Some years ago I was not in a very good place stuck in a dysfunctional relationship and a stressed-out job. My thoughts revolved around starting to live at some point in the distant future. A friend who took pity on me advised me to walk the famous pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain.
Like many first-time walkers on the Camino, I was obsessed about reaching my destination at a certain time in order to secure my place in a bunk bed in a pilgrims’ hostel. The Camino is in so many ways an analogy of life which is why it has become such a popular destination for modern-day spiritual seekers.
Walking too fast and missing the waymarker
With a backpack much too heavy, poor-quality hiking boots, and a hurting foot I was battling both physically and emotionally. There is a saying that if you walk the Camino like a hiker with physical intent it will force you into humility. While walking too fast, I missed the waymarkers and got horribly lost. At one point I had to seek refuge in a grotto during a heavy thunderstorm in the Pyrenees mountains, far off my route.
How many times in life does the universe send warning whispers that we have missed a waymarker and are on the wrong path? How obsessed are we with things we think we need but insist on keeping them in our backpack?
Forced to go much slower, I gradually felt my senses reawakening to the magic of the moment. I started inhaling the aroma of wild thyme, rosemary and oregano. I added mint to my water bottle. A singing blackbird followed me for part of the way. I befriended stray dogs and cats and met wonderful people who are still friends today. For the first time in many years, I felt an aliveness and vibrancy in my body.
Trapped in doing rather than BEING
Over the years, I’ve observed other pilgrims going through the same process. Hikers would pride themselves on the number of kilometers they had done that day. People doing the route on a bicycle would go into tunnel vision, oblivious to the sights and sounds around them. If you are trapped in the rat race of doing rather than BEING it is difficult to push the reset button overnight. At the end of the day, slow and mindful walkers would converse on the magical experiences they had that day while those in a race would look at them in disbelief.
So much of our lives are wasted carrying the weight of the past, and living in some distant future working for time-off at the weekend, the annual vacation, and the years when we can start living when retiring from a job we always hated. When the day finally comes, we live the final years of our life in regretful grumpiness of what was and is no more.
It helps to train your awareness that life is finite and that you will die one day. With your last breath, you will leave this earth into formlessness. You won’t be taking any of your precious earthly possessions with you. All that remains will be consciousness.
So you might as well stick around a little longer and enjoy the moment. Practicing mindfulness is ideally done in the stillness of nature.
- Focus your attention on your breath. Observe your thoughts and sensations without judgment. By consistently practicing mindfulness, you can cultivate a heightened sense of awareness and presence in your everyday life.
- Engage Your Senses: Pause and notice the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and physical sensations around you. Fully immerse yourself in the present moment by bringing awareness to the details of your sensory experiences.
- Slow Down and pay attention: Challenge yourself to slow down and be fully present in each moment. Whether you’re eating, walking, or engaging in any other daily activity, do it with intention and attentiveness.
Reino Gevers – Author – Mentor – Speaker
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