With just four days left to go before I begin my walk along the Pilgrims’ Way from Winchester Cathedral to Canterbury Cathedral I have been reading about what spiritual preparations pilgrims made in the past before their journey and considering how they relate to myself. I have trained physically and researched the route as described in this post here on preparations for a pilgrimage – how else should I prepare myself?
Making a pilgrimage and removing oneself from everyday life is a “letting go” in many ways. Some pilgrims would sell their worldly goods before setting out and just take with them the bare necessities. “Selling my worldly goods” is not practical for me and I don’t think T would approve (!), but I do try to live as simply as possible and I shall certainly use the time on the journey to continue in this vein and hopefully take it a stage further. Although I won’t be reliant on “begging” and looking to others to provide my necessities I will be living on a small budget each day which I am aiming to keep to. I will not be eating out in restaurants/pubs each night and hope to pick up along the route each day basic foodstuffs just to provide me with the energy I need for walking.
“Give me my scallop shell of quiet, My staff of faith to walk upon; my scrip of joy, immortal diet; my bottle of salvation, my gown of glory, hopes true gage, And thus I’ll take my pilgrimage.” (W Raleigh)
Another form of “letting go” will be a welcome break from “dressing up”. I will not be wearing the traditional garb of a pilgrim but will try not to let practical anxieties overwhelm me. To remind me that possessions are disposable, I will only be taking a couple of changes of clothes and will rely on the toiletries provided in the B and Bs. I have decided that, desert island disc style, my “luxury” will be one lipstick (!), but other than that won’t be taking make up. I hope in this way to work on letting go of vanity. (The “lipstick” is a step too far at present).
I am also very firmly going to try and keep away from newspapers, the news, TV and radio for the two weeks. By posting these blogs I will need to make connection with Facebook, which is a pity in some ways, but I will try not to get embroiled in scrolling down newsreels and take a welcome break from social media and current affairs. This should enable me to have more time and a clearer head to internally focus and is an aspect of walking the Pilgrims’ Way that I am really looking forward to.
Friends will be joining me at certain times but I will at stages and for much of the pilgrimage be taking leave of them – my “friends” will be made along the way.
Pilgrims would try to settle their monetary debts and settle old quarrels before beginning their journeys. They would apologise to those they had harmed and look to forgive those they felt had harmed them. They would set their house in order and take leave of their neighbours. One cannot undertake a pilgrimage in a spirit of sin. Oh, how once again am I so fortunate to have been through and continue to practice a program which enables me to do this. So far as I try and am aware “my side of the street is kept clean” on a daily basis. A pilgrimage is to leave behind the good deeds (and any self-righteousness) as well as the bad (and any guilt). Most pilgrims would receive a blessing from their local clergy and I am hoping to attend morning prayer at Winchester Cathedral prior to the start of my walk.
How wonderful to be able to let go of expectations and travel without them. I have not succeeded in this yet but am aiming to just be myself and give myself to the pilgrimage. My status gone; daily duties gone; my only duty being to walk and give gratitude.
I will finish with a photograph of the Bunyan window in my home church, St Mary’s, Harlington, Beds. This is the window I look at before I take Communion.
“Then said the other, ‘Do you see yonder shining light? ‘ He said ‘ I think I do’. Then said Evangelist, ‘Keep that light in your eye, and go up directly thereto, so shalt thou see the gate; at which when thou knockest, it shall be told thee what thou shalt do’.” (Bunyan, “Pilgrims’ Progress”)
For a full index of my posts on my Gratitude Walk of the Pilgrims’ Way please click here.
My book “The Woman Who Walked through Fear” has now been published by Sitting Duck Press