Pilgrimage | Basilica, Blue & Wisdom
“In each of us dwells a pilgrim. It is the part of us that longs to have direct contact with the sacred. We will travel halfway around the world and endure great sacrifice and pain to enter the sanctuary, whether it is a temple, shrine, cemetery, or library. This is the way that is no way, but a practice. … ‘It’s not so much what you do,’ wrote Epictetus in his study of happiness, ‘it’s how you do it.’ Your practice is your path. If so, ‘The Way is uncontrived,’ as Lao Tzu said. It is simply the way of seeing, the way of hearing, the way of touching, the way of walking, the way of being, with humility.” — The Art of Pilgrimage by Phil Cousineau
There are 6000 recognized pilgrimage roads in Western Europe alone and Mike and I were at the head of one, walking into the nave of the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourviere at the top of Lyon. Other visitors surrounded us but their languages fell away as my sight floated upwards, to the magnificent ceilings. Tears came and I let my flow. I felt a sense of being cleansed, in this moment of wonder and awe.
Today’s contemplative photography assignment was a basic photography lesson: color. The idea was to free your mind from prior associations with color and chose a shot that moved you. When I looked above the altar to the ceiling of blues, it recalled the idea of stars above the Egyptian tombs, sending their chosen to the next stop on their eternal passage. I remember being taught that Medieval scholars felt that ancients accepted seven colors (outside of black and white), green being the middle color that was an anchor, or middle color. Artists would look at the color green to rest their eyes. Much later, blue was used to represent the purity of the Virgin Mary and was eventually chosen by royalty, hoping to emulate that sense of purpose. Purple trumped blue when Queen Elizabeth I came into power.
When I looked at these blues, I was reminded of water on a papyrus map or the velvet dress of a singing madrigal. I made a pact with myself: When I feel blue I will remember the ethereal beauty of these ceilings in an attempt to prod me out of my doldrums!
I return to the compass. Now that we understand our “wants” with compassion, we step onto the next ordinal of the lighthouse compass: WISDOM. Once we’ve calmed the mind and opened the heart, wisdom graces us. Wisdom is waking up to what’s already around us. It is the sense that we are entering through a threshold, a broader level of consciousness. Aha moments, intuitive hits, dreams and fantasies, these are the realms of Wisdom.
How do we do this? We first listen to our internal wisdom, the body. Our body tells us our feelings, stores our memories, and reminds us where we have turned away from ourselves. If you want to understand how you are out of balance, I suggest you first ask your body. Ask where it most needs healing and what feels great today.
Second, we enter our mental body. This is the world of our thoughts. We look at our beliefs, values, and intentions. Are my beliefs in line with where I want to go? What wisdom do I need to share with the world, that it’s waiting to hear?
Essentially, wisdom is about curiosity.Wisdom is about opening up to desire. When you ground yourself and give yourself permission to step into what fascinates you, the rest will follow. Spirit is ready and waiting for you to walk through a passageway. Make contact with the sacred part of you. I promise you will find wonder that is your true self. Just as I did when I walked into the Basilica.
What is stoking your curiosity these days? Consider a recent dream, a piece of art, or something else that has piqued your interest. Journal your feelings or talk to a friend. What do you think it is trying to tell or show you? Explore and follow it where it is leading you.