Camino de Santiago

Month: April, 2021

Making Room For Something New

The guidebook that we used for preparing for and walking the Camino is by John Brierly. It is subtitled, “A Practical and Mystical Manual for the Modern Day Pilgrim”. It contains practical advice and wisdom for both the outer and inner journey one makes in preparing for and walking the Camino de Santiago.

In the Introduction of the guide, John explains what he hopes those who walk the Camino find in their “Camino Journey”.

“That we might find a place to lay our weary head at the end of the day but also, and crucially, that we might feel supported and encouraged to dive into the mysteries of our individual soul awakenings, without which all journeying is essentially purposeless.”

The Camino can be a way for us to explore our individual “soul awakenings”. John Brierly mentions that his guidebook was “born out of a mid-life crisis and the perceived need for a time to reflect on the purpose and the direction of life.”

The “Camino experience” is a very good way to “wake us up” or “shake us up”. It seems to get us out of our “old ways of thinking and doing”. I suspect that many who walk the Camino find this to be true. It awoke in me a deep desire to being in nature more now that I was retired. The Camino also came at a critical inflection point in my life as had just become was a grandparent for the first time. It as a “soul awakening” moment.

By its very nature, when one decides to walk the Camino, there is inherently some closing off or ending of old ways to make room for something new. Just preparing to walk the Camino, the first challenge you face is recognizing you cannot carry much in your pack when you are walking for 5 weeks. This was a huge challenge for Terri and I. You had to say no to many things we would have like to take with us.

The whole Camino experience is about stripping down to the basics of life. Much of the “creature comforts” of life are left behind as you hit the trail. You have to say no to old ways if you want to experience what the Camino is going to teach you.

I came across this quote about making room for something new, that has some sage wisdom for us all:

“Yearning for a new way will not produce it. Only ending the old way can do that. You cannot hold onto the old all the while declaring that you want something new. The old will defy the new; the old will deny the new; the old will decry the new. There is only one way to bring in the new. You must make room for it. “ Neale Donald Walsch

I know for me, the times of my “soul awakenings” are often coincident with letting go of the old ways or things I am holding onto and welcoming the new into my life. The Coronavirus pandemic has had the same effect on me as the Camino, in that it stripped away so many of my “old ways” and “shook me up” into a new ways of thinking and doing.

I hope you also find ways to see the new as you make room for it by the ending of the old ways.

May blessings abound for you in the new!


Photograph of the Month

Tulips Stand Up and Shout

After missing the Skagit Tulip festival last year, we made it up there this year and it seems to me that the tulips are even more vibrant and beautiful than ever (I am wondering if the pandemic is heightening my senses).

I really liked this tulip image I captured this year. I seems to speak to me of hope for some reason, not sure why.

To Be A Beginner

“There are only three stages to this work:

To be a beginner,

to be more of a beginner,

to only be a beginner”

Gregory Mayers, Listen to the Desert

I titled this blog many years ago, “We Are All Pilgrims” and I think it has been a good metaphor for our human journeying. Not just the physical journeys we make to outward places (like the Camino de Santiago), but to the interior places of the heart, the new landscapes we are called to explore. I suspect that is why I liked the quote I am using for this blog entry. It speaks to the mindset of a pilgrim, that is that we are always on our human journey, never arrived.

I am discovering that the cycles and seasons of life provide us with ample opportunity to work on this life principal of “always being a beginner”.

Sometimes I have sought out a new adventure in my life. In his stage of my life, I find myself often ready and open to learn and grow in my knowledge and skills. I am advancing and glad to be a beginner as I learn more and more. The trick, though, is to maintain the mindset of a beginner and remain humble, avoiding the idea “that we have this all figured out”. This type of thinking feeds my ego and can drive me to thinking and acting like “I know it all”. You can be rest assured that is not the pilgrim’s path of humility.

The other path of life that I am finding is very challenging to maintain, is in the downward cycles of life. When something happens which we did not expect. It is often an unwelcome event, like what happened to the world with the Coronavirus pandemic or maybe a sudden illness or death. In these times, we find ourselves face to face with our fears. Yet, strangely it is in these unwanted times in our lives we are called to the work of “being a beginner again”. To open our hearts and minds to this new trajectory in our lives. It is an incredibly vulnerable place to be.

One of the losses Terri and I experienced was the loss our “Church”. Gathering together at our parish home at Holy Rosary Catholic church has been a huge part of our lives for almost 40 years. In addition, I sang in the choir and our beloved choir director was let go and this important part of my life ended. It was a disorienting and difficult time.

I discovered, though, once I took on the mindset of a beginner, my spiritual trajectory of my life took flight on a new pathway. New doors began to open as I explored the Franciscan Spirituality offered through the online community and courses at The Center for Action and Contemplation. I also discovered a wonderful online community at an Irish Monastery called Abbey of the Arts. It seems I have discovered an online Spiritual community right in the middle of the pandemic! In some strange way, I have found a home again.

My Spiritual journey is continuing and I am only a beginner.



Photograph of the Month

Stark and Swirling

I love this new image I created from a winter hike to Discovery Park in Seattle. These particular trees we so unique with the linear line pattern and stark look. I created the swirling background of some knots on an old dead and dried out log in Central Washington. The contrasting lines and curves are a great match and create a very interesting and intriguing image.