A wonderful annual event is about to hatch here in beautiful Crestone. Our fair town is known for its varied and eclectic qualities; from the many established spiritual centers and retreats to its hearty inhabitants to its stunning geophysical scale and beauty.
Starting the first week of June, and for every week thereafter through the month of September, a small intimate group of spiritual seekers and pilgrims will gather anew on a weekly basis, and walk a daily path which will bring them to many of Crestone’s spiritual centers and places of worship.
Inner and outer vistas will be sweeping and memorable.
This summer long happening is thought to be the world’s first organized inter-faith pilgrimage. The total distance to be walked over the 7 days is just 26 miles, and the daily agenda is full and varied; so much so that one would not believe that so much spiritual and religious diversity could be present in a village of 1000 inhabitants.
I invite you to consider and read about the Camino de Crestone.
The Camino de Crestone is remarkable in many ways, not the least of which is the simple detail and the comprehensive nature of its organization. I shall turn the reader over to the nicely crafted website which describes the pilgrimage in perfect detail. Please visit www.caminodecrestone.com for a full and satisfying description of the week long event agendas, including some FAQ which one might enjoin.
The organizers of this event are William and Barbara Howell who are no strangers to the pilgrim’s path. In addition to their manifold life experiences as seasoned spiritual practitioners and seekers, they walked the northern route of the Camino de Santiago (Compostella) last summer.
Originating in the 9th Century, this pilgrimage to the burial place of the bones of St. James in northwest Spain, known as The Way of St. James, was so moving to the Howells that they kept moving onward to create and offer the same opportunity for those who will choose to come here to experience Crestone’s noted and acclaimed spiritual diversity.
Below is an article which William wrote for The Huffington Post describing some pilgrim’s lore and history, as well as his vision of initiating Crestone as a town of destiny and destination of inter-faith pilgrimage.
Camino de Crestone: The World’s First Full Interfaith Pilgrimage
Posted on The Huffington Post, 04/30/2013, by William Howell
(The article in its original form with beautiful pictures of our locale, as well as Blog commentary, can be seen here.)
“Pilgrimage has been a staple in our spiritual diet for eons. I speak of Homo Sapiens, who are made to wonder about life. As we wonder, so we wander. Both the fabled past and hoped-for future moved Chaucer’s observation, “Thanne longen folk to go on pilgrimages,” his Canterbury Tales stories told on the long walk from London to the burial place of St. Thomas à Becket.
To seek out shrines, temples of yore, burial grounds of saints, places made immortal by heroic vigil is to acknowledge life as a spiritual journey. Caught in the human condition of infinite desires meeting seemingly finite capacities, we want to know what saints know. The education that pilgrimages offer is far less factual than experiential. How does the divine intersect with this Earth on which we walk? Pilgrimage points to such crossroads residing in the geography of the heart. Pilgrims walk in search of redemption, faith, a new life, even transformation. So it was last fall that I walked the Camino de Santiago, northern Spain’s 1000-year-old pilgrimage that drew even St. Francis to sacred relics in Santiago, joyous culmination for hundreds of thousands of pilgrims worldwide. Fruits of pilgrimage, while less specific than the now popular geo-caching, can be as lasting as they are mysterious. One gift of my Camino de Santiago was the seed-thought, “It’s time for a Camino de Crestone” — clear as the recognition of springtime. Landing in Denver from Madrid, I realized that the “Camino de Crestone” would be the world’s first full interfaith pilgrimage.
I live in Crestone — at the foot of sacred mountains. A solid look at our international village requires a double-take. This quaint mountain town even on first blush reveals a pronounced community to complement the obvious beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains overlooking the San Luis Valley — so gloriously Colorado.
Only a second gaze beholds the uniqueness of this hamlet at the dead-end of County Road-T. Within walking distance are stupas and zendos, ashrams, a Carmelite monastery, a Suft tekke, retreats and centers for sacred dance and voice, not to mention medicine wheels and sweat lodges, plus the labyrinth of Chartres in its exact dimensions. The holiest mountains in the world — Crestone Peak (14294′) to the Hopi and Mt. Blanca (14,345′) to the Navajo — overlook the Camino de Crestone. Here is a true place of power. One Native elder sighted as proof the heaven (wind) and earth (sand) merging in the Great Sand Dunes visible to the south.
That Crestone is a mecca of spiritual traditions gets exemplified in the Camino de Crestone’s 26-mile circuit in which pilgrims visit 15 spiritual centers in a week’s time. Along with audio-tour intervals, participants experience meditations, labyrinths, dharma talks, yoga of the voice, a shamanic journey, a sweat lodge, sacred dance, spiritual healings, plus presentations, fine food and meetings with adepts in many traditions. Experience (not dogma) is key.
I attended the 1993 Parliament of World Religions in Chicago; have friends who’ve prayed in a Jerusalem synagogue, church and mosque; and know Christian and Buddhist groups having met with Hopi elders. All such interfaith interaction and numerous interfaith organizations must be admirably saluted. However, so many pieces of the spiritual pie served as pilgrimage is new. Indeed, history is being made.
How delightful that humanity steps forward in a hamlet hours from any city of size, reminiscent of David defeating Goliath: unexpected victory over religious intolerance delivered by a slingshot town off most everyone’s radar.
Religion, often draped in secrecy, is simply the urge to belong — to the deepest, dearest, largest, most lasting context imaginable. Such belonging is the subtlest (therefore most powerful) desire in the human heart. Religions can be credited for most wars over untold centuries. Paradoxically, the very field used to justify so much carnage also unites the variety in our garden of 7-billion flowers. At least metaphorically, we all want to belong to Earth and Sun. Therefore, a pilgrimage that experientially presents the depth and beauty of the world’s great faith traditions signifies humanity’s readiness for unity to balance its obvious diversity — ergo, uni-verse.
Einstein ushered in a new consciousness. Though few passersby understood E= mc squared, relativity theory nonetheless informed our collective human consciousness of the New Physics. What shifts might a full interfaith pilgrimage herald? Souls balanced in humanity’s subtlest urge to belong will bode well for any prospects for peace. As bees seeking nectar inadvertently pollinate plants, so the Camino de Crestone might well create ambassadors of peace.
Pilgrimage is a kind of geo-caching. Searching for buried treasure outwardly mirrors questing for inner treasure — the urge for pilgrimage. While several geo-caches are hidden near Crestone, pilgrimage seeks what’s hidden within. Were the Camino de Crestone called “the world’s first interfaith treasure hunt,” likely larger audiences would respond, yet those imbibing this unique education will sneak into the history books.
Beginning this June, the great pilgrimages of the Earth — in India, Japan, Spain, England — will be joined by the world’s first full interfaith pilgrimage. Without long or difficult terrains, virtually all comers are potential pilgrims.
Our globe needs inter-religious harmony, a goal not won via treaties or legislation. It’s a face-to-face process:meeting people and leaders of other faiths.
Wouldn’t it be grand to travel the world and spend time in this monastery, that mosque, this ashram and that temple? Minus many airfares, visas and language barriers, it’s now possible.”
About William Howell— poet, author, retreat master, meditation teacher — has had the great fortune to have studied immersively with adept teachers in the main spirituo-religious traditions of our planet. He founded Sanctuary House (an inter-religious-educational non-profit:) in 1992, co-founded Crestone Charter School in 1995, helped bring the Crestone End-of-Life Project into being in 2007, and now is spearheading the Camino de Crestone. He served as khalifa for 5 years in the Nur Ashki Jerrahi Order and has been made a swami by Sri Punitachariji Maharaj.
Crestone and Beyond
This Camino de Crestone, the inaugural pilgrimage to many of Crestone’s adored sanctuaries and portals of Grace will grow over the years and will assist the whole wide world to come forward out of the shadows of our collective spiritual immaturity. If quantum entanglement is for real, then all of Creation should benefit from the gathering of pilgrims who are devoted to the knowing of Spirit.
There are several well known worldly and well walked pilgrimages: the Camino de Santiago, Canterbury, Jerusalem, Mecca, the Ganges River sites, and others which may be less well known, but are no less important.
Many books describe these journey ways, and some good film has brought forth the essence of the pilgrim’s journey, both in documentary form and in drama form.
One very good Hollywood depiction of the inner transformation, which most pilgrims of all paths can attest to in their own Hearts, is the 2010 production by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, entitled The Way. Please read about the film here. I recommend this movie to you. It is well done and will bring you into the transformations wrought by the outer and inner journey.
William also wrote a nice article for our local monthly newspaper, The Crestone Eagle, which appeared in this month’s May, 2013, edition, which you can see here.
To walk the Camino de Crestone, pilgrims do not need to have any significant litany of any kind of spiritual or religious practice; nor does one need to be any kind of experienced hiker. William describes the experience as “seven days of mini-intensives…designed to be a grand opportunity that is life- affirming, an education unlike any other. The Camino de Crestone is dedicated to the uniqueness and universality of the participants and all the participating traditions.”
A Word about the Patriarchs of Times Past
I post a final historical consideration to ponder.
The word religion comes from Latin, re ligio, which means re-ligate. It is supposed to connote the sense of tying back to one’s Divinity.
The early patriarchs of the Council at Nicea which was convened by Emperor Constantine in 325 A.D., deleted 45 books of scripture from the original Biblical text because the patriarchs did not comprehend the value of the mysticism and the esoteric information therein.
In like manner, at the Second Treatise of Constantinople, in 553 A.D., the patriarchs also banished the teaching of reincarnation, a previously respected concept in elements of the early Christian movement. They didn’t want the flock to realize that they had such a broad scope of time and space to work out their salvation. Perhaps they conjectured that people should have only one life time of tithing to the church on their (eternal) spiritual journey.
It is intriguing to hypothesize how our human history may have unfolded without these patriarchal alterations. Might we not be so warlike?
As a Crestone person, and an Earth citizen, I applaud William and Barbara Howell’s dream and manifestation of the Camino de Crestone. It will help us all in the re ligio, and coming together.
Signing off from Crestone and Beyond.
Come and See