Why, Part Two, Lessons of “The Camino”

“Blessed are those whose strength is in you, who have set their hearts on pilgrimage.”  Psalm 84:5

IMG_5825Part one of my answer to the question, “Why” reflected upon the initial spark and continued motivation of my dream to walk the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. IMG_7306 And now for part two – what was I was looking for on my “Camino” journey?  What did I expect to glean from this extreme investment of time and energy?  Did I experience it?IMG_6907I toyed with writing a lofty, philosophical commentary as to my goals and subsequent attainment…  However, I have to be honest here, though I wish that I were more enlightened (or seeking to be) – okay, I will put it out there (blush, blush) – Plain & Simple,

I WANTED AN ADVENTURE!!!               IMG_0515

IMG_0047And an Adventure is what I got!!  I absolutely received what I was hoping for in that regard!!!  YAY for goal setting, execution and The Pie!!!IMG_6861For years I had planned on a solo “Camino”, not knowing of anyone in my circle of influence who would be interested.  Considerable research assured me that this was not crazy, nor was it unusual.  Then when it made the most sense to undertake this quest within the context of my life, my best friend and super incredible traveling companion, my hubby Bill, expressed enthusiasm and a desire to get on board charting this course as a goal for us both!  Of course I was thrilled!  Ultimately as the timeframe we chose came about and it was apparent that it would not come to fruition, another opportunity presented itself for me and I joined the “Wayfinding Academy” out of Portland, Oregon, on their “Learn and Explore” spring break trip.IMG_8925The directional cues of the “Wayfinding Academy” of “Living Life On Purpose” and “Intention” had me reassessing my focus (of All Adventure All The Time) mere hours before we launched upon our sojourn.  “We” were asked to consider some core questions and be prepared to share our responses on the morning of our embarkment.IMG_8923.JPGWhat do you want your focus to be for the trip and what do you want to think about or learn?   In what ways do you intend to stretch during this journey, what would make it an epic success and in what way could the group provide assistance?  Great questions! Initially I was taken aback (and kind of embarrassed) that I had not considered all of these points, yet I took the task to heart and following are my conclusions.IMG_8926Some answers came easily – I wanted to improve upon, learn more and practice my limited Spanish and I felt that the couple in our group who had this knowledge could help me.  In actuality, I got lazy on this goal and generally relied upon others when necessary and restricted my interactions at times because of my limitations.  Many of the other pilgrims we met spoke some English (I can’t recall meeting any other Americans) yet very few Spanish countrymen and women we encountered did.  There was a wonderful non English speaking Spanish couple who kept pace with us that I managed to have a few sign language type conversations with though truly I would have loved to have chatted with and gotten to know them better and I let the language barrier get in the way.

I wanted to “learn” in general, I wanted to challenge my endurance, and of course I wanted to make it to Santiago de Compostela!  I realized that these fit with what would translate into an “epic” success for me.  I added to that, experiencing daily joy.  I am thrilled that all of these were accomplished severalfold and on many levels!IMG_7191I had already stretched by putting this goal in motion and heading out to Spain alone.  I hoped to experience an expansion of open mindedness, to cultivate more patience with others as well as to extend less judgement. Additionally, I desired to let go of (some of) my rigidity.  Well, they say, “Be careful what you pray for” and for sure I had a trillion opportunities to practice patience, tolerance, open mindedness and non judgmental listening and compassion.  I confess that I may have gone backwards…IMG_3976The group dynamic proved to be very challenging to me – a challenge that I did not rise to much of the time.  In groups often a democratic approach is taken, which of course I support, yet in this group I tended to be the (often only) opposing vote in a surprisingly large number of decisions.  That got old, fast!  When to start out, when to stop to eat and/or rest, how often to stop to eat and/or rest and what to include in group meals.  Also, there was WHAT I PERCEIVED to be, an “every man for himself” approach to showers and cafe food ordering and it felt to me that the same people were in the front every day.  There were limited facilities and tiny hot water tanks.  Frequently there were only 1-2 shower stalls for 10-20 pilgrims.  And because of our several stops during the day (well, at least that’s what I thought), we generally found 5 -8 peregrinos already checked in by the time we arrived.  The bars seemed to take only a couple of orders at a time and then the proprietors would disappear to prepare that food.   With a group of 8, a good half hour could go by before everyone’s orders were delivered.  I am not one to push and shove to the front (plus I usually had to go to the bathroom!) so as a consequence (and by choice) I only ate a handful of times in these situations.  One time I decided to ensure that I was among the first few to order and my recollection is that I was quite rude in the process.  I still feel like a jerk about it.  Fortunately I was prepared with my own traveling food (some great seed crackers that I made at home, turkey jerky, also purchased pre-trip and, I bought apples and oranges at markets to carry along when I had the chance).  As for the showers, I resorted to the washcloth and sink trick my aunt taught me instead of daily showers.  It wasn’t an actual hardship, but what my selfish brain saw as a lack of consideration by others grated on me and I let it fester in my head.  I also let what I “judged” to be loud conversations irritate me.  It just seemed to me so incongruent to be in the middle of naturally BEAUTIFUL nowhere, and to have the tranquility portion that usually comes with such a setting obliterated by us seemingly clueless human beings.  As the days progressed I yearned to walk by myself and treasured the opportunities I had to be alone with God’s amazing creation.  Unfortunately, some of those situations I orchestrated by discarding our agreed upon “buddy policy” and ended up feeling (somewhat) guilty about that, too.  One of those times I arrived at our albergue minutes after the Spanish couple, ninety minutes before anyone else, and had a luxuriously long and hot shower as well as room on the drying rack for my hand washed clothing!!  It was truly a pleasure!!  Once we reached Santiago de Compostela I really wanted a “do-over” around these issues and was very sorry that I had let myself be ruled by the very things I was purposefully working to squelch.

One of the big topics I had come to the “Camino” to ponder was my “purpose” now that I am retired.  I have been fortunate to experience amazing intuition and creativity as regularly occurring attributes in my life, however, as much as I prayed to hear God’s direction for me, and no matter how fervently I longed to have an idea just magically appear in my head with conviction and conclusiveness – it didn’t happen.  I mean, I have no shortage of ideas and plenty of opportunities, but I was looking for a custom tailored “Roberta Mission” to knock my socks off, leaving no doubts and dressed up in a lavish amount of excitement, motivation and ready made plan of attack to go with it.  Nada.  Or, if it happened, I was oblivious to it.  Maybe I was too bound by my rigidity, judgments, lack of compassion and tolerance, plus building irritation of my relationship to the group posse…IMG_2268They say that once you come to grips with your physical battles on “the Camino” then you get to work on the emotional challenges…IMG_3074How fitting (and unpleasantly ironic) then my “Camino” desire of hours in prayer, which coming into this journey was right up there with Adventure.  I truly wanted to focus on God in my life*.  I wanted to spend considerable time praising Him for creation and the wonders I get to experience, and for his Grace.  I also knew that I wanted to center on compassion & prayer for not only my loved ones, friends and acquaintances but for all of humanity.  Well, I had plenty of free time for this and it was wonderful to enjoy the countless hours so occupied, yet it turned out that I had to return again and again to myself as well, with personal prayer for my deliverance from bitchy behavior and ugly thoughts.  Though I prayed often in this vein and for continued transformation through the Holy Spirit, I was quite frustrated with how quickly I could revert to such condescending reactions – especially as I had come to love my comrades.  It was painful to realize this about myself in many ways.IMG_2502Tough note to end on, but conclude I will…  All in all though, I had an AMAZING ADVENTURE and walk with God!  I left many of my expectations at home and had countless surprises both fun and challenging every day!  I saw numerous portions of a beautiful country and experienced much of the culture!  I challenged myself physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually!  I made new friends and interacted with many people from other countries!  I had the luxury of walking for hours, which I love – and of having very few responsibilities save addressing basic necessities.  I know I have much personal work to do (which is frankly, not a surprise) and in that way, as in ways that I am sure will continue to be revealed, my “Camino” continues.IMG_5697
IMG_8677*Something I read and wanted to ruminate ON: “If you find that Christianity exhausts you, draining you of your energy, then you are practicing religion rather than enjoying a relationship with Jesus Christ. Your walk with the Lord will not make you weary; it will invigorate you, restore your strength, and energize your life.”IMG_6368“Come to me, all you are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29)

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