The Power Of Pilgrimage…

The Power Of Pilgrimage

I just recently returned from two weeks in England as the official photographer of a group tour of 22 women making a pilgrimage through the ancient sites of Avalon. What an experience it was to document such an intimate and personal walkabout. My travel diary is filled with stories from our adventures. From climbing to the top of the Tor in Glastonbury, shedding our sins/skins with Marion Priestess of Magdalene, exploring Camelot Castle in Cornwall, meditating inside Stonehenge, to dowsing at Avebury.

Although the sites were amazing and inspiring, they were nothing compared to the sense of sisterhood and friendship formed during our time together.

I had given up on spiritual travel with groups years ago. I always found the group dynamics frustrating for any long period of time. Usually, the leaders of tours would seek the pedestal as they created hierarchies of “special” among the participants. I had seen it all, and in the end, it was always the landscape, and footprints of the ancestors that ended up being the treasure for me. I figured for the price of most tours these days, I was better off by myself than with a group. So I had spent years traveling alone or with a companion. I let go of the group dynamics, teachers seeking wounded students, and the usual superficial dynamics of tour groups.

I found myself pondering the concept of pilgrimage as I prepared to leave the U.S. Was it a lost concept? Many religious people make pilgrimages to sacred sites according to their belief systems. A vision quest is a form of pilgrimage. Some follow the footsteps of Jesus, Magdalene, Mohammad, Joan of Arc, or perhaps other famous thinkers, innovators, and avatars.

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But what is the point of pilgrimage?

I packed my question up along with my camera equipment and I set out to document the precious moments of growth along the way of whatever this strange and seducing concept was. Having just lost someone very close to me, I was in a very strange place as I arrived in London. Carefully tucking them away in my heart, I carried on and got acquainted with the women. Many of them had expressed they did not know why they were here, but had just felt “The Call”. They were open to whatever it was that had brought them here to this green land of enchantment.

As I captured moments along the way I could see them falling in love with the land, interacting with mindfulness both with each other and the spirits of place. What an honor to witness that in their faces, and to capture that on film. Photography for me is a tool to interact with the forces of nature, synchronicity and the power of love. When I find beauty in the subject matter, there is no room for war. Beauty in itself defeats those energies that keep us from feeling the truth of your wholeness. In overcoming our limited way of thinking, we expand into the realms of the unseen all around us.

Pilgrimage helps clear the mind, heart, and soul.

Being uprooted from our daily lives, those we surround ourselves with and the energies we know, allows us to see in ways we may not normally see in our content conditions of everyday life. Being away from our spouses, children, co-workers, routines, to-do lists, ideas – even just for a short period of time – gives us enough space to allow new energies in. Pilgrimage fosters the exact space needed to do all of that.

Setting intent is key. I set my intent to document the power of pilgrimage through my artistry; to hold my integrity professionally and to open my heart to the experience. That is exactly what happened. The magic that lives in setting an intention is known as the manifestation factor. It sets the tone, asks the beings of love that surround you to help and guide to make that happen, and it moves the flow of synchronicity into alignment with your sacred will.

Confidence and self-love are not the same as self-importance.

Owning one’s own power, staying true to one’s own truth, and not letting others sway your mind is all part of staying grounded, centered and focused helping intent design what it needs so the experience forms. Because so many spiritually-based travel groups form around the following of someone or being someone’s student, it can make the free flow factor feel ignored. Sometimes it is about one person being the ‘special chosen one’, whose words and decisions guide the group. This is okay if everyone agrees to it, but not when you have people who aren’t interested in the guru/neophyte arrangement.

It is my belief that humanity has evolved past this need to have someone above them, who is perceived as better at talking to God then they are. It is easy to hand over all your power to leaders. Any true leader knows how to hand people their power back when they try to hand it over and says no thanks.

I am glad to say this dynamic did not form in our group and as we traveled together everyone seemed happy to be kind, loving and caring towards their fellow pilgrims. What a difference this made. Pilgrimage is about raising the love vibration so a pilgrim will open their consciousness to the subtle realms all around them; thinning the veil and revealing the portals.

Being raised a Quaker, I learned how to meditate in groups, and when the flow of life was felt one could stand up in meeting and speak whatever spirit has guided them to say. Then they would sit down, and everyone would continue meditating. Meeting would continue like this, as everyone who stood up to speak had something important to share. I have always modeled my group meditations on this concept because it is inclusive of the avatar in everyone.

Every day we walked. Moving our physical bodies. I was the youngest woman in the group. There were all levels of physical ability present. Everyone had to listen to their own bodies and respect their boundaries. This was a lesson in itself, as some days were too difficult and those who were challenged found alternative adventures. Much to their delight. As our fearless tour facilitator kept us on schedule, and we arrived exactly when we were supposed too, it kept our group aligned with the intention of the journey, and we felt the magic swirling around us, keeping us in that higher vibration so we could experience what we needed too.

The synergy soon started to appear as we would show up wearing the same colors without prior knowledge. Some women started their moon-cycles/menses at the same time. As our cycles linked up and our women superpowers began to emerge, we started crawling or falling, out of our cocoons. I saw consideration, mindfulness, beauty, vulnerability, honest raw truth, insecurities, wounds, healing and an incredible force of nature formed as we all started to accept the cohesiveness.

So many times we tell ourselves that we have to protect our hearts in unhealthy ways in order to survive. But this is only true in a painful view of reality. If you live a life of beauty, it is impossible to be afraid.

Pilgrimage taught me to trust again.

It is always personal as much as it is collective. Each woman had to walk through her own garden of things she had growing up until this point, and decide what she wanted to keep growing. Shedding fears, wounds, self-induced unworthiness, we had to face the pain of sisterhood for all. How have we not honored the divine feminine in ourselves and others? How have we hurt others, weakened or harmed? What did we need to own in order to keep growing?

These were the questions that crossed my mind as I watched each pilgrim through my eye of artistry. I was never disappointed with the subject matter, and I honored myself by trusting the power of my musings. I realized the more in tune I am with my subject, the better the pictures. Perhaps it was my intent that set the magic as we walked, bussed, imagined, sat, smiled our way through the magical landscape of the seaside cliffs of Cornwall, or the fairies we found fluttering just off our periphery in the enchanted forest, that made it so special. Or the laughter of sisters remembered. Or the good stories we shared from our lives far away.

In a world that appears to be so filled with separation, distrust, loss of honor, fear and division, it was pilgrimage with 22 women that opened my eyes to how close these factors truly make us; to be able to shed the defenses to intertwine, allow and BE was the most rewarding for me this time around. Because I had photographed everyone, they had appeared in my magical field of muse, I was able to easily find their beauty, connect to that and float through the ancient sites with the most incredible heart opened resonance yet.

Pilgrimage showed me what I needed to release, and what I needed to reclaim.

Today’s cultural atmosphere makes going to the mall a pilgrimage. But in truth, pilgrimage can be anything, as long as your intention is to grow and find beauty. When people cross your path, let them in. Find out about them, let them share their stories as you share yours. Make friends that smile when you share your truth, and cheer you on to greater spaces.

These are the things that clear our hearts, making us lighter as we grow. There is such a thing as not being wounded anymore, and living your life from that place forward is rewarding.

How do you choose where to go on pilgrimage? Where is your energy needed now? I believe the sites choose you.


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Hillary Raimo

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Author, award winning photographer and artist.

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