As I prepare for "My Camino" - a 240 km walk from Ottawa to Montreal on the Chemin des Outaouais
, I realize part of my preparation is capturing some reflections from a wonderful pilgrimage that I went on - in 2013. This article is published here with permission from our trip leaders and fellow pilgrims.
Women Walking: Purposeful Pilgrimage
By: MJ McGregor and Lisa Gidlow Moriarity
|We gather at a sacred site in Paris before starting our pilgrimage.|
Every year, we walk. A newly formed small band of women comes together in France with a single purpose: to traverse cities, villages, open fields, thick forests and waterways, following ancient routes from Paris to Chartres.
|Our backpacks adorned with scallop shells, an ancient symbol of pilgrimage.|
We all have different reasons for going. Some walk for exercise, some to experience life uncluttered. Some walk in memory, some in celebration and some for the challenge. Each walks to step outside the daily norm, to meet other women willing to adventure, to explore deeply and to learn about oneself.
|We walk and talk for several days, immersed in the landscape.|
Pilgrimage takes many forms. This annual journey follows familiar paths, from planning to arrival at the final destination. Yet no two pilgrimages are the same. Not unlike traversing the paths of a familiar labyrinth, it is a new experience each time we step onto the path. So we continue the walk, enjoying the challenge and delighting in how wise women of various ages join to share stories, laugh, know silence and support one another. We create the structure for wonder and opening to the beauty that surrounds us.
|One day we have a spontaneous potluck picnic on the shores of the Eure River.|
Women are nurturing, caring and hospitable creatures. Strap on a backpack, tie on some walking shoes and step out along ancient routes, and there is shared joy and excitement. Each year the route is revised. There is always discovery. As co-leaders, we learn how to improve and what to avoid. Each year is a new mix of personalities and abilities. All learn what is necessary to pack and how to lighten the load. Everyone also packs her own life experience - stories and spiritual gifts that are essential, yet add no weight.
|Eventually we are on the final leg of our journey and can see Chartes Cathedral way off in the distance.|
In shared pilgrimage we see the world through new eyes, listen with open hearts and move with compassion. We walk both individually and in community. We explore new landscapes, both exterior and interior, inviting them to become part of our lives. We become more conscious of what we carry and what we leave behind. When we set the intention of a spiritual pilgrimage, even the physical training becomes a sacred act, as does reading and emotional preparation. When the entire group gathers together for the first time in Paris, joyful anticipation overcomes trepidation. By the time we say our farewells a week later, friendships and shared experiences have bonded us. It is this marvel and delight that inspires us to keep walking every year, walking in wonder and holding space for awe.
|Our final destination - the Chartres labyrinth - fills my heart.|
MJ McGregor lives in Minneapolis and Lisa Gidlow Moriarty lives in Stillwater. They lead labyrinth events and walking pilgrimages.
are no more openings in the Sixth Annual 2018 Women's Walking
Pilgrimage from Paris to Chartres, France, a small circle of women on a
spiritual pilgrimage of soul and sole. We will meet in Paris where we
explore ancient pilgrimage sites, then walk for three days along ancient
pilgrimage routes through the beautiful French countryside, staying in 4
star hotels along the route, arriving in Chartres midweek. We have
three days/nights to explore the medieval town of Chartres, including
private time in the crypt and a private candlelight labyrinth walk. Open
to only six women plus two leaders each year. Assistance provided for
equipment, packing, training, spiritual preparation.
The 2018 cost
$1799 includes 7 nights lodging with breakfasts, arrival reception,
farewell dinner, cathedral tours and experiences. Airfare not included.
Contact Lisa Gidlow Moriarty by private FB Message or email to LabyrinthLady (at) gmail.com for information about the next pilgrimage in 2019.