In my growing up years, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress left a mark on me. The book became a challenge for me. Even if I forgot all about the book in the intervening years, the message remained – that I should learn to walk unencumbered in life.
It is not easy to shed extra baggage, even if it weighs us down. Unpleasant memories of the past can become a burden and we would be better off without it. When weighed down by burdensome memories we could try not to pay them too much of attention.
I often have a recurring image in my mind of a pilgrim walking the lonely road to inner freedom. That image inspires me when I feel the road ahead is too long. How often have I allowed all kinds of encumbrances come in the way of just walking ahead!
One such big encumbrance has been that I have given too much importance to those who view me negatively and who can never see anything good in me. Initially, I was discouraged and let the perceptions of others define me. But, deep down, in the core of my being, a voice would insist that these perceptions were not the real me; that what others chose to think of me was not my problem.
My own measure of evaluating myself was a pilgrim’s progress. The pilgrim never starts with having it all. The pilgrim often starts with a modest set of baggage. But as she proceeds in life, the pilgrim collects things, memories, experiences along the way — some of these are helpful to the upward climb and growth; others just come in the way.
The pilgrim’s goal is never perfection, but the ability to use all that happens as stepping-stones to a more enlightened way of life. The backdrop therefore is never one that is only hunky dory, but one where there is movement accompanied by struggle, pain and lapses of understanding.
The pilgrim’s progress reaches no final cut-off date or time. The journey continues and the way ahead gets easier, because we choose not to listen to negative voices. We may never inherit a hostile free world. But, the pilgrim acquires the ability to pick up stones and turn them into jewels.
We have to learn to accept and transform circumstances. We have mountains to climb, rivers to cross and valleys and fjords to navigate, but the pilgrim’s steps do not falter. And if they do, they are steadied by time and experience.
We are sometimes encouraged to keep daily logbooks in which we record our daily lives. This habit may help us as pilgrims to reflect and introspect on our experiences, turning them to our good.
At the end of our earthly lives, we will not close the chapter, but continue the journey. Pilgrims must of course sometimes reach a destination. That is often described in tradition as heaven. The invitation is for all, but only some accept it. Others choose to travel with too much baggage — of hate, animosity, vengefulness and anger. They cannot even get started on the journey.
Learning to walk unencumbered is the pilgrim’s task. If we try it, we will find that we can move ahead and walk freely, less weighed down by baggage. We were meant to travel light. And so, as I am homeward bound, I shed more and more baggage on the way. I don’t allow people’s pre-judgements stall me. I have my eye on the path ahead – and the destination.
Courtesy : Specking Tree