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Center for Action and Contemplation

Pilgrimage as a Ritual of Transformation

Jon Huckins reveals how the Camino de Santiago taught him to walk in this world with his heart open to love.
March 20th, 2023
Pilgrimage as a Ritual of Transformation

How can rituals be instrumental in our spiritual growth? What pilgrimages have you taken to uncover the Divine mystery of the present moment? This month’s We Conspire series looks at ways to create sacredness within our daily lives and everyday spaces.  

In this article from Jon Huckins, co-founding director of Global Immersion, we discover how the ritual of pilgrimages can help us slow down and find deeper meaning not in where we arrive, but in how we get there. He guides “vision-quest” type pilgrimages on the Camino de Santiago as part of the Journey Home Cohort: a Pilgrimage for Men: 

The ritual of pilgrimage is not about the destination, but about the transformation that happens along the way. It is an ancient religious practice that creates space for awakening, healing and discernment.   

We live in a world of hurry, quick fixes and self-help strategies. Life can come at us so fast, it’s hard to discern who we are and how we are to show up amid all the beauty and brokenness we face each day. We are desperate for meaning and wholeness, but many of us feel paralyzed as to how to live into transformed lives that aren’t swallowed up by “to do” lists and external metrics of success.   

The Camino de Santiago is an ancient Christian pilgrimage that creates a counterculture to the West’s need for external production and pseudo forms of “success.” For centuries, pilgrims have chosen to step off the path of production in exchange for the slow, mysterious way of pilgrimage. Trusting that the Way will find us if we simply show up to be present to the gift of each step, pilgrims on the Camino are anchored in tradition and liberated to the new, unfolding truth of the Spirit’s movement today.


“Many of us feel paralyzed as to how to live into transformed lives that aren’t swallowed up by ‘to do’ lists and external metrics of success.” —Jon Huckins

Drawing of a blue flame

In 2019, I had come to the end of myself and all the mechanisms for theological, vocational and personal transformation. I had spent my entire adult life in “Christian ministry,” but it had led me to physical exhaustion, mental fatigue and emotional numbness. I couldn’t read another book about transformation, I had to embody a trust that the path had something to teach me far beyond any written word or institutional program.   

Releasing my need for control, I chose to get “lost” with the hope of being “found.”   

Day after day, I walked from one small village to another on a journey that would eventually lead me to Santiago. The first few days were frustrating, exhausting and lonely. The journey forced me to learn to listen to the silence to see what it had to teach me. With each blister, I was reminded of my mortality and with each sunrise over the path, I was waking up to the gift of each day. To take in the beauty that is before each of us if we have the eyes and ears to take it in.   


Drawing of a blue cup

“Releasing my need for control, I chose to get ‘lost’ with the hope of being ‘found.’” —Jon Huckins 

I met fellow pilgrims who didn’t care about my title or accomplishments, but who saw me for who I am; a fellow pilgrim seeking transformation on the Way. One day as the rain-soaked path felt like too much to bear, a fellow pilgrim whispered to me, “Walk with your heart, not with your feet. Otherwise, you’ll quit when the blisters get too bad.”   

He was inviting me to move from my mind to my heart. To feel. To hurt. To listen. To be present. To experience joy. To anticipate transformation in the darkness.   

 As I made my way into the ancient cathedral of St. James in Santiago, my eyes filled with tears and my heart felt alive. In the company of fellow travelers, I realized that the destination wasn’t a city in Spain, but the home that is my heart. The Camino is a ritual of transformation that is available to each of us every day when we choose to show up to the gift of the life that is right before us.   

What is the Camino before you today?  

Reflect with Us 

How can we show up to the transformative power of pilgrimage as a ritual of awakening in our everyday life? Share your reflection with us. 

We Conspire is a series from the Center for Action and Contemplation featuring wisdom and stories from the growing Christian contemplative movement. Sign up for the monthly email series and receive a free invitation to practice each month. 

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