Life Travels - Part Two

Eleanor Deckert

I am still on the road, and still thinking about life travels.

What is the furthest I have ever traveled away from home? What is the longest time I have ever spent on the road? In what ways do physical trips help me see the reality of my inner journey? Besides "near and far" is there also a journey from "low to high" and from "outer to inner"?
Swedish diplomat and Nobel Peace Prize recipient Dag Hammerskjold recently stated, “The longest journey is the journey inward."
Sacred traditions around the world and all through history have attempted to wrap words around this Inner Journey - guiding, warning, encouraging, nourishing.
Ancient Native American tradition preserves this teaching: "If we look at the path, we do not see the sky. We are earth people on a journey to the stars. Our quest, our earth walk is to look within, to know who we are, to see that we are connected to all things, that there is no separation, only in the mind." – Source Unknown
Chinese tradition speaks of Tao as the road, channel, path or code of behaviour built on the principle that combines the yin and yang within the harmonious universe.
Buddhism goes further, giving us the teachings of an eight-fold path that involves: right view, right resolve, right speech, right conduct, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right meditation.
At the current time, Deepak Chopra brings seminars, books and retreats for people to experience the Aruveda knowledge and practice of developing wellness and balance for the body-mind-spirit.
Western traditions differ somewhat. The "inner" self is not the highest source. The Word of God reveals things we could not know by exploring our own inner terrain: "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path." - Psalm 119: 105
The Hebrew Scriptures specify the Ten Commandments and point out the responsibility for parents to pass them on to the next generation. The Path cannot be discovered, but must be taught: "Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, for You are the God of my salvation." - Psalm 25:4-5  
Here is another difference between East and West - the idea of needing a Saviour. My own actions and right living fall short of the perfection of heaven. Enter Jesus. His claim is rather astounding. Unlike Buddha who says: "I can show you the Path," he is the one who says: "I am the Way the Truth and the Life." - John 14:6
Sacred traditions around the world and all through history have promoted the discipline of a pilgrimage. By walking on a physical journey, the Inner Journey comes more clearly into focus, challenging, experiencing, struggling, enduring, finding inner strength, trusting in the Guide. The dictionary defines pilgrimage as a long journey to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion.
The Jews pledge to visit Jerusalem. Christians trek to the Vatican. Islam turns towards Mecca. Hindus bathe in the Ganges River. In Japan, the Shikoku Pilgrimage to 88 temples and shrines, many on mountains, is traditionally made on foot, wearing white clothing, taking from 30-60 days to complete the 1,200 km trails.
A popular modern, pilgrimage called "Camino de Santiago" finds hikers along the 790 km trails in Spain, ending at the site of the burial of Saint James, Jesus’ disciple.

Exhaustion and endurance, companionship and isolation, determination and rest, me-first and helping a fellow traveler, being in need and accepting generous hospitality, these contrasts and the ever-changing terrain can be symbols to guide us on our inner Journey.
Sacred traditions around the world have also used the language of "up and down" to describe the Journey. I have been to mountaintops and in an airplane. We know that astronauts first orbited the earth in 1961, have walked on the moon, stayed in space nearly 440 days and are attempting a manned trip to Mars. That's pretty far up!
In mythology, an oft-repeated theme demonstrating this "up-down" journey is conveyed through the stories of the King or Prince who travels in disguise as a beggar, wanderer, minstrel, carpenter or shepherd. He does this in order to better understand the people, or to find a suitable wife, or to be of service. Our Hero cartoons carry forward this pattern of storytelling.
Coupled with this "higher to lower" journey is the idea of saving someone from certain doom. Clark Kent is undercover, but quickly Superman comes to the rescue. He came from a far away planet, flies high in the sky, but comes to the earth to save the weak and unprotected.
To some, these myths and hero stories point to Christ, the Anointed One. He is the One who has traveled the furthest on a pilgrimage – from death to life, a King disguised as a wanderer, a servant of the lowest. From on high He comes down to earth to walk among the people. Suddenly vanishing like other story heroes, he has ascended to the heavens with a promise to return when things are at their darkest ebb: "He bowed the heavens and came down." - Psalm 18:9
Perhaps Jesus' journey reflects our own yearning as we strive along our individual path.
Yes, I am still on the road... but I am on my way HOME!