weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Rituals

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“Don’t travel with anyone who expects you to be interesting all the time. On a long journey there are bound to be some boring stretches.” Daniel Berrigan

Walking the Camino, we certainly experienced some very long boring parts of our walk across Spain. One of the keys to walking this long walk was to recognize the value of ritual to our daily routine. Regardless of how we felt we followed a daily ritual to hold us together.

We arose before dawn, dressed, washed our face, brushed our teeth, applied our sunscreen and began walking. We found our morning coffee and snack as soon as we could and then we were off again. We would look forward to getting off our feet for lunch and then it was off for our afternoon walking till we reached our destination for the night. Once we hit the Albergue, we would wash our clothes, take a shower, blog and journal, and then we were off to dinner and bed. This was our ritual.

It turns out the ritual can be very important to our health and well being it seems. Ritual practice keeps us doing the things we should be doing even though we don’t feel like it. Children crave routine and ritual. It is really vital to their health. We have sure been reminded of this as we care for our two grandchildren each week. Sticking to “the routine” keeps them happy and healthy. You see we can not live our lives by feelings alone. Feelings are like the weather and are always changing, we need ritual to hold us together, to contain us.

“Be wary of anyone who in the name of psychology, love, or spirituality tells you that ritual is empty and you must rely on your energy, mood, and feelings as your guiding compass. They won’t carry you far.” Fr Ron Rolheiser

So I say, embrace the ritual. Having trouble with an area of your life you want to get control over and help you become the best version of yourself. Begin a new ritual that will help you to get it under control. I have seen that the more discipline I apply in my life to increase my healthy rituals, the happier I am. Give it a try!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

New and Growing

I created this image from a photograph taken during walk across Spain. We came across a number of newly planted forests on our walk. I loved the repeated patterns of the trees and they attracted my attention with the interesting lighting as well. I have to say this came out even better than I thought. I really love image. I need to get this one printed up!

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Life Is A Sacred Journey

Life is a sacred journey

“Your life is a sacred journey. It is about change, growth, discovery, movement and transformation. . . . It is continuously expanding your vision of what is possible, stretching your soul, teaching you to see clearly and deeply, helping you to listen to your intuition.”  Mother Janet Erskine Stuart

I read this quote today and just thought it was one of the best quotes for life I have read in some time. The kind one should print out and put on the bathroom mirror to read each morning. It contains some great wisdom for us all.

I like the part about life being a journey. That certainly goes with this blog, I started writing over 3 years ago now!!! Our long Camino pilgrim walk parallels so much of life. It has a beginning and a “Telos” (Greek for end or the ultimate objective) and the walk  from the beginning to the end of our life is our “sacred journey”. Our journey in life is all about change, growth, discovery, movement and transformation. We certainly experienced that on our long walk as it did indeed cause us to grow and change and had a lot of movement and transformation!

In fact, I am going through a period of change and growth and discovery in my life. I began when I committed more time (twice daily) of being quiet and listening in my prayer life and it has propelled me forward to new areas of growth on “my sacred journey”. I had been feeling for some time that I wanted to doing more with my technical skills and passion for adult faith formation at more parish Church. I had lots of ideas and directions but then it all just came together at the just the right time. I am so energized and ready for the growth and change and discovery it is bringing to me and our parish Church.

I encourage you also to take time to quiet your mind and listen. It is part of our sacred journey to listen and respond when you feel called to new directions of growth and discovery.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Soaring for Growth and Change

Ok, I must declare right up front that this image is a double exposure! On a recent fall trip to the Skagit to see the snow geese that have just arrived for the winter, I saw this wonderful sky. I captured it knowing that it might make a wonderful background to put with the snow geese once captured images of them flying. It turned out way better than I thought it would!

I decided to title this image to align with this blog as it fits so perfectly.

P.S. The photograph at the top of this blog is also a double exposure I took on the same trip to the Skagit and works well with the blog as well.

Mind The Gap

Mind-The-Gap-final“Mind the Gap” is an audible or visual warning phrase issued to rail passengers to take caution while crossing the horizontal, and in some cases vertical, spatial gap between the train door and the station platform.

I was thinking about this warning sign recently, when I came across a great podcast that was talking about the times we live in and how we are avoiding the “gap times” of our lives by filling them in with distractions (mostly by looking at our phones). The “gap times” that that I am talking about, are those times of our lives where we are in a “wait state”, for example, like waiting in line at the grocery store or at a restaurant. These “gap times” are important and we might want to consider paying attention to them. We might want to “mind our gap” times better.

So, what am I getting at here? We are fast becoming a society where we are customizing and individualizing every moment of of lives. The mobile technology of the smart phone and tablets have created a situation where we can fill up every gap moment of our lives with exactly what we want and thereby we avoid any real personal contact with others and the world. We are isolating ourselves from those around us and escaping to our individualized life.

There is a strong addictive quality to the technology of our times and it is quite easy for us to fall into the trap of filling in every spare moment of our life with it. God forbid, that we did not have anything to read or view, we might be bored. Yikes, that would be awful.

Walking the Camino, Terri and I had lots and lots of time to be “bored”. We had plenty of time of walking together in silence, which allowed us time to really think and observe the beauty of our surroundings. We also had some wonderful conversations with each other and with our fellow pilgrims. Terri and I still treasure this special time together and the our time of “thinking uninterrupted”.

One thing I learned from the podcast that I mentioned, is we are most creative in our thinking when we experience times of “boredom” (uninterrupted time to think). How often have you got a great idea or solved a problem you faced, when you were in the shower or taking a walk. Our “gap times” are important to our creativity and we need to make sure we don’t avoid them or run from them.

I have a confession to make to you. I am writing this blog as much for you as for me. I am terrible at “minding the gap” of my life. I love the technology we have at our fingertips with a smart phone, but at the same time I am realizing I need to take more control back. To discipline myself to mind my gap times. If this is something you also recognize as an area of your life that needs attention, then I encourage you also to find a way to mind your gap times and experience real life with yourself and others.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Isolation

This image was taken during a hike at Obstruction Point in the Hurricane Ridge area. I selected this image as it seemed to resonate with the theme of this blog, when we are filling all our “gap times” we isolate ourselves more and more. This image gives me a feeling of isolation and aloneness.

Faithful Friends

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“Faithful friends are like a sturdy shelter, whoever finds one, finds a treasure. Faithful friends are beyond price, no amount can balance their worth. Faithful friends are life saving medicine.” Sirach 6:14-16

One of the benefits we experienced with walking the Camino, is the friendships you make along the way. In our long walk together we experienced many of the same joys and pains. We sweat together and shared meals together at the end of a long days walk. We developed friendships based on our shared experiences. Although, Terri and I did not maintain these friendships beyond our time together on the trail, I feel that that there was some real lessons about developing of faithful friends.

The quote from Sirach about faithful friends at the beginning of this blog, contains some wonderful truths about faithful friends. The indeed are a treasure. Terri and I are very fortunate to have some friends we would call “our faithful friends”. We really don’t just find them though because they come from shared experiences and spending time together. I believe that the time we spend together needs to be face to face, if we want to really develop faithful friends.

I don’t see social media as the way to go for building the faithful friendships. In fact, I think that, social media overuse can lead to loneliness and isolation and is not helpful to building long lasting faithful friendships. This is one of the dangers of the times we live in and we should be careful to discipline ourselves and our children to avoid this slippery slope.

Faithful friendships are not easy to develop. It is an investment and often means that if we want them, then we need to be kind and forgiving and encouraging and we need to be there for each other. They take time to develop.

Terri and I are so very proud of our children as they have done a wonderful job developing and maintaining long lasting faithful friends. In fact, Matt has maintain some friendship that started in kindergarten! I find this just remarkable.

Faithful friends are indeed beyond price, they are a true treasure! May we all continue to work on building them and nurturing them!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Stark Night

This image was created from a photograph taken during a hike to Tronson Ridge. It was mid-day as we were walking through a burned out forest with the trees still standing. The were so stark and naked. I knew when I captured the image I would want to create something more. I love how the final creative image turned out!

Avoiding Distraction – Take Control Back

 

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(Image from Google – The Odyssey Online)

Walking the Camino was a great way to clear out your mind from the myriad of distractions that happen throughout our days. Some of these distractions are of our own making, though. It seems we are living in “the Golden Era of distraction”. This is a link to an excellent blog on how to conquer distractions that are harmful to us.

I recently realized that I am falling into the “distraction trap” with my smart phone. It happens so easily you hardly even know it is happening to you. What happens to me is I find that I am hooked into constantly filling in any spare moments looking at my smart phone to find out what is happening with friends and the world. I am an avid reader these days using a great new website called Medium I find I am filling up every spare moment reading these great, new and interesting new blog articles. I realized I am need of a “little fixing up” if I am going to live more purposefully.

“Distractions trick us into hurting ourselves by dulling our awareness of the price we’re paying. They feel good now, but we feel bad later.” (Nir Eyal, August 4th blog, Conquer Distractions With This Simple Chart)

I realized much like the advice I gave in the blog called “Letting My Mind Wander“, I am missing out as well on some important “down time”. It is ok to be a little bit bored. It is ok to let my mind wander. It does lead to more creativity and better decision making (another excellent blog article by Sebastian Lindemann, covers this issue well). It got me thinking on how important it is to take time off (give your mind a mental rest, a Sabbath). It is important to your health!

I know how important it is to unhook myself from this constant filling up of the void. This blog article I found very helpful (I stopped checking Facebook for a year without deleting the app. Here’s what I learned.). This video is also very good and provides some excellent ideas on how to take control back from distractions  (Un-hooked: Increasing Focus in the age of Distraction).

I decided to take control back. I am motivated to make this change and will be embarking on this journey. I suspect there is a few others that are facing this same issue and you might also want to consider taking back control.

I hope this all helps to those like me that are finding this a problem.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Salt Creek Beach

This image was created from a photograph taken of beach debris at Tongue Point on the Strait of Juan de Fuca at Salt Creek Campground.

Feelings and Thinking

Terri Hiking to Carrion de Los Condes

“Our feelings come from our thinking in the moment.”  Brooke Bishop

Walking is a great way to take time to really think as I have mentioned in previous blog articles. It gives us time to process and digest our thoughts a bit more. Both Terri and I got a lot of great time to do this on our Camino. For Terri this was one of her favorite parts of the long walk. Time to really think.

We really do need this in our lives, I believe. Our lives are very fast paced these days and there seems to be so little time to really take time to think more deeply.

The quote at the top of this blog article is from a blog titled “Your Thinking Creates Your Feeling”. It gets into the issue of feelings and how easy it is for us to attribute our feelings to something other than our thinking in the moment. Feelings are like “emotional weather” inside us. Like the weather, the only helpful thing to do is to describe it and accept it. Feelings need not run our lives.

This got me back to the importance of thinking as it relates to feelings. I am going to provide a personal example that came to mind when I was preparing to write this blog. It is in regard to my feelings and behavior during driving.

I have to admit that in my “younger days” I let my feelings of anger and sometimes rage get to me when I was driving. There were some serious “emotional weather storms” that happened while I was driving and I was very aggressive with my driving in return as a result. I am very embarrassed to even recall some of my behavior during these times.

My feelings of anger and frustration was driven by my thinking at the moment, yet something happened to me over time and I changed my thinking and as a result my feelings of anger and frustration at other drivers went away. It is one of those areas of my life I am so thankful I was able to change. It is not good to live like that. It is not a peaceful way to live not to mention dangerous. I transformed my thinking as I reflected on this part of my life and realized I did not want to live like that.

Over time (a lot of time), I gradually became a very patient driver that is not easily provoked any longer by rude and inconsiderate drivers. I changed my thinking and now those feelings I had no longer rule over me. I am at peace driving. It has also helped that I have a very logical mind that now looks at driving from a scientific perspective and I drive now to protect and keep me and those in the car as safe as possible (e.g. I believe leaving a large distance between myself and the car in front of me is the most important safety precaution one can take for safety).

One can change. One can take control as the emotional weather inside us changes. We can use those times to recognize those feeling that we don’t like rising and to call it into question. Use those sad feelings as a trigger to think more deeply and to express them to others. To use those moments as a time to recognize our feelings and decide if that is the way we want to live our life.

If we want to live a more peace-filled life we can but we need to work at it.

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Month

Salt Creek Beach Art

This image was created this week from a summer family vacation to the Olympic Peninsula. We went to Salt Creek Campground on the Strait of Juan de Fuca out of Port Angeles. The beach there is an amazing collection of tide pools but due to my physical limitation on walking on uneven surfaces, I spent the time ambling along the shoreline where the beach debris was collecting. I knew when I took the photos in this area it would a rich trove of images for some special post processing. I am very pleased on how this image turned out!

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.