Pilgrimage – the yearning of the heart


From her book ” pilgrimage – the sacred art : Journey to the center of the heart”, Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook writes:

“The sacred art of pilgrimage involves both an inward and outward journey. … The pilgrim’s strives to hold both the inward and outward journey together, sometimes in tension, but always focused on the search for meaning, for the divine. … What most distinguishes the sacred art of pilgrimage from a tourist trip or hiking expedition, as beneficial as these are, is the characteristic inward journey, a turning of one’s heart to the divine, with the expectation of transformation on every level of being along the way. Benedict of Nursia [c. 480-547], the founder of Western monasticism and author of the Benedictine Rule, used to advise his monks and nuns to ” listen with the ear of their heart.” In other words, the pilgrim’s first yearning is in the heart, deeply and inwardly, sometimes for years before the outward journey begins.”

So many things in this one quote that I found from Richard Roar’s excerpts that really stand out. It has me with inquiry for the following, and I will do my best to address each as I can right now, at this moment in my life:

  • What makes something a ‘sacred art’?
  • What is a pilgrimage?
  • Who is a pilgrim?
  • What does it mean to go on a pilgrimage?
  • What is the pilgrim’s expectation? 
  • What is the pilgrim’s yearning of the heart?
  • What is the “ear of the heart”, and what does it mean to listen from this ‘ear’?
  • What happens when we choose to become a pilgrim?


I knew at a somewhat young age, though at that time it already felt late in life, that I wanted to serve others. I knew that I wanted to help others in creating a “healthy, happy, confident life.”-Shawna, age maybe 14/15

This desire has stayed true throughout the course of my life. I would not have called it a yearning of the heart back then, but I would call it that now. It feels as if my young self was already listening to the ‘ear of my heart’.

I was born into a family where the term sacred was used. And it has become more used the older I get; and I choose to use the term more as I age. 

‘Sacred’ has many meanings and definitions, but for me sacred means holy.  It means deserving of love, attention, and consideration.  To me, everything is sacred because it is infused with Source/Divine.  And yes, this means I feel everything is sacred; my towels, my body, the person across from me on the subway, my dog Astro, you, your body, our emotions, thoughts, nature, rivers, sky, and more.

Does this mean I always treat everything with veneration and see it as hallowed(synonyms for sacred)?  Well, no, but I try. Sorry to all the cockroaches I have killed; even when smushing you I did it with reverence and as ritual (this is true). And, I can’t help every person experiencing homelessness, but I do what I can and keep a balance for others and self. 

You will find other synonyms for sacred as “cherished,” “divine,” “spiritual,” “pure,” “numinous,” and “godly.” 

This life we are each living is sacred.  To live is a sacred art.  

I suppose in one point of view, we are each on the Great Pilgrimage Home; home to the heart of the divine.  “We are walking each other home,” said Ram Dass.

And while I can’t always comprehend this magnitude of thought, I can attribute pilgrimage here on Earth. Pilgrimage means “a pilgrim’s journey.” And a pilgrim is ” a person who journeys to a sacred place for moral or religious reasons.”- Oxford Dictionary

This seems more accessible to me. That I may take a journey outward or inward with an intention to connect with the universe. To experience my wholeness in oneness with all others and beings.  I believe this is what Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook was describing in my opening quote.

So who is a pilgrim? Anybody can be a pilgrim when wandering in life with intention to connect to the Oneness of All. It was Richard Rohr who wrote, “Pilgrimage is the state of mind and heart that changes the vacation, the hike in the woods, the long kayak journey along and intercostal strip of water, the ride out into the country, the walk to a friend’s house, the errand in the middle of the day, the walking of a dog, the 5K run or marathon….. into a pilgrimage in which one encounters the holy.”

When we choose to open our heart, when we choose to begin to listen to our heart, we are choosing pilgrimage. This type of pilgrimage is the inward pilgrimage.

Whether we are wandering into our own recesses of our heart, or wandering out to some far away physical place with the intention of heart and mind, these journeys, pilgrimages, align us with our sacred self. 

We begin to turn on the ‘ ear of the heart’ to be able to notice what we experience along the journey, how we feel along the journey, and the insights from the divine that is around us to the divine that is within us. As this unfolds, we are also recognizing our own divine heart, and seeing that we can feel the hearts listening, to hear our own heart and what it is speaking and yearning of, yearning for.

As I reflect back upon my younger self and that first yearning of my heart, it is with deep gratitude that I honor my own heart. Richard Rohr said, “The missing element for many of us in the developed world has been contemplation, which allows us to see things in their wholeness and with respect. ‘Re-spect’ – to see a second time.”

May you take time to contemplate today, to see for the first time what your heart has been yearning for, for forever.

Some questions you might ask as you approach your journey, should you choose to take one:

  1. What are you bringing with you? What is most dear to your heart? What do you always want to embody, value, and remember along this journey?
  2. What might you need to leave behind? What has already been left behind?
  3. What do you already know?
  4. What do you hope for?


I had found it interesting that Kujawa-Holbrook talked about pilgrimage as walking with an “expectation of transformation on every level of being along the way”.  I feel this could hold value; especially because I can sense how I would act and Seek in different ways when I am expecting something. And also….

I’m going to close here with something I heard myself say in a class this past week, “Can you rest and just Be? Can you rest and just Be without expectation? Can you just rest and Be, and trust?”

Keep listening with the 👂 of your ❤️,


Breathe and Believe.