I recently met with a group of people who will be accompanying me to Ireland next year. None of them have been to Ireland before and they were bubbling over with questions, which is only natural. Before I began to approach travel as pilgrimage, I too wore the somewhat heavy mantle of "tourist". Schedules, agendas, "must see's" were most important and I made lists and lists of lists.
Now I have a totally different approach because I try to travel with a pilgrim's heart and not a tourist's mindset. I make general plans and reservations but the minute I board the plane I leave all expectations behind. I keep my heart and mind completely open to the serendipitous, the spontaneous and the spur of the moment. I expect, no, welcome, the unexpected.
My week down east was a perfect example of the unexpected. Coming across the books by Brian Flynn reminded of the stone beach I'd visited 16 years ago on Grand Manan. Reading the introduction I discovered there was such a beach right there on Campobello! I asked the attendant and she showed me a map of the island where I could find these marvelous stones and off I went on a search that certainly wasn't on my "agenda". The serendipitous, the spontaneous and the unexpected all at once!
My friends and I will spend a week together next May in "John's house" in Ballyvaughan where I'll introduce them to that magical thin place, The Burren. It is the first leg of my month long Threshold Pilgrimage. (You'll hear much more about that in the months to come.) After a week in community, I'll leave for a solitary retreat to Iona and they will be on their own. I've encouraged them to just wander. To follow their hearts GPS and see where it leads them.
I've always had this wild idea of going to the airport one day and letting circumstance and whim decide which plane I board and where I end up. No plans, no reservations, no expectations. I would simply trust I'd end up someplace interesting and meaningful. I would try to be like those ancient Celtic monks who would put to sea in their tiny curraughs with no rudder and no oars...content to let the sea take them to a place of its own choosing, not theirs. This complete suspension of control is the ultimate act of faith I think.
Click on the lovely quote by John O'Donohue below to learn a bit more about these wandering Celtic monks.
- John O'Donohue