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THE WORLD’S FIRST FULL INTERFAITH PILGRIMAGE
Pilgrimage has been a staple in the spiritual diet of Homo Sapiens for eons. We are made to wonder about life. As we wonder, so we wander. To seek out shrines, temples of yore, burial grounds of saints, places immortalized by heroic vigil is to acknowledge life as a spiritual journey. Caught in the human condition of infinite desires meeting seemingly finite capacities, we want to know what saints know, though what pilgrimages offer is less factual than experiential. How does the divine intersect with the Earth we walk on? Pilgrimage points to such crossroads of redemption, faith, even transformation residing in the geography of the heart.
Last fall I walked the Camino de Santiago, northern Spain’s milennium-old pilgrimage that drew even St. Francis to sacred relics in Santiago, joyous culmination for millions of pilgrims worldwide. Fruits of pilgrimage, less specific than the now popular geo-caching, can be as lasting as they are mysterious. One gift of my Camino de Santiago was the seed-thought, “It’s time for a Camino de Crestone”—clear as the recognition of springtime. It would be the world’s first full interfaith pilgrimage.
I live in Crestone—at the foot of sacred mountains. A solid look at our international village requires a double-take. This quaint mountain town even on first blush reveals pronounced community (complementing the obvious beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains overlooking the San Luis Valley—so gloriously Colorado).
Only a second gaze beholds this hamlet’s real uniqueness: Nearby are stupas and zendos, ashrams, a Carmelite monastery, a Suft tekke, retreats and centers for sacred dance and voice, not to mention medicine wheels and sweat lodges, plus the labyrinth of Chartres in its exact dimensions. The holiest mountains in the world—Crestone Peak (14294′) to the Hopi and Mt. Blanca (14,345′) to the Navajo—overlook the Camino de Crestone, a true place of power. One Native elder sighted as proof the heaven (wind) and earth (sand) merging in the Great Sand Dunes visible to the south.
That Crestone is a mecca of spiritual traditions gets exemplified in the Camino de Crestone’s 26-mile circuit in which pilgrims visit fifteen spiritual centers in a week’s time. Along with audio-tours, participants experience meditations, labyrinths, dharma talks, yoga of the voice, a shamanic journey, a sweat lodge, sacred dance, spiritual healings, plus presentations and meetings with adepts in many traditions. Experience (not dogma) is key.
All interfaith interactions, dialogues and the numerous interfaith organizations must be admirably saluted. However, so many pieces of the spiritual pie served as pilgrimage is history being made.
How delightful that humanity steps forward in a hamlet hours from any city, reminiscent of David defeating Goliath: unexpected victory over religious intolerance delivered by a slingshot town off everyone’s radar.
Religion, often draped in secrecy, is simply the urge to belong—to the deepest, dearest, largest, most lasting context imaginable. It is the subtlest (therefore most powerful) desire in the human heart. Religions, credited for most wars over untold centuries, paradoxically are the very field uniting the variety in our garden of 7-billion flowers. At least metaphorically, we all want to belong to Earth and Sun. Therefore, a pilgrimage that experientially presents the depth and beauty of the world’s great faith traditions signifies humanity’s readiness for unity to balance its obvious diversity—ergo, uni-verse.
Souls balanced in humanity’s subtlest urge to belong will bode well for any prospects for peace. As bees seeking nectar inadvertently pollinate plants, so the Camino de Crestone (www.caminodecrestone.com) might well create ambassadors of harmony.
Pilgrimage is a kind of geo-caching. Searching for buried treasure outwardly mirrors questing for inner treasure. While geo-caches are hidden near Crestone, pilgrimage seeks what’s hidden within.
Beginning this June, the great pilgrimages of the Earth—in India, Japan, Spain, England—will be joined by the world’s first full interfaith pilgrimage. Without long or difficult terrains, virtually all comers are potential pilgrims.
Our globe desperately needs inter-religious acceptance, a goal not won via treaties or legislation. Wouldn’t it be grand to travel the world and spend time in this monastery, that mosque, this ashram and that temple? Minus airfares, visas and language barriers, it’s now possible.
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