Any journey requires some letting go, setting aside, and choosing precisely what is needed to travel lightly. That can be said of the move I made across the country ten years ago, the writing journey, or the healing journey I’m now about to embark on.

Writers need a lot of time for their craft and so we must learn to say “no” and perhaps ask the question Lee Maracle told me many years ago: How will this help my writing?

We learn to clear away what’s not essential to our daily practice and/or a particular project. The healing journey I’m approaching now is similar to the writing journey as it’s a pilgrimage during which time I don’t want to be weighted down.

I had already let go of some activities and volunteer work so I could have a relaxing summer. I had also been going through books, journals and all sorts of papers. I tend to keep records of everything so I’ve got notes from every workshop, outlines for all the writing circles I’ve facilitated, boxes of journals and even notebooks of book reviews. I now have a box of papers to be shredded and recycled and journals that can be burned when that’s allowed again in our dry province. The sorting and clearing task though, is far from over!

My friend Ursula has been going through her old journals and discovering her younger self she says. I told her I want to burn my journals from the nineties and she thought I may still find nuggets if I look through them. I’ll probably go through some more recent journals but those old ones can be burned with the ashes floating up into the air, with thanks, to become something new.

Marie Kondo in her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (Ten Speed Press, 2014) is ruthless when it comes to papers and manuals. Discard them all she advises. Only keep greeting cards that spark joy in your heart. In fact that’s her advice about what you choose to keep – and that’s key to her philosophy, choosing what to keep rather than what to let go of. Does it spark joy, is the question to ask as you expose your items to the light of day. Choose what brings you joy, and let other things go as they have already fulfilled their role.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe traditional symbol for the pilgrim’s journey is the scallop shell. It’s long been a symbol of the Camino de Santiago. The grooves on the shell represent the different journeys we take as pilgrims. I actually have a small pewter scallop shell with a labyrinth on the other side of it as well as another given to me long before this particular journey.

Taking a scallop shell along as a symbol for this healing journey is a reminder “not only of the journey but also of your destination,” Christine Valters Paintner points out in The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within. (The title of this blog is one of the practices in Christine’s book.)

Under the heading of “Pilgrim,” in his book, Consolations: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words  (Many Rivers Press, 2015), poet David Whyte says this about the destination: “We give ourselves to that final destination as an ultimate initiation into vulnerability and arrival, not ever truly knowing what lies on the other side of the transition, or if we survive it in any recognizable form.”

My guidebook for the healing journey will be my own, current journal. In it I record my dreams, questions, hopes, fears and some inspirational bits of wisdom I’ve cut out and pasted in.

As for books, I have many to choose from. Right now though, I’m thinking about one poem: “Packing for the Future: Instructions” by Lorna Crozier which is included in her book, The Blue Hour of the Day: Selected Poems (McClelland & Stewart, 2007).

Here ‘s an excerpt:

Take a leather satchel,
a velvet bag and an old tin box –
A salamander painted on the lid.

This is to carry that small thing
you cannot leave. Perhaps the key
you’ve kept though it doesn’t fit
any lock you know,
the photograph that keeps you sane,
a ball of string to lead you out
though you can’t walk back
into that light.

In your bag leave room for sadness,
leave room for another language.

There may be doors nailed shut.
There may be painted windows.
There may be signs that warn you
to be gone. Take the dream
you’ve been having since
you were a child, the one
with open fields and the wind

Mistrust no one who offers you
water from a well, a songbird’s feather,
something that’s been mended twice.
Always travel lighter
than the heart.

from “Packing for the Future: Instructions” by Lorna Crozier