In the tapestry of existence, there comes a time when the ordinary dissatisfies the soul's longing for adventure and change.
It was 2018 when, in a move that some labelled brave, others deemed foolish, I embraced the innate human desire for exploration. In leaving behind the predictable path of a conventional career, I embarked on a solo pilgrimage, traversing 3,000 kilometres across Europe through ancient trails in France, Spain, Switzerland, and Italy.
Amidst mountains, rivers, forests, and plains, what began as an external adventure swiftly unfolded into a profound internal journey.
This transformative expedition was inspired by the spirit of St. Francis of Assisi, a revered figure whose tales of renunciation, self-reflection, and spiritual enlightenment resonate closely with Eastern philosophies, particularly the essence of Yoga, and had lit a fire in my heart that has become impossible to ignore.
Before my pilgrimage, a friend gifted me a deck of oracle cards, one of which bore the image of St. Francis with a simple yet profound message – "Follow Your Heart."
And so, propelled by this intuitive calling, I set forth on a journey not just across landscapes but through the corridors of my own being.
"Why?" many asked.
The answer, quite simply, was revealed through that card drawn from that oracle deck, which confirmed an inner longing for change. It was not a complex nor deeply thought about decision, but rather a response to a profound call to follow my heart - I simply listened and took action.
As a seeker of inner peace and spiritual well-being, I had already immersed myself in the world of Yoga. Yet, my pilgrimage took me to the Catholic pilgrimage routes of Camino de Santiago, La Via Francigena, and La Via di San Francesco instead of the more expected destinations of India or Nepal.
Because, in the quiet echoes of my soul, that little saint from Assisi beckoned me with a phrase of simplicity..
The philosophy of St. Francis seamlessly intertwines with the practice of Yoga, transcending religious connotations. At the heart of both lies a guiding principle embodied in the Franciscan phrase "Pace e Bene" - "Peace and Goodness/Good Things."
This gentle phrase, attributed to St. Francis and his followers, encapsulates the core tenets of their profound spirituality, emphasising not just the absence of conflict but the active cultivation of benevolence in one's life.
In the realm of Yoga, where postures, breath control, and meditation converge, "Pace e Bene" aligns perfectly and appears as a guiding light.
The physical postures of yoga align the body, mind, and spirit, fostering inner tranquillity. The intention set in our practice echoes the call for a genuine commitment to goodness, infusing each moment with a deeper, more meaningful energy.
Conscious breathing, a pillar of the yogic practices, becomes a practice in attuning ourselves to the present moment. In each breath filled with "Peace and Good Things," we become conduits for spreading goodness… inhaling the good shit and exhaling the bullshit.
Meditation, a profound component of both the yogic journey and of St. Francis's teachings, unveils the depths of the heart. Here, benevolence, kindness, and compassion are cultivated, creating a wellspring within that flows with "Peace and Goodness."
To me, the beauty of this phrase lies in its universality and its transcendence of any specific spiritual or philosophical traditions. It serves as a reminder to continuously cultivate inner peace, for in that peace lies the harvest of "Good Things."
My pilgrimage, guided by the words of a man who lived eight centuries before my time, was a testament to following the heart. In the simple embrace of "Pace e Bene," I discovered not only the interconnectedness of the tradition of western mysticism enshrined within St. Francis's wisdom and the enormous canon of yogic practices, but a harmonious melody that resonated within my soul, urging me to be an active contributor to my betterment and to that of the world.
That physical journey took place almost 6 years ago, though it was not the end to the deep internal adventure.
And it is a journey of peace and good things...
Matt ~ The Bearded Naked Yogi