Road-Trip Realizations: Life as a Pilgrimage

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

As Red's tires hummed a steady road-song on the long drive home yesterday afternoon, I found myself thinking about life as a pilgrimage, a journey undertaken for inspiration or enrichment. As a deliberate spiritual practice. 

I am not particularly inclined toward organized religion, but I am deeply spiritual, and my daily life reflects that. Beginning with my 30-minute morning yoga routine, which is designed partly to relieve the muscle and joint stiffness and pain that settle in when I sleep, "gifts" of my autoimmune disease. And partly to reconnect my restless mind with my body, with the rhythm of heart and lung, the moving dialog of muscle and synapse, tendon and bone.

And perhaps most importantly to reconnect this complex organism I call "me" with the earth and the moment-by-moment passing of life itself.

Yoga is part of my meditation, my practice of inner and outer awareness. I follow it with a short spoken prayer of gratitude for this landscape and my patch of it, and intentions for the day and my part in the dance of life. 

That deliberate ritual of yoga and prayer is one of the daily spiritual habits I practice to remind myself to pay attention and cultivate awareness of the moments that make up my hours and days, so that life doesn't whiz by without me fully participating in it. To notice and cultivate compassion for the lives around me, microscopic to gargantuan, in all forms. And to practice joy and gratitude for the gift of this earth and the community of life that animates our planet, as well as the gift of taking part in that community. 

A pair of mergansers, diving ducks who eat fish, I saw on my run along the Arkansas River today. 

Those daily rituals are my attempt to find the spiritual in the every day, see the miracles imbued in the ordinary, to not take this existence for granted. Of course I'm not always successful.

We all have times when we zone out or get busy or simply to forget to stop and pay attention to ourselves and our part in the wondrous stream of life. And the days rush on whether we're aware or not, whether we care or not.  

Why bother? Why put the effort into living life with mindful gratitude?

Because life is a gift, not a given. There is no warranty on our term of years. After losing Richard and my mother in the same year, I am keenly aware of the truth of the saying that only moment we know we have is now.   

I want to live this unasked-for solo life fully. To not let any of it--no matter how joyous or painful, tedious or thrilling, hard or harsh or gloriously abundant--pass by unnoticed or unappreciated. 

This is the life I have. I am determined to live it with my heart outstretched as if it were my hand, engaging in the pilgrimage of experience for however many hours, days, months, and years I am given. Until the rush slows, and I cycle on to whatever is next. 

For now, I am here, and grateful for that gift. 

A rodent skull I found in my garden this morning.