COVID 19 as a time of pilgrimage and retreat

Chair on Dock at Alice Lake in Late Afternoon

Dear Precious Beings,

I have gone on many pilgrimages and retreats, including religious and secular ones. I have attended pilgrimages and retreats in Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Serbia, Australia, Canada, and America. These pilgrimages and retreats included Christian, Buddhist, Goddess, and non-denominational events and times, undertaking walking, mindful eating, meditation, silence, chant, dance, prayer, ritual and more.

I have realised and learned that pilgrimage and retreat, no matter where or when, has certain distinct qualities to it. Whether we like it or not, this COVID-19 pandemic has sent us all on a pilgrimage, on a retreat. I asked myself – what is my approach to this crisis? My therapeutic background challenges me to reflect on and explore my attitude to situations that arise in my life and I wrote in my journal that “this time could be the most powerful journey, pilgrimage and retreat yet”.


There are certain qualities to the experience of a pilgrimage or retreat. Time spent on pilgrimage and retreat is meant to intrude on our current reality and expand how we see the world. As we grow and mature our small worldview must dissolve. How we have been living will not really make sense anymore. It means we cannot remain as we were. Like the tight bud being pushed towards an opening, we are invited to unfold and blossom too. This is how we know that growth is happening. COVID-19 has forced us into a new arena, it has burst our bubble, challenged our worldviews, and surely will change how we see our relationships, our circumstances, and our life purpose.

Any change in our lives, forced or by choice, involves uncertainty, grief, anxiety, excitement, and anticipation. We resist change, wanting to cling to the familiar, even if we know it is not in alignment with our highest good and wellness. I find myself at times craving for the ‘known and predictable, even some of the old ways from childhood and years ago’. This is normal, as we transition any changing circumstances.

Any new practice brings with it a need for repetition and time for adjustment. In resisting change, we often justify our resistance by the stories we tell ourselves and others. Committing to a pilgrimage or a retreat will bring up the old resistances and stories and we must choose to merge with them or meet them and work with transmuting them.

In facing these challenges, we can find influences and strength, come to know ourselves at a deeper level, meet our inner resources, unearth power and faith that may have been dormant. In meeting these tests, we grow on all levels of being. Perhaps now, amid COVID-19, we are all realizing that we are more resilient than we thought, more creative, and able to rise each day and meet life as it is presented to us, at least most of the time.

We are eventually challenged to come to a place where we are required to take responsibility for our attitude and belief, for our behaviour and ultimately our wellbeing and the wellbeing of others. We often cannot control life circumstances or this global disease, however, we are free to choose how we respond to it.

Time spent on pilgrimage or on retreat can set us free. This boundary of time and reflection can provide space to detach, to explore and to decide how we want to live our lives, what is important to us and why. Why not approach this time offered to us, during this COVID pandemic and the challenges being presented to us, as a pilgrimage, a journey, a retreat? Let us truly unravel our freedom, take personal responsibility, and be amazed by our capabilities and potency?

Go firmly and go gently,

Saille Fearn

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