The Camino de Crestone

The Possible Pilgrimage: The Camino de Crestone

Pilgrimage has been a staple in our spiritual diet for eons. I speak of Homo Sapiens, we who are made to wonder about life. As we wonder, so we wander.

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? 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 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.

Crestone, an international village at the foot of sacred mountains, requires a double-take. Even on first blush this quaint mountain town reveals a pronounced community to complement the obvious beauty of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains overlooking the San Luis Valley – as beautiful as Colorado gets. Only a second gaze beholds the uniqueness of this hamlet 12 miles into the mountains on 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. These are the elements that make the "Camino de Crestone" the world's first full interfaith pilgrimage.

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) that merge to create the Great Sand Dunes, visible to the south.

That Crestone is a mecca of spiritual traditions gets exemplified in the Camino de Crestone's 36-mile circuit in which pilgrims visit 15 spiritual centers in a week's time. Along with audio-tour intervals, participants experience meditations, walk the great Labyrinth of Chartres and participate in dharma talks, a shamanic journey, a sweat lodge, sacred dance, spiritual healings, plus presentations, fine food and meetings with adepts in many traditions. Experience (never 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, long draped in secrecy, is simply the urge to belong – to the deepest, dearest, largest, most lasting embrace imaginable. It's the subtlest (therefore most powerful) desire in the human heart. A pilgrimage experientially presenting 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=mc², 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.

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.

The great pilgrimages of the Earth – in India, Japan, Spain, England – are now, since 2013, joined by the world's first full interfaith pilgrimage. Without long or difficult terrains, the Camino de Crestone beckons all comers to be pilgrims.

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 is now possible.

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