By: Mary Maddox, your fellow pilgrim
So, what is in your pack. What are you carrying along your Camino (life)? We each are on our own journey, each carrying our own stone. Who knows what the pilgrim walking next to you is carrying in his or her heart? Who knows the burdens they are carrying? That's why we, as fellow pilgrims, must welcome and greet each other like brothers and sisters in Christ. Only He knows how many stones each one of us is carrying. So we try to walk our Camino as we should walk through our lives, with acceptance, humility, knowledge, love, mercy and compassion.
The lessons we learn along the Camino de Santiago teach us how to live our lives with all of these virtues. We just need to remember to take these lessons home with us. Leave nothing behind!
Some of these lessons are simple ones....like accepting that we all walk at our own pace.... that our journeys are ours to enjoy in our own way. On my last Camino, I was walking with a friend. She walked fast. And because I was a bit slower, I called her the City Mouse and me the Country Mouse. What's funny is that she lives outside New York City and I am from the mountains of North Carolina. So we were definitely on our own Camino journey in our own way. We respected each other enough to not expect the other to change her city or mountain ways. Some days she walked slower and we shared stories, laughter and advice. Other days we walked alone to have our own private prayer time with the Lord. Isn't that how we need to accept others in our daily lives.....respecting them enough to let them walk their journey at their own pace, respecting them enough to not expect them to change unless they choose to do so. And finally to be present with them in the here and now....to find joy there.
On the Camino, weight becomes a priority. The rule is to not carry more than 10% of your body weight. You don't want extra weight and the burden of carrying it. And here too we see our daily lives happening. It's inevitable that we begin to think about the other kinds of weight we are carrying and hopefully begin to lay those personal burdens down. If we do shed a burden or two, it means we can walk with a lighter step, and have the lightness of being that we crave. Letting go and letting God take our burdens is possible. I found that wonderful truth on my Camino. I know you can drop them into His hands just as I did.
As you walk the Camino, you completely put your trust in the Lord. Especially when you have no reservations and end up finding a place to sleep when you arrive in town. I had this experience my first Camino. My son, Cale and his friend Cody and I were walking into O Pedrouza. This is the town right before Santiago. We were told a few nights earlier by a fellow pilgrim that you might want to reserve your rooms from here to Santiago because the Camino is getting more crowded. This was the summer of 2013 and we were entering Santiago on the Feast day of St. James! Due to poor wifi we were unable to reserve rooms. When we arrived in O Pedrouza, after walking for six hours that day, we walked another two hours looking for a place to sleep. We finally went to the church, each of us to separate corners and prayed. After a little rest, we headed back into town to find a taxi and to find a place to sleep. As we were standing on the street a gentleman came up to us and asked if we needed a place to sleep. His pension just had a cancellation for a triple room, exactly what we needed. We were given a beautiful room in a beautiful pension. God is so good! I took this lesson home with me. If you really trust in God, He takes care of you. Sometimes we get in the way trying to figure things out, but all I can say is truly trust. It might not be the exact answer you are looking for but He knows what we need. Just like a parent, He takes care of our needs not our wants!
These are just a few of my insights. So much more is waiting to be shown to you. Everyone's Camino is their own Camino. Pilgrims who have walked before you can share their experiences and give advice and that is valuable. But you will have your own spiritual experience. Different. But valuable to those around you.
There is a quote I have always liked and though I don't have it in front of me, it goes like this.....
”for spiritual growth we all need three types of relationships in our lives. We need those who are ahead of us to guide us, those who are on the path with us to share our journey with and those who are coming along behind us whom we can encourage.”
Yes every pilgrim needs to listen, every pilgrim needs to pray, every pilgrim is walking this Camino of life...going forth to find God.
All of us walk the Camino for lots of different reasons. When you walk steadily day after day, you establish a rhythm and a routine. This routine becomes your comfort on the Camino. All you have to do is walk. Each day, each walk gives you new experiences and beautiful memories. This can be healing to your mind and heart. While you walk the Camino you are living in the moment, something to remember and something to take home with you. This living in the moment is the beginning of healing our mind and heart and truly walking with Our Lord.
"By coordinating your breathing with your steps, you establish yourself fully in the present moment, and your senses become empowered with the energy of mindfulness ... Life has not been easy for many of us, and oftentimes our hearts have been torn and broken. But as we learn to walk mindfully, coming home to the Earth with each step, we mend our broken hearts. Every step you take in this spirit becomes a healing stitch that mends the places in you that are wounded." ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Deepak Chopra defines spirituality as
the experience of that domain of awareness where we experience our universality. This domain of awareness is a core consciousness that is beyond our mind, intellect, and ego. When we have even a partial glimpse of this level of awareness we experience joy, insight, intuition, creativity, and freedom of choice. In addition, there is the awakening of love, kindness, compassion, happiness at the success of others, and equanimity.
Jack, one of the pilgrims featured in The Camino Documentary, states, “Life and spirituality are so intertwined and connected that it’s impossible to separate them.”
Before I left for my Camino journey I wondered if I would find a deeper meaning to life, a more balanced view of the unseen, of the intangible, and of my purpose in life; quite an imposing feat for such a short journey.
What I discovered was much more than the balance I sought. I discovered the joy of simplicity and the resulting opportunities for introspection. I discovered that beauty lies in everything we see, touch, smell and feel. I discovered the power of silence, be it while walking alone, sitting with other pilgrims during an evening mass, or simply looking into someone’s eyes and feeling the unspoken kindness and connection.
What I developed was gratitude for everything I saw, heard, felt, tasted and experienced. What I relished were the unexpected memories that surfaced in the strangest of times and places – those memories allowed me to honor the beautiful people who were or are part of my life and my personal growth.
What I rediscovered were the joys of feeling at peace and at one with nature. Walking with only the sounds of my footsteps and my heartbeat brought me to a level of mindfulness that I had pushed aside in my busy corporate life.
What I learned was to appreciate the equanimity of all pilgrims. On the Camino, we are not defined by our job, title, position, age, or accomplishments; we are defined as pilgrims seeking our own enlightenment. We look alike as we walk with our backpacks, poles, hat and boots, yet each one of us carries our own stories.
The Camino experience allows us to live life without hundreds of daily distractions. For me, it was simplicity at its best. Decisions were minimal—where to sleep, what to eat, when to take breaks; the other 23 hours and 30 minutes of the day were spent living . . . living each moment to its best.
Upon my return to my usual world I found myself aiming to live a bit of that “simple” life. It may have been a simple life in terms of responsibilities, chores, and time-wasting activities but it did have its abundance of sensory experiences.
Did I experience a deeper spirituality on the Camino? The spirituality I gained while walking the Camino can best be described as a painting with 12 basic colors becoming a masterpiece of millions of colors. I’m reliving life with a whole new palette!
¡Buen “colorful” Camino!
Your fellow pilgrim, Mary Maddox
Saint James, pray for us that we may be willing to leave everything to follow Jesus as you did. Help us to become special friends of Jesus as you were. Amen