I hesitate to call this journey a pilgrimage. There is the adventure and challenge aspect, along with hopes and expectations of friendship and trail community. Yet most assuredly there is a spiritual significance to this hike. When I first started planning, my hopes were to duplicate what what I’d experienced on shorter ventures into the wilderness areas of Tennessee and North Carolina. On those trips I felt a closeness with nature and a sense of my place in creation. The natural world, revealing itself explained how perfectly everything fit together. There was an order amongst the chaos and I was a part of it. In that I was humbled and peaceful at the same time.
Two years ago my thoughts focused on my expectations, hopes, and ambitions. Today I simply want to open myself to receiving whatever messages and meanings God has planned for me. What I hear and see is what is meant for me. Deliberately walking for days and months in and among creation opens a conversation within oneself, beginning as random thoughts that turn into questions. Questions which require an answer. Being open to listening develops a pathway for inspiration and growth in faith and spirit. I don’t see myself as much seeking something, more like just being present and accepting of all that transpires. The end result may or may not provide answers or direction, but the effort is not wasted. My spiritual journey will continue far beyond the trail.
Let me explain what this hike is not. It is not true suffering. I am willingly foregoing the daily comforts surrounding me, with the intention to develop a deeper appreciation for each one of them. It is not penance seeking absolution. A hike is not needed for that. It is also not survival. The purpose is not to develop the ability to live off the land with no need for community. Without others there is no need for me. Because it is deliberate and intentional, it is voluntary. That means I can go home at anytime. So what is it?
I spoke earlier of a conversation. A conversation has two sides. One side has to listen. I am mindfully going with an open ear. The experience could at times be good or bad. How I respond or change is unknown. Yet I am thankful for the opportunity. I openly expect to be humbled yet have faith that it will make me stronger. What I hear and see, is what is meant for me. Two people will take the same hike and yet have an entirely different experience. That is why the phrase (“Hike your own hike”) is so relevant. I don’t think I’ll come away a smarter or better person. I simply seek the conversation. I must be open to whatever happens. Listening mindfully, understanding that it is meant for me and me alone. In doing so I have a chance to respond. Become an active part of the conversation. What that conversation looks like is part of the adventure! The journey continues…