Pilgrimage is a very intense form of moderate exercise. It is a walk that keeps on going and thus does wonders for your bodily health.
Pilgrimage promotes bloodflow, improves core strength, enhances balance, sharpens eyesight and fills your lungs with fresh air. It builds muscle and burns fat. It is simply what you are built to do. Your body will remember and be grateful.
“Walking is humanity’s best medicine” – Hippocrates
Best of all, walking is achievable. It will challenge you, but pilgrimage is rarely the focus of top flight athletes. It is more like the opposite of a race – if you go slower, you go deeper.
Pilgrimage in Britain can also help you break bad dietary habits. There are few supermarkets on the footpath. Furthermore, shoddy nutrition will soon be replaced by foods that offer the energy and strength you’ll require. Your mouth may sulk at not eating the usual sugary hollow foods, but your body will sing at the pure nutrition you will instead instinctively choose to eat.
On pilgrimage you inhabit a constantly changing scene, as one world slowly disappears behind you and another appears ahead. Each corner turned opens new thoughts and encounters. You can meet yourself anew with your regular routine removed. No-one will tell you what to do or how to act. You are free to be the best person you can dream of being.
There will be challenges. The way is not always easy. It could rain, your legs might ache, and you may find yourself wondering whether you shouldn’t just quit and go home. But you will overcome these doubts with the gentle victory of walking onward, letting movement and the path heal your uncertainties. It’s a small, simple and profound victory that every pilgrim wins, and it’s tremendously empowering.
Be prepared for long-forgotten life incidents to arise in your mind without prompt. Pilgrimage lets you take a fresh look at yourself, in the mirror of a journey through nature. The constant motion can somehow help dislodge bad neural shortcuts.
By stepping out on pilgrimage, you make yourself vulnerable – to fatigue, to the elements, to weakness and to change. There’s no television or Facebook to distract you. It’s just you and the path.
Pilgrimage also somehow puts you closer to the realm of great ideas. So get ready for unexpected inspiration to visit at the strangest times.
“All truly great thoughts are conceived while walking” – Nietzsche
Pilgrimage provides a powerful setting for wholesome meetings with Creation to happen.
Whatever your beliefs, pilgrimage can enhance your spiritual life. It is a wide open ritual base onto which almost any detail can be appended.
In striving for holy places on foot, you will rediscover your relationship with self and Nature. Engaging with the world in the way your body was designed to do is a sure path to feeling grateful for being alive.
You will increasingly know what to do when meeting holy places. This is your innate ritual intelligence, triggered by the cultural resonance of all your ancestors making pilgrimage before you.
On pilgrimage you will encounter many people that you’d never otherwise meet, making new friends in unexpected ways and places. Your companions will become dearer, as you journey together all the steps of the way. Strangers will tell you secrets, and you will respond in kind. Great gifts and teachings – ones you truly need – will be given like apples off a tree, casual wayside blessings.
Call yourself a pilgrim and the doors will open. Britain is rich with kindness, friendship and hospitality. Rediscover that you already knew this. Approach with trust and meet trust. You are not only healing yourself but the whole land.
A long slow walk helps you meet nature more closely. Seeking holy places on foot can help remind you that creation is not a treasure chest to be plundered, but a gift to protect and share.
Making pilgrimage is an excellent way to erode the myth that people are separate from nature. It is a path to becoming a more natural human on earth.
There are few activities more ecologically sincere than pilgrimage. You will use no car, airplane, fridge, television, kettle or hair-dryer. In a world of greenwashing and carbon credits, it will feel profoundly good to do something genuinely helpful for the planet.
If everyone in Britain made one week pilgrimage per year, we could approach almost a 2% reduction (1 out of 52 weeks) in their ecological impact – potentially equating to thousands of tonnes of CO2 + the rest.
In short, pilgrimage not only helps us remain mindful of our ecological responsibilities, it actively engages with the problem and makes things better.
Pilgrimage is a slow and gentle crash-course to wellness. But unlike many courses available in Britain today, it is incredibly cheap. Because no-one owns British Pilgrimage, you don’t have to pay for permission to do it. You can start from your own door and go as far as you want, in your own time. The Pilgrim Pledges encourage you to set the lowest daily budget possible. You can even take no money at all, if you dare.
Pilgrimage has a remarkable power to inspire giving and sharing. People will surprise themselves with their generousity toward you, and will even thank you for accepting their help. The pilgrim does vital work in shoring up the circle of reciprocity and trust that underlies all community.
Your duty as a pilgrim is to step through the veil of convenience and comfort, and discover the greater truth beyond. Our contemporary trinity of bank-balance, property-ladder and career are important, but pilgrimage allows space for the things that can’t easily fit into such a focussed outlook – things like landscape, the mystery of life and the beauty of creation.
Making pilgrimage also does better things with the money you do spend. Walking between villages, taking the footpath way through Britain, you will inevitably spend your cash in small village businesses rather than huge out-of-town supermarket chains, which is great news for grass-roots enterprise and rural regeneration.
Some experiences in life just don’t touch you. They somehow can’t get through. Pilgrimage is nothing like that. You will respond to it with every fibre of your being.
As you strive for holy places on foot, the whole world will align in support of your journey. Absurd coincidences will become daily occurences, as though the universe itself were conspiring to empower your pilgrimage.
Tourism is a consumptive act. You take your holiday, take your photographs, then take the plane home. Pilgrimage, in contrast, is a creative act – it is something you MAKE.
Pilgrimage is a work of drama, a great living metaphor. Your journey is the dramatic representation of your life – from birth to death in a walk. And by going the short way correctly, you can make the long way go better too.
Pilgrimage gives you a unique confidence, an ability to see Britain with new eyes, and a sense of belonging to her soil, soul and society. It will let you regain that glint in your eye. It will give you valuable experience for your career and personal life. You will find yourself with unbelievable stories to tell your colleagues, grandchildren and strangers at bars. It will simply be one of the best things you have ever done, and you’ll wish you did it years ago.