Category Archives: Pilgrimage

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.

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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

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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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Go Slow To Go Far

One of the  many lessons learned walking the Camino in Spain is that you have to go slow to get far.  I must admit that I too get infected at times by the “bug” that bites many hikers on the Camino: Getting up in the early hours of the morning and racing ahead to the next town to avoid the hassle of finding no accommodation.

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In some of the remote towns albergues or hostels for pilgrims are rare. But on all my ten walks on the Camino, I have always found a place to stay for the night. The Spanish people are incredibly hospitable and friendly toward pilgrims walking the Camino. If worse comes to worse a sports hall or school classrooms is opened with mattresses on the floor. Villagers in the towns have even been seen offering their private bedrooms to tired pilgrims.

But the Camino is in many ways an analogy of life and you inevitably take yourself with you on a journey.  Many pilgrims take a time out from their stressed-out lives at home, and have difficulty switching to a calm, slowed-down rhythm.

And, under stress or in a hurry, you make mistakes. You go into tunnel vision and start missing way markers, making your walk that much longer than planned. You miss out seeing many of the small miracles or the messages sent by the universe on your way. You fail to pace your energy, ending up with blisters on your feet, hurt knees and back problems.

Sometimes a small talk with a villager or a word from a fellow pilgrim along the way can be an immense eye opener and blessing. I have walked several of the Camino routes more than twice and have been amazed at how much I didn’t see the first time around, and how different each Camino walk was.

Staying in the moment is one of the most difficult exercises in the hurried life of the Western mind which is preoccupied with all the fears of tomorrow and the events of the past. Will I have to sleep under the bridge? Will I be safe?  I have seen pilgrims literally fall into panic upon hearing that there was no accommodation left in the town. It is an innate fear to be in a foreign place and having no place to stay.  Others stay completely calm, trusting in the universe that a solution will always be found, laughing it off as part of the Camino experience.

I have taken this Camino experience to heart. A day can be ruined by a stressed-out, hurried mindset where one little catastrophe follows the next.  Or, you can just take one step back, concentrating on the breathing, deliberately slowing your walk by a pace or two, and then just taking it as it comes.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant 

https://www.reinogevers.com

     

 

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States of transition

The public discourse in much of social media currently seems to alternate between two extremes with a fall-back to the nationalist hysteria of the 1930s to views expounding a free-for all liberalism. It is typical of a collective consciousness in transition and lacking direction and grounding.

Much of the western world appears to have lost its soul to the hungry ghosts seeking immediate gratification. At the same time we are seeing the outlines of an emerging Renaissance in human consciousness. Every crisis carries within it the seeds of transition and change to a new order.

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A growing number of people are unhappy with the current state of things, and seekers of a new truth transmuting the dogmatism that has been imposed by rigid philosophies and religion during past generations.

Theologian and writer Richard Rohr pointedly describes religion has having brought forth the worst and the best in mankind.  Organised religion has the power of fueling the flames of fanaticism, hate and war or it can open hearts in collective prayer and ritual for the betterment of humankind.

When extreme opposites face each other off, as we are currently seeing along party political lines in the United States, each side becomes blind to the shades of grey and the humanness in the other. We stamp off people along party lines and belief systems preventing a real discourse. In a way it has become “a religious war” between opposites.

In the heated exchange between the opposites the voices of the silent masses go unheard. I do believe that most people are by nature tolerant and can intuitively distinguish between the lie and the truth – a reason  why a growing number of people are refusing to vote and are becoming alienated from organized politics and religion.

Some of the outlines of change can be seen in the fast-growing self-development industry with individual change gradually becoming collective change on a global scale.

In recent years I have met hundreds of people from all walks of life and many different countries on the Camino pilgrimage route in Spain.  About 200,000 people are now walking this ancient medieval pilgrimage route each year. I would describe many of them as spiritual seekers asking the age-old questions: Where do I come from and where am I going?

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor and Consultant 

http://www.reinogevers.com

    

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Time out: Why a pilgrimage?

Next week I will be leaving for my ninth walk on the Camino de Santiago. Its become an annual must-do-event because I am convinced that such a time-out period is essential in boosting my energy, my creativity and general feeling of well-being.

IMG_3577In our modern world our energies are constantly being depleted by countless distractions that make us forget who we are and what soul purpose we have. Worse still: We imitate “role models” hyped by mass media, making us look foolishly unauthentic.

The tradition of walking the Camino is many centuries old. In the Middle Ages, when life was cheap and short, people had a deeply ingrained fear of burning in the fires of hell in the after life. The best possible way of gaining redemption was in walking the Camino.

Today thousands of people are rediscovering the Camino as a perfect analogy of life and a fast-track course in self-development.  Here are only some of the lessons I learned on the Camino:

  • The less weight you carry, the easier your walk
  • The ups-and-downs are cyclical like the ups and downs of life
  • If you get lost you always find someone to help you
  • Be open for the miraculous often hidden in the common

Never mind the enormous health benefits. I’ve noticed that walking between 20-25 kilometers a day not only detoxes the body but also the mind. It is truly “walking things off” and getting rid of the clutter, opening the channels and the senses of hearing, smell, touch and sight.

I will keep you posted on this site.

Reino Gevers – Mentor for Leaders and Achievers – Your Health Matters

Awakening the Fire Within – key principles of health and success. Enrolling now will give you a 25 per cent discount.

NEW RELEASE: “Walking on Edge – A Pilgrimage to Santiago” available both in Kindle and paperback.

http://www.reinogevers.com

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Walking on Edge

Walking_on_Edge_Cover_for_Kindle The Camino in Spain has in many respects been a life-changing experience for me.  The lessons learned on the pilgrimage are in so many ways an analogy of life. My book “Walking on Edge”, a work of fiction, takes up many autobiographical cues and is dedicated to some of the most amazing people I have met on the Path.

For many centuries Christian pilgrims walked thousands of kilometres from the doorstep of their homes throughout Europe to the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela, where according to legend lie the remains of one of Jesus apostles St. James. Fear of landing in the fires of hell after death was deeply entrenched in the minds of the people of the Middle Ages. The church at the time promised those folk that they and their families would be cleansed of all sin and have a wonderful afterlife in heaven if they did the pilgrimage at least once in their lifetime.

Today hundreds of thousands of people are rediscovering this ancient route as a wonderful way of self discovery and through that deep look inside, finding their own inner spirituality and soul purpose.

In my book I have changed the characters but some of those modern day miracles are based on true experience.  Yes, I am convinced that miracles are still happening, if we open our senses and look around us. For me the Camino was not one massive bolt of enlightenment striking on a hill, but the sum of many exceptional experiences over a period of several walks on different paths in Spain and France.

Since the days of my childhood I have agonised over the teachings of religion telling us to believe this or that or to follow this or that teaching. It’s all external. One major lesson I have taken from the Camino is that there is a major difference between religion and personal spiritual experience. In my book the pilgrim Chuck calls it the difference between head and heart mind. The soul path cannot be understood with rational thought and can only be felt with the heart. And, a growing number of people are saying: “Let me go out and seek an answer to why I am here and who I really am.” Through this self-recognition comes what I will call “God recognition” and what  is a very personal and individual experience.

Suffering inevitably leads us to go out looking for answers. A lot of people are getting lost and feeling left behind in the digital revolution. In some ways mankind is facing a similar dilemma as the people in the Middle Ages. Its no longer the church that rules over our lives but the information overload of countless distractions polluting our minds with clutter we don’t need.

Ronaldo was one of those pilgrims “walking things off” by going at a pace most others could not keep up with, avoiding all conversation as the emotional clutter gradually released itself, opening up space for new experience.

And it was that space, as Chuck called it “that can then be nourished with inner peace, forgiveness and compassion. You in fact are working on becoming a better human being.”

Reino Gevers – Mentor for Leaders and Achievers – Your Health Matters

http://www.reinogevers.com

“Walking on Edge – A Pilgrimage to Santiago” available both in Kindle and paperback.

 

 

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