weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

What Is Rather Than What Ought To Be

I came across this quote and it seems to have been stuck in my head now for days. I have learned that to pay more attention when this happens, as it may be exactly what I or someone else needs right now. This quote really spoke to me about the importance of nature to tells us “what is”. What is our common ground when the ground beneath our feet is filled with messages telling us “what ought to be…”

The Camino experience is so transformative for many. Could it be because we are immersed for weeks in nature telling us “what is”? Science has been catching up with this quote it seems as they are discovering the idea of “forest bathing” has real medicinal qualities to the point where even doctors are prescribing to spend time in nature.

The other day, after a particularly difficult and disappointing day (we all have them), I had the opportunity to drive up high in the Olympic Mountains (Hurricane Ridge) to take in some “mountain therapy”. It was exactly the medicine I needed. I was out of sorts and even a little angry and yet after an hour up high in the clouds on top of a mountain I slowly began to come back to reality, “what is” not “what ought to be”. I drove home with the music turned up and sang out loud to blow away those smashed expectations.

We are living in a time I read recently where our we are part of a culture that is driving up our emotions when our expectations are smashed or not met. We live in a time where “outrage” is high on our daily agenda and we are getting fed a steady diet of “what out to be” that did or did not happen. Our “industrial outrage media machine” keeps us propelling us forward it seems into more rage and anger at “what ought to be”.

What to do? Get out into nature regularly. Make it at least once a week, if you can. It is our “common ground”. It is “what is”.

Nature blessings,

John

Photograph/Video of the Month

For this post, I offer you a video instead of a photo. I am finding that as I spend more time in nature I am moving more towards creating a video than a photograph as at times it best describes how I am feeling at the moment when I am experiencing the “what is” of nature.

During a wonderful Father’s Day hike to Big Finn Hill park in Kenmore, I took this little video of the unfurled sword fern and a babbling stream.

Big Finn Hill Park Fern

Running from one thing to the next

The Camino has a way. The slow and steady way. You have a simple routine in the morning and evening but all the rest of the day it is just walking. Steady walking. There is no running from the one thing to the next like we were doing so much of in preparation for walking the Camino. The Camino slows you way down.

The Camino can teach us about waiting and watching to all that is being revealed to us in each moment and not being so wrapped up in our “to do” lists. I remember our long list of “to do’s” we had leading up to walking the Camino and then all the sudden there is no need for a “to do” list. There is time to really settle into the beauty of all that is around you. There is time for just “day dreaming” and letting whatever comes be a surprise.

I thought this quote I read really gets to the point I am making of how the Camino can teach us important lessons.

“What is being asked of us in this moment is patient attention; a willingness to slow down, listen, and look; a willingness to let go of our expectations, to accept the possibility that our efforts may not bear any fruit—or at least not in the way we have been hoping that they will.”

Douglas E Christie

Our endless “to do” lists can rule our lives at times as we run from one thing to the next. I experienced this during my many years working as a first line manager at Boeing. Life was so busy and complex and my “to do” list was essential to keep me focused and getting things accomplished. So, walking the Camino right after my retirement created quite a contrast since there was no need for a “to do” list. The Camino slowed down my mind and I began to be more and more present to each moment. I found I really liked this way of living.

I have recently started the practice of not using a “to do” list. I know this is scary for many of you to even consider and in fact might seem crazy. Our present life circumstances do make this strange practice possible as I am retired now and we live in a condo. Yet, although I am not completely “to do” list free, I try and do it as often as I can.

You could even say I am “channeling my inner Camino”!

Blessings,

John

Video of the Month

This past Spring during a visit to William Finley National Wildlife Refuge we had a “Canada Geese Experience”. When we arrived we noticed a huge flock of Canada Geese grazing in the distance. About 20 minutes later the entire flock took off flying. It completely overwhelmed our senses as we fell speechless and in total rapture. We could even hear the beating of their wings at times. I added one of my favorite soaring violin songs to try and approximate this experience which is beyond words to describe. I have to say I found myself playing this video in the morning to lift my spirits and kind of pull me out of myself. I hope you find helpful too!

Our “Canada Geese” Experience Video

Re-spect

People come from all over the world to experience walking the Camino de Santiago and yet the Camino can humble you with the its demands it makes on your body, mind and spirit. The Camino demands our respect.

I recently learned that the French translation of the word “respect” means “to look at a second time”. When we made the decision we were going to try and walk the Camino, we definitely “took a second look” to dig deeper into this long walk. We read books and listened to talks by those who walked it. We began training and preparing months in advance of the walk and then on September 12th, 2014, we started walking the Camino. We had a healthy respect for what we were undertaking.

Within a couple of weeks of walking, we began having problems with our feet and legs. The endurance test of walking 500 miles slowly begins wearing on you. We felt the real lived experience of walking this far. The Camino was forcing us to “look again a second time”, are we crazy we thought? Can we really finish this walk on time to catch our plane home? We had to make adjustments as the physical toll on our bodies was slowing us down and we had made changes to accommodate. We decided we had to catch up with our daily walk schedule and in some cases we took a bus, taxi or a train to get us back on track. We continued to make small changes and adaptations to our routines throughout the walk and when we completed the walk, we felt the joy that could not be described. We finished Camino on October 14th, 2014. The Camino definitely continues to hold our “respect”.

I would like to finish this blog on “re-spect”, with a little different take on this word. You see, I really like this idea of taking a “second look” or taking the time to “re – speculate” on what life presents to us each day. We had an opportunity to practice this recently when we rented a house on the Oregon coast. Everyday we would go out to the local beaches wondering what surprise would we see that day. Like little children, we went back over and over to some of our favorite low tide pool areas. What will we see today? We quickly discovered that “repetition was not redundancy”. We learned that being certain is the enemy of wonder, surprise and awe. We learned that to see with eyes of wonder you needed the “eyes of re-spect”.

May all the world begin to see with the “eyes of re-spect”!

Grace and blessings,

John

Photograph of the Month

High Density Living

Exploring the tide pools of the Oregon coast just south of Newport, Oregon we discovered such plentiful and abundant inter tidal sea life. It seems that the starfish and the anemone don’t mind living in close quarters!

An Age of Forgetting

We live in what we might call an age of forgetting. We have forgotten who we are in relation to everything else: the creatures, the plants, the mountains, the forests, the oceans, one another, and even ourselves… One of the fruits of contemplative practice is the remembrance of our wholeness; we are able to see past the divisions we create with our egos and minds and to rediscover the truth that we are all of one creation.

Christine Valtners Paintner

This quote got me to thinking how the Camino de Santiago does a good job of reconnecting us to what we have forgotten, “who we are in relation to everything…” That is what can happen to us when we spend an extended time outside in the mountains, forests and the flat open spaces of Spain. Time spent outdoors in the natural landscapes has a way of bringing one back into connection with nature. We do live in a time when where it is far to easy to forget this connection, especially when we spend so much time indoors.

free ranging horses of Spain

I love it when I am in outdoors and I come across animals in the wild. On the first day of our walk, in the high mountain meadows of the Pyrenees mountains, we came across free-ranging pigs, horses and sheep. Although, I was huffing and puffing as I ascended over the mountain pass, the sight of these free ranging animals slowed me to a stop and I gazed in wonder at something new I had not seen before. What is it that captures our attention when we pass by these creatures roaming the high meadows of the Pyrenees mountains?

Free ranging white pig of Spain – source of famous Jamon Serrano Ham

Actress Jane Fonda, was asked once why she became a person of faith. She replied:

“I could sense a reverence humming in me”

I like that thought. Maybe all of creation contains a reverent humming within and that is why I feel so connected to the wildlife I come across in nature? I have discovered that the more I am able to still my mind and be present to the moment, the more in tune I am with the “humming within” myself as well as with all of creation. Yet, I have to admit, I am not able to sustain this for long before my head begins to fill with racing thoughts and distractions. So, maybe this is what Christine Valters Paintner meant when she said we are living in a time “we might call the age of forgetting”?

So, what do we do to keep from forgetting? Maybe it is simple, we just need to remember it is enough to simply slow down and be present and observant to all the “humming” going on around us as we pass through the many different landscapes. It is enough, maybe, to just sit and listen to the babbling of a mountain stream, or to be touched by the play of the light and shadows changing on the ripples of a mountain lake. I suspect this the medicine we need to find our “wholeness”.

“We are saved in the end by the things that ignore us.”

Andrew Harvey

How can what we ignore save us in the end? Well, that beautiful mountain stream continues lunging down the rocks and into the valley below long after I am gone. The sheep, pig and horses that are free ranging across the meadows of the Pyrenees will continue to find rest and nourishment apart from any consideration of my having passed that way.

Becoming present to a reality entirely separate from own world of turmoil strangely seems to set us free. In the very act of ignoring us, the landscape is inviting us out of our frantic quest for self-fulfillment.

I have a great fondness for John Muir. He lived life with such a beautiful understanding of our connection to all creation. This quote was from his time when he was working and living in Yosemite valley.

“I drifted from rock to rock, from stream to stream, from grove to grove…. When I discovered a new plant, I sat down beside it for a minute or a day, to make it acquaintance and hear what it had to tell…. I asked the boulders I met, where they came and wither they were going.”

I hope you find “a minute or a day” to find a connection with the “humming” that is going on all around you in nature.

Blessings abound,

John

Photograph of the Month

Here is a video that captures the slow moving late evening light and shadow on the snow covered peaks on Hurricane Ridge. I was mesmerized by how fast the shadows on the mountain peaks we moving up to the tops of the ridge as the evening sunlight was fading. It is about two minutes long and has some music from O’Jizo (a Japanese Celtic Band).

Mountain Light and Shadow Play

Walk Not Sit

“Sit as little as possible; do not believe any idea that was not born in the open air and of free movement.”

Fredrick Nitchike

The one thing about walking the Camino de Santiago, is there is not a whole lot of sitting. It is mostly walking in open air or laying down to sleep. Our time walking the Camino, gave us a rich opportunity to spend the majority of our waking hours outdoors. I have always loved my time in nature and the Camino was an extended opportunity to enjoy weeks of time outdoors.

Not long after I began my career as an engineer at the Boeing Company, I began to realize how much time I was sitting and spending my days indoors. I knew that somehow this was not good and I even jokingly referred to it as “sitting death”.

The human species has dwelt outside for hundreds of thousands of years. We are deeply imprinted by this in our evolution as a human organism. I believe this is why when I need to be restored and renewed in body and mind, I go outside into nature, to walk in a forest or along the shoreline. It heals me and restores my mental resources.

There is a fair amount of research these days that backs up this important reality, nature heals. It is so important to get outdoors and watch a sunset, or the ripples on the water and even small amounts of time each day count. Yet, if we can arrange it, longer times spent in nature, can change how we think. In the long Camino walk, I found I was becoming less anxious and a calm came over me. I was no longer thinking about my “to do” list. Fewer decisions and choices were demanded of me which then freed my mind to follow thoughts wherever they may lead. My best and most creative ideas have come during my long walks in nature. The longer time I get, the more mental equilibrium I establish and the better my thinking becomes.

I learned recently learned that researchers have a term for how time in nature can relief stress and restore our mental resources, it is called “Environmental Self-Regulation”. It is the process of psychological renewal that our brains cannot accomplish on their own.

Today it is estimated that we are spending only 7 percent of our time outdoors. No wonder we are frazzled, fatigued and prone to distraction! Landscape architect, Frederick Law Omsted, spent his life helping to create beautiful nature spaces, like New York’s Central Park to help us all have a place for some “environmental self regulation”. He said,

“Natural scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body, gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.”

I hope you make some time each day for some refreshing rest and reinvigoration in nature. It is what our brains and bodies need and as a result it is where out best thinking it done.

Blessings abound in all,

John

Photograph of the Month

Nature’s Vastness

This image evokes vastness to me. It makes me feel the closeness of the trees and yet the unfathomable expanse of the universe.

I was inspired last year with this words that just seem to fit the image.

The Dance of Life

When we merge our internal rhythms with the rhythms of creation, we develop grace in our movement, and without thought or effort we are able to slide into the perfectly choreographed dance of life.

by Sherri Mitchell (Penobscot), an attorney and activist for environmental protection and human rights.

It has now been 7 years since Terri and I walked the Camino de Santiago and as we age, both of us are more grateful each year, for having completed the walk. The Camino is extremely demanding and takes a toll on our bodies. When we are younger we can endure a lot physical stress for longer and as we age this “endurance capability” erodes. This has been my reality these days, as my range of walking, has been greatly reduced due to some physical changes in my body. So, what am I do with this new reality? I have chosen to see it as part of the “perfectly choreographed dance of life”.

What does that look like? It means I have found meaning in my internal changes to my body as I am seeing them part of the rhythm of creation. I try and greet the changes I am experiencing, as my “dance partner”. I dance with my pain, so to speak. (caveat – I am not talking about high levels of pain. I am speaking more of our “everyday types of pain” that many of us experience in our lives.)

It turns out that, walking the Camino, was a “dance with the pain” as well. We noticed a large portion of those that walk the Camino, end up experiencing blisters on their feet. They are hard to avoid and they can definitely end your Camino walk early if you don’t stop and treat the blisters and rest. As the photo at the top of this blog shows, some folks dumped the boots they started with and found other solutions (like sandals) to continue their Camino walk.

Terri also “danced with the pain of a stress fracture” in her ankle for a good majority of the walk. It meant that we had to “slow dance” more and reduce our walking pace and length and we took more rest days to accommodate the pain.

Since the Camino has a bigger historical story going back over a 1000 years, it is not hard to see the physical Camino pains as dance with the larger “Camino pain story”. We knew that our pain stories were also experienced by many others before us.

French philosopher, Gabriel Marcel, is famously quoted as saying:

 “Life is a mystery to be lived, not a problem to be solved.”

I have discovered it is better to dance with my “pain” as my framework for the changes I am experiencing in my body. Carl Jung, Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, speaks of the necessary “integration of the negative”. I realize this might sound really strange but I am finding that it is a very helpful way to “live this mystery of life”.

Grace and Peace,

John

Photograph of the Month

Daisy Dancing

This flower image was captured during delightful summer hike by myself last year at Mt Rainier National Park. I hit the perfect timing for the peak meadow flower bloom and I sat down several times and just gazed for some time at the meadow flowers dancing in the wind.

Video of the Month

Dancing with the Meadow Flowers

Speaking of Mt Rainier meadow flowers dancing in the wind, I took a number of videos that day in the summer of 2020 of the meadow flowers. I took some of the videos and added one of my favorite songs that I feel fit well with these “dancing flowers”.

Take Your Time

“Nothing can be done well at a speed of forty miles a day…” John Muir

In planning stages for walking the Camino, we were following the guidebook most everyone used called “A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago” by John Brierley. It had you walking at about 15 miles/day for about 5 weeks with a few days of rest. We decided to try and follow the guidebooks recommendation. Terri and I did finish the walk but we had to walk quite a bit slower and in places had to take some transportation to catch up to our schedule we had planned. In hindsight, I think we would have targeted a slower pace and only walked about 10 miles a day.

As I have aged, my pace and distance I can walk have been reduced, I am finding the joy of walking slowly and purposefully with the eyes of my heart open to all I see. I believe that is exactly what John Muir means by the quote at the top of this blog.

When I was in my 20’s, I climbed a number of the major peaks here in Washington State and I had the following John Muir quote on my desk at work:

“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flowers into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”

This quote has always been with me and to this day I find it one of my all time favorites. To really experience nature’s goodness and beauty and peace, one has to slow down and take your time. This was true on the Camino, the more pressed we were to make the mileage of the day, the more we likely missed out on the beauty right around us. It seems to get the “good tidings” of nature we have to slow down for “nothing is done well” when we are rushing to get somewhere.

We all need to take our time when it comes to our time in nature. I can definitely tell you it is worth it!

May Nature’s Peace be with you,

John

Photograph of the Month

Huckleberry Speak

Oh, how I love the Huckleberry. It gives us delicious fruit to eat and it is lovely to look at as well with its contrasting colors of fall. I captured this during a hike to the Ice Caves this summer. I was walking real slow and taking it all in every step of the way. (By the way the bridge is still out over the Stillaquamish River to the Ice Caves. We waited till late summer when the water level was at its lowest to ford the river.)

Rest, Peace, Love, Life

In a couple weeks, it will be 7 years since we started our Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. In the seven years I have been writing the “We Are All Pilgrims” blog, I have devoted quite a few blog articles on the value of rest in our lives. I know that reading the book called “Sabbath” by Wayne Muller, while I was walking the Camino, did help set my mind to its importance. In addition, rest was big on our minds during the Camino as it is so important to your physical and mental well-being. Each day as we got into our got into our lodging we were pretty well worn out and needed a shower and some dinner and a good nights rest. We needed time to refresh and renew so we were ready to begin again the next day.

I took a class early this year and there was a song and a dance that I learned about rest.

Here are the lyrics:

“Put yourselves on the path of long ago, remember the path of REST,

This ancient path of REST, my friend, this ancient path of REST.

Put yourselves on the path of long ago, remember the path of PEACE.

This ancient path of PEACE, my friend, this ancient path of PEACE.

Put yourselves on the path of long ago, remember the path of LOVE,

This ancient path of LOVE, my friend, this ancient path of LOVE.

Put yourselves on the path of long ago, remember the path of LIFE,

This ancient path of LIFE, my friend, this ancient path of LIFE.”

Jeremiah 6:16

In listening to and dancing this song, I have let it slowly sink into me and its fundamental truths have been seared into me. It all starts with REST. When we “put ourselves in a path” that leads to rest on a regular basis we are on the “ancient path” that will lead on to PEACE and then to LOVE and then to LIFE. Now rest can come in many different ways but it mostly about simply being not doing.

Walking the Camino, we were naturally “resting” from our normal daily lives as we concentrated all our efforts into this walk for 5 weeks. We put aside all the “to do” lists we had at home and let the “ancient path” teach us some lessons. The first was, you better get your rest each night or it will catch up with you quick on the Camino.

Why is it so hard for us to really “put ourselves on this path of REST”? I guess because we are always on the go to somewhere else and doing three things at once. It takes a fundamental mind shift to “put ourselves” on this path of REST. We have to value enough we make it a priority. Everyday!

I am finding that resting my mind is much harder than to physically rest my body. For most of this year, I have been working quieting my mind each day. I do this each morning for only 5 minutes. It is my contemplative prayer time. I deliberately slow down my mind. When thoughts begin to come up, I try and welcome them for a short visit only as I let them pass along without judgment. It is about being gentle with myself and giving my mind a rest. I might repeat a word or phrase that I read or came to me from something. Maybe even something from a song sometimes.

Now I must say this has been a hard practice to keep to everyday and some days I am not as successful in keeping my “doing mind” from intervening and starting on my “to do” list. Yet, keeping it as a priority has been easy as I noticed how much it does lead me in a more peaceful way where love flows more naturally through me. I highly recommend this very simple practice.

Remember, my fellow pilgrims,

It does all begin with REST and from this ancient path we can then put ourselves on the path to PEACE, LOVE and LIFE!

Rest be with you,

John

Photograph of the Month

Butchart Gardens

This is a webpage I created of my photos and videos following a visit to Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island a few weeks ago. I really liked this new platform I discovered to help me easily create this. This creative work literally flowed out of me. I was in the flow of REST, PEACE, LOVE and LIFE. I hope you find some rest in this creative work.

Silence

 

 The Camino de Santiago can change you if you let it.

The long walk opens up the potential to allow some interior changes to happen to you. I believe that in the silent time of walking day after day, you can find rest and peace. That might sound very strange at first. How can one be experiencing rest when you are walking all day, every day for a five weeks? Yes, it is true, Terri and I experienced great physical stress on our bodies during the walk. Yet, we did experience rest in the “great silence” of the walk. We rested in the change from our normal daily routines at home and the from the daily news cycle. All the activities we would have been doing at home stopped for those five weeks. We greatly simplified our lives and we experienced times of great silence.

I believe that silence can change us if we let it.

Unfortunately, as the Richard Rohr quote below says, silence is something that appears to us as useless.

“Culturally, sitting in silence is no longer a value we appreciate, or seek or find places for. It really is a lost art. Maybe it is this way culturally, because it is viewed as useless. Silence is useless. It appears as something useless, to no profit.”

I am experiencing that this is not true. I am finding it priceless not useless. Silence has led to rest for me and that is essential to discovering the peace within.

Here is a beautiful metaphor from a class I just finished taking that speaks directly to the value and benefit of silence.

Imagine you are holding a new born infant. Your amazed how small the infant is in your arms. Your amazed that a beautiful little person is all wrapped up in your arms.

You know that reflex that the newborn baby has that when you put little finger out they grasp it with their hand. The thing is this infant is not helpful at all, it doesn’t help with the chores; it doesn’t chip in and do its part, it can’t even roll over by itself or feed itself. Yet, at this moment your heart is stilled. It’s as if the axis of the turning world is stilled.

I have found we all need the “pause”, the stillness that comes from silence. To be stilled. To refuse to be carried away on the waves of “doing” and not stopping to rest in the silence of “being”.

I realize that our lives can seem way too overloaded to stop or slow down and to find even 5 minutes of time to remain in silence seems to be too much. That is probably why I have always loved to walk in nature and let the beauty take me away and to simplify and renew my body, mind and soul.

I hope this blog inspires you as well to seek the inner silence and see for yourselves it is not useless.

Peace,

John

Photograph of the Month

Silence and Stillness

This image speaks stillness and silence to me. I captured at sunset during a camping trip to Lake Osoyoos.

The “Sacred No”

One of the gifts of walking the Camino de Santiago, is the way it shaped and changed the pace of our lives during the 5 weeks of walking. Our long list of “to does” that we had before our walk, just disappeared largely. We established a very simple, basic rhythm to our life that repeated each day. We found that the pace of our life was “slowed down enough that we could catch up with ourselves and get our bearings” (Thomas Merton). We could just lean gently into the simplicity and rhythm of the walk. It was life giving and “restful” in a strange sense.

It seems we live in a culture, today, that encourages us to keep going until we are completely depleted. When someone asks us, how we are doing, we reply about how “busy we are”. Like is a badge of courage we wear. We don’t live in a culture that encourages us to take time to go away, to be apart, to rest.

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence.”

This quote by Thomas Merton was made about some of the people involved in peace activism. He thought their frenzy of activism neutralized their work for peace. It destroyed their inner capacity for peace. So, even the good they were trying to do was being thwarted because they were “destroying the inner root of wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

“Being constantly busy, damages our bodies and our spirits and our need for renewal. We seem to perpetuate this myth in our culture that we should always be available, that we should always be working. That our work is our identity. Therefore we can’t ever step back.” Christine Valters Paintner

The Camino taught me the value of being able to “get off the merry-go-round”, that blur of the life’s to-do’s that so readily overwhelm me. I came out of the Camino with a new perspective, I really appreciated the “inner peace” that came from just being not doing.

The Coronavirus pandemic has had a similar life changing effect on me when so many of our normal activities came to a grinding halt. Now as we are coming out of the pandemic and our “normal” life activities are ramping up, I am seeing once again the “lesson of the pandemic” to slow me down. I truly see the value again of rest and time away from the “violence” of busyness.

I used for the title of this blog, “The Sacred No”. The reason I did was to remind myself that I am going to fall right back into my old patterns of a packed full calendar of activities and “to do’s”, if I don’t have the courage to stand up and say, “no” occasionally. I have to get over “my fear of missing out” (FOMO – it is a real social anxiety out there today!) and use the “Sacred No”. In a sense, when we consciously make the choice to slow down by saying no to some of the activities, we are giving ourselves a “small sabbath”. A time to step back and rest into the present. I can speak from my experience, this has brought me more peace and well being in my life than I could ever have imagined!

My hope is that you are also able to find your “Sacred No” so you can find the time to slow down and catch up with yourself.

Shalom,

John

Photograph of the Month

Slow Down, Take Stock

This image was taken during a jeep ride in Colorado to Imogene Pass (13,114 ft). The quotes from Peter Maurin and Pope Francis seemed to fit perfectly with the image.