inner and outer pilgrimage for women

TEN days of walking In wonder
on the ancient pilgrimage routes of the Kumano Kodo

The wilderness pilgrim’s step-by-step, breath-by-breath walk up a trail...carrying all on the back, is so ancient a set of gestures as to bring a profound sense of body-mind joy.
— Gary Snyder

No matter the location, spiritual tradition or group you travel with, a pilgrimage is an opportunity to step out of the busy world of constant activity and to drop into a spacious container to refresh, reconnect, and renew. A pilgrimage can be deeply transformative.

THe Outer Pilgrimage:

No-one is traveling
Here along this way, but I
This Autumn Evening
— Matsuo Basho

Kumano is the ancient name for the Southern region of the Kii Peninsula, a sacred site steeped in mystery and legend. Since ancient times, this lush, rugged, and densely forested environment has nurtured a profound form of nature worship in which mountains, rocks, waterfalls, trees, and rivers are deified and revered. Kumano’s sacred mountains were a major pilgrimage destination for the Imperial and aristocratic families in the Heian period with several pilgrimage routes together forming the Kumano Kodo or Old Road of Kumano. At that time, it was an arduous trip filled with strict spiritual training to purify the mind, body, and spirit to the three grand shrines of Kumano (Hongu, Nachi, and Hayatama). On our pilgrimage, we will be traveling the Kii Mountain range from north to south, starting at Mount Koya, a mountain-top temple complex and the sacred seat of the Shingon Buddhist sect in Japan. Weaving through forested mountains and small villages, we will reach the shrines at Hongu Taisha, Nachi Taisha, and through the traditional boat tour on the river, the third shrine at Hayatama Taisha.


The Inner Pilgrimage

And the world cannot be discovered by a journey of miles, no matter how long,
but only by a spiritual journey, a journey of one inch, very arduous and humbling and joyful,
by which we arrive at the ground at our own feet, and learn to be at home.
— Wendell Berry

Imagine waking up in your tatami room to the bell of a buddhist temple calling for the morning service, walking on a rugged ancient sacred trail surrounded by Japanese cedar trees only accompanied by the song of a nightingale, or having a wonderful exchange of laughter and gestures with a Japanese lady in the hot springs. This is what the experience of walking in rural Japan is like: a slower pace of life, infinite natural beauty, spiritually infused settings and welcoming hosts. And these are just examples of the wonders that you are likely to encounter on this pilgrimage: from the first day on the trail, you will be transported into a different world, allowing your soul to soar, your mind to let go, and your body to relax through the demand of the hike.

As part of a small group of women walking the ancient Kumano Kodo under the guidance of an experienced local guide and a life coach, you will explore what it means to move through life as a pilgrim by becoming one for ten days. Through a carefully crafted daily schedule of walks, contemplative moments, guided meditations, personal reflection and group conversations, we will adopt practices that will allow us to fully embrace every moment of this wonderful journey. Examples of these pilgrim’s practices include: - crossing the threshold, -letting go, -making the way by walking, -leaning into discomfort with grace and acceptance, -embracing the unknown, and finally -coming home.

If you need to find yourself again, this may just be the break your soul, body and mind have been longing for.

You’ll feel at home in this pilgrimage if you

  • Enjoy walking or hiking in nature

  • Appreciate times of stillness and silence

  • Are committed to supporting the development and wellbeing of yourself and others

  • Are willing to try new ways of being and surprise yourself and others along the way

  • Are (or want to fall) in love with Japanese culture

What to expect:

  • An authentic introduction to rural Japan with knowledgeable local mountain guides

  • A profoundly restorative connection with wilderness

  • A serious time-out from the distractions and demands of modern life including digital detox

  • Meaningful time in group settings balanced with solo time to enjoy hiking trails, hot spring baths, and temples

  • Guidance from me, Anne-Marie, as your life coach before, during and after the trip

  • Practices to take home with you to support your continuing development

Your Guides:

Click on the pictures for bios

LENGTH:10 days

Meeting Point: Osaka (Namba district), Japan. You should plan your arrival in Osaka for Nov 3, 2019. We will start with a welcome dinner that evening and begin walking the following morning.
Departure Point: Osaka KIX International Airport. Plan you departure from Osaka KIX no earlier than Nov 12, 2019 in the late afternoon.

walking Level: ACTIVE

This pilgrimage involves walking on the Kumano Kodo trails with daily hikes of 2-7 hours. Some days involve hiking with vertical elevation gains/losses of three thousand feet on rugged terrain.

cost: $3,875

What’s included For the trip:

  • Daily guided opportunities for contemplation, reflection, and inquiry for your inner journey

  • Three 1:1 coaching sessions with Anne-Marie: before, during and after the pilgrimage

  • Intimate group of 5 to 8 women including Alena or Yoko and Anne-Marie

  • Experienced bilingual mountain guide for the entire duration of the trip

  • Nine nights shared accommodation in traditional Japanese inns, temples or hotels.

  • Nine breakfasts (at accommodations), five lunches (four bento boxes for the trail and a goodbye lunch on Day 10) and seven dinners (at accommodations or in town)

  • All ground transportation (bus, taxi or train) from the meeting pointing in Osaka on Nov 3 to the ending point at Osaka KIX Airport on Nov 12

  • Entrance fees at Mount Koya

  • Kawabune boat tour to Shingu

  • Shinto purification ritual

What’s Not included:

  • Airfare to/from Osaka

  • Travel insurance (required)

  • Luggage transfers (luggage transfers can be purchased separately at the accommodations for about yen 3,000 per piece of luggage per transfer)

  • Four lunches (when not provided by the accommodation on days 2, 3, 8 and 9)

  • Two dinners (Days 1 and 7)