Category Archives: Camino de Santiago

2020: Our biggest challenge

In the northern hemisphere, the time between Christmas and New Year is characterized as the time of the “rough nights” with cold winds and snow battering the shutters. I like to use the time for reflecting on the blessings of the past year and working on my vision board for the year ahead.

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One of the great highlights of my year were the unforgettable conversations with the wonderful people I met while serving as a volunteer in a pilgrims hostel on the Camino in the village of Najera, northwestern Spain.

What are you doing with the rest of the days of your life?

People from numerous different age groups countries, cultures, religions and traditions are walking the Camino with burning questions such as: What do I need to do with the rest of the days of my life?  What are the ingredients of a happy, fulfilled and contented life of bliss? What can I do to make the world a better place for my children and grandchildren? Who am I on a deep soul level beyond what the world outside there is trying to tell me who I am and what I need to believe, consume and do?

I have delved into some of these questions and lessons learned on the Camino with my new book Deep Walking for Body, Mind and Soul.

Taking time-out for reflection and alignment

The idea and purpose is to inspire readers on how valuable our time on earth really is. We need a time-out every day to perceive our inner world and one of the best ways of doing so is taking a walk in nature. It is the start of healing self and when we heal self we can start healing the world outside. The state of our world is a reflection of our inner consciousness and state of mind.

Much of the western world has lost its spiritual compass with the over-emphasis on external gratification. “Things” can never compensate for the yearnings of the heart and soul. There is a reason why depression and other mental illnesses have become a scourge of our time. We no longer know who we are? It is not surprising when we are bombarded almost non-stop with information overload, and confused by professional deceivers on social media. On the threshold to a new decade, we are faced with possibly the biggest challenge of our time:

Moving to a restorative, sustainable mindset

We need to move from the exploitative, consumerist mindset that is rapidly destroying our ecosystems and foundation of life to one of sustainability and restoration.  The firestorms and unprecedented heatwaves in many parts of the world in the past year, the tornado winds and flooding have come much earlier than the climate scientists predicted. We don’t have much time left to make the turnaround and Nature is trying to tell us something.

We need to change how we are transporting ourselves, what we are eating and what we are consuming.

The Western diet of junk and processed foods is not only ruining our individual well-being and health. Mass agriculture and animal feed production is the single largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. We need to eat less meat and we need to eat what comes from the local farmer.

The next decade is going to be defining in many ways. We are either going to make it or break it. Already the battle lines are drawn between raised human consciousness and the pushback from the fossil fuel-based industries and the exploitative mindset of the past.

The delusion the deceivers are putting out there is that the new consciousness wants to push us back into a poverty-stricken hunter and gatherer lifestyle.  The opposite is true. Imagine a much better carbon-free world in 2030 with cutting edge clean-energy transportation, clean air and rivers, oceans, lakes, and forests teeming with life, and foods that keep us healthy and fit.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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After the walk, the real journey begins

Limiting beliefs planted from early childhood can have a powerful hold far into adulthood preventing the fulfillment of a purpose-filled life and the expansion of soul consciousness.

So many fellow pilgrims on the Camino, especially women, told me of the huge pushback they faced from husbands, parents, siblings, friends and even children who tried to dissuade them from going on a pilgrimage.

The pushback often comes from close friends and family

Very often those people closest to you pull you down when they hear you talk of an “outlandish” business idea, or going on that trip you have dreamed about taking for so long.

When you move to a higher energy frequency and start becoming strong, you will awaken demons with some of the people you surround yourself with. These are people stuck in their own fears and uncertainty who feel threatened when a member of their tribe breaks out.

If you take time out to walk the Camino in Spain for a four- or five-week period, you will come back a changed person, and this is sensed by the people around you.

Many pilgrims find it very difficult to fall back into the same old rhythm they left prior to walking the Camino. It is like going back to a different world.

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The real pilgrimage begins after the pilgrimage

“I was hardly back home when I broke down. Everything seemed so strange. Everyone was going about their business and I just couldn’t find my place anymore,” a German pilgrim said after her return. After the pilgrimage, another pilgrimage begins- the pilgrimage of reflecting on and integrating all the experiences made on the path.

We have many associates but when it comes down to it, we have very few real friends who truly understand us and are supportive of our soul growth process.

Be careful who you open up to 

Fellow pilgrims, who shared the deep spiritual experiences after returning from the Camino, were sometimes ridiculed by friends or family members. My advice, therefore: Be careful who you open up to. Few people are genuinely interested. Most people are just curious or have hidden motives. Probably the only people who will really understand you are those people with whom you shared the same experience on the Camino.

And, sometimes it is better to keep the deepest spiritual experience to yourself because words only limit what has been felt on a soul level.

We often stay too long in relationships that have long outlived their purpose. Some people are givers and some are takers. The question that needs to be asked is: Do I feel comfortable, uplifted and energized when I’m in the company of that person? Or do I feel emotionally drained, exhausted and in a bad mood after spending time with him or her?

Getting support from those who give rather than take

A partner, family member or friend who really is focused on your well being will resonate with your enthusiasm, see the opportunity rather than the danger and offer unconditional support while you are on the path.

What is the main reference group that influences you on many levels?  Every so often it might be necessary to reflect on this.

It’s not that you want to hurt and exclude some people from your life. But the time might have come just to spend much less time with them and to spend more time with those people who really uplift you.

A good exercise is: Who are the five people you would choose to live with on a lonely island? Who are the people you would only want to spend a weekend with? Who are the three-minute people you want to remain polite with but keep at a clear distance?

A good guideline is the content of your conversations. Are you sharing uplifting ideas and thoughts or are you spending your time gossiping about other people and wallowing in negative things that happened in the past?

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Who are you letting into your home?

Business person looking at wall with light tunnel opening

There is a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. “Ubuntu” is an ancient African term meaning  ‘humanity to others’ because it is those “others” who have made you into that individual who you are.

It means the persons you surround yourself with make you into the person who you are. The village, the individual and the tribe are ONE. So it is worth reflecting on who those five people are who you are letting into your “house.”

Who is supporting and uplifting you?

It will determine how upbeat, optimistic, healthy and successful you are. Are you surrounded by people who are supportive of you on your soul path or do you have people around you who use every opportunity to pull you down?

It is worth reflecting every now and then on those five people who really appreciate and serve you. As you disassociate and realign yourself you will inevitably be confronted by push back.

Is your guest trampling all over your carpet?

So how do I determine who is good for me and who isn’t?  How do I know that the person I let into my home is not going to “trample over my clean white carpet with dirty feet?”

And, it’s basically quite simple:

  • Do you constantly feel drained and emotionally exhausted after spending time with a particular person or a group of people?
  • Have you had this feeling for some time that a relationship is one-sided?
  • Are your conversations with that person or persons centered mainly around negative issues?

If so, it is high time to start disassociating yourself and to move on.

Surround people who emanate kindness and good energy

Open yourself to those people, who, when entering a room, emanate an aura of good energy. I admit those people are few and far between. Most of us are so preoccupied with our own baggage and issues that we no longer notice the true nature of the people around us. True, we cannot always be upbeat. That is not what life is about. Its how we deal on a day to day basis with our ups and downs in the knowledge that nothing stays permanent.

Life is impermanent

All great teachers of Mysticism will tell you that the art of happiness is the ability and wisdom to accept life’s preciousness in the here and now. Impermanence is one of life’s great lessons. Ask anyone who has suddenly lost a loved one, gone through a traumatic divorce or been confronted with a life-changing situation, like losing all one’s savings on the stock market.

The only truth is that life is a constant flow of yin and yang, birth and death, light and shadow, good and evil, expansion and withdrawal. Sorrow, grief, and despair are as much part of life as happiness, joy and exultation or loss and abundance. The discipline of the inner mind and thought process by means of meditation, the body arts or other rituals will help us deal with this ebb and flow.

What we can control is the practice of mind-setting, the choice of the people we surround ourselves with and who we invite into “our holy chambers.”

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

(Read more on this topic in my new book “Deep Walking for Body Mind and Soul” Ebook scheduled for publication by Morgan James in New York on May 5th, 2020. Printed edition scheduled for the major outlets in August 2020)

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Walking into authenticity

A pilgrimage walk is so much more than an ordinary hike, working on many subtle levels, that may trigger a changed perspective and a complete realignment of emotional, physical and spiritual needs.

Walking the Camino is a walk into authenticity when the whispers from the inner voice gradually become heard as with every step more distance is created from the pull of the external distractions of the daily treadmill.

Moving to a higher energy level

From my own observations, I would say that most people are living lives in which they suffer in a quiet misery of unhappy jobs, dysfunctional relationships and other unfulfilled needs that come when the mind is focused too much on external rather than internal needs.

A combination of a daily dosage of junk foods, a mind fed with negative gossip and emotional drama, a sedentary lifestyle, an imbalanced stress, and recuperation cycle, inevitably lead to a downward energy spiral.

Finding that momentum to change an unhappy situation

Over the years it then becomes that much more difficult to find enough energy for the momentum to change an unhappy situation, especially when it comes to taking that first step in changing bad food habits, doing a regular exercise routine or morning ritual.

When you are on a pilgrimage walk, you simply have to keep going. Once you are on the path the pull to complete it is very strong. Other pilgrims will give you that extra bit of encouragement when you are having a down moment.

Walking off old emotional baggage

Especially during the early stages of the walk, there will be mornings when every muscle in the body is aching and feet are blistered.  You may be asking: “Why am I doing this?” But gradually the walk becomes easier, the load from a backpack less heavy, and the motivation to reach the destination that much bigger.

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It is a huge reward when you actually start feeling so much better, physically and emotionally.  It is part of the detox, the walking off of old emotional baggage, that is part of the Camino experience.

By the time you have walked three or four weeks on your pilgrimage retreat, your energy frequency inevitably rises. This becomes noticeable in the resonance with people that have a positive mindset.  You might find stray dogs or cats following you, a bird singing at you from a breakfast table or complete strangers greeting you and starting a conversation. You will also become more aware of the beauty of your surroundings.

Taking time out for realignment

Over the years I’ve tried fitting in a pilgrimage retreat into my schedule every year. It has been life-changing. Modern lives have become exceedingly stressful with the emotions of pain and fear dictating the daily narrative. The uncertainty that comes with exceptional economic and social changes is making many people ill.

More than ever, therefore, we need those time out retreats for inner realignment for those age-old questions seeking answers: Where do I come from? Where am I going? Am I leaving a positive footprint for future generations? The sense of purpose reveals itself in the authentic self.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Confronting fear

On one of my first walks on the Camino, I got horribly lost during a thunderstorm in the Pyrenees mountains. As darkness set in I was confronted with the most powerful of human emotions – fear.

The typical scenario in such situations is that the human mind gets caught in a trajectory of worst-case scenarios, like falling off a cliff in the darkness or dying from the cold in subzero temperatures.

My choice at that moment was to just keep on walking and reframing in my mind the mantra: Let Go, Let God.  The universe always has answers. At some point, I noticed a faint glimmer of light through the trees which finally led me to the next village and safety.

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Photo by Sammie Vasquez on Unsplash

Fear is one of the most powerful obstacles that prevents you from moving forward to new experience, and a happier more purpose-filled life.

It is that which prevents you from leaving a dysfunctional relationship, a job in which you are unhappy or doing the pilgrimage walk because your mind is already on fast-track mode in painting pictures of all the bad things that could happen.

The tragedy is that if you continue to feed toxic emotions such as fear, the bigger the monster gets. It can trigger a state of paralysis and the typical self-destructive mantra: “Can’t change it. Can’t do anything about it.”

A changed mindset would be the mantra: “Everything that has happened to me up to this point has a reason and is pointing me in the direction I must go.”

Fear is in the mind

The only solution is to look fear into the eye. Have I had similar fears in the past? Did these fears really materialize? You will then probably find that in 90 percent of the cases the fears were all in the mind. It does not mean that you need to throw all caution to the wind but getting a more realistic perspective of the situation and changing the mindset. The opposite of fear is courage. But courage does not come without fear.

Reframing fear into courage

On a physical level, fear expresses itself through a quicker heartbeat and a shorter breath. You can literally feel your head getting hot under the collar and your feet losing their hold to the ground. So an excellent way of reframing the mind is by focusing and concentrating on deep in and out-breaths. In this way, you will start calming the mind and body. Fear and stress cause tunnel vision where you will fail to see the solutions offered by the universe often lying right in front of you. When the mind is calm the solution to a problem comes almost by itself. “Now why didn’t I think of that before,” you might say.

If you are dealing with a vexing life issue and don’t know a way out, I really recommend a soul or pilgrimage walk. It is the best way to detox your mind and body, especially if you can find a time-out of several weeks from the daily treadmill.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Camino hostels: Love them or hate them

After serving for two weeks as a volunteer in a pilgrims hostel on the Spanish Camino, I was wondering why hardly any Germans were staying overnight in the Municipal Albergue in Najera – until I coincidentally stumbled upon a comment in a popular German Camino guide book.

The description: “A hall of snorers with 90 bunk beds. Only four toilets and four showers.”

Albergues are run by volunteers

In reality, this could be said about any of the public hostels on the Camino. The places are run by mainly local volunteers. The funds for the upkeep are provided by the local municipality and donations from other pilgrims. The Albergues are usually clean but provide no more than a very basic shelter for the night in line with the pilgrimage tradition going back hundreds of years.

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Sharing a meal in an Albergue is one of the joys of the day on the Camino 

But why go through the discomfort of sharing a stuffy dormitory with up to 90 other pilgrims, where some individuals ride roughshod over the sleeping needs of everyone else in setting their alarm clocks at 3.30 a.m and then noisily go about packing their backpack. Inevitably, there are two or three loud snorers who would keep everyone awake.

Popular Camino makes staying in an Albergue the only alternative

Sometimes there is no other choice. With more than 300,000 people now walking the Camino annually, the municipal Albergues are often the only places with beds available. Towns have had to open sports halls in the summer months to cater for the influx of pilgrims.

Such situations are real testing times for humility. What you make out of the situation in an Albergue is always a reflection of where you are at mentally.  I recall meeting a very moody and sleepy-eyed pilgrim in an Albergue last year who threatened all sorts of “warning letters to the authorities” about conditions in the Albergue. Then I noticed that her general negativity was creating an invisible wall between her and everyone else in the room.

Nothing beats the bonding spirit in an Albergue

Some pilgrims, who could easily afford better accommodation, make it a point to choose an Albergue. For, nothing beats the bonding spirit between pilgrims in an Albergue on the Camino. Meals are shared, over sometimes very intimate and emotional conversations. Blisters need to be attended to, and sometimes a doctors’ appointment has to be arranged. Impromptu singing and prayer are common on such evenings.

For low-budget pilgrims and also for those coming from countries with a poor exchange rate to the euro, the Camino would not be possible without the municipal Albergues.  The Camino is becoming more international from year to year with more South Americans and people from far-flung eastern European countries on the Path.

And, it is a joy to watch the Camino uniting people of very diverse national and cultural backgrounds. It is one of the many reasons why the Camino becomes addictive and some people walk it dozens of times.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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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.

 

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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.

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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

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