Author Archives: Reino Gevers

About Reino Gevers

Author, mentor and trainer

A journey and its lessons

A group of tired young Russian pilgrims from St.Petersburg arrived late last night in the Municipal Albergue, or pilgrims’ hostel, in Najera.  It was the last group we registered before we concluded our 14-day term as a four-member volunteer team.

During these two weeks, we registered some 805 pilgrims who stayed overnight in the hostel.

The Camino is becoming an international experience

When I walked my first Camino in 2007,  most people walking the path seemed to be middle-aged Germans, Dutch or Scandinavian.  The pilgrims arriving in Najera were from a far more international diversity.  Apart from the Europeans, the largest groups were from Asia and the Americas.

Together with my fellow three Hospitaleros Pedro from France, Carmen from Toledo in Spain and Ebo from Argentina we were responsible for keeping the hostel clean, and catering to the needs of the between 50-70 pilgrims arriving each day.  A good part of the day we spent scrubbing bathrooms, cleaning floors and washing bed sheets.

IMG_2507

Pilgrims sharing a meal and the experiences of the day in the Municipal Albergue in Najera. Pilgrims are only asked to donate a small fee for the use of the utilities.

Najera is the eighth stage of the Camino Frances, starting in the French village of Saint-Pied-de-Port,  and taking the pilgrim on a more than 727 kilometers (451 miles) journey across northwestern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.

An adventure turns into a spiritual journey

It was a privilege to converse with many of these people and to hear their different stories and motivations in walking the path. Some people start the Camino as a sporting adventure that then turns into a spiritual journey.  An American pilgrim I walked with some years ago said to me: “If you don’t approach the Camino with humility it will humiliate you.”

The Camino is telling you that this journey is not about accomplishing something but in un-becoming from everything that you thought you were and touching that place deep in the soul who you are truly meant to be.

Is the Camino part of the bigger journey of humanity seeking a common spirituality that transcends the boundaries of religious dogma?

A test of emotional and physical resolve

When I spoke to a British man, leaving the Albergue in the morning he confided that “this very emotional journey” was much more than he had anticipated.

After a good week on the Camino, it is a real testing time for physical and emotional resolve. The Camino is in many ways an analogy of life. If you can deal with the roller-coaster of the walk’s trials and tribulations, you will be steeled for whatever challenges life throws at your feet in the acceptance of the impermanence of all things.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under meditation, Pilgrimage, psychology, raised consciousness, self-development, spirituality, Uncategorized

Mindful walking

Najera, northwestern Spain – Preparation for a lengthy pilgrimage walk is essential.  After eight days of walking many pilgrims are arriving at the Municipal Albergue in Najera with badly blistered feet and hurting knees.

 

bunkbeds

Bunk beds for 90 pilgrims in the Municipal Albergue in Najera 

Most people, who walk the Camino Frances to Santiago de Compostela, start in the French town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port.  It takes the hiker up a steep climb of the Pyrenees mountains to the Spanish town of Roncesvalles.  It is a good 24 kilometer or seven to nine-hour walk. Even for trained hikers, this is no mean feat.

 

However, if you are wearing new boots and carrying a backpack full of unnecessary clutter, your walk will soon become a chore. The Camino is not only a physical challenge but even more so an emotional challenge. Much of the first few days of walking can rekindle old stuff you thought you had dealt with years ago. It is then comforting to know that there will always be other pilgrims walking with you, going through much of the same process.

bunkbeds.2

Getting ready for the day’s walk. The hostel has to be empty by 7.30 am latest

Three parts of the Camino

Some hikers describe the first stage of the Camino as the “path of crucifixion”, the second as the transition or the walk through the “valley of death” in the heat and dust of the Meseta between Burgos and Leon.  Several guide books describe this section as boring and recommend that the hiker skip the section by taking a bus. Most people who have walked it, however, describe it as a crucial part of the Camino that they would want to have missed. A absolutely agree.

A path of rebirth

I would describe the first two sections as the mindful preparation for the last section-the “path of rebirth or resurrection”.  It is when the pilgrim has moments of absolute euphoria, gratitude, and joy. It is the feeling of accomplishment after transmuting the old stuff into revived energy.  The three parts of the Camino however, can be experienced in some form or other each day. Getting up early in the morning after a bad night’s sleep in a crowded Albergue is a challenge where the mood can be at rock bottom.  This could all change an hour later when experiencing a beautiful sunrise on a mountain top with a bird of prey circling overhead.

Having walked the Camino more than a dozen times, I decided this year to give something back in serving as a volunteer in an Albergue or pilgrims’ hostel for two weeks.  There are between 50-70 pilgrims arriving here each day. It is an enormous privilege to hear the stories of why and how they are doing the Camino. Some are doing the path the third, fourth or fifth time. Most are walking the Camino for the first time.

It is a joy to observe people from many different nationalities and cultural backgrounds bond in this shared experience of the Camino. They mostly don’t understand each other’s language. But the language of shared experience shared meals, and shared emotional ups-and-downs are universal.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under Camino de Santiago, lifestyle management, meditation, Pilgrimage, psychology, Uncategorized

Spiritual hot spots

Najera, Spain – The pilgrimage path or Camino de Santiago in northwestern Spain is dotted with “spiritual hot spots” where man has worshipped different deities since the earliest of times.

Different religions worshipped at the same sites

Romans built mausoleums on Celtic sites. Early Christians turned these temples into churches or chapels. According to legend, the Celts had already performed walking pilgrimages on the Camino in following the Milky Way northward. Names and religions change over time but the geographical pull of a place remains.

img_2487

The Sta. Maria de Arcos chapel near Najera, a Paleo Christian Basilica built upon a Roman mausoleum between the 5th and 6th centuries.

When the Moslems occupied most of the Iberian Peninsular they converted the churches into mosques. Later the Christians again turned the mosques into churches.

However, as humanity moves toward higher consciousness, religious belief in the form of intolerant dogma is being replaced by mystical experience. It is what many of the folk from numerous nationalities, and cultural background are seeking in the modern-day pilgrimage.

Spiritual experience versus religious dogma

Spiritual experience can only be felt. The universal intelligence or God speaks through symbols, sometimes in a message from people, we coincidentally meet.

On the Camino, wonderful sites of worship can be found in the small towns and villages. Pilgrims complain that these are often closed. There is a reason. Art thieves have in the past stolen valuable artifacts, notably „The Lamentation“ in Najera in 1913.  The 15th century was sold by Sotheby‘s for 1.46 million euros in 2008. Spanish authorities were unable to halt the auction because it was sold several times during the past century.

We only become aware of this mystical language when we remove ourselves from the bombardment of daily distractions and allow our senses to open to the magic.

Some on the Camino come just for the adventure but most of the people I’ve been talking to on the Camino during the past few days have a story. One woman told me she had come to the conclusion that there was so much more to discover than a life of silent misery.

Today I met a Paris fashion photographer who is taking a lengthy mental time-out in walking “only” a slow 10-15 km a day. In a village chapel along the way, he said he had an “experience” that could not be explained.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under Camino de Santiago, lifestyle management, raised consciousness, self-development, Uncategorized

Tales from a pilgrims’ hostel

An 85-year old Dutch guy arrived here at the pilgrims’ hostel in Najera, northwestern Spain, pulling a 100-kilogram cart. While all the other arriving pilgrims were walking toward Santiago, Johannes van der Pas was going the other direction back home.

Johannes celebrated his 100th day on the Camino and has become quite a celebrity. Passing motorists have been seen waving to him. Strangers are inviting him to stay overnight after he was featured on Portuguese television while on his way to the famous pilgrimage town of Fatima.

He started walking from Eindhoven, Netherlands, then stopped in Lourdes and from there walked via Santiago to Fatima.

Pilgrim-najera1

Johannes van der Pas with his credential or pilgrim’s pass displaying all the stamps from the towns he has visited along the way.

It’s a remarkable achievement for any person, but this guy is not letting the old man in and is in better physical shape than most men half his age. He has according to my calculation, so far walked 3,340 kilometers, averaging 33.4 kilometers a day.

On occasions, he has walked all night in the rain in the remote areas of France where, in contrast to Spain, there are hardly any pilgrims hostels.

Johannes is living proof that it’s possible to remain mentally and physically active up to a high age. His recipe is simply doing a good walk every day, and shakes his head at the many people starting their walk on the Camino with little training and then complaining about sore knees and feet.

It’s my fourth day serving as a voluntary hospitalero in this town. The hostel is run by the local municipality and pilgrims are just asked to provide a donation to offset electricity and water costs. Locals living along the Camino have for centuries been generous hosts to pilgrims walking to Santiago de Compostela. The marker stones with yellow arrows on the path are almost entirely put up by local volunteers, paying for them with their own money. It is therefore sad to see that some of these markers are defaced by “Killroy was bere”  ego-minded “bypassing tourists.”

We voluntary hospitaleros are being greeted here with exceptional kindness. Restaurants have refused taking money for meals. Entry to the local museum and monastery is free of charge.

On the third day, we registered 58 pilgrims including seven from South Korea, one from Taiwan, two from South Africa, two from Bulgaria, one from Hungary, one from Venezuela, three from Japan and six from the United States and Canada. Most people are from Spain, Italy, and France as this is the main vacation period in these countries.

And, just as I’m finishing the Blog for the day two women from Greenland arrive at the door, saying that they will stay for the night as they are not used to the warm temperatures.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under Camino de Santiago, lifestyle management, longevity, psychology, self-development, spirituality, Uncategorized

Lessons from the Camino: Winding down

Many a pilgrim doing a walk for the first time on the Camino in northwestern Spain underestimates the physical and emotional challenges.

Most hikers start on the French Route, or Camino Frances, from Saint Jean Pied Le Port, the small French town straddling the Spanish border.  It’s a steep walk up the Pyrenees mountains. For the inexperienced hiker, this in itself can be challenging.

pilgrim_najeriaBut in the last few days, summer temperatures were touching 40 degrees Celcius in much of southwestern Europe.  A walk in the midday sun can be life-threatening and some albergues, or pilgrims’ hostels, have put up signboards, warning pilgrims not to walk between 11.00 and 3 p.m.

A path of crucifixtion?

A few pilgrims in the Albergue of Najera, where I’m serving as a volunteer for the next two weeks, are arriving with blistered feet, swollen knees and other body ailments. I always tell them that this is not a path of the crucifixion and that nobody will chop their head off if they take a break, a taxi or a bus to the next destination if their body is clearly telling them: “Slow down, take a rest, go easy.”

Subtle whispers from the universe

The Camino has so many life lessons to tell the pilgrim. Walking is an ideal way of reconnecting with body, mind, and soul. In the rat-race of day-to-day distractions, we often ignore the body’s subtle whispers telling us to slow down, to recuperate and take a time-out. If we fail to listen, these whispers will get louder, and if we still fail to heed that inner voice, the body will at some point force you to stop. It’s very much the same when we reach a deadlock during a particular life situation when the universe is telling us with obstacle after obstacle to change something.

The higher perspective

Reaching a destination should not be the objective. The real miracles happen in opening the senses to the here and now while walking. This morning I took a walk with two of my fellow volunteers, Ebi from Argentina and Carmen from Spain to the next village, Azofra.

A beautiful bird of prey took flight from a tree in the vineyard nearby, circling overhead. This animal messenger from the spirit world appeared to tell us to remain focused on the task at hand and to keep the higher perspective in mind.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under Camino de Santiago, lifestyle management, spirituality, Uncategorized

Day One on the Camino

Today is my first day as a volunteer in a pilgrim’s hostel on the famous Spanish pilgrimage route – the Camino de Santiago.

Pilgrims have walked this path for centuries. In modern times its being rediscovered by thousands of people as a modern-day route to self-discovery.

img_2410

Pilgrims checking out the next day’s route in the pilgrim’s hostel, or albergue, in the town of Najera on the Camino Frances

Giving back to the Camino what the Camino has given to me over the years is an enormous privilege.

I arrived in Najera, northwestern Spain, in the valley known for its famous Rioja wines last night. As a volunteer hospitalero I am one of four people who serve in a pilgrims’ hostel for two weeks. We register the arriving pilgrims who come from places as far as South Korea, Colombia, Japan, Canada, Australia, and Kazakhstan. In the mornings we clean the rooms, toilets and prepare the hostel for the next group of pilgrims.

Every pilgrim has a story

Every pilgrim comes with a story and is happy to share some experience while on the way. Last night Darko from Croatia told me how he met a Swedish couple celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary walking the Camino. They were sitting on a bench looking at the vineyards in the valley below. “So has someone hugged you today, ” he asked. “No, they replied. You are the first one who asks.”

“Well, then can I give you a hug then?” he responded to the beaming couple.

My fellow volunteers are from France, Argentina and Spain. We converse in a mixture of pigeon Spanish and French. It always works out. All of us have walked the Camino several times and it doesn’t need much vocabulary to understand what needs to be done.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Time out is crucial for your health

Most people living in an urbanized environment live highly stressful lives, spending most of their lifetime in closed indoor environments or on noisy streets. It is crucial for health and well-being to reconnect with nature and the natural rhythm of the universe.

Sprint and recovery

An integrated sprint and recovery system that integrates work and recuperation time spent outdoors in nature, should be built into our daily routine.

img_2311

In order to function as human beings we need lazy time for rest, recovery, creative play and the digestion of the countless distractions vying for our attention round the clock.  There is a huge amount of scientific evidence showing that stress factors such as high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat and high cortisol stress hormone levels begin to fall as soon as we focus our attention on the rustling of leaves in a green forest or hear the sound of ocean waves gently washing to shore.

Natural light is crucial for your body metabolism

Natural sunlight affects our bodies in many ways.  It is a catalyst for the secretion of hormones such as serotonin and melatonin. Melatonin is an important antioxidant and can neutralize some agents that damage cells and DNA that are believed to be a contributing cause of some cancers.

Indoor toxins may threaten your health

When we spend most of our lives indoors we also expose ourselves to countless indoor toxins that come in the form of mold, dust mites, fabrics and chemical compounds.

After going through a period of massive job and personal stress that left me badly fatigued, grumpy and in poor health, I went on my first pilgrimage hike in northwestern Spain some ten years ago. It changed my life and since then I’ve taken time out every year to spend between three and four weeks at a time walking in nature. I’ve interviewed numerous people from all walks of life on the Camino, who have confirmed my own observations that walking is a wonderful way of reconnecting with the universal rhythm.

Great thinkers found inspiration while walking!

During research for my new book “Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul”, to be published later this year by Morgan James Publishing in New York, I was surprised to discover that some of the world’s greatest writers and thinkers such as Johann Sebastian Bach, found inspiration while walking.

Henry David Thoreau wrote in his journal, “Methinks that the moment my legs begin to move, my thoughts begin to flow.

The poet William Wordsworth was said to have walked as many as a 290,000 kilometers (180,000 miles) in his lifetime. This translates to an average of six and a half miles a day starting from the age of five.

Humans are hard-wired to live in the past or in the future because planning and learning from the past has been crucial to the survival of our species.

Listen to thoughts when walking

Real joy comes from those magical moments of being absolutely present and experiencing spirituality, love and peace of mind.

It is an enlightening experience to “listen” to your own thoughts when walking. Becoming aware of your thoughts is the first step toward focusing on the moment.

Take a break, savor the nature around you by opening your sense of smell to the herbs by the wayside, open your ears to the chorus of bird song and feel that cool mountain breeze caressing your face.

Nature is the best healer!

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

                                             applepodcast         

Leave a comment

Filed under cancer, cortisol, energy, environment, exercise mental health, healing nature, meditation, stress, Uncategorized