Last Updated on October 8, 2020 by Paul Farrell, MRP, JD, PhD

Relationships Zone #3 - Pilgrimages and journeys, alive! Renewed in meditations!

Relationships Zone #3 – Pilgrimages and journeys, alive! Renewed in meditations!

Ancient and modern masters often remind us that life is a journey, not a destination, a journey without end. The Tendai Monks of Mount Hiei Japan take this experience to the extreme. Their Great Marathon, as they call it, is a pilgrimage of 27,000 miles! Few monks earn the honor to make this seven-year journey. One of the best known of these ultra-marathoners, Sakai, said this meditation practice “really has no beginning or end.” For these “running Buddhas” this marathon was not merely a metaphor for life, it is a journey for the “good of all mankind.”

Pilgrimages and Journeys are Active Meditations

In Western culture, meditation is treated as an isolated experience, and rarely integrated with the rest of life. We see “meditation” as a brief escape from the relentless daily grind of the “real world:” Maybe a half-hour on a treadmill, a long weekend at a lakeside cabin, a two-week vacation, maybe a longer sabbatical climbing Mt. Everest. In each case the objective of the “journey away” remains the same: Breaking the cycle of stress, by relaxing, having fun, and perhaps even reflecting on the meaning of life.

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance tells of one such journey. In it Robert Pirsig goes on a pilgrimage with his teenage son, they often sit together for hours in silence:

“Unless you’re fond of hollering you don’t make great conversation on a running cycle. Instead you spend your time being aware of things and meditating on them.”

You can’t help feeling you’re right there, on the motorcycle riding with them, on their journey, meditating with them. You also sense that Pirsig was not only meditating on the running cycle with his son silently nestled behind him, but also when the two stopped to rest and eat, talk and sleep – and also as Pirsig replayed his feelings writing about how his pilgrimage across America took him on a journey deep into his soul.

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