A Buddhist Pilgrimage: To the Ballochbuie Forest
What is a pilgrimage? What is a Buddhist pilgrimage? Why do people go on a pilgrimage?
To me a pilgrimage is to visit a place that is special and holds a spiritual or religious significance for the pilgrim. In visiting this place the pilgrim hopes to connect with a deeper meaning within them self. A pilgrimage can take several hours, a day or last many days.
For me it becomes a Buddhist pilgrimage when I try to approach it as a Buddhist. When I meditate before and possibly during the pilgrimage. When I approach it mindfully and give thanks for the food I eat and the people I meet along the way. As a Buddhist I attempt to do this all of the time but I recognize that life gets in the way sometimes. This is why a pilgrimage helps to reset the mind and my practice and is so worthwhile.
On the 3rd of January 2023 I made a pilgrimage to a special place. This place is an old forest that has a slightly difficult Scottish name - Ballochbuie.
This forest is a special place for me. I have visited it since I was a child. As an adult I have continued to visit this place regularly with my own family. Each time I visit, I feel reinvigorated on a spiritual level. I enjoyed the festive period but despite enjoying it I always find this time of year unsettling in some way. Why it is unsettling I am not entirely sure. Perhaps its my normal routine is out of step. Lots of family visit us and we visit
them. I stay up later than normal, eat different foods, go to different places and get up later than normal. All of this I enjoy but it has an unsettling affect at the same time. On top of this my novel The Buddhist CEO launched on 13th December. This has been exciting but it has been a surprisingly busy time dealing with media inquiries about the book.
In light of this I felt I needed to connect with my special place the Ballochbuie. My wife Andrea, eldest son Tom and our good friend Linda, headed off to this great place. I meditated early in the morning to try and feel grounded and relaxed before the one hour drive we had to make. For me this was a mini pilgrimage. I went on this walk to connect with something deeper and feel part of that thing humans have tried to describe throughout history in different ways, using terms such as 'The Way', 'The Toa' or the 'Great Mystery'.
What makes this a pilgrimage for me is my intention. I try to arrive at the forest, or
wherever I am visiting, having already meditated. If I have to drive there I try and drive mindfully and peacefully. Once there I try to walk mindfully. Using my steps to ground me and if my mind wonders off on a journey into the future or past I bring my thoughts back to my steady walking.
I stop often and listen to the silence of the place. This distant sound of birds in the trees, the wind blowing through the branches. In this great forest I stop frequently beside the many ancient trees and just spend a moment next to them. Basking in their energy and presence. When I stopped for lunch with my companions I tried to be fully present to them and enjoy their good company.
I am happy to report that my pilgrimage to the Ballochbuie did as I hoped. After spending time walking through the old pines of this ancient place I felt grounded and at peace. Ready to move into the new year and embrace everything that it brings. Thanks for reading and I hoped you enjoyed my photos of the Ballochbuie. As some of you know I tweet a Zen poem every morning on Twitter. Here is the tweet i wrote about the Ballochbuie below. Follow me on Twitter at https://twitter.com/BuddhistCeo
Ancient pine forest
I've visited since a child
Seemed to welcome me
Be glad of my presence
A lone Raven
Sent to greet me
The mighty pines
Reinvigorating my soul
I bow to these beings