Step 3: Inner Preparation for Pilgrimage

inner preparation for pilgrimage ... this is a nice, quiet place for it

So we’ve looked at Step 1, physical preparation for the journey. We’ve looked at the “why” behind the pilgrimage (and why it matters).

Now it’s time for Step 3—inner preparation for pilgrimage. You may not care about that for a hike. But you’re much more likely to want it for a journey with intention.

A pilgrimage contains within its essence meaning and growth … healing. Listening. Sometimes even transformation.

And we don’t just carry with us the weight of our backpacks and bodies

Ever read this short story by Tim O’Brien, “The Things They Carried”? It’s set during the Vietnam War and starts out talking about the different things each soldier carried along with him—letters, dog tags, gum, hotel soap. But it soon moves past that, and we find the heaviest things people “carry” have no physical weight at all. 

Likewise, what we carry in our minds, souls, hearts, travels with each of us.  

In preparation, we have an opportunity to stock up our inner selves intentionally. To color our walking meditations with prayer or scripture, with poems or history, with beautiful thoughts. 

Maybe even with thoughts we want to wrestle through, and are usually too buried to chase down, or too cluttered with chaos to find clarity.

Quick Tips on Inner Preparation for Pilgrimage

Find a book, devotional, scripture, event, or question and begin reading and perhaps praying in advance. 

Be willing to use that lens to start focusing events in your daily life. Even with my little bits of Ann Voskamp's The Way of Abundance, there are moments I can see a difference in how I respond to the struggles ... the way I'm willing to see them and the people who seem to cause them. 

I may get tired of her talking about brokenness, but that doesn't stop me from being broken. (And God works through broken people.) The thoughts she offers are deep and hard-won and right for where I am.

Even if you have bad days when you don’t get far, even a little spiritual or thoughtful progress will eventually shape the character of your journey and start your ponderings in the right direction.

And as the journey continues and the rhythm of the walk in the fresh air seeps into you, regardless of pace, your thoughts and questions will begin to gain clarity. 

Sometimes they’ll tangle first, and that’s okay. The world isn’t a simple place. But understanding will soon take shape, or maybe you’ll find a new kind of freedom from whatever’s holding you back.

Let those deeper thoughts be part of what you carry with you. Take the reading along to finish on the way, or a Part 2 to continue with: 1 for the prep, 1 for the pilgrimage. The time you put in will make a difference.

Inspiration for the journey ...

Planning your next (or first!) pilgrimage? Pilgrimage destinations are all around. They aren’t a thing of the past & don’t belong to any one faith. There's one for you—sacred, historic or meaningful.

8 Steps for Pilgrimage Planning
Many faiths have pilgrimage traditions. Others go for their own reasons: Healing. Remembering. Because a llama was involved. Here are some things to think about & work toward as you plan.