Picture the scene: After weeks of preparation for your study leave, you have put on your out-of-office email autoreply. Cover is arranged for each and every Sunday for the next month; the rest of your team is managing the everyday business of church life, and everyone knows that you are not contactable for the next month.

Four glorious weeks to walk the pilgrimage of your dreams. You have studied the route for months, and now you’ve reached the start – the rucksack is packed, and the way ahead is opening before your eyes. Finally, you can step away from it all, and with heart, body, and soul aligned, you immerse yourself in the pilgrimage life – seeking wisdom, meeting fellow pilgrims, spending time sensing God’s presence, and making space to hear the whispers of the Holy Spirit as you head towards your sacred goal.

Well, if this is you – may God bless you on your way.

But if this is not you, then read on.

There are many ways to access the health benefits of pilgrimage amid busy lives—taking care of our bodies, seeking moments to be in nature, and finding friends with whom to share life. All good, and all possible with a bit of diary management. But could there be more to glean from the pilgrimage vision that we can put into play in the midst of busy lives?

In Psalm 84, we read of the gravitational pull drawing the pilgrim onwards:

My soul longs, indeed it faints,

    for the courts of the Lord;

my heart and my flesh cry out

    to the living God.

In the psalmist’s longing, we hear the pilgrim’s single-minded desire to be in ‘the courts of the Lord’. On pilgrimage, we are fuelled by our own desire for God, our own heart and flesh crying out in unison and harmony for their creator.

What can be so eroding about the daily grind is that very often, our flesh and heart are not aligned. I know this is true for me. So usually, I am doing one thing but thinking about something else: cooking dinner while worrying about a family issue, walking in the park while entirely focused on a work problem, putting the kids to bed while replaying an earlier argument or situation.

Most Christian theology about holistic health agrees that when there is alignment between mind, body, and soul, we find the greatest human flourishing. This is the shalom of the Garden of Eden and the flourishing for which we were created. Could this be found not only on pilgrimage but also in normal times?

Pilgrimage is so attractive because it offers a practical way to align our whole selves in one task—the task that we are created for—seeking God. But even if we can’t go on pilgrimage anytime soon, we can adopt this pilgrim mindset in daily life when we deliberately notice or mindfully create moments when our flesh and our heart are aligned.

Whilst pilgrimage is often a physical journey, we can, with a bit of attention and realigning of ourselves in the day-to-day, find moments of connection with God, who is as much with us on the pilgrim route as in the office kitchen or supermarket queue.

And it is so much more than a ‘health benefit of pilgrimage’ – it is tuning into God who created us mind, body and soul and who is, as St Augustine put it, ‘more inward to me than my most inward part and higher than my highest’ (Confessions 3.6.11).

Today, may you find moments of connection with God when your heart and flesh cry out together and meet under the loving gaze of our Lord.

Rev Dr Gillian Straine, CEO of GoHealth

For more information on the work of GoHealth: www.gohealth.org.uk

For self-led online course for Trauma Informed Ministry: Being Trauma Informed – GoHealth

Free podcasts to inspire faithful flourishing: Podcasts – GoHealth

Four-session course on Everyday Healing: Everyday Healing Course – GoHealth