A pilgrimage is a symbolic journey, that is, a journey which symbolises something. It can be faith based, but non-believers also do it, in droves.
There are many ways to engage in a pilgrimage and they don’t all have to involve religious belief, physical challenge or hair shirts. Nor does it have to involve shelling out a small fortune because you are told you’ll be contributing to a worthy cause. Inner Pilgrimage or outer, it doesn’t have to be long but it should be at least a little arduous.
I recently read an article in Psychology Today “Therapy is a kind of weekly waystation on the pilgrimage of life”. I disagree that therapy needs to be weekly, but I’m with the author on the notion of therapy as (part of) a journey.
I’m also a big believer in what I call DIY Therapy; the notion that – if you know how – most of the ‘lesser psychiatric disorders’ we complain about are can be alleviated without bothering a specialist. Ritual and pilgrimage are useful concepts in personal growth, developing self-awareness and invoking sought-after change.
It’s easy to plan and carry out a pilgimage, and the idea of a symbolic journey to mark, remember, let go, or celebrate some aspect of life (even the end of it), is a powerful one.
If the word ‘pilgrimage’ has connotations that you are uncomfortable with, think of it as ‘transformative travel’. The aim is to be somewhere, not to arrive somewhere.