- June 08th, 2010
- Walking the Camino
The Flow of Life
It was quite a leisurely start to the day despite my good intentions of an early start. After breakfast our host drove us back into town from the bed and breakfast. The Pilgrims Guidebook said that it was a long first day and it was important to buy food supplies for the journey as there were few places for refreshments en route, however the supermarche didn’t open until 9am.
I finally left St. Jean Pied du Port at 9:30am. So to be honest I wasn’t really well prepared in advance and in hindsight it’s the one day when it’s really important to leave early. Yet I felt relaxed and content to go with the flow. I was still in the bliss of ignorance as to the demands of the walk!
I soon fell into the rhythm of walking through the quiet countryside. The sun felt softly warm on my skin as I spoke my first words into the voice recorder, ‘I believe we’re on our own journey in life and yet we’re never alone.’
I was surprised when I listened to these words for the first time, a few months later. Where had this insight come from and what did it really mean? Was I trying to say that spirit is always with us, guiding us, if we’re simply willing to slow down and listen? A year and a half later I still didn’t fully understand and asked my teacher of Vedanta, an ancient tradition of self-knowledge.
He explained alone – all one – that we are all inter connected in a non-dual reality. I hadn’t yet discovered Vedanta at the time of my walk and now two years later I continue to explore this understanding.
Around the Corner
The Camino beautifully symbolises the nature of life, that a mystery is around every corner. The path just kept unfolding in it’s own perfect way, strengthening my trust in the future with every step.
I’d been meeting pilgrims all day. There were enough just slightly ahead and enough slightly behind to reassure me that I wasn’t alone. I began to recognise the familiar faces of fellow pilgrims sharing the path.
I enjoyed the peace and solitude of walking at my own natural rhythm and the opening line of Desiderata came to mind;
‘Go placidly amid the noise and the haste and remember what peace there may be in silence.’
The wind carried the soft sound of bells tinkling around the horses in a distant field. There were valleys all around and I admired the sky so clear and blue, feeling almost in line with the snow-capped mountains of the Pyrenees. It was a blessing to have stunning weather on the first day of my walk and great visibility. I later heard stories of pilgrims getting lost in the fog at different times of year and felt a universal presence taking care of me, combined with a sense of self-responsibility.
Care of the Feet
At lunchtime I took my boots off for a rest and realised the socks were slightly damp. I changed into fresh ones determined to look after my feet! I’d felt a slight burning in my left heel and was surprised to see a small blister forming there already. I applied a second skin plaster for extra padding and protection on the tender area. My boots had been on many a trek over the years and felt really comfy, especially as I’d been wearing them every day for the last month in preparation for the walk.
I’d heard that the first day was the toughest of the walk, climbing over the mountains and knowing that somehow seemed to prepare me as I paced myself for the challenge. Half way into the day’s route, I’d walked about thirteen kilometres and climbed 1060 metres of the total height that day of 1450 metres. At one thirty in the afternoon with only 400 metres to climb before the descent, I felt comfortable with progress.
I contemplated how to lighten my load a little to ease the journey over the weeks ahead. Perhaps unpack a pair of trousers, a long sleeved top, the extra shampoo. There wasn’t much I could take out really. I’d checked in 10kg at the airport and carried the extra weight of food and water on the walk.
There is a recommendation to only carry 10% of body weight. That would be 5.7kg. How does anyone manage that? I only had the carefully chosen bare essentials and estimated I was carrying about 12kg. My sleeping bag felt a bit bulky and I wondered if I really needed it?
A Moment of Clarity
I fell into a rhythm walking and enjoyed a faster pace over flat terrain. I found it much easier to walk down rather than up hill and felt grateful my knees, as well as my determination, were strong.
At one stage during the day, as I turned to look back over the path and photograph the view behind me, I suddenly thought to myself, ‘Don’t look back!’
I decided to only take photos looking forward in life and that seemed to be message from the walk that day; Let go of the past. Stay present and step forward with trust in the unknown. Many years ago I attended my first Buddhist retreat called, ‘The wisdom art of letting go’ and cried tears every day at the seeming impossibility of this. Somehow it’s easier now, a more joyful way to live, and the practice of letting go continues.
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