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Thu May 2, 2013, 02:30 PM


Camino de Crestone: The World's First Full Interfaith Pilgrimage

Retreat Center at Shumei International, Crestone (Photo by Bill Elzey)

Chartres Labyrinth with Candles at Dusk (Photo by William Howell)

William Howell.
Poet, Author, Retreat Master, Meditation Teacher
Posted: 04/30/2013 2:17 pm

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 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.


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