MJ McGregor, left, and Lisa Gidlow Moriarty on pilgrimage in France. Photo courtesy of McGregor and Moriarty.
Not unlike traversing the paths of a familiar labyrinth, it is a new experience each time we step onto the path. - MJ McGregor and Lisa Gidlow Moriarty
by MJ McGregor and Lisa Gidlow Moriarty
Every year, we walk. A newly formed small band of women comes together in France with a single purpose: to traverse cities, villages, open fields, thick forests and waterways, following ancient routes from Paris to Chartres.
We all have different reasons for going. Some walk for exercise, some to experience life uncluttered. Some walk in memory, some in celebration and some for the challenge. Each walks to step outside the daily norm, to meet other women willing to adventure, to explore deeply and to learn about oneself.
Pilgrimage takes many forms. This annual journey follows familiar paths, from planning to arrival at the final destination. Yet no two pilgrimages are the same. Not unlike traversing the paths of a familiar labyrinth, it is a new experience each time we step onto the path. So we continue the walk, enjoying the challenge and delighting in how wise women of various ages join to share stories, laugh, know silence and support one another. We create the structure for wonder and opening to the beauty that surrounds us.
Women are nurturing, caring and hospitable creatures. Strap on a backpack, tie on some walking shoes and step out along ancient routes, and there is shared joy and excitement. Each year the route is revised. There is always discovery. As co-leaders, we learn how to improve and what to avoid. Each year is a new mix of personalities and abilities. All learn what is necessary to pack and how to lighten the load. Everyone also packs her own life experience - stories and spiritual gifts that are essential, yet add no weight.
In shared pilgrimage we see the world through new eyes, listen with open hearts and move with compassion. We walk both individually and in community. We explore new landscapes, both exterior and interior, inviting them to become part of our lives. We become more conscious of what we carry and what we leave behind. When we set the intention of a spiritual pilgrimage, even the physical training becomes a sacred act, as does reading and emotional preparation.
When the entire group gathers together for the first time in Paris, joyful anticipation overcomes trepidation. By the time we say our farewells a week later, friendships and shared experiences have bonded us. It is this marvel and delight that inspires us to keep walking every year, walking in wonder and holding space for awe.
MJ McGregor lives in Minneapolis and Lisa Gidlow Moriarty lives in Stillwater. They lead labyrinth events and walking pilgrimages.