“To undertake a pilgrimage is to place yourself at risk…the risk that you might not return as the same person who set out. The risk that all that you had thought that you knew, understood, had perhaps carefully constructed in your mind, might be blown apart.” —Martin Palmer in a forward to Sacred Journeys
In 29 days I’ll depart California for my second pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago in Spain. The feelings I’m experiencing around this Camino are much different than those I had exactly a year ago, when I was preparing to walk my first Camino. Then, I was excited and anxious. This time around, there is more of a calm anticipation. While I will be walking different routes and seeing new scenery, meeting new people, I know what it is that I am getting myself into, whereas last year, I had absolutely no idea.
Last year at this time, I was spending every spare moment on the trails, preparing myself physically for my journey. For some reason, this year I have lacked the motivation to the same, which is rather concerning as my planned routes, the Camino del Norte, Camino del Salvador, and Camino Primitivo are all considered to be much more physically challenging than last year’s Camino Francés. While I could get all worked up about this, I am choosing to go with Steven Wright’s line of thinking, that, “Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time.” I will have plenty of time; 55 days. I’ve also been fortunate enough to have had the figurative experience of just putting “one foot in front of the other” to accomplish seemingly unachievable goals many times over in my lifetime. So my plan is to take it slow and easy. And to be flexible. I can change my plans at any moment, accept a hospitalera position for a week or two, spend a few days in a charming village, take a couple of weeks of language classes.
Another difference between then and now is that last year I was consumed with planning and gear. I spent hours reading Camino blogs and threads in online forums trying to find opinions and information on backpacks, shoes, a sleep system, accommodations. I agonized over questions like, “headlamp or no headlamp?” and made detailed and complicated spreadsheets with the weights of every little item I planned to take. It was all very fun. This year I already have pretty much everything I need, I know what works for me and what doesn’t, and I also have the confidence that whatever I take that doesn’t work can be gotten rid of, whether by posting it ahead or dumping it in a “free” box, and the experience that whatever I don’t have can be purchased over there. It takes the pressure off. So, while I will probably make a few minor modifications, for the most part I am set.
A final difference between last year’s preparation and this year’s is regarding spirituality. I’m not even sure how to begin writing about this subject as it is not one that I have broached before on my blog. Last year, I did not do much to prepare myself spiritually. I figured that it was simply going to be a spiritual journey. Everybody said so. There would be time for introspection, spiritual communion with higher power, reflection on my life’s path. Which is definitely true. There were all those things. But, as with everything, you get out what you put in. So I am not sure I could say that my spiritual connection deepened significantly. Rather, to my surprise and delight, last year’s walk ended up being more about connecting with other humans, something I sorely needed, and which, is spiritual in its own way.
Pilgrimage calls us to be attentive to the divine at work in our lives through deep listening, patience, opening ourselves to the gifts that arise in the midst of discomfort, and going out to our own inner wild edges to explore new frontiers. –Christine Valtners Paintner, The Soul of a Pilgrim
I have been quite lax regarding spiritual connection during the past three-or-so years. There have been periods of time in my life when I have prayed every day, not only in the morning and evening, but throughout the course of the day. There have also been extended periods when I’ve written daily gratitude lists, when I’ve been of service to others, when I’ve meditated. Basically, when I had some sort of daily spiritual practice. This has long since fallen by the wayside and I see and feel the ramifications. I see it reflected in unhealthy food choices, in my tendency to isolate more than to connect, and in a sort of underlying feeling of blah.
So, my goal during the next 29 days is to establish spiritual goals around this next journey and to re-establish a daily spiritual practice. I’d love to read about your daily spiritual practice in the comments!