We hear it spoken of often, in an off-hand way, unexplained and hardly ever fully apprehended and made our own - listen to your intuition. Be more present. When I’m teaching yoga and leading yoga retreats, it is one of the most commonly expressed intentions from guests at the outset of a retreat - I want to live more intuitively. Most of us have a few moments in life where intuition makes a resounding intervention, a clear call from within us. We choose to follow its direction or not; the point is that it is experienced as an irregular impulse. On most days, in most cases, we’re uncertain of this strange voice. We dither and reason and let our rationality, or other’s opinions, or the rules of society lead us.
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American writer and poet, Donald Hall, wrote a melancholic, self-reflective essay in The New Yorker late last year titled, “Between Solitude and Loneliness”. He writes about his solitary life on an isolated farm he has inherited from his late grandmother. He is in his late eighties at the time, a widower with little contact to the outside world other than through his craft, and a weekly visit from a housekeeper. He is perfectly content. He looks back on his life in this essay to unearth and then ponder over a succession of circumstances in which he has cherished and sought solitariness.
Pilgrimage may conventionally be considered a religious undertaking, yet it would seem as though in actuality we all - religious and not - make such journeys in a varied ways. Some ancient and formalised - such as the Hajj to Mecca, the mass bathing in the Ganges as part of the Kumbh Mela, and the trek of the Camino de Santiago - and some contemporary and personal - such as a visit to loved one’s grave, an annual retreat, or an endurance race. Some are years long, others may only take a few moments. All of them tend to encompass this dual directionality of moving closer to one’s inner self and leaving the structure of ones everyday world behind.