritual aspects of life. They may be undertaken alone, as a couple or as part of a larger group.
On my journey to uncover pilgrimage and retreat sites I have found that most retreat centers offer settings that promote solitude and reflection. In my classification of Retreat Sites I place them along a continuum with respect to the use of nature (a natural setting) to promote this solitude.
On one end are Simple Retreat Sites that include little or no contact with nature, these may be residential settings where solitude is provide behind the closed door to your room, or sitting silently in a chapel. As you might expect these sites are often found in larger cities where natural surrounds are limited by development.
Further along the continuum are Garden Retreat Sites, where nature makes an appearance in the form of an enclosed garden space (such as a Zen garden) or a flower garden like you may find surrounding churches. These sites usually provide shaded benches, fountains and/or paved walkways and are often found in cities and more populated areas.
Next on my classification continuum are Nature Tranquility Retreat Sites. These sites typically include large grassy and wooded areas for walking, praying and meditating. They often include water features in the form of beaches, lakes, rivers or streams. They may offer more extensive gardens, including grottos, shrines, labyrinths, and statues. These Nature Tranquility Sites may feature distinctly Spiritual/Religious connections, such as monasteries, convents, church camps. However, other sites may be represented by secular local or state parks. While it is not my intention to list all state and local parks, I do include a number of these sites, especially if the natural features of the site, like undeveloped beach front, old growth forests are a prominent feature.
My classification continuum ends with what I call Nature Sites. These are composed primarily of National Parks which present us with stunning and awe inspiring experiences of the vastness, the beauty, the diversity of nature. They do more than offer us a moment a tranquility or an escape from our daily struggles, they very often hold our attention captive and offer us an opportunity to transcend the mundane and approach the spiritual plane.
Those of us blessed to receive Nature Mystical experiences may describe these Nature Sites as “our cathedrals.” Other people may visit these sites and praise the divine for the beauty of “God’s creation,” either way these are very special sites. Most of us are not lucky enough to live within commuting distance of these locations so they most often represent “special retreat trips” or vacations. For some people they may represent the destination of a personal pilgrimage.
Retreat Site Classification Continuum
Retreat Site — Garden Retreat Site — Nature Tranquility Site — Nature Site
What is the difference between a Retreat Site and a Pilgrimage Site? While we most often undertake a retreat to “get away” and enjoy some solitude, a pilgrimage journey is often directed toward a location/place which has some special significance. It may offer the pilgrim significant historical insights into their faith or culture. It may present the pilgrim with an example of spiritual diversity. It may lead the pilgrim to answer a specific question or present them with a new realm of possibilities. They may marvel at man’s artistic achievements or ponder the mysteries of a weeping icon or healing springs.
How do I make sense of and classify the dizzying array of Pilgrimage Sites? That will be the topic of my next blog. Have a wonderful weekend!
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