Whether you welcome Thanksgiving as a harmonious feast day to celebrate with family and friends, or dread conflicts with family; whether you tell the story of Pilgrims and Indians enjoying three days of harvest festival bounty together, or mourn the genocide and conquest of Native Americans; the holidays can be a time of inner pilgrimage, learning to hold all the divergences with grace.
It’s said the most precious gift that comes from a journey of pilgrimage is ‘the Dharma that you haven’t heard before.’ You don’t need to travel to faraway lands to hear fantastic teachings that you’ve never encountered before. The ingredients of inner pilgrimage can be found right here at home in what we practice together at InsightLA: loving awareness, compassion, joy equanimity, mindfulness, lovingkindness. Each sight, sound, taste, touch, smell, thought, feeling that you experience wholeheartedly, fully present, is the dharma that you haven’t heard before – fresh, alive, true!
From the Buddhist poet, sage and wandering yogi Saraha: “Here in this body are the sacred rivers: here are the sun and moon as well as all the pilgrimage places.” He continues, “I have not encountered another temple as blissful as my own body.” Instead of remorse for holiday indulgences, you can embark on a pilgrimage to embodied awakening, mindfully pouring thanks through the ‘sacred rivers’ of energy and aliveness that we call our bodies. Gratitude for your life can flow into organs, bones, muscles, skin, cells, heart. On inner pilgrimage we meet the moment with all our senses wide open. Loving awareness can fill the body and heart and transform our somatic reality, from judgment and discontent to kindness and empathic attunement. Minds may wander far away to distant places but we can always come gently back to this body – our temple, our home – as long as we’re alive.
Whatever is served to you this Thanksgiving – love, heartache, joy, pain, family warmth, loneliness – may your inner pilgrimage touch you in the most open, undefended way. May you offer each experience your full attention, allow each person you meet to matter deeply, and fill your heart with profound gratitude for this life.