I've uttered those words like one newly devoted to a way. I suspect that is true. The Camino de Santiago was all I expected, with surprises, learnings, and dimensional openings that continue to integrate within me.
Little things, really.
Like the day we headed out, and met yet another uphill (that plateaued then went uphill again). That day my son and co-walker insisted I wear his hat. The sun was out and we had long ago determined my own hat was too heavy and not well suited. The brim of his hat kept bumping the top of my backpack, but as I was feeling the benefit of the shade it offered, I just tilted my head down instead of taking it off. This little thing changed my whole view. My view was all feet, pavement, walking poles. Whenever we went uphill, I slowed down to a snails crawl and focused one step at a time. This allowed me to pay sharp attention to my body: lungs, heart, legs, breathing. This day was different from others. It was my 4th day of walking and my whole system was on board. It knew what was going down. And I could feel it syncing with the landscape.
Because I was not look up to the peak of the hill, instead having continual focus on the square of path I could see, I was not moving with expectation/dread/reluctance of a never ending climb. I was in the NOW. The NOW, that illusive mystery of a goal that all spiritual practitioners seem to be chasing these days. There I was walking step by step. I was exactly where I was, where feet and pole were planted for a stepping moment. I realized that my body was adapting to the rise and shifts of the road. I had been accustomed to thinking about how tackling a hill would leave me utterly breathless. But this was different. My body was not tackling anything. It was one with the rise. I could feel the automatic breathing of my lungs and muscle of my heart beat strong in this ongoing uphill climb and by paying attention to this I could tell I was nearing the top and the incline was tapering because my lungs and heart and muscles were adapting and adjusting to the landscape. It was so awesome. So when I did look up and saw what I already knew, that I was now on a flat portion....I was delighted to see that we were headed right back uphill. I go to experiment with this again! Off we went (mind, body, soul, emotions) to dance with the land.
All of my mystical moments happened when going uphill. Funny. Uphills were the hardest part. The part that made me look up and give a little anxious cry of "Oh God" while trying to look tough and capable for my companions' sake. Those mystic moments began to happen after the first cry out of "Oh God"on the third day out. I do believe I was heard. The mystery that crafted those uphills in the first place and my body and being in the second place saw fit to merge in moments both profound and memorable. I thought my cry was a request for flat land. Apparently, it was for the ability to climb.
The risk of writing out the metaphor of the uphill is tricky. It can quickly turn sappy and uninteresting. But I don't want to lose it either.
- on the uphills, I worked my entire being
- on the uphills, I was my weakest
- on the uphills, I became my strongest
- on the uphills, the mystic portals opened
- what had been dread turned into determination
- what had been fear turned into accomplishment
- what had been winnowed down to heart, lungs, breathing turned into a knowing that I would breath normal again
- what had been an ego embarrassment became a self-knowing of faith
Without a doubt, I remained the slowest on the Camino. Speed wasn't the thing.
The THING it was is still a non-verbal reality for me. It is nameless and wordless and hard to express.
I found myself this afternoon back in Richmond, Indiana imagining taking my next pilgrimage across my home state. The road half a block from my front door is US 40 and I can walk the whole breadth of my state on it. 138 miles/224km, a drop in altitude of about 500 ft (does that mean I need to start in Terre Haute and go uphill to Richmond?). It would be double the distance we walked in Spain. If I walked 20km (that was my longest day on the Camino) I could do this walk in 11 days. So, let's say 14 days to allow a day for recovery if there was a need or a day of play in Indy. Doing it in Indiana would mean Kurt and Alfie could drive out to visit me every 4 days or so. Doesn't this sound great? You may think that there is no comparison between Spain and Indiana. There won't be other walkers, and people will be speaking English, no customs or long plane rides, no jamon serrano and vino tinto....but a pilgrimage brings surprises wherever.
The point I really want to make here is that before the Camino, I would never have contemplated in a real way such an undertaking. Never. Maybe in a romantic daydream that poofs and is gone when reality sets in. But never would I publicly imagine this in a real way that would cause me to do calculations and believe it to be doable.
Maybe I'm still on the high of the trip. But maybe, something broke inside of me. Like the little calf muscle in my right leg that popped into being on day 3 in Spain....maybe my own fear and reticense with my own body broke, allowing heart/mind/spirit/body to become one. One system. One being.
Back to you? What are your uphills and how are you engaging them? An onslaught? A tackle? An integration? How would you LIKE to be engaging your uphills? Let's do that. I'll be like the lovely taxi driver who took me 24km up the road on the day I simply could not walk in the morning. With no judgment from her, my need allowed her to do what she does best: take people where they want to go
Spiritual Direction and Coaching is like that. Your life situations may need a taxi driver to help take you where you want to go so that you can recover strength to engage your uphills. And my whole orientation in life is to offer that ride. I'm not afraid of your uphills. We'll breath with new lungs, move with new inner muscles, dance to the beat of mighty hearts.
To your good path,