For me, an adventure and spirit-driven documentary film/tv maker, pilgrimage sometimes takes on very extreme stakes, like motorcycling on Himalayan cliffs through monsoon rains, high-altitude hiking, or meditating with masters at sacred Indian sites of freedom. But what I’ve learned is that pilgrimage, no matter where or when, has certain distinct qualities to it. And whether we like it or not, this Covid-19 pandemic has really sent us all on a pilgrimage. Furthermore, if we realize it is a pilgrimage, then our approach to this time could be the most powerful journey yet.
So, the four reasons below not only layout these qualities of a pilgrimage, but also show us how to shift our attitude now so we can make the most of it. As we say in my recent pilgrimage and DocuSeries, The Road to Dharma:
You are greater than any idea you have of yourself.
1. Popping the Bubble of Your ‘World View’
Let’s accept that we all carry a certain perception and lens by which we see things. And we all live in the normalcy of our daily ‘bubble.’ Pilgrimage is meant to pop the bubble and expand how we see the world. In order to grow, our small worldview has to give way. What’s that mean? Who we have been and how we’ve been living will not really make sense anymore. It means we cannot remain as we were. This is a good thing! This is how we know that growth is happening. We talk about it in the series, using the term ‘Quantum Leap‘ because evolution is not a linear thing; nature takes big leaps. So this covid-19 has forced us into a huge leap, it has popped our normal bubble, and surely will change how we see the world.
2. Stories Will Rise Up to Hold Us Back
Wanting things to be how they used to be or craving the “old normal” is a sign that the stories we have are creeping in … These are the stories of who we are or how life is meant to feel or be. And these stories are trying to hold us back. We’ve initiated a leap, a pop of the bubble, but now that we are one hundred days into a pilgrimage or Covid-19, we resist the change. We’re all familiar with the word ‘triggered’ right? When we are in this triggered state, which many are during this crisis, then we look to the circumstances and use the circumstances to justify the triggers. We create a story to justify our resistance to the circumstances too. One woman on The Road to Dharma was up at twelve-thousand feet in a small town where it was dark, it was cold, nobody around, full moon and she used that to justify feelings of “Lost. All alone. Scared.” Whereas someone else saw it as beautiful. Trust me, she was not lost, that was a story. So pilgrimage will bring up the old stories, but we must rise to meet them.
4. Challenges – We Will Be Tested
“Challenges reveal who you really are.” says our Himalayan guide in The Road to Dharma. If we see a challenging moment as having the potential to reveal our best, to unlock a deeper faith or power than we knew we had … then challenges become something we want to encourage. As we have challenges in Covid-19, we will no doubt be faced with cravings and aversions. “I want life back.” “I don’t want to have to stay in.” “I’m bored.” “I’m unsure about my next paycheck.” When we stay with the challenge instead of running from it, we grow. You see, normally we have a lot of escape routes which help us avoid having to deal. On a motorbike journey you don’t have many. You focus or you die. You rise up beyond your petty preferences or you stay angry the whole trip. It’s that simple. And perhaps now, amid Covid-19, we are all realizing that we are more resilient than we thought, more able to rise above cravings.
We ultimately must come to a place where we take responsibility for our perception of the circumstances. We cannot control the circumstances as we know, but our reaction and perception of it, we can. Yet, this responsibility is often something we are afraid to take. We, in some ways, fear our own power. We fear that there is no one to blame now. We fear stepping into responsibility as if it’s a burden, but it’s not. It’s simply the ability to respond. When you are not caught in your story or craving and can simply respond appropriately. True freedom doesn’t mean more choice as we have been taught. Freedom actually comes with responsibility. The freer from stories, from small world views and from petty cravings, the more able you are to rise up and be “Greater than any idea you’ve had of yourself.”
A pilgrimage can set you free. Why not approach this time and these challenges as a pilgrimage and truly unlock your freedom and total potential?
Adam Schomer is a director and producer whose 2012 film, ‘The Highest Pass’, appeared at Wanderlust Festivals across the US and Canada. His recent release ‘The Road to Dharma’ is a highly-acclaimed docuseries spurring cultural change.