What is it that compels us to leave the comforting and familiar for a pilgrimage to the remote Himalaya? For millennia, mystics and seekers have left their lives and loved ones for an arduous spiritual quest of discovery. Despite our easy access to technology, great teachers and a huge online reservoir of resources, there is still a place for spiritual pilgrimage.
When I first ‘discovered’ yoga 27 years ago, I was enthralled by the origin stories of yoga in Vedic mythology and the biographies of modern mystics and the yoga greats including Babaji, Yogananada, Krishnamacharya who sought out and found enlightened masters in the mountains, and under their tutelage realised the highest truths, or who through their own unwavering immersion in sadhana opened directly to receive divine wisdom, whole scriptures.
Pictured here exactly 20 years ago at Sarangkot where I walked with nothing but a bumbag containing a few essential items and a sherpa guide to show me the way. Not a trekker, and naive enough not to be deterred by the physical challenge, like a long lineage of earnest seekers before me, I set out to discover the truth of who I am, the purpose of the great pain I carried in my heart, how to be free of it, and how to embrace life again and reconnect with a higher purpose. It had been a difficult few years, I felt defined by the trauma of the preceding years, and despite being afraid, knew in my heart I had the capacity to be free.
I kind of succeeded. I met a dog who walked with us for days with unwavering steadiness and joy, I was accompanied by a sherpa who without any education understood the human spirit, how to heal, motivate and to keep going despite life’s unfairness. I found strength and resilience within myself which I draw on to this day, and after years of disillusionment, I found God in nature, in the mountains, the plants, the people, everywhere. Every step was an act of devotion, commitment and surrender. Every step brought me closer to God.
Healing and real understanding takes time. There is no guru, no master waiting in a cave in the Himalayas who knows all, sees all, who can relieve you of your past and provide you with all the answers. The fantasy is appealing. There are however many guides who see into your heart and with intelligence, intuition and genuine compassion lead you toward insight and revelation. I have met and revere these wonderful, humble teachers starting with my husband, parents, children, and then those teachers I consciously seek out or stumble across.
This is spiritual pilgrimage. To step outside the patterns and constructs of everyday life with a clear intent of healing and discovery. Our perspective broadens, our compassion deepens, we trust in the path forward. Quite literally at the top of the world, where human influence is seen for what it really is, we see clearly how small and unimportant we are, yet how great and purposeful and precious our individual lives are.