My time in France has been less about rolling lavender fields, romantic rivers and the rising Pyrenees and more about inner landscape – silence, reverence, and connection. I went on two pilgrimages, one guided by Eastern traditions and the other by Western. Both have revived my awareness of the vertical dimension and what it means to be part of something more. Both have filled my heart.
Inspired by chanting Sanskrit mantras, I sat in meditation with twenty-two other earnest souls, each of us investigating how our own psychological baggage interferes with our inner peace. Amidst the artistic backdrop of Buddhist luminaries such as Green Tara and the Buddha himself, we stilled our minds and let our spirits soar, joined in our desire for inner expansion and peace in a world full of sorrow and stress.
In this state of deep calm, I arrived in Lourdes unaware of what was coming. Daniel and I went out in search of a late dinner but instead found ourselves moving downhill toward the Sanctuary with throngs of people holding candles. There, in front of the glittering and magnificent Basilica of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, we were engulfed in the nightly Marian candlelit procession where a thousand pilgrims joined voices in song. The experience was mesmerizing.
At the very base of this Basilica lies the famous grotto where, in 1858, the Virgin Mary allegedly appeared eighteen times to a peasant girl, now Saint Bernadette. I watched as silent pilgrims from all corners of the globe entered the shallow cave with both humility and awe. I participated too, rubbing my hand across the moist rock worn smooth from 170 years of constant touch. Here, as in my meditations, I moved across the inner landscape, the shared experience of ‘something more.’ Touched, I bowed my head in both Om and Hail Mary, grateful for the grace all around us.