Posts Tagged ‘prayer flag’

Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 48                             Consecutive Days Blogging: 49

Today’s Mileage:  10                                        Total Trip Mileage: 419


Holidays and Holy Days on November 26:

Waqf al ArafaIslamic observance day during Hajj when pilgrims pray for forgiveness and mercy.

Day of the CovenantBaha’i celebration of the covenant given in the last will and testament of Baha’u’llah

Holidays and Holy Days on November 27:

Eid al-AdhaIslamic Feast of Sacrifice. The most important feast of Islam. It concludes the Hajj and is a three-day festival recalling Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son in obedience to Allah.


I hope that everyone has recovered from the Thanksgiving Day feasting!  I would like to start off by apologizing to my Muslim and Baha’i friends for failing to note the significant Holy Days associated with yesterday.  I was preoccupied with getting my posting up so my mother could see it as she visited my sister’s gathering.  I would also like to ask everyone to hold the Hajj pilgrims in your prayers. There has been severe flooding in Saudi Arabia and a many pilgrims have died.

As I ride the bike today and note the mileage and calorie count climb, I am reminded of the simple truth about journeys. One might take a break to replenish supplies and energy, but then you have to get back on the road or risk being overwhelmed with the urge to sit “just a little while longer.”  It felt good to indulge in a feast of celebration but it feels good to return to my bike and the pilgrimage.

I decided to use today’s posting to address an issue I left unfinished from the beginning of this journey.  What the meaning and significance of my Pilgrim Symbol?  During this holiday season I am sure there have been a number of shocked and puzzled individuals who have goggled the term” Pilgrim” expecting to see hats with buckles and the Mayflower.  Instead they found this strange, reclined humanlike figure surrounded by a multitude of foreign symbols. I know this is the case as this aspect of my Blog site is the most consistently reviewed by outside searches! Perhaps it’s time I reveal the meaning of the symbols I used to create the image. 

The Human Form:

1)      Reclining human form – this is representative of the stationary aspect of my journey and the fact that my bike is one you recline into rather than sit perched on the seat.

2)      The contrasting halves to the human form – this is representative of the dualistic experience we often have of our physical body.  It is the source of pleasure (light) and pain (dark), we often celebrate it as the vehicle on our journey but then curse it for the desires associated with it.  The whole mind/body or physical/spirit dilemma is wrapped up in this dualism.

3)      The Yin Yang symbol – this is the Chinese symbol pointing to the illusion of dualism, that they are forces locked into an eternal spinning dance.  In addition, within each region is the seed of the other.  If you look close enough at Life you will find that Death often prepared the way for it. The purpose of this symbol is to pull the viewer out of this illusion to see both as part of a process. Reality is about the dance between life and death, between good and evil, it transcends these dualities. This insight represents an important part of my intellectual philosophy which is why it comprises the figures’ head.

The Wheel: literally represents the wheel of my bike, but is full of symbolic meaning. 

4)      Ouroboros: The snake grasping it’s tail – is a symbol in many early faiths for the cyclical nature of things; the eternal return as cycles that begin anew as soon as they end, like a day or the seasons. The importance of seeing our journey as a series of cycles embedded within each other represents a personal insight that helps me to “keep things in perspective.”

5)      The Zen Circle – represents the entire universe in a single, perfect stroke.  Although simple, it is difficult to paint successfully and thus must be done with a clear mind focused on the task. This reminds me to always strive for mindfulness!

6)      The Buddhist Eight Spoked Wheel – one of the early symbols of Buddhism, it represents the Eight Fold Path, the path towards Enlightment.  Each spoke represents one of the “right” forms of wisdom, ethical conduct and moral development. My youngest son was quick to point out to me that some of the spokes do not touch the outer part of the wheel.  I noted that this indicates that I fall short of following the dictates of all of the spokes.

7)      The Compass Points – are represented by the horizontal and vertical spokes embedded within the circle. A reminder to always check our “bearings,” to look up from our path to ensure that we still on the desired path and not lost.

8)      The Quadrants of a Mandala – the horizontal and vertical spokes also divide the circle into quarters. The teaching Mandala of the eastern faiths (i.e. The Buddhist Wheel of Life) typically has as a structure of a circle divided into four components. This reminds me that parts of the cycles of life may look and feel significantly different, but if you step back, you will see them as part of the whole.

      The Staff: my actual staff is not nearly so straight, but sturdy and bent like the back of an old man.

9)      The Walking Stick – pilgrims throughout the world are often seen with a staff as they prod along on their journey.  As a hiker I can attest to the usefulness of a walking stick; to test the ground before us, to lean on and to anchor us as we climb up and down the ridges and peak along the path.  One of my artist endeavors are Taoist Walking Sticks, wall hangings made from sticks, roots, bones, seeds and feathers.  I find these things on my hikes and nature walks.

A Taoist Wlaking Stick by StationaryPilgrim

A Taoist Walking Stick by StationayPilgrim

10)  Grasping the Staff – the reclining figure holds the staff as a reminder that we can’t make this journey alone, we need support at times, whether that be in the form of words of guidance, encouragement or just a hug to lighten the emotional load.

11)  The Cross – the universal symbol of Christianity.  A symbol of sacrificial love and redemption, a reminder of the “devotional” path to the divine.  For me personally it is also a reminder of my Christian roots, the years of Catholic education continue to form a part of my supportive foundations.

12)  The Prayer Flag Banner – I have talked before about the use of prayer flags in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition.  This is a reminder that we carry with us the needs and struggles of those we love know and meet along our path; that every step we take, all of our actions serve to “flutter” the prayer flag, sending these offerings of praise and prayers of request to “the heavens.” Whether in good or difficult times, we should remember those we carry with us.

       The Top of the Staff: The source of illumination and direction

13)  The Chalice and Flame – the symbol for my Unitarian Universalist faith.  Holding high the light of pluralism, love, understanding and acceptance. For me this represents the shared communal knowledge that helps to light my way.

14)  The Godhead – one of the most sacred symbols of Hinduism is the Sacred Om.  It represents not only the sacred sound (mantra), but is a visual symbol of the various states of consciousness (waking, sleeping, dreaming and God consciousness).  In the upper part of the symbol is a small point (consciousness of God) that is separated from the other forms of consciousness.  The consciousness of God is not found outside of us, although it maybe perceived as being outside, but deep within us.  However, our realization of this fact is blocked by or identification with our body and ego. Placed at the top of the staff, it is a reminder of the mystical knowledge and experience that continues to fuel my journey and provide an inner source of light.

15)  Neptune’s Trident or Hindu Trihsula – one viewer noted that the upper portion of the staff appeared to be a trident; a water symbol and representative of creativity.  I hadn’t seen this till she pointed it out, highlighting that symbolic images are always interpreted through the viewers’ eyes and experiences.  In the Hindu faith, this is symbolic of the irresistible force of transcendental reality and of the three powers: Will, Action and Wisdom.  I cannot look at the image now without seeing the trident, representative perhaps of my Zodiac water sign (Pisces) and my expanding creativity.

       Background Features: I did not include these features initially but added them as I began the Pilgrimage recognizing them as important to the process of the journey.

16)  The Disappearing Tracks – the tire and staff tracks; we should travel through life aware of the marks we leave of our passage.  I believe the most important traces are not great monuments, but are how we touch others, hopefully in positive loving ways. Also, I think it goes without saying, we should not leave any road kill (victims) along our path!

17)  The Sky, Mountains, and Water – one of the defining features of Taoism is its use of nature to illustrate the lessons and process of life. An openness and admiration of nature (the growth/beauty and death/ugliness) allows the messages and insights to come to us, and promote the possibility of Nature Mystical Experience.

18)   The Road or Pathway – we are all on a path, heading somewhere.  Some people like a populated path, other prefer one “less travelled.” Some people want a mapped out path, others prefer to make their own. Some people choose the smoothest they can find, others like to “mountain bike” it.  Existentialists believe that we must find our own meaning or purpose in life, that meaning defines our path.  Being a teacher, parent, artist, lover, blogger gives my life meaning. Our meaning has to conform to life’s challenges, like growing old, but it is largely a matter of choice! We choose our path and we can always choose to change it!

One last note before I leave this discussion, concerning the difference between signs and symbols.  Generally speaking signs are denotive, they represent an object or direction. Like a wheelchair figure on the handicap sign or the “danger” message of the skull and cross bones.  Where as symbols are more connotive, they are meant to arouse emotions and maybe representative of something else. Like a swastika, which is a Hindu sign of peace that now evokes a sense of “evil” in the western world. Some signs and symbols have a universal quality and have meaning easily recognized by different cultures, others are unique and a person must “learn” the meaning of the sign or the appropriate emotions and ideas associated with a symbol.

My Pilgrim’s Symbol is meant to be connotive and arouse emotions and thoughts in the viewer.  You may see what I had intended, or as represented by the trident example, you might see things I had not intended.  Are you wrong and I’m right?  No!  I believe that useful symbols allow a person to see what they need to see, present them with some lesson/thought for them to process.  I would only ask the viewer to take an open approach to the experience of the symbol.  If you see more meanings then I noted these are potentially useful personal insights!  If you pull back in horror or out of rejection, these are potentially insightful personal reactions!

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 22                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 23

Today’s Mileage: 10                                          Total Trip Mileage: 218


    As  promised, today I will introduce a new feature to the Blog site, my Pilgrim’sPrayer Flag.   In an earlier Blog I noted that prayer is an important part of the Longing which motivates us to start a pilgrimage.  We often carry prayers for ourselves, for others, or for larger causes (world peace) with us as we journey to sacred sites, places where we converse with and/or experience the divine. Prayer is an important ritualistic aspect in all of the major world wisdom traditions.  While the exact form of the prayer rituals will vary greatly from tradition to tradition, and even within traditions, they all represent an interaction, on some level, with the divine. 

christian point trail by Kewinkle Tetro Ta

Christian Point Trail

  In my Psychology of Religion class, I teach that prayers can be divided into two general groups: Petitionary Prayers that make a request of the divine for some individual or group cause (health, wealth, happiness, victory) and Praise Prayers which express thanks, gratitude and recognition of greatness and power. The website www.worldprayers.org  uses a system that has four categories of prayer.  These include: Adorations – prayers of devotion, surrender, love, praise and offering; Invocations – prayers of petition, supplication, calling forth and healing; Celebrations – prayers of thanksgiving, initiation, affirmation and blessing; and Meditations – prayers of reflection, contemplation, being and teaching.

bird by namealex

Majestic Viewer

One does not have to look very hard to recognize the importance of prayer.  I conducted a Google search on prayer and received over 37 million sites.  Limiting the search to prayer requests narrowed it to just 2.5 million sites! 

blue lake by gilles56

Blue Lake in the Everglades



Darchor style prayer flags on a vertical pole in northern India.

Back to my Pilgrim’sPrayerFlag. Prayer Flags are a colorful are highly visible component of Tibetian Buddhism.  They are often transported by pilgrims to sacred sites and were used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.  Traditionally these prayers were not prayers to “gods” but were meant to wave in the winds and spread goodwill and compassion to all.  There were two types: Lung ta – colorful squares printed with woodblocks strung in a horizonal fashion; and Darchor – verticle streamers meant to increase life, fortune, health and wealth of all sentient beings. For purposes of my Blog and pilgrimage, I am going to embrace the Darchor physical style (see the streaming banner attached to the staff on my pilgrim symbol) but open it  to all four forms of prayer.  I will carry the prayerflag with me and retire it on a weekly basis, replacing it with a new clean virtual banner.  Please click on the tab at the top of this page to leave a prayer or review the prayers shared by others.


 I have included photos from our route through the Everglades.  In one of my upcoming Blogs we will “contemplate” this beautiful expanse of grass, swamp and waterways as a pilgrimage site.   

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

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Pilgrimage Statistics

Consecutive Days Riding: 21                                Consecutive Days Blogging: 22

Today’s Mileage: 11                                            Total Trip Mileage: 208 


    I climbed on the bike today with a heavy heart. My oldest son is making choices that are sending his life down a destructive path.  As I work to grow, discover more about myself, and connect with the divine through my Pilgrimage Journey, he is “going over to the dark side!”  Whether it’s a family member, friend or student struggling with life’s demands, it is hard to watch. It is even harder to accept that there is little you can do for them. Sharing the struggle with others and carrying the individual in your thoughts and prayers can help. 

southwest florida by foto's van overal

Coast Prairie Trail west of Flamingo


In yesterday’s posting I noted that Jennifer Westwood described one of the components of the Longing to undertake a Pilgrimage journey as “the Prayer.” This prayer, which is carried by the pilgrim to the site, often takes the form of a request for assistance from the divine for themselves, for another person or some cause.

birds at flamingo by craig gaebel

Bird at Flamingo Florida


    Tomorrow I will post a Prayer page as part of this Blog It will be a place where we can identify those family and friends who are in need of our prayers.  I will carry these pilgrim prayers with me as I ride between pilgrimage sites.


high tide at flamango by danhester

At high tide near Flamingo

    As I spun the wheel and the miles slipped past I think of nature’s beauty as we travel through the Everglades National Park.  Some see the handiwork of the divine in this beauty and give praise for the many gifts that flow our way.  Other people stand in awe of the beauty and experience a mystical sense of oneness with the divine.

flamingo area by nationalparklover

Flamingo area with kite.

    I have included a number of pictures to highlight this natural beauty.  Seeing the shoreline, waterways and wildlife remind me of a walk I took along a local river and the blue heron that crossed my path. I wrote about our chance encounter.

The Heron

Like some exotic oriental kite

It hovers in the morning sky

I hold my breath

Holding onto the moment



Standing majestically erect

Scanning the surroundings

It watches me

Not its prey

Like I was some enemy


Like These

It is moments like these

Standing shivering

   in the morning chill

The first rays of the morning sun

   Not yet clearing the horizon

Wafts of mist rising from

   roaring churning waters

That I feel

   most alive


Just the dance of life

One moment

    It stands frozen

        Like some garden ornament

The next

    It plunges its long neck       

        Into the swirling waters

Standing proud and erect

    It shifts its prey

        Lifts its head

            and the fish disappears



Lifting off

He turns skyward

As the morning sun

Creeps steadily across

The green river canopy

sunset north of flamingo by Dr. Rusty

Simple sunset north of Flamingo Florida

     I hope you enjoyed the photos and poems.  Have a wonderful and safe day!

A special thanks to the photographers associated with Panramio for the beautiful scenes from along the roadside.

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