This long neglected blog is about to become a pilgrimage journal. On September 15th I leave for Spain to walk the Camino de Santiago (or the Way of St. James), the ancient pilgrimage route across northern Spain travelled by millions since mediaeval times. It is nearly 800 km in length and I have given myself five weeks to complete it. I will be traveling alone for most of it but my wife, Susan will join me for the final week (a hundred km or so). For a basic description of the Camino check this Wikipedia article.
This post, and others I may write before I go, is to share my thoughts and actions in preparation for what I intend to be a spiritual pilgrimage. I hope these reflections will be helpful to others on their spiritual journeys as the accounts of others have been helpful to me.
Why Am I Doing This?
Lots of people have asked me the question and I don’t find it easy to give a clear answer. In ancient times (and still) people travel the path as a sign of religious devotion. Nowadays people travel for many reasons – a physical challenge, a cheap holiday, or just a time apart to think and reflect upon one’s life. Some do it by mountain bike, others by horseback, but most walk. The path ends at the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela where, tradition has it, the bones of St. James the Apostle are interred. My reasons for travel are not religious in that sense. At the risk of using the false dichotomy of spiritual vs. religious, I would say that my reasons are very much spiritual, not so much religious.
- A Thin Place: I am attracted by the ancient quality of the path and the fact that it has been trodden by so many millions of people over the centuries. The Celts say that there are “thin places” where the division between our world and the spiritual world is reduced. It may be a characteristic of the place or it may be that centuries of spiritual activities/experiences have made it so. I think the Camino may be such a place.
- A Retreat: Twice I have attended 8-day silent retreats and have found them extremely nourishing. They have changed me in ways that are hard to put into words but resulted in a greater degree of serenity. ln some ways I see walking the Camino alone as such an extended time for reflection away from the distractions of normal life. I don’t intend to follow the news or to check my email (other than a special address I will create for urgent matters).
- Community: While I will be walking on my own I know there will be no shortage of company from all parts of the world to accompany me when I wish. Those who have walked the Camino before me always speak of the special kind of community experienced by the pilgrims or peregrinos. I hope to spend a good deal of time walking in solitude, but, extravert that I am, I know I will also want to spend time with others. I relish the international connections.
- Being Present: Being an intuitive person I spend most of my thinking time considering possibilities, solving problems, making plans or sometimes being anxious about what is to come. My intention on the Camino is to work at living more in the present – to be aware of my senses and the beauty that surrounds me, to live with gratitude and trust that my needs will be provided for. This blog is an extravert’s way of keeping a journal to aid in reflection.
- Simplicity: I will have to carry everything I need on my back. All the wisdom says that I should carry absolutely as little as possible. Living simply seems to be the message of all spiritual teachers so I am looking forward to eliminating clutter (and weight) from my life. I have, however, bought an excellent, light and well fitted backpack which is a joy to carry. I will carry my iPad so that I can continue my blog posts.
- Questions and Issues: There are a few perennial issues that pop up in my life and I look forward to spending time reflecting on them: “Why do I regularly eat more than my body needs for good health?” “How can I be less dependent on the positive feedback of others for my self-esteem.” “How can I have more direct experiences of the divine energy and love that all the mystics point to?”
I hope, through this blog, you will join me on my journey.