October 30: Five days have passed since returning home (and my last post). It has felt somewhat surreal, perhaps due to jet lag and to my cold which is much better but hangs on. But I think it is more than that. Many people have asked me how my “trip” was and I don’t know how to answer. Or they ask, “Did you have a wonderful time?” There seems to be no answer that conveys my experience. It simply cannot be summed up in simple categories.
That being said, I find my mind is still on the way much of the time. I re-read all of my blog posts today. I also read a little booklet that I picked up in the Hospital for the Soul in Castrojeriz (Day 13). In it the photographer, Nia Peiro Carbó, describes his own experience of the Camino and how the photographs that are displayed in the Hospital for the Soul came to be. Reading his reflections has been very helpful in sorting out my own. Here are three quotes:
The way in which we walk is but an external expression of our internal state, an extension of our daily activity. Whatever the reasons [that we walk] we all tend to repeat our ways of acting from everyday life: the haste, the pressure to reach our goals, the excessive burdens, the competition, the “noise” we surround ourselves with….
He quotes his friend, Mao: “The Camino is not done with the feet.”
“The Camino should not be experienced as a parenthesis in our lives, but as life itself, enhancing our ability to listen, understand what we want to say to each other and allowing us to return to our lives more aware, more free.”
If I were to walk the Camino again I would like to do it differently. This is not an expression of regret but an outcome of learning. My ideal would be to book only a one way ticket so that I would have no deadline to finish. I would get rid of the guide book and I would set no daily destinations. I would walk until it felt right to stop each day. I would simply trust that there would be a bed for me at the end of each day and that my needs would be met. I would not hurry. I would spend more time exploring places along the way, resting, even for a few minutes, in the churches, visiting the monasteries. Perhaps I wouldn’t keep a blog (though I’m very glad I did this time).
I think there are few who take such a radical approach to the Camino, but I see it only as a more fully realized version of what I have already done.
While it’s early days yet, I am finding that the pace of my life has slowed. I have many things to do – business to catch up on, new events to prepare for, but I’m struck by how non-anxious I am about them and how methodically I am able to work at them. I hope that this may be a lasting change.
I have written before that the Camino is a metaphor for one’s life. Perhaps one’s life is also a metaphor for the Camino. It is all one. Looking at it that way, I feel pretty good about my Camino experience. It has enhanced and reinforced my desire to be accepting of everyone, compassionate toward everyone, a goal that I sometimes meet and sometimes do not.
I believe that in our lives there already exist too many written, measured and analyzed chapters. Let go and feel. Experiencing the lack of programs helps us to live more intensely and more truly.
To me this does not mean that all written, measured and analyzed parts of our lives are wrong. But the ability to just experience and feel is what breathes vitality into our lives. We can be purposeful and we can set and meet goals. To be truly free we also must be able to let go, experience and feel.
I think this is why it is so difficult to put my experience into words. Words are just the wrong medium.