Extending my greetings to all and thanking you for your patience during my absence from writing. I went away to get in touch with my self. Having been called to walk the Camino de Santiago, I was able to clear my schedule and arrange my life so that I could go travel for 35 days. Even better, my 22-year-old son was able to join me on this journey.
You might ask, what did I find on this journey? Since my return many have asked this question, probing as to what it was all about? I have been asked over and over, “how did I feel”? “What did I find along The Way”? “Was it all I had expected”? The questions are numerous; often I am unable to answer them. How do I begin to explain what this inner journey represented to me? I find it almost impossible, and my voice has remained silent.
I have written a lot about finding one’s voice, and in fact that was the premise of this blog, to find and hold my voice. As I am just beginning to reflect and process the pilgrimage, one thing I have found is that it is okay not to have a voice to answer the numerous questions and in that I feel at peace. There is a time and place to use your voice, and a time to remain silent, reflecting inward.
I will share that the journey was many things from beautiful, joyful, happy and fun to challenging, painful, gut wrenching and physically demanding. Oftentimes I did not think I could take another step. The Camino is a metaphor for life, it offers up a little bit of everything and it is up to us as to how we greet those challenges and joys. There were times I did not meet situations in a most prudent manner, and others when I was able to comfortably sit with whatever emotion arose.
We had walked from Atapuerca to Burgos one day. I knew the day would be a challenge in that there was much walking to get to the city center through a vast industrial area, in other words not scenic. It was also hot. I wanted to take a taxi from outside of the city into the center, where we would be staying, at least that was the plan, thus avoiding the industrial walking. This did not happen. We walked, lost our way on The Way and were unable to effectively communicate with the gas station attendant as to where to go. We saw no other pilgrims in sight. When you walk The Way you are known as a peregrino, or pilgrim. It was frustrating and my son and I became cross with one another. I asked myself why was I doing this? Whose idea was it to walk 500 miles across Spain anyway? I was miserable. Not from the physical aspect of the walk, as it was a relatively easy walk. As we made our way further and further across the dismal industrial area, which thankfully was silent as it was a Sunday, it dawned on me that I had read there was no bus service in most of the villages of Spain on Sunday, which clearly included Burgos! Just one more frustration to my day as we were standing at a large bus stop noting there certainly were none to ride on this day! I wanted to be done with this part of the walk now and I could feel my impatience mounting combined with the heat.
Suddenly, I took note that I was angry. Yes, on this pilgrimage I was angry. At first I felt ashamed. However, I stepped back and acknowledged this anger and allowed it to be. I did not shame it, stop it, or feed it. I simply allowed it to be what it was. In that moment I began to soften, I was no longer acting from fear, the fear of being lost in this city and believe me after coming out of tranquil rural villages a city the size of Burgos is an overload for the senses. I simply let go and observed what I felt; I told my son, “I am feeling angry”. It was a beautiful release, which lead to a softening of my heart.
That was part of the journey for me, the softening of my heart. I have been through many difficult and traumatic situations over these past 12 years and I have hardened my heart to a lot of life. The Camino was telling me to soften, to acknowledge things when I felt them, to observe, and to let go. This was only one of the many gifts and blessings I received along my pilgrimage. I hope to carry my lessons forward into my daily life because consistent softening of your system dissolves blocks in the flow of your life energy. It connects you with the life force in the universe. As you soften you let go of the stress and strain that have blocked your vitality. What can you do to soften your heart?
You can practice this exercise whenever you feel stress in daily life.
First, attempt to identify where the stress or emotion manifests in your body, and then try the following:
- Begin softening into that location in your body. Letting the muscles be soft without a requirement that they become soft, like simply applying heat to sore muscles. Softening…softening…softening… Remember that you are not trying to make the sensation go away—you are just holding it in a tender embrace.
- If you experience too much discomfort with an emotion, simply stay with your breath until you feel better. Now, begin to soothe yourself because you struggle in this way. Perhaps putting your hand over your heart again and feeling your body breathe. Perhaps bringing kind or encouraging words to mind. Hold yourself with loving awareness.
- If you wish, direct kindness to an uncomfortable part of your body by placing your hand over that place. Maybe even thinking of your body as if it were the body of a beloved child, and gently soothing.
- Finally, allowing the discomfort to be there. Letting go of the wish for discomfort to disappear. Allowing the discomfort to come and go as it pleases, like a guest in your own home. Allowing…softening…soothing…allowing. Repeat these words like a mantra, if you wish, reminding yourself to feel tenderness toward your suffering.
- As you do this exercise you may find that the emotion moves in your body, try staying with your experience, continuing to use the technique of soften-soothe-allow.
Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart … Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung