Begin with Joy

Pilgrimages, Elvis and Inspiration

– Posted in: pilgrimage

Have you ever been on a pilgrimage?

Traditionally, a pilgrimage is a journey that leads to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion. Examples include:
• Travelling the Camino de Santiago in northern Spain (for Roman Catholics);
• Making the Hajj to Mecca (for Muslims); and
• Bathing in the Ganges River (for Hindus).

By physically stepping outside the daily life and embarking upon this journey, one has time to reflect upon one’s life and relationship with God.

There are also secular pilgrimages such as travelling to pay homage at the grave site of an influential person. An English literature enthusiast might travel to London to pay respects to Shakespeare. In the United States, many journey to the grave site of Dr. Martin Luther King in Atlanta, and to the graves of presidents, literary greats and other famous people. Along the way it is possible to learn even more about these people.

Pilgrimages are an opportunity for self-discovery. One may discover new depths of spiritual connection or strengths or even areas for improvement.

Earlier this month, I made a pilgrimage to Graceland, the resting place of Elvis Aaron Presley.


In no way could I be considered a rabid fan of The King, but I always have liked his music and respected his talent. During the visit of his former home in Memphis, I was reminded of his many accomplishments. I had not known that LBJ had sworn him in as a DEA agent (a long and interesting story). I viewed his many awards and possessions, including the pink Cadillac. The tour ended at his gravesite.

I had expected over-the-top garishness. Instead I found that things were fairly normal for the times.

What really hit me was how young he was when he died. In my youth, he seemed so old. Now I think, “Only 42 years old! How young!”

At Graceland I discovered that because of my inclination to be dismissive of pop cultural icons, I had always been rather critical of Elvis’ personal life. Yeah, I believe that I was a bit hasty to judge. I left Graceland with the understanding that like most of us, Elvis just tried to do the best he could. Like most of us, he was a jumbled mix of personal gifts and flaws. Clearly, he could have benefited from the services of a life coach. Sadly, that was not to be.

On a personal level, the life story of Elvis Presley is inspiring. He grew up in poverty. He developed his talent and determinedly pursued his dream. His music had significant impact. As they say, his music lives on.

I enjoyed my trip to Graceland – my secular pilgrimage to pay homage to a talented (and well marketed) musician. It left me wanting to make more pilgrimages.

Pilgrimages typically include these common elements:
• A journey or quest;
• Honoring a belief or personage;
• Time for introspection; and
• Inspiration.

Pilgrims are first inspired to make a journey. Then they will find inspiration in the journey. And finally, at the end of the journey, they may be inspired to make changes to their lives.

I intend for my next pilgrimage to have deeper personal meaning and connection. Perhaps, the journey will be short. Maybe it will be long.

For now, I wait to be inspired.

When do you embark on your next pilgrimage?