What is a pilgrimage?
I’ve done many of the traditional pilgrimages – traveled half way around the world, prostrated with hundred of thousands of others, walked beaten trails up mountain tops, stampeded on roads so small no cars could pass.
A pilgrimage is a journey to the heart of what matters most. As I tarmack across the city by the bay, I stumble along many places of worship. Of course, most of the doors are closed except once a week, but nonetheless, I marvel at the art and architecture and most of all the inspiration that had built such places of gatherings. Are these not places of refuge where one can talk to one’s god(s)? Did I not sit silently countless times finding solace in these empty chambers? And the lights that played across the stained windows?
San Francisco – the city of Saint Francis. The city of churches, temples, places of worship. The city attracts many. There is a port for the ships that travel across the oceans, another port for the airplanes carrying people from all different worldviews. Technology is at a crossroads here. Historically, when people want to pursue dreams that were too liberal for their hometowns, they go west. This is the farthest west the land goes. Many dreams were realized here right by the span of the golden gate bridge. What has this got to do with pilgrimages? Pilgrimages are about dreams. About hopes to be nurtured as well as fear to be understood. Some pilgrims embark on journeys in order to atone for a wrongdoing done. Others pray for a hope to be born.
In the alleys of the city, I walk the streets looking for remnants. I don’t need them to keep…just to remind myself what I want and not want. A thermometer when I can’t figure out my temperature. The sirens scream. I’m just waiting in line for my time, yet I pass my days as though forever is the currency. I make do with little pleasures yet they don’t work…and still I pretend. What will it take to wake me up from my stupor? Another death? A call for a drastic change the soul longs for…where is my destiny? Hiding behind a telephone pole …
God is what? What makes an artist different from a contemplative? Do not both live the beauty of God? As both an artist and a contemplative, I see them as complementing each other, not knowing where one ends and the other begins. When I take photographs, I am more aware of the individuality and uniqueness of creation. There is nothing excluded from beauty. It simply is a point of perspective. I get intoxicated from stumbling into the natural curves of nature. The mystery is present even in technology and I am left speechless…in awe. Sometimes I think that modernity excludes awe, relegating mystery to the religious. I see life as religion. How can I not? When I look into another’s eyes, I can not help but drop my biases and prejudices. Questions vanish and I feel connected. Some may say that I am pre-dispositioned to look at beauty. I am an advocate of learning and I believe everything is learned. I learned and am learning to look and feel and taste and hear and be beauty. It is like sharpening a knife. The more you use it, the sharper it gets. Boredom is not seeing beauty. Not seeing mystery. Not seeing life.
Most wait until their retirement. As a teenager, I read a cartoon of a man who kept saying he’ll do it later…you know until retirement. Except the later kept getting postponed and the last box illustrated him under the ground with a rest in peace sign on top. This made me ponder deeply. Yet, this insight was still blunt and not enough to shake me off my plans. I had a death will when I was 15 years old. My whole life was planned! And if plan A failed, I’ve already made an alternative plan B. Between the planning and over achievement though were the revolutionaries like Emerson and Thoreau who echoed the longings of my heart. The long walks in the desert reminded me of my insignificance and at the same time kept me in touched with the sense of belonging to this grandeur and magnificence of the whole desert. Mesmerized by the magenta and wine colors of dusk, it became clear that there was more to life than the certificates of recognition for academic excellence.
There is a joy that swims in my heart and I enjoy my company. There is this curiousity that pulsates. I am alive. I am no longer ashamed to proclaim that I am a contemplative. Yes, I contemplate the beauty of life. That’s what makes me live. It is my living. Often people asked about how does one make a living? Nowadays, living means work/pay/dollars. It is forgotten that it is about living. We make our living room comfortable so we feel home, who we are when all the masks are down. Living is breathing. Living is full of colors. Living is being alive. What makes you live?
My name is Kathrina Peterson and I invite you to participate in this forum around awareness and movement. I have been a Buddhist meditator for over 20 years and have been exploring in depth what it means to develop as a human being: physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. This is my passion, both on a personal and a professional level. I welcome you to share thoughts around what it means to be awake.