This post is by Patricia Turner, our June Pilgrim in Residence. Patricia is sharing about her threshold pilgrimage each Wednesday this month. She recently completed her journey throughout Ireland and the United Kingdom and sent me her posts and images along the way. You can read more about Patricia’s preparations for her pilgrimage here. -Lacy
“That man is little to be envied whose piety would not grow warmer among the ruins of Iona.”
Dr. Samuel Johnson, 1773
I journeyed from the Burren to the Isle of Iona off the west coast of Scotland for the second leg of my threshold pilgrimage. It is not an easy place to get to and I think that that is an important element of the journey. One has to take a two hour train ride from Glasgow to the coast, a 45 minute ferry ride to the Isle of Mull, and an hour long bus ride across Mull to then catch another ferry to Iona. Most things of value in this life are difficult to attain and Iona is no different.
You cannot take a car to Iona which, again, is an important part of the pilgrimage. You must make your way by foot around the small island. I was here on Iona to confront my next threshold. I must move beyond my “first half of life spirituality” into a new relationship with the Divine. I can think of no better place to make this transition than Iona.
Iona has been the seat of Celtic Christianity since Columba established his monastic settlement here in 563 AD. It seemed the perfect place to explore my new relationship with spiritual matters. I was introduced to this particular threshold experience by Fr. Richard Rohr in his wonderful book, Falling Upward. Between his book and my study of Celtic spirituality and Christian mysticism, I knew I was ready to confront this threshold.
What exactly was I leaving behind? All threshold moments must begin by acknowledging the past. You cannot move on—move through to a new experience—if you are holding onto a past way of being.
I was leaving behind a faith that was anchored in rules and dogma—the safe Sunday School faith of my youth. It was a faith that was ego-based and completely one sided. I was moving toward and into a more mystical relationship with the Divine presence—at least that is my intent.
It wouldn’t happen completely during my week here on Iona, but I wanted to make the week a form of ritual, acknowledging the desire to open my heart to a new way of regarding God. This is one of those thresholds that is more like a tunnel—I’ll get through it, but it will take time.
“You move from religion as mere belief to religion as a new kind of knowing and a new source for loving.”
Pilgrims to this beach select two stones. One they infuse with something they wish to let go of in their life. This stone they hurl into the sea—a symbolic release. The other they infuse with what they wish to take away with them.
Both rituals seemed tailor-made for my pilgrimage where I’ve tried to remember, acknowledge, and let go of so much. Here on a quiet beach steeped in history and tradition, in one of the thinnest places I’ve ever walked through, I was able to do all three.
Learn more about the Isle of Iona in this BBC article/documentary here.
What’s something in your life that you wish to let go of and “hurl into the sea?” What is something you want to take with you and hold close as your journey continues?