Welcome by Lars

Greetings fellow pilgrim!

Before I fell in love with labyrinths, I forged a career in documentary photography. To immerse myself in that field I arranged an internship with a photo agency that represented National Geographic photographers. I remember meeting one very well-respected photographer who lamented the time at home in between assignments. They felt a combination of restlessness, despair, and longing for the next flight to an exotic destination to find inspiration again. Our photo editor asked, ‘Why don’t you go wander around your neighborhood and see what emerges close to home?’ I recognized how easy and exciting it might be to take a striking photo on the streets of India as opposed to how hard it can be to see your everyday environment with fresh eyes and an open mind.

A few years later I discovered the remarkable work of another National Geographic photographer who found themself in a similar predicament. At home in Minnesota, Jim Brandenburg was burned out and disconnected from his surroundings, passion, and art. But instead of jumping on an airplane, he embarked on a personal project in the woods near his home and set an intention to take a single photo a day for 90 days—only one click of the shutter every 24 hours! It turned out to be the most far reaching and world-renowned photo essay of his life, featured in magazines, books and even a documentary.

This week I’ll be returning to Chartres Cathedral on pilgrimage with Veriditas with the sole purpose of making it possible for you to come along on the journey. This is our second ‘Direct from Chartres’ experience in which I’ll provide you a window into our daily program exploring the Art of Pilgrimage with Phil Cousineau. As I prepare for the journey I had to ask myself: 

Is a virtual pilgrimage an oxymoron? 

It has been said that the Chartres Labyrinth may have been used as a symbolic pilgrimage for those unable to travel to Jerusalem during the Crusades. Eight hundred years later who would have thought there would be thousands of replicas of the Chartres Labyrinth surrounding the planet for people to traverse that very same design around the corner from their home? For those unable to attend our pilgrimage in person this year, we want to provide inspiration and insight into our daily program on ‘The Timeless Search for Meaning’. We hope these five days of guided meditations, discussions, conversations with Lauren Artress, and village vignettes will provide you an alternative way to join in this shared journey.

Follow along at your own time and pace with access to the recordings for a lifetime. In the next section I'll also include a special presentation on how to walk an invisible labyrinth in a small space as a daily practice in case you don't have a Chartres replica nearby. Perhaps this course will prepare you to embark on a personal pilgrimage close to home or a sacred site of your own making later this year. Phil writes, “The ultimate goal of our time together will be to learn a few simple but poetic daily practices that have the power to transform virtually any kind of travel into a sacred journey. In this way, as the Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh suggested, we might recognize our own backyard as sacred ground.” 

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