Every honest life coach will tell you that there is no human flourishing without being on a spiritual pilgrimage. This is not because of pop psychology or religious sentiment. It’s a fact of nature.
Everything living derives its life from an environment that is other than and larger than itself. This is as true of a houseplant as it is of a polar bear. Thriving happens when the plant is oriented to an environment for which it is best suited. Every plant purchased at a nursery has a little tag that advises the new owner of this fact. Some plants do well in shade, others in full sun.
Get the environment wrong and the plant will struggle and may eventually die. This is as true of your apartment’s African Violets as it is of your soul. Unfortunately, our souls do not come with warning tags. But the experiences of life can teach us the same. The question then becomes what environment are we best suited for?
French paleontologist and prescient Catholic priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin made the same observation, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
This is an insight that New Copernicans intuitively affirm. “Faith” is the FOMO “doubt” of their secularity. Storytelling, the searches for meaning, and the religious quest are essential to the cultural DNA. We are hard wired for pilgrimage. Life coaches are right: pilgrimage is essential to human flourishing.
If this is the case, then we best knock down the walls we have built up around our souls and follow the light we have been given. Such open-ended pilgrimages are best discussed in cafés, bars, and living rooms, rarely in church pews. The messiness of the search and the nagging presence of doubt do not thrive there.
Wherever we are on our pilgrimage, there is more to reality than we know and likewise there is much that we can learn from each other.
Follow the light you are given. Ask the Unknown for more light. This is the pilgrim’s task and prayer.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama gently reminds us, “Within the scale of the life of the cosmos, a human life is no more than a tiny blip. Each one of us is a visitor to this planet, a guest, who has only a finite time to stay. What greater folly could there be than to spend time lonely, unhappy, and in conflict with our fellow visitors? Far better, surely, to use our short time in pursuing a meaningful life, enriched by a sense of connection with and service toward others.”