weareallpilgrims

Camino de Santiago

Category: Uncategorized

Natural Rhythm – Stay in Sync

170105-Lake Stevens-10We are heading off, at the end of this week, to Costa Rica. Our son, Matt, is getting married on a beach in Tamarindo, Costa Rica. We have done a lot of preparation and planning for this trip. The wedding will be in a very different climate, environment and culture that it will make it a truly unique and memorable experience.

One interesting thing about Costa Rica is that it is near the equator, and the length of the days and nights are evenly distributed. The sun rises and sets at around 6am and 6pm each day, year round.

This past year the Nobel prize for Medicine was awarded to three scientist for their discoveries about how internal clocks and biological rhythms govern human life. Here is how one article, I read, summarized this research.

“Life’s tough when everything’s out of sync”

The research points to the fact that  being good to our natural rhythms improves daily physiological and psychological function — and ultimately short- and long-term health. Reducing the wear and tear on our internal clock keeps it fresh, and robust.

It is interesting to note that with few exceptions, all organisms on the planet follow a circadian clock. From daffodils to sparrows, zebras to humans, everything under the sun follows the pattern of the sun.  The rising and the setting of the sun is still the primary influence on circadian rhythms.

Walking the Camino, one certainly gets into the natural rhythm of the day and night, as our rituals varied very little and we were very much in tune with the rising of the sun and its setting. I am curious what a few weeks stay in Costa Rica will do for helping us stay in natural rhythm, as we very much will be in tune with the sun rising and setting.

We all can make lifestyle changes and they can be a great gift to ourselves. Keeping in sync with our natural rhythms (e.g. when we go to bed and wake, when we eat and stop eating) and they are all part of keeping our circadian rhythms in sync and have great health benefits it turns out.

Let’s all stay in sync this year!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Look Up and Behold

Winter has come to the mountains and I have had a chance to spend a little time out on the Mountain Loop Highway, with my good hiking buddy, Bob Maier. I have found the some of the more interesting images are found when we look up and all around as we hike, while, watching our steps, of course, 🙂

 

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Consume and Criticize or Create and Bless

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“Unsolicited advice is just criticism”

I heard a podcast this past week on criticism that I made an impression on me and I have done a bit of soul searching as to how it might apply to my life. I guess I have to admit I am guilty of this undesirable behavior. I love to consume information on a variety of  subjects that I find interesting to me (e.g. autonomous vehicles,  artificial intelligence/robotics, blockchain, social media addictions, etc) and then I go around giving my unsolicited advice to anyone who will listen. Although I had good intentions, I now see it was not really helpful at all.

The road to hell is paved with good intentions, and unsolicited advice is the mortar.

Oh, those darn unintended consequences.

It is so easy to be the critic and yet so hard to be the one that creates something and blesses others with it. It takes positive energy to create something that blesses others and I realize now that simply passively consuming and criticizing takes little energy and tends be more destructive of others.

I find that taking time out to pause and think, with a good dose of silence, is a good recipe for creativity and blessing. I am more likely to emerge from this period ready to create and find ways to bless others. In the long silence of the Camino walk, I found lots to time to think and came out of it very inspired to try new things. Certainly, the encouragement I received from everyone after I got home to continue writing this blog, is a good example. It continues to be a creative outlet to for me and I believe it has blessed many of you.

Let’s take this opportunity as we gather together with our family and friends at Christmas, to spend some quiet time thinking and generating some creative ways that we can bless others. I for one am going to try and focus on this approach rather than being the one that is providing unsolicited advice!

Blessings and all good,

John

Photograph of the Week

Manzanita Evening Glow

I created this image in the past week from a photograph taken during our annual family getaway weekend to Manzanita Beach this past March. I love the way this image makes me feel. I feel calm and soothing and hopeful. Not sure why just do.

P.S. Image used at top of the blog I created from a hike this past week to Whistle Lake up near Anacortes. I threw a rock into the lake to capture the concentric circle waves and it seems so perfect to use for this blog now.

No Neutral State

We can never be morally neutral, either we are growing in virtue or falling into vice.  We never have the luxury of simply being in some neutral, holding state. There’s no moral neutrality.  Either we are growing in virtue or sliding into virtue’s opposite. That’s true for all of life. A thing is either growing or it’s regressing.

I thought this might be a good quote to post to start this blog. It certainly gets one’s attention. It really speaks to an important aspect of living a full and happy life that has real meaning, it seems to me. We can not stay stuck in neutral, so to speak.

The physical and emotional struggle of walking the Camino de Santiago is the constancy of the walk. There was no neutral state, you had to keep moving (or at least that is they way we did the Camino). We were moving most everyday of the walk. Going ever farther away from the starting point of the walk and moving closer each day, to Santiago de Compostela, our final stop of our walk.

Like the Camino walk, we are also on a journey in our lives heading toward our final destination. I believe we must be committed in our life to continuous growth in the virtues (Humility, Generosity, Chastity, Kindness, Meekness, Temperance and Diligence). See there is no neutral state, so if you are not working to grow these virtues you will be moving away from these virtues and into an unhealthy state of being that is full of oneself with little concern for others. I know that not everyone may agree with this but for me it seems to ring true. If we all strived to live these virtues, what a beautiful world this would be! So much heartache and sorrow comes to us from not striving to these great virtues.

But the fact is, that growing in the virtues does not come without focus and effort and grace. I don’t become an pilot because I love to fly in an airplane. I have to have the desire but more importantly I have to put in the work to get to the point where I can be certified as a pilot. So just desiring to be more virtuous is not going to work for us either. Just desiring to walk the Camino does not get you to Santiago.

So I am challenging myself and all of you to also take the virtues as a measuring stick. Where do I need to grow more in virtue?

Blessings and all good,

Photograph of the Month

God’s Hole

This image was taken during a car ride home from a hike/photography trip to the Skagit/Chuckanut Mountains. My friend, Bob’s son, Karl, refers to the mystical opening of the clouds and rays of light shining through as a “God Hole”.

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!

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.