Camino Reflections – Lesson #11: Your Real Camino Begins When You Get to Santiago

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From left to right – Bill, Larry, Carl, and yours truly after arriving in Santiago de Compostela, June 16, 2015

I am in the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, have completed our 500-mile walk to Santiago yesterday……Yesterday, Carl, Larry, Bill and I walked into Santiago from O’Pedreizo together, one of the only days on this entire Camino that we have all walked together. It was good to walk with each other and to finish this journey together – this is as it should be.

As I reflect on these last 5 weeks of walking, it is difficult to assimilate and fully understand the immensity of the experience that has been. I suppose it will take some time, time for it to settle in, for my legs and muscles to get back to normal, for the interior reflections to settle in, for the wondrousness and immensity of this walk to take its effect, for the spirit of St. James to infiltrate my soul.

Camino Journal Entry, June 17, 2015
Santiago de Compostela, Spain

At Finisterre, we spent about 3 hours, eating our lunch/dinner, and just enjoying the views of the Atlantic Ocean as the sun was beginning to move into the west. I climbed up a long hill and found a big rock on which to sit, and said a Rosary of thanksgiving, thanksgiving for completing our journey, for the new friends made along the way, and for this incredible opportunity to hear the voice of God. What an amazing experience it was!

Camino Journal Entry, June 20, 2015
Santiago de Compostela, Spain

After a transformative event like the Camino pilgrimage, returning home can be a bit of a challenging process. On the one hand, you have been changed, hopefully for the better. And on the other hand, the life and friends and family you are returning to are still mostly the same as when you left them. It’s a time to re-acquaint yourself with your former life, and it’s also a time to integrate your newfound self into the old.

John Brierley, in his popular guidebook on the Camino de Santiago, writes about this quite eloquently, and I don’t believe that I can improve on it, so am just going to quote him:

“When, after a prolonged absence, friends and family remark, ‘you haven’t changed at all’, I am hopeful they are either blind or following some meaningless social convention. I have spent the last 20 years of my life with the primary intention to do just that – to change myself. One of the more potent aspects of pilgrimage is the extended time it requires away from the familiar. This allows an opportunity for the inner alchemy of spirit to start its work of transformation…….Hopefully, this re-ordering of the way we see the world will quicken apace as we open to lessons presented to us along the Camino and begin to understand that….life itself is a classroom.

A purpose of pilgrimage is to allow time for old belief systems and outworn ‘truths’ to fall away so that new and higher perspectives can arise. We may also need to recognize that colleagues and partners at home or at work may feel threatened by our new outlook on life. Breaking tribal patterns, challenging the status quo or querying consensus reality is generally considered inappropriate at best or heretical at worst. The extent to which we hold onto any new understanding is measured by how far we are prepared to walk our talk and live our ‘new’ truth in the face of opposition, often from those who profess to love us. Christ was crucified for living The Truth.”

(Excerpted from A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, by John Brierley ©2014)

Since returning home, I have had many occasions to recall my Camino de Santiago pilgrimage. Re-reading my journal and writing this blog series has certainly been helpful in remembering specific events and people that I met on the Camino. But the essential purpose of the Camino is to remind us that we are all on a pilgrimage, whether we know it or not. The Camino helps to intensify that realization. So it’s good for me to recall the Camino experience, to remember its life lessons, and to continue on to the next chapter of this pilgrimage that we call life.

This concludes my series of blogs on the Camino de Santiago. I have a couple of other Camino stories that I hope to share at some time in the future, but for now will just bid “Buen Camino” to all who have read and enjoyed these comments.

If you missed out on my previous lessons of the Camino, you can find them below:

  1. Don’t stop walking
  2. Find your rhythm
  3. Don’t stop praying
  4. Make time for friends
  5. Make time to smell the roses
  6. Make time and space to listen to the voice of God
  7. Be open to the possibility of miracles
  8. Home is where the heart is
  9. Keep it simple
  10. Take care of your feet! Daily!

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