PILGRIMAGE, JOURNEY, SOJOURN AS METAPHORS FOR LIFE’S TRANSFORMING WAYS

Morinis (1992) once defined six (6) types of pilgrimage: (1) devotional, (2) instrumental, (3) normative, (4) obligatory, (5) wandering, and (6) initiatory; all consisting of journey and goal. The goal of the journey is to move from the familiar to the Other, or from home to the place of the ideal, thus locating Otherness outside time and space. The ultimate goal of the pilgrim is salvation, either as transformation /transcendence into the ideal, or acquiring solutions to life’s afflictions. In approaching pilgrimage as a potential site of learning, a cultural-spiritual perspective on transformative learning (Brooks, 2000; Dei, 2002; Selby, 2002; Tisdell, 2003) resonates with the qualities of traditional pilgrimage as just described. Using cross-cultural relationships and experiences to enhance spiritual awareness, this approach to transformative learning highlights an evolutionary storying of personal experience, and sees spirituality as a journey toward wholeness (Tisdell, 2003). It falls within the larger tradition of transformative learning (Mezirow, 1991), but highlights culture and spirituality and the role of body and emotions rather than a strict approach to rationality, to manage the impact of our constantly changing world, or an experience like pilgrimage, which is physical and embodied as well as spiritual.

The story of how my life has been transformed during my own exploration of a life that seemed purposeless, and my subsequent training as a counsellor, is reflected upon, analysed and interpreted as a spiritual autoethnography. I have likened the development to that of a tree, my life-tree. While the first few years of growth seemed slow, this growth burgeoned with my deepening self-awareness. Even though the flow-of-consciousness seemed very much like self-discovery work and inward turning, I also became aware of “Other,” perhaps in the sense that Eliason, Samide, Williams, and Lepore (2010) used when they wrote about “the search for meaning, self, and other” (p. 88), and when they cited Buber’s statement that “there can be no I without Thou” (p. 89). I exist internally in dynamic interaction with what is external to me.

In his book entitled The Human Awakening, Richard Harvey writes:

Are we dabblers in life, mere dilettantes, never really penetrating into the depths? Or are we beings of great depth, unfathomable mystery and awesome ability? Are we inconsequential or are we wonderful – expendable microcosms without any lasting worth or shards of the divine?
If you believe the former, you must find a way to deal with the futility of existence, symbols of life refer to nothing beyond themselves, all is as it appears and with no greater significance. If you believe the latter, your life is a tremendous adventure for you face the challenge of becoming a real human being, personally and spiritually.

Which of these are we????

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