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Pilgrimage

by Lisa Barstow


Several years ago I made a pilgrimage to the island of Iona on the West coast of Scotland. It is the place where St. Columba traveled from Ireland, bringing Christianity to that part of the British Isles. Pilgrims from all over the world visit this tiny island to feel the presence of Jesus and experience the thin veil between the material and spiritual worlds.

While I was there, I met a lovely British woman, an artist in her nineties, named Violet. She had been to the island many times. I loved her description of a pilgrimage: The place does not matter when you seek the peace and adventure of a pilgrimage. I mean, it doesn’t have to be beautiful or labeled as sacred. The white wall of a monastic cell or the untouched canvas will do. As an artist, any blank surface excites my mind. That the attempt is always imperfect matters not. The blessing of the pilgrimage is in the aspiration.

My aspiration had been to deepen the heart of Christ in my life, and while I was there, His strong, clear light filled me again and again. I had felt a fear of death before I left and, soon after I arrived, I understood that it was ego death I was afraid of. I asked Jesus for a renewed commitment to Him, and everywhere I walked on the island I felt the grace of the sacred blowing light through my hair. Poised at the edge of a brilliance that took my breath away, my reality moved between form and spirit. I was standing at “the place where the two worlds touch.”

At twilight I sat beside the sheep in their pastures, and God told me that they were holding Christ’s light for healing in the world. I felt so thankful for their offering and was deeply moved by their presence.

I found a smooth blue-grey stone on the beach and carried it with me until the day I left, when I returned it to the Bay at the Back of the Ocean. I breathed a prayer on the stone, and a piece of my heart, so wide open now, stayed with the stone on the beach on Iona. Then I, like so many pilgrims, brought the Holy Spirit, manifest in the sacred light of Iona, back home with me.

I have been on an inner pilgrimage for most of my adult life, but unlike the outer journey, the inner one has no destination, beginning, or end. When I choose to be aware, I feel myself walking the spiral path that leads me deeper into the landscape of my soul. I co-create the inner pilgrimage with my body, mind, and spirit; my journey to Iona helped me find a clear and perfect union of all three.

LISA BARSTOW is a freelance writer who graduated with a BA in Creative Writing from Vermont College and received group facilitator training at Amherst Writers & Artists. Lisa's essay, Living in the Mystery, was published in the anthology Mid-Life Clarity: Epiphanies from Grown-up Girls (2002: Atria Books/Beyond Words Publishing) and since then, she has had essays and poems featured in numerous publications including: Sacred Journey, Inner Tapestry, Inspiration Journal and Sage Woman Magazine. In 2009 her memoir, Don't Go Back to Sleep (Rainbow River Press, 2009) was warmly received (bestselling author Anita Shreve endorsed saying "We think we've seen the inner workings of rich WASP families during the middle of the 20th century - O'Hara and Cheever come to mind - but we haven't quite seen it all. In Lisa Barstow's strangely affecting memoir, Don’t Go Back to Sleep, we get the details as she actually lived that life and then fought against it." Lisa and her husband divide their time between homes in Maine and Hawaii. Online at www.lisabarstow.com.


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