There are a few aspects of a pilgrimage that can help us understand how to have a successful life. We recently undertook a pilgrimage to Babaji’s cave which helped me solidify a few of those ideas. Here are three that I share with you.
Have a clear Destination
Many of us have heard or read these words on a postcard – “the journey is more important than the destination.” I don’t know how many of us truly believe that but I’m sure we’ve quoted these words to somebody at some point
We are such destination and goal-oriented individuals that we forget that the journey is perhaps more crucial in many ways than the goal or the destination itself. The very phrase destination in life is a little bit of a misnomer because when we get there, nothing ends.
When our life becomes so aim oriented, we sometimes lose the entire purpose of what we are doing. So even though the destination is really just a temporary stop (until we reach the final goal, for which we still have a long way to go), it is because of the objective that the journey becomes meaningful and purposeful.
With this pilgrimage, while Babaji’s cave was the end-point, it was indeed everything we did in the context of reaching the destination that transformed most of us. If we ask most of the pilgrims the time that stuck most in their minds, it was not necessarily the hour we spent in the cave, but everything we did to get to the cave, as well as everything we did after being in the cave to integrate the experience of the cave.
It is important for us to realize that in life, if we don’t have clarity of the goal or destination, the journey is very muddy and therefore the journey is so confusing to us. So, it’s important for us in life first and foremost to have very clear goals and destinations – not some arbitrary vague long-term goal that we often lose sight of, but a daily goal.
So, one thing that I would like to really include in my life everyday is to ask myself what my destination is for the day. Do I have a goal for this day? And once the destination is clear, the journey becomes very meaningful and purposeful.
Routine and discipline
In order to have a successful spiritual life, routine and discipline are key.
On this pilgrimage, we were in a flow that required certain practices and routines that set the tempo for the pilgrimage and kept the entire group moving. What am I doing every day of my life, every hour, and every minute? Why am I doing what I am doing and am I doing it in a flow that reinforces that objective.
When my wife Narayani and I had taken a seclusion in Spain a couple of years ago, I went on a walking pilgrimage myself. I walked across Spain for 45 days for about 1100 kilometers in complete silence. I was walking toward a particular destination called Santiago de Compostela. Every day I had set myself a very vigorous routine – wake up at this time, energize, meditate, set off.I planned how long I’d walk, where I’d reach, when I’d then energize again, do yoga, meditate again, read a little, eat something, energize, meditate, and so on.
This was my life for 45 days except for one day. On my seventh or eighth day, my ankle had swollen because I wasn’t used to walking 30 kilometers every day. Therefore, I decided to take an extra day of rest. On that extra day of rest, my energy tanked, because I had no routine. I thought, “I’ll just rest and relax; my body needs to be pampered a little bit.”However, that entire day I felt the energy drop so much. I realized that no matter what happens to my body, no matter what’s going on or how I feel, I cannot afford this; I can’t keep my energy uplifted without a controlled routine.
When we were on this pilgrimage it didn’t seem like routine and discipline. That’s the beauty of being present with what you’re doing. Everything seemed like, “Oh! this is such fun!”, okay now we’re on the bus, now we’re on the train, now we are waking up earlier than we normally like to wake up, now we’re meditating longer than we would like to meditate. The shifting schedule honestly helped establish a pattern that brought blessings to us.
Don’t give yourself too much space in your day to do nothing. Fill it with meaningful things to do. Try to create a regimen that is a practice of joy, of meaning and of helping and supporting others.
Lastly, when you are on pilgrimage, you are in constant satsang (spiritual company). When I did my pilgrimage by myself, believe me, when I ended those 45 days, I told myself “I’m never doing this again!” It was so hard! But when you are with people doing the same thing as you, it’s so much easier.
Look for satsang constantly. If you think that it’s an overrated thing, “No big deal, as long as I have God, I don’t need anyone else”, you’re making a big mistake! We need support of people who mirror us and whom we support in return. It is vital on the spiritual path to be able to support people, to not just receive but to give back to individuals who are on the same journey as you are.
Let’s try from today to take a moment before the day ends, set a destination for ourselves and plan the next day’s routine. And let’s make a resolution to try to be with our gurubhais (or like-minded company) no matter what!