A spiritual journey is a trip taken in either physical or spiritual space (as in a shamanic journey) which causes the traveler to grow, change, and/or evolve in some fashion. It is undertaken with a measure of faith that the universe will provide, with the intention that the person will not return unchanged, and with awareness that everything encountered on the path is relevant.
Wikipedia defines a pilgrimage as “a journey or search of moral or spiritual significance. Typically, it is a journey to a shrine or other location of importance to a person’s beliefs and faith, although sometimes it can be a metaphorical journey into someone’s own beliefs.”
Many Native American tribes have practiced the vision quest – which is its own form of a spiritual journey. It is usually done as part of a rite of passage, but the elements are the same.
A shamanic journey is a similar form, but shorter in nature and occurring in meditative space rather than as a physical journey – usually taking place over the course of a few hours or less.
In Australia, the Aboriginees would undertake a spiritual journey known as “walkabout“. Ironically, it was described by outsiders (the British) as “A temporary return to traditional Aboriginal life, taken especially between periods of work or residence in modern society and usually involving a period of travel through the bush.” This totally failed to understand the spiritual import of the tradition.
Today’s spiritual seekers define the term walkabout a bit more appropriately as “A walkabout requires a decision to take a first step, and a conscious and intentional movement (inwardly, outwardly or both) in the general direction of a longing or calling — with an openness to the actual experience, and a minimal attachment to expectations and results.” Betsy Lewis, Walkabout Woman. Or as my friend and mentor put it “Walkabout is where you walk out into the world until you find yourself.”
I did a walkabout of my own as part of my shamanic initiation. I did mine in the United States in my car. I was on the road for almost a year, living on $350/mo. and the kindness of strangers. Read about that journey.
There are many different book and movies references that depict the nature of these journeys including:
- The Alchemist – by Paul Coelho
- The Way – movie starring Martin Sheen
- The Celestine Prophecy – James Redfield
- Mutant Message Down Under – Marlo Morgan
- The Pigrimage – Paul Coelho
And these are only the obvious ones. There are many more and many less obvious references to the spiritual journey that is pilgrimage.
What to be conscious of before taking any spiritual journey:
1) The goal of a spiritual journey is not the completion of the journey, but the full engagement with the path along the way. This means that everything that happens to you along the path is relevant – so presence is key.
2) Your journey will require faith. The pilgrim is protected spiritually. There will be opportunities that arise, and doors that open for you on your journey that don’t happen at other times. You have to have the faith to follow where the road takes you – even if it seems strange or too good to be true. You have to be willing to say “yes!”
3) The final piece of the puzzle is courage. You will find out things about yourself that aren’t pretty. You have to have the courage to face those parts of yourself. It is the pieces of yourself that you deny that rule you. Have the courage to deal with them and you will have the ultimate power over your own life.