Event Recap: How to Prepare for a Walking Pilgrimage

How to Prepare for a Walking Pilgrimage recap

Why do you walk? 

This opening question was asked by Jennifer Nahas during our most recent Axia webinar, How to Prepare for a Walking Pilgrimage. Participants answered with statements such as:

Walking helps to calm me and ground me and also to connect me to the beauty of creation and to God.

Walking puts something substantive on my habit of prayer and silence and being.

To reset and get perspective.

To connect with a saint or sacred place.

I walk to focus my attention (and feel free).

As a certified outdoor mediative guide trained in spiritual facilitation and accompaniment, and an experienced pilgrim who has logged thousands of miles, Jennifer knows that the “why” behind our walking is the first step of preparation. She has experienced firsthand the way that walking grounds us, and becomes a vehicle for embodied reflection and prayer. Spending eight weeks walking the Camino de Santiago was eye opening, as she realized how much her thoughts had previously governed her. By the end of the route, Jennifer had begun to realize that what did not serve her did not have to control her any longer. 

“On pilgrimage, you clean yourself of what you carry so that you can be with your integrated self, not with your thoughts,” she reflects on this experience. This is why, along with preparing for a pilgrimage with training hikes and the appropriate gear, she recommends beginning a pilgrim’s journal long before the hike begins, borrowing the idea of “morning pages” to specifically prepare yourself mentally and spiritually for the journey. 

When it comes to gear, Jennnifer also had excellent advice from her time working and instructing with REI - including pack sizes, blister management, and how to avoid the ever-present threat of bed bugs along the route. She emphasized that when it comes to pilgrimage, “Less is more. Pilgrimage is about knowing that all you need is what you carry.” 

How else should we prepare for pilgrimage? Training. Packing wisely. Receiving a blessing from our spiritual father or priest. And, at some point, taking the leap of faith to buy those tickets and hit the trail, whether we feel ready or not. 

In the end, Jennifer reminds us, what we bring home from the journey will likely not be what we expected. On the various paths and trails she has walked, she has found a beautiful community among the women she meets, many of whom are carrying and releasing various experiences of grief.  “Being able to walk in community with others really allows us that healing,” she reflected. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to prepare for a walking pilgrimage, or get inspired to consider what might have seemed too daunting before, you can purchase the recording here!