weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Stay Curious, You Really Don’t Know it all

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Here is a couple of quotes to ponder on for today’s blog article:

“Ignorance was my ally as long as it was backed by curiosity. Ignorance without curiosity is not so good, but with curiosity it was the clear water through which I could see the coins at the bottom of the fountain.”

Alan Alda – “If I understood you, would I have this look on my face?”

“A nerd is a person who knows his mind well enough to mistrust it.”

Michael Lewis – “The Undoing Project”

There is a real power in remaining curious and recognizing that I don’t know it all. I know for me this is a struggle at times. How easy it is for me to fall back on what I know and shutdown new knowledge or areas that I have walled off as “I already know that, no need to dig into this any further”. Yet, we should always remember how easy it is for our mind to fool us into thinking I have secured all knowledge on this subject area or I don’t need to listen to this person as I already know what they are going to say. Alas, that is a trap we all need to avoid.

I read about an amazing scientist, named Richard Feynman, he was one of the greatest physicist of all time but what really separated him out what his ability to synthesize and explain complex scientific knowledge. In my reading about his life and what made him so special, I was struck by one of his studying methods when he was at Princeton. He would keep written records in order connect the things he did know with those he did not.  The part I found interesting was his passion to learn about the things he did not know about. His desire to continue to learn what he did not know in a very systematic way. He kept of notebook of “The Things I Don’t Know About” and then would pursue breaking it down and learning more about each area.

Curiosity about what we don’t know is not a bad habit to acquire. Walking the Camino, as in all travel we do, we can learn a lot about a different culture, region of the world and history if we remain open and curious. The key is remaining curious and avoid the self-limiting tendency we might have to think we have nothing to learn. This is a problem for me when I run into areas of conflict or disagreement. I tend to shutdown and think I have nothing to learn. I believe many of us suffer from this problem.

Let’s all step up or efforts to remain curious and open to what I don’t know.

Blessings and all good,

John

P.S.

For those curious about this man, Richard Feynman, here is a article about him and the technique for learning called the “Feynam Technique“.

Also the photograph at the top of the blog today is one I have created since I thought it would draw your attention and curiosity. It is a photography I took of a new bud of a pine tree and I have exercised my creativeness to make it colorful and unique.

Photograph of the Week

Endless Summer Bloom

This is an image I recently created and was on my Blue Skies Photography Facebook page this week. The captured the photograph in the summer of 2005 in the meadows of Mt Rainier on the Paradise side. I updated it recently to give it a more artistic feel. Our annual family hike to Mt Rainier this past Sunday went through this same area of the mountain.

 

Finding A Way With Laughter

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Terri and I recently watched an old 1998 movie, called “Patch Adams” with Robin Williams. The movie is based on the true story of a heroic man, Hunter Patch Adams, determined to become a medical doctor because he enjoys helping people. He ventures where no doctor had ventured before, using humour and pathos.

My interest in the movie comes from a strategy I am using to help me deal with the chronic pain of a torn calf muscle and blood clots in my leg (I injured myself dancing at a wedding, see video link below for a good laugh).  As I wrote recent blog, the power of smiling/laughter is can reduce pain! Patch Adams is about a man that believed this was a real potential strategy to helping those in pain.

I am also trying to find my way through this journey to recovery (expected to be 3 to 6 months). Pain is my companion right now and I have made the choice that I will learn to live with it the best I can using laughter to help me along the way. I certainly saw my dear, wife, Terri, live this “path of pain” on our Camino walk. She walked for 3 weeks with what ended up being three stress fractures in her ankle! Pain was her constant companion everyday for weeks. I figured it was my time to walk the “pain path” as well.

There are no guarantees in life and we will face painful times. I choose to accept this and not run away from it. Because I can not run from the pain through the use of pain medication, it is more in my face but I can make the choice this will not get me down. I can chose to live with pain. I chose to laugh with it. I chose to walk with it and to sense it is apart of my life for now.

There were a number of pilgrims that we walked the Camino with that walked everyday in pain (often with multiple blisters). Yet they chose to stay on the path and walk with the pain. It focuses one that is for sure. My head is clear and I accept this path with a heavy dose of laughter along they way!

Blessings and all  good,

John

P.S Here is the video of me tearing my left calf muscle which I then later aggravated by a walk on beach in bare feet! The crazy dance.

 Photograph of the Week

Forest Deep

This image was taken on the last day of our Camino de Santiago walk on the way into Santiago. I felt this image reflects a bit of the drama of walking the Camino. It is a long way to walk and often filled with pain along the way.

Walk The Way of Peace


“This is the way of peace: Overcome evil with good, falsehood with truth, and hatred with love.” Mildred Norman Ryder, AKA Peace Pilgrim

This quote is from an amazing women who called herself the “Peace Pilgrim“. This hyperlink brings you to a website about her life story. It is a fascinating storyto read. She had a simple message and a strong commitment of “walking for peace”. She started walking for peace in 1953 at the age of 45, she vowed to “remain a wanderer until mankind has learned the way of peace, walking until given shelter and fasting till given food.” She walked for 28 years and over 25,000 miles. She touched the hearts, minds and lives of thousands of  individuals across all across North America. Her message was simple and profound. 

As I have stated in the past, walking for long distances day after day changes you and as you change, you influence and change those around you and hopefully for the good. I know that many folks that walk the Camino, do come home changed and hopefully for the better. Certainly, the “Peace Pilgrim” was changed by her long walk for peace. Those years of walking help her to see more clearly that path of peace. She wrote them down in a booklet called “The Steps To Inner Peace“. It is a very small little booklet but it condenses down some core truths of living a peaceful life.

We recently went to see the musical “Dreamgirls” and was struck by the song “I am changing”. The song is a powerful reminder that we all make mistakes but we can change for the better. The lyrics “I am changing, Trying every way I can, I will be better than I am, I trying to find a way, To understand” spoke loudly to me, as that is how I feel. I am sure a long ways from where I need to be. I need to keep changing, especially after reflecting on some of the steps to inner peace.

Let’s all take some time to reflect more about how we can change to live a more peace filled life!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Mystical Magical Mountain

This was a double exposure taken this past Sunday evening of Mt Rainier from Useless Bay, Whidbey Island at sunset. The other image overlaid onto was of some of the beautiful clouds that evening near sunset. I loved how it makes Mt Rainier look like it is floating on clouds.

A Smile – It Can Heal Us

Mom at our Wedding“Smile and the whole world smiles with you.” 

I love these lyrics from the song, “When Your Smiling”. Terri and I play this song with our grandchildren frequently when we are taking care of them. It reminds me of how powerful a smile can be. It is a gift of love we give to each other. I am talking about the genuine type of smile that involves the eyes. My mom had a most amazing smile and the photo at the top of this blog article is of her on my wedding day. Even as my mom aged and ended up in a full time memory care facility (she had Alzeheimer’s disease), she never lost her amazing smile. She could light up a room with it.

There are times, obviously where smiling and being cheerful is a lot easier then other times but research done on those that smile and are cheerful shows they are a healthier bunch of folks. It can aid or boost our immune system and lower our blood pressure as well as relieve stress and lower pain level. In fact, you can fool your brain by smiling (genuine smiles, of course) more often. Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure inducer, cannot match. Smiling helps generate more positive emotions within you. That’s why we often feel happier around children – they smile more. On average, they do so 400 times a day! The average person though only smiles 20 times a day.

During our long walk across Spain, the daily aches and pains and the long hot days were not smile producing moments for us much of the time. Once our long day of walking was over though we made up for it with lots of smiling as we pulled off our boots and socks and got a chance to rest and have a nice meal and some fellowship time with our fellow pilgrims! Life can get us all down at times, that is for sure but there is some real science to keep smiling.

The other thing to remember about smiling is that it is contagious. Remember when you “smile the whole world smiles with you”.

I will leave this blog with a quote from St Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa):

“Every smile is an act of love, a gift to someone, let us always greet each other with a smile, for it is the beginning of love.”

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Balsam Root Dreaming

This image is a composite of two images. During a hike up Chiwaukum Creek, I photographed a beautiful textured rock that I knew I wanted to use in a composite image. The Balsam Root flower that was on this hike proved to be the perfect blending image.

A Sign Of Hope To Guide Us

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Terri and I were so grateful for the wonderful “Yellow Arrow” signs on the entire length of the Camino to help keep us on the path to Santiago de Compostela. We came to really count on them to point the way for us and we only really messed on one time and had to backtrack less than a half hour to get back on the path again.

The “Camino yellow arrows” were a sign of hope for us, if we stayed on the path of the “yellow arrows” we had a solid hope we would find our way to Santiago. Coming home from our Camino walk and applying the “yellow arrow of hope” to my life today, I have some thoughts to share with you.

As I mentioned in the last post, I had just finished a great book called “Amusing ourselves to death”. This book has made me think more deeply as I said in my last blog, questioning how much I am living to be entertained or amused versus living life with purpose and meaning. What do I mean by this? At the end of my life, I want to remembered not for how much I was entertained and amused with this life but by how I loved and cared for family, friends and neighbor. This is the path, I chose. This is the path of hope. This is where the “yellow arrow of hope” leads for me.

Blessings and all good,

John

P.S.

I wanted to share with you I will be at the opening of the Summer Market in Edmonds this Saturday June 17th with my photography booth, Blue Skies Photography. Like last year I will be there once a month for June, July, August and September.

Please don’t confuse this with the Edmonds Art Festival that opens this weekend (Friday through Sunday). I will not have a booth in the Arts Festival but the Edmonds Summer Market in downtown Edmonds.

Now that being said, one of my photographs was accepted by the Edmonds Art Festival juried competition and will be displayed in the Photography room. It is called “Peace Amid Turbulence”.

Photograph of the Week

Bright and Full of Light

I find hope in this image as out of the barren and hard ground grows these amazing flowers that no one tends. I have creatively processed the photograph as you can see to emphasize this stark contrast.

 

Take Time To Think Deeply And Read Deeply

20140910-Pyrenees-83-square-EditAs I have said so many times, our long Camino walk was a wonderful opportunity for us to spend long times in thought. Time for us to have a “complete thought” or to think more deeply on things. It was a very special gift we both got from our long walk. We so enjoyed the long periods of silence and time to “think deeply”.

I recently finished reading a thought provoking book written back in 1986 called, “Amusing Ourselves to Death” by Neil Postman. This book has really got me to re-think some things and to change some of my behavior regarding how I approach how I acquire knowledge. What I took away from this book was how important it is for us to stop consuming information that is short, fragmented, superficial, irrelevant, misplaced and not in context. It is like eating a steady diet of appetizers and never sitting down to eat a nice meal that really satisfies and nourishes us.

This book has motivated me to make some changes, as I said. First, I have decided to prioritize the written word over television/video (I was largely doing this already), second I have decided to avoid consuming fragmented and short written articles that don’t really increase my depth of knowledge. I am staying away from lots of disconnected facts and information that is not in context and jumps from one subject to the next.

I realized what I really craved was information that required I expend time consuming it (the opposite of where we are largely now,  think Twitter). I decided when I am consuming information, I did not want to be amused (that is why I am shunning TV) but I wanted to learn and grow in knowledge by a healthy diet of information that will take time to consume (like a wonderful prepared meal).

Shortly after I read this book, I was listening to a podcast about the man who founded Twitter, Evan Williams, who has started up a new business called “Medium“. I have been reading in depth articles by quality writers on a huge variety of subjects on Medium now for a couple of weeks and I am hooked. It is ironic that the man who founded Twitter would now start up a business that is just the opposite!

Medium provides information from excellent writers and each writer provides you information that is in full context, not fragmented and they allow me to read more “deeply” on a variety of subject matter. It is not about increasing the breadth of knowledge as much and increasing deep of knowledge. I highly recommend downloading the app to your phone or tablet or dialing it up on your computer.

I also give Mr. Williams some huge props for getting rid of all advertising (and the associated revenue) on this site. He has just recently moved to model that provides some of the articles without charge and some you can get if you pay ($5/month). This makes sense to me. If you want quality writing without ads that really informs and increases your knowledge, then people will recognize that and pay for it.

So I will  leave you today with the challenge to take more time to “think deeply” and “read deeply”.  Here is an article I read this week as an example of what I am talking about.

Adventure as Medicine

I loved this article by Rebecca Thomas. It takes about 7 minutes to read. It made me think how the Camino de Santiago pilgrim walk really can really be a healing medicine for us.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Tweedy Lewisia

This week’s hike was to Chiwaukum Creek near Leavenworth to photograph the rare Tweedy Lewisia, a very rare wildflower. I like this image because it places the flower in its context (growing on a very rocky area).

Recognizing our true worth

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“When you have realized your true worth, you will be able to judge your faults sanely . . . and the faults of your neighbor will remain in shadow.” Dominican Saint Vincent

One of my favorite activities these days is to spend time thinking and pondering things that I probably did not do much of when I was working. It can be one of the “perks” of retirement. Terri and I certainly got to do this “in spades” walking the Camino de Santiago. LOTS OF TIME to do a lot of “thinking and pondering”. I dare say that thinking for long periods of time uninterrupted is a precious commodity these days. The world is a constant barrage of “stuff” coming at us and stimulating us with variety, novelty, action and movement. We are focusing our attention for only a few seconds at a time it seems before we are off to something else. It takes real effort, I am finding, to stop the madness and get off this train so we can “think and ponder” more deeply on things.

Take for example the quote at the top of this blog article. I recently took the time to actively ponder and let it sink in deeper into my mind and heart. Here are some of my thoughts I would like to share with your from my “ponderings”.

  • Recognizing our “true worth” to me means more than the worth of my accomplishments, it is about solid grounding of how much I am loved. This was something my parents gave me as a beautiful gift and we hopefully have done for our children and now for our grandchildren. For I believe this is the key to living a peace-filled life. To know you are loved. It all begins at this point. It is the greatest gift we can give to our children and grandchildren.
  • The second thought I had was how vital to our health (physical and spiritual) it is “to be able to judge our faults sanely“. As this quote points out, seeing the shortcomings of others begins with seeing our own limitations clearly. If we do not have that solid grounding of how much we are loved – “our true worth” within us it is very hard to see our faults, we become “blind” to them, and then we end up using our “hammer  of judgement” on others for their faults.  This is does help us to “be the best version of ourselves”.

I will close this blog article today with a quote that I believe I used in the past as well but it just seems to fit so perfectly with these “ponderings”:

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, no one thinks of changing themselves.” Leo Tolstoy

I pray you all feel how deeply your loved and communicate that as well to those you love!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Let It Flow

This image was taken during a recent Spring hike to the most amazing waterfall of the North Fork of the Sauk river. The power of the water flowing down these falls was simply awe-inspiring. Here is a link to one of the videos I took of the falls.

North Fork Sauk

The reason for the title of this image came about when I was thinking about what this blog article and the importance of have a solid foundation of how we are loved and letting that perspective lead us to the gracefulness in accepting criticism and tact in giving it. To unblock those areas of our lives that are holding us back – to let the best of us flow out.

 

Sheep and Shepherds

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During our visit to Scotland and Ireland we got to up close and personal, so to speak, with sheep and shepherds. While we were in Ireland we got to walk through areas where they grazed freely and in Scotland we got meet a shepherd and had a wonderful demonstration of sheep dog herding. The image at the top of the at the top of this blog article is from a wonderful area we got to go in Ireland called, Glencolmcille, very remote and unchanged by time.

I really enjoyed the close up experience as it is certainly not something I experienced growing up in a city all my life. I recently learned an interesting fact about sheep, that almost made me laugh.

I read that they are not very powerful, hence unable to defend themselves effectively. Moreover, they are not very good at recognizing localities, which explains why they can so easily go astray. When lost, the sheep panics. It falls to the ground and bleats loudly in hopes that it will attract the shepherd.

Just a couple of thoughts came to my mind when I read that,

  • Sheep are smarter than men, it would seem, when it comes to getting lost and asking for help (we always think we know where at) and,
  • Sheep sure do need a good shepherd to help them survive

It is not the first observation though that I want to cover in this blog today. It is the second one. How important it is to have “good shepherds” in our lives for us to grow and survive and also how important it is to be a “good shepherd” for those in our lives that need us.

Taking care of our two grandchildren, two days a week, I certainly can identify with the sheep and good shepherd analogy. Some days when our precious little, Kay, (who has just turned 3 years old), has one of her “meltdowns”, it makes me think of the sheep that is lost and falls to the ground and bleats loudly for her “shepherd”. Oh, how important it is to be there for her to help her to use “her words”  to tell us what she is feeling. To help her “find herself again”. This is what “good shepherds” do for their sheep.

As I see it, there are a lot of folks out there (myself included by the way) that need “good shepherds” to help them find their way when they are lost and need a hand. We are all called to be those “good shepherds” for others. Let’s all take our responsibility seriously to be “good shepherds”!!

Blessing and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Endless Fields of Beauty

Going to the Skagit each Spring to enjoy the awe-inspiring beauty of the tulips never seems to disappoint. This year was not exception.

 

 

Gratitude and Envy

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” Envy will poke the eyes out of gratitude”

I was listening to a Jeff Cavins podcast on envy, the other day, and he used this quote that really got my attention. I thought it was a powerful reminder on the negative consequences in our lives when we are full of envy. Envy puts our focus on what we don’t have and not on what we have. Gratitude puts our focus on what we do have.

Gratitude for what we have, now that is definitely what we experienced in walking the Camino. The long walk helped us pull away from all the normal attachments and comforts of life and got you back to the basics. It allowed us time to reflect more our lives and the many gifts in our lives.

Terri and I recently took a course on aging that drew our attention, to studies done on the powerful relationship of health and well-being with gratitude. Being grateful is an opener to many locked up blessings. It is a great practice to start a gratitude journal. I know I did after taking this class.

Yet how easy it can be to “poke the eyes”  out of gratitude when we become envious. I saw this when I was working at Boeing. One co-worker envious of another due to a promotion they thought they should have got or a raise they felt they deserved over another.  Envy damages relationships, disrupts teams, and undermines organizational performance. Some people become so fixated on a rival that they lose their focus on their own performance. We will never be happy if we are filled with envy.  Envy eats our bones up as it focus on what we don’t have and makes us sad and unhappy and ungrateful.  Good luck for having a happy life if you spend your time on what you don’t have and envious of others.

Gratitude for what we have, now that is the key. For all is gift.

I know at times I struggle with envy of others (especially in my strong competitive and pridefulness around my sports teams). It is not attractive.

Let’s all take a long look at ourselves and get rid of those “envy eyes” that are keeping us from being truly grateful for all we have.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Gratitude

Found this great quote on gratitude and used an photo from the Skyline Trail on Mt Rainier work with it.

Frozen and Flowing

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This past winter I have been blessed to go on several winter hikes to some frozen waterfalls and rivers. The photograph above was taken of Petticoat Falls a short bushwhack off the Suiattle River road.

I was going through some of my best photographs of the frozen waterfalls and the concept of something “frozen next to something flowing” came to my mind. This thought got me thinking about something I read in the book I mentioned in the last blog entry  about the restorative and healing power of nature in our lives.

This book points some scientific evidence regarding what is going on in our brain when we immerse ourselves in nature. It turns out that by taking time to get out into nature we rest the prefrontal cortex of our brain. This is part of our brain that does what I would call the  “heavy lifting”. It is responsible for decision-making and priorities and execution. By spending time outside in nature we give our prefrontal cortex time to relax and rest – to chill out – we “freeze” it.

The value of this, is what happens to the other portions of our brain, called the “default network”. It gets a chance “to flow”. To kick in. This is the part of our brain that gives us our most human experiences, our deep aesthetic sense, our ability to do the deep things that are unique to us. It is the part of the brain that produces empathy, creativity and heights of insight.

Walking the Camino de Santiago, provides you with lots and lots of time for “default brain network” thinking. It was so helpful for both Terri and I and to many of the pilgrims we walked with. It is amazing how restorative and healing it can be for us to have time like this. To give our “Prefrontal Cortex” a break from all that executive and tasked focus thinking – to freeze it and let our creative and deep thinking portion of our brains “to flow”.

I believe this is more important than ever as we are living in some very high paced and competitive times where every spare moment is filled up with activities, planning and organizing and executing tasks. Our prefrontal cortex is working overtime and needs rest. We need to put it on the “deep freeze” and let our default network of our brain take over more.

I will end this blog with a quote from the book I mentioned quite a bit during the Camino walk. It is called “Sabbath”. We need rest, guys. Get out in nature. Take time to rest your prefrontal cortex!

““And so we are given a commandment: Remember the Sabbath. Rest is an essential enzyme of life, as necessary as air. Without rest, we cannot sustain the energy needed to have life”

Blessing and all Good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Flowing and Free

This is a wonderful image taken on hike to Boulder Falls two weeks ago. It reflects the idea of a free flowing “default network brain” to me!