Have you ever felt a burning desire to travel to a particular place, a place that holds special meaning for you? Perhaps it might be to a house or neighborhood where you lived as a child, or to the place where you fell in love, or to a graveyard where your ancestors are buried. Perhaps you have a certain task that must be accomplished – to seek a cure for an illness of body or mind, to find closure to a painful chapter in your life, to scatter the ashes of a loved one. All of these special journeys are pilgrimages, transformative journeys of the spirit.
In the last chapter of Cloud Messenger, I describe my pilgrimage to Kausani, the little town in the Himalayas where Pradeep first shared his dream of working in these remote mountain villages. When I knew we were going to return to Canada, I was filled with the desire to revisit this special place. My pilgrimage was a day-long walk from Kausani to the Baijnath temple in the valley below, a time for reflection about the dramatic eleven year journey that Pradeep and I had shared in the Garhwal Himalayas.
Memories from that day linger in my mind, filled with mystery and beauty. The majestic peaks of the Himalayas frame the scene, and in the foreground are the forest of oak and walnut trees, the newly harvested farmers’ fields, and the swooping flocks of birds. Along the path I met a village woman, who perceived my sadness at leaving India and reassured me that I would come back to the mountains one day. I wondered if she was one of those mysterious guides who appear to pilgrims in need of assistance.
On a pilgrimage, we must mobilize the power of our imagination so we can become attentive to the deepest dimensions of the journey. Listen intently to everything around you, and observe the smallest detail of your surroundings. Something that you see or hear on your journey may remind you of a half-forgotten truth, or point the way to a new insight. Pilgrimages have been called the oldest form of self-remembering and re-discovery, tapping into our inner yearning to make meaning out of the complexities of our lives. We can call upon Kairos, the god of synchronicity, to help us truly learn from these pilgrimages, which are journeys of risk, renewal and transformation.