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“In September I completed my pilgrimage: an outer journey to reflect life’s inner journeys. I set off in February, from Tooting in south London (where Sangharakshita began life), on a walk to Bhante’s home, Adhisthana, lasting 17 separate days and covering 200 miles.
Inspired by a pilgrim’s sense of higher purpose, Bhante’s childhood memoirs of walking after having long been kept immobile, and my own cancer-fuelled awareness of our deeply uncertain futures, I wanted to travel with openness to the unknown.
Initially I had pain from my treatment, and doubted my capacity. But I soon felt strength returning, and the comforting rhythm of movement. I used the Thames Path, where red kites appeared.
I crossed the Chilterns with Dayabhadra, where we encountered a storm. We were soaked, but we recalled that we were not there for fair weather but for something bigger, and the thought brought some contentment.
Mayflies, living fast for a day, reminded me that time is precious. Wild swimming friend Jane and I plunged into cold water, physical sensation bursting into awareness, sending the wondering mind flying and leaving us gasping and delighted - a precious time.
I was met by two beaming strangers from the Oxford sangha and felt the pleasure that comes of openness. Electric blue damselflies appeared and disappeared like tiny conjurers.
The Cotswold walks were longer. I got lost and needed shelter before nightfall. Sometimes I navigated by horseshoe crescents in the mud. This part was the toughest; 10 hours’ walking, close map reading, dubious signposting and unlikely paths. Pilgrimage is a testing thing, a rising to meet with come what may.
Atop the Malvern ridge, I looked over; was Adhisthana in my sights? My energy surged with a surprise welcome there and a meeting with Bhante. I am grateful to this sangha, where such journeys are conceived, valued and possible.