The Pilgrim

Lake Tahoe, mountains, trees
You can read the earlier stories in the stories featuring Mikayla on this link.

Spiritual Allegories and Stories

Three years passed as Mikayla learned every and any thing she could from The Penitents. She became not just one of the most trusted Neophytes, but trusted of anyone in the spiritual order in regards to rescue in the mountains. She learned every form of rescue that was taught. She could find trails submerged under six feet of snow. She knew how to perform multiple forms of resuscitation and more. If a problem arose in the mountains, Mikayla was the first Neophyte Penitents Chen, Fallingstaph, or Murg would think of--the top three outings leaders.

Yet for all of this, Mikayla felt no closer to understanding her gifts or herself. If anything, she felt more limited.

One day, Mikayla came back down the road out of the Erleuchtenden Mountains. She could almost walk it in her sleep. She was ahead of the main team. They'd helped a traveler whose wagon had broken an axle. It was a simple fix. She'd been a part of many of such repairs and had done it herself several times.

She looked ahead at the trees ahead, which were still deep green but starting to show the brown edges of summery fatigue. Fall was coming.

Also up ahead, she saw a black cloaked traveler laboring upwards. She called out.

The traveler looked up and then back to the ground, trudging forward.

Mikayla leaned on her staff as the person came closer. The staff was a gift from Penitent Murg who had also been one of the Penitents training her and other Neophytes in self-defense.

Huffing and breathing with difficulty, the traveler stopped near her.

"Do you need some help?" Mikayla offered.

After a moment of heavy breathing, the traveler replied, "No. I know where I am going unlike some people."

"What do you mean? Are you going to the mining towns across the mountains?"

"Ha! Heavens for greed. Cesspools," he snorted.

Mikayla frowned, keeping a steady gaze on the man.

"If you must, I'm going to Illumeville."

"Why?"

"Well, aren't you full of questions." Cold eyes looked out from under his hood.

Mikayla held it with her much softer, but firm gaze.

"Don't you know what that place is?"

Mikayla shook her head.

"It's a place of healing." He coughed and spat something dark and discolored.

"You are not well," Mikayla remarked.

"Nice observation, genius."

"You should stay with us until you are better. The mountains are hard."

He roared with rasping laughter. "Not on your life."

Mikayla squinted at the man in confusion. "Who are you? And why not?"

"Who am I?" He glared at her. "Let's just say I'm a pilgrim."

"Okay, Mr. Pilgrim. So why not?" Mikayla pressed.

"Because they're a group of rejects. What did you do to get cast into that lot?"

"Do? I didn't do anything. I chose to join." Mikayla was irritated. She clutched her staff a little tighter.

"Chose? Why?"

"To understand who I am and to become a spiritual teacher."

The Pilgrim shook his head, lank grey hair sweeping out from his hood and then sticking on his sweaty forehead. "Why did you think they'd be able to teach you that?"

Mikayla didn't answer. "This is confusing."

"Oh come now. Having you noticed? All the problems they have? The reasons that they are penitent? They were charged for crimes, sent here to repay their debts to society."

Mikayla's eyes widened. Memories bubbled up.

"You see it now. You've been trained by outcasts and criminals."

"They're helping people now," Mikayla objected.

"Maybe you should join me. There are spiritual teachers and healers at Illumeville. That place is about--healing and enlightenment."

"What's enlightenment?"

"You really know nothing." He stepped closer. "They're using you."

Mikayla had had enough and the rest of her squad had caught up to her. "I'm delaying you. Good day."

The Pilgrim smiled a smile crowded and crooked teeth and then continued his slow trek into the mountains.

Mikayla tried to put his words out of her mind, but she began to see things more clearly. She heard the deeper things being said. She heard Chen allude to days of drinking and the problems he'd gotten into long ago. She heard Kadedus mention being beaten by her mother and evening the score. She heard comments about taking things, fights, scars, griefs, and more. All these comments had been said before, and somehow, she had not really heard them.

The Pilgrim's comments about the promise of Illumeville stayed with her. She asked some of the other Penitents about it.

Standing aside Penitent Abuela, Mikayla was helping to instruct some of the white sash Neophytes in their rock climbing.

"Penitent Abuela, may I ask you a question?"

"Of course, Sincérité."

"Have you ever been to Illumeville?"

"No. It's not my path."

"I hear it is a place where healers and teachers go."

"Yes, but that doesn't mean healing and teaching goes on there."

Mikayla frowned.

"Good intentions don't necessarily mean good outcomes, dear. Sometimes, they create the opposite."
"This is all so confusing," Mikayla stammered.

Abuela put a hand on Mikayla's arm. "It is a confusing world."

Mikayla noticed a scar running up part of Abuela's exposed forearm.

"What happened there?"

"Abuela looked down and gauged the Neophyte. "I made a lot of mistakes when I was younger."

"Is that why you joined the Penitents?"

"It was a better choice than the other options I had at the time."

The two fell silent.

At night, Mikayla sat meditating on her bed. She'd learned how to sleep a few hours a night and meditate for most of it and be fully refreshed in the morning. She no longer wanted to sleep at all; she felt like she missed too much of her life in doing it. She wondered what it would be like to be awake all the time.

However, tonight her meditations weren't going well. She realized she'd joined a group that she'd known nothing about. More disturbing to her was how she had managed to stay ignorant for more than three years to things that were increasingly obvious. These people weren't teachers, healers, or even spiritual seekers. These people were in pain.

In the coming weeks, Mikayla had a planned conversation about taking the red sash and becoming a full member of the order, attaining the title of full Penitent. Once again, she was ahead of schedule as this was something awarded after five to seven years, not three. At one point excited by this honor and with so many in the order actively supporting and appreciating her, Mikayla now felt strange doubting it all.

She stared at a crescent moon. "What am I thinking? All this doubt after one strange conversation with this...this pilgrim?"

She finished her night of meditation and sleep feeling restless the next morning. Walking down the hall, she saw Neophyte Kadedus. Mikayla stared at her, really trying to see the other Neophyte who still had not attained her yellow sash. She still struggled with her climbing routes, had poor judgment about weather conditions, and often skipped her assignments.

Mikayla saw the sag in the woman's shoulders, the downcast gaze, and the lazily tied sash.

"What are you staring at?" Kadedus demanded.

Mikayla ignored the question. She gazed deeply into Kadedus's eyes. "Why are you here?"

The other Neophyte frowned. "Because I have to be. Why are you here, Miss Perfection?"

Again, Mikayla ignored the question.

"But why? Why do you have to be here?"

Kadedus understood, tensed. "I don't have to say. That's one of the rules, Sincérité. You don't want to break the rules, do you?"

Kadedus walked away, but Mikayla followed. "Is it because of your mother?"

"Don't talk about my mother!"

Other Neophytes and Penitents heard the raised voice and looked at the two from out of their rooms.

Kadedus got embarrassed, but stepped closer to whisper angrily. "You don't know anything, and you don't belong here." She turned to walk away.

"You're right."

"What?"

"You're right. I don't know anything. And I don't belong here."

Kadedus stared in surprise. 

Mikayla knew what she had to do.


Interpretation of The Pilgrim

Sometimes truth is told to us from people we don't like. We don't like them; we don't trust them; or maybe they don't speak in a way that we're accustomed. So we ignore them, don't like them back, and otherwise discount what they say.

Such is the nature of the unconscious ego.

For a couple stories, Neophyte Kadedus has told Mikayla that she doesn't belong in the order of The Penitents. Yes, she's a jerk. Her name means envy in Estonian, and she does not hold any good intentions for Mikayla. 

But she's also right?

Have you had people like this in your life? They're not nice, but they're right.

Or perhaps, you've had people tell you things, but because they didn't say it in the absolute perfect way or just the way you want to hear things, your ego wouldn't hear it.

I bet you have.

So we come to this story, which is a spiritual turning point for Mikayla. She meets another person who tells her some true things that she doesn't want to hear. We meet The Pilgrim.

Spiritual Turning Points (video)

Mikayla immediately asks The Pilgrim who he is, and in my stories, the "Who are you?" question is always a powerful one. You should always pay attention to how my characters interpret it, ask it, and answer it. Their replies tell you what level of conscious understanding they are operating at. 

With The Pilgrim, we see that he has some understanding of the question. We don't know how much. He may know who he is and want to hide that fact because he has a fear of giving power away in the naming of the truth. Or he may not know who he is and be ashamed, and therefore decide not answer it. Whatever his motives, he names himself "The Pilgrim" rather than showing any level of vulnerability about the issue.

Their interaction leads Mikayla to the truth that she joined a group of people who have done wrongs to others. In this world that I'm creating, the order of The Penitents is an alternative option to going to jail. It is offered to those who have committed crimes, but not severe ones. Abuela alludes to being given a choice and choosing the order over her other option--aka jail.

Being surrounded by people with painful pasts should be obvious, but Mikayla--like many people when they are deeply lost in her own goals, beliefs, and fantasies--couldn't see the situation for what it is. After talking to The Pilgrim, her growing desires to "stay awake," and her deepening sense of limitation by the order, she can no longer help but see the truth. She hears things differently. Memories of other things that did not fit her story of what she wanted The Penitents to be come back.

This sort of re-remembering and hearing things differently is extremely common on the spiritual path. Perhaps you've experienced this. You thought things were one way, but then you let go of whatever was blinding you and are confronted with a different reality. Now you have to accept and process this.

What Is the Spiritual Path?

Additionally, Mikayla is forced to admit that she doesn't know what enlightenment is, which is a big problem if someone wants to be a spiritual teacher. It's another sign of how little she understands the path that she's trying to walk.

Yet, a part of her is starting to yearn to "stay awake." Mentioned in the previous story A Lost Soul, Mikayla has changed her "sleeping" habits and is increasingly trying to be "awake all the time." That's meant to be understood purely as a metaphor--not as a special power. She is starting to want to see reality.

What Is a Spiritual Awakening?

Seeing reality is what Mikayla is doing after her meeting with The Pilgrim leading to her conversation with Kadedus. She finally sees who the other Neophyte is. And she is no longer confused or upset by what Kadedus is trying to do and say to her.

And then she agrees.

That is the climax of her turning point, which now moves her towards her next set of actions. You'll find out what they are in the next story.

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