Life as Pilgrimage


Image: Love leading the Pilgrim by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones

“Life as a Journey” is an often-used metaphor.

Life’s very components are metaphoric – there is a beginning and an end, both of which are heavy with the mystery of arrival and departure. And, of course, there is the road itself that must be walked.

This metaphor is at risk of becoming a cliché. We see T-shirts proclaim: Life is a journey – are you packed? Advertisers make use of it, so we are compelled to consider: ‘Are you driving your BMW? Have you got your Johnny Walker? Are you dressed in Gucci? Are you fragranced by Dior?’

How we travel our life’s journey is largely up to us. We are given a milieu in which to live, along with a set of circumstances, but we ourselves decide how to make use of those components. We can live in the shallows, if we want to. We can live without ever seeking meaning. We can live as consumers of things that have no intrinsic value.

But we can also live with depth, electing wisdom. And, if we so choose, we can make of our lives a pilgrimage – walking from arrival to departure with sacredness; with a sense of homage; with mindfulness and respect.

The pilgrim soon learns that it’s essential to discard the heavy baggage of the small ego – its bad attitude, its weaponry, its greed, its selfishness and its potential for malice. The pilgrim learns to live in the now; to absorb the beauty of creation; to listen to the music of life; to recognise the Divine within the everyday.The pilgrim chooses to walk with an attitude of benevolence toward all living things.

We live in dark times, but among us walk light-bearers. These are the people who light our way toward good fellowship. These are the people who recognise and nurture inner light; who gather up all reflected light; who serve as guides.

Some show examples; some recite sacred words; some share their profound prayer; some create books by which they share the deeply personal components of their own life and the steps of their pilgrimage thus far.

It is up to us to become aware of Light, to absorb it and then, in turn, to hold it aloft, carrying it forward for the benefit of all humankind and life itself.



From: Sacred Darkness
Chris Ahrends

I couldn’t see where my body ended or began. Everything was connected without boundary. Blurred, yet lit up by the flashing discharges around me. I had arrived in a cosmic womb of dazzling illuminations. I emerged from the black water stunned and silent and stood on the shoreline, dripping drops of light, in awe at what I had experienced and learned anew; that everything is connected and that my life is but a particle in an unknowable wave of light flowing through the dark tide of time. And then, I am gone.


New day dawning
Chris Ahrends

Alone away from home
he looks beyond the darkness
and sees more clearly

the pale light shining
is a ray of the
new day dawning

on a field he has found
its treasure underground
for which he will sell all

to know it at last…

From: Stoep Zen

Antony Osler

And as long as I draw breath
May I be
A light for those who have lost their way,
A home for the forsaken
A backstage pass to the great unknown
When all the seats are taken






Sacred Darkness
Poems, prose and photographs over time
Chris Ahrends
Porcupine Press, Johannesburg, 2015
ISBN 978-1-928276-21-0

Stoep Zen
A Zen Life in South Africa
Antony Osler
Jacana Media, Johannesburg 2008
ISBN 978-1-77009-586-1

Image: Love leading the Pilgrim by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones
Tate Britain, London

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