Tag Archives: health

Relationships define who you are

We are part of a matrix of relationships. Who we are is determined from early childhood by our associations with the people closest to us.

“Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.” The saying was first coined by the American coach, speaker, and author Jim Rohn.

We share the same dress code, values, and mannerisms

Close friends and marriage partners are known to share each other’s views and values, dress code, and even mannerisms.

The energy frequency on which we are moving determines who we make friends with and want to spend time with.

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Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Everything is relationship. When we are born the closest relationship is with the mother. It evolves from there to the forming of identity and self in puberty, when part of the process is rejecting everything the parental generation stands for.

Relationships find themselves on many different levels of interaction.  Family members and working colleagues are not a choice.  But in most other cases we have the freedom to choose who we want to spend most of our time with. The image of self is colored by external influences and what society seemingly expects from us.  Few people know who they really are and what their innermost needs are.

We are part of a web of different relationships

Who are you in the gigantic web of living beings on earth? What is your relationship to your physical self and the external world around you? How we treat the earth is very much a reflection on how we treat ourselves.

A loving and caring identity to self, freed from the debris of the past, reflects on nearly all our relationships, whether to a beloved one or to friends and family.

Animals are naturally bound to the universal matrix with a sixth sense, reacting extremely sensitively to changes in the environment. Historians recorded that animals including rats, snakes, and weasels deserted the Greek city of Helice in 373 B.C. days before an earthquake devastated the area (National Geographic, Nov. 11, 2003).

Eyewitness accounts of the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia reported elephants moving to higher ground, dogs refusing to leave their shelters and flamingoes abandoning low-lying breeding grounds.

Dogs can pick up olfactory cues from humans (New Scientist, Oct. 19, 2007), even smelling emotions such as fear and aggression. Dog owners have always known this and science is increasingly proving them right.

The relationship to Self and God

A pilgrimage walk is very much a discovery of relationship to self, to God or the universal intelligence. Some pilgrims describe it like a walk home as awareness grows that we are not alone and that we can go into trust.

German philosopher Martin Buber in his book Ich und Du (translated as I and Thou) finds that human life essentially finds meaning and purpose in relationships.

In this view all our relationships ultimately bring us into relationship with God or our Creator.

Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

(This is an extract of my next book “Deep Walking for Body Mind and Soul” scheduled for publication later this year)

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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Walking the valley of death

There is a section of the Camino Frances in northwestern Spain described as “the valley of death” because it is a flat, monotonous plain between the cities of Burgos and Leon. Many pilgrims prefer to skip the section by taking the bus because of the searing heat and loneliness.

Monotony and loneliness is a state of mind

Those pilgrims who have walked the “Meseta” section, however, describe it as a particularly crucial part of their Camino experience. Monotony and loneliness is, after all, a state of mind.

The Meseta and some of the other boring sections of the Camino, like the busy motorways on the coastal route of the Camino del Norte, force the pilgrim into introspection, and into acceptance of self.

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Meeting the shadow

It is the part of the Camino where the pilgrim meets face to face with ego, distorted images and the shadow of the subconscious mind.  Inevitably at times he/she falls flat on the ground emotionally.

“If you don’t accept the Camino with humility, it will force you to become humble,”  an American pilgrim told me on my first Camino some twelve years ago. It was a warning I always remembered after suffering from blistered feet, getting lost, carrying too much unnecessary clutter and going through an emotional roller-coaster.

The “flat on the ground” moments

Especially, if you start saying to yourself that “this Camino thing is no big deal,” it will inevitably present you with another lesson to learn.

We have all experienced those moments of “lying flat on the ground” after losing a loved one through death or divorce, financial disaster, a medical diagnosis, job loss or another major life-changing event that turns us into a different person. Who we were before we are no longer. In a way, it is experiencing the death of the old self.

In such moments the big challenge is to avoid falling into the trap of the blame-game and accepting the situation with humility. Those “flat on the ground” times are the precursor to a new stage of spiritual growth and emotional growth. We end up so frustrated that we finally take the action necessary. The alcoholic finally seeks therapy. We leave a dysfunctional relationship and a job that has depleted all our energy. And, we sever ties with people and situations that did us no good.

In the mystical Christian tradition, the story does not end with the death on the cross but is the path leading through the valley of death to resurrection.
Reino Gevers – Author, Mentor, and Consultant

https://www.reinogevers.com

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Escaping the treadmill

On the Camino recently I met an Italian pilgrim who has walked the northwestern Spanish pilgrimage route several times. He explained to me why he just couldn’t stop walking.

“I was feeling like part of this big machine that just keeps going.  I realized. If you want to know who you are, you have to get out of this big machine,” he said.

It’s one of the reasons a growing number of people are walking the Camino. There is a deep spiritual yearning for the discovery of the true self, of looking within. Treading the treadmill is spending most of your life in the accumulation of things. After a while, things lose their shine. The urge is to buy more things, which for many people means a never-ending spiral of debt and frustration.

When we are treading the treadmill of the big machine there is little time for reflection as we hurry through life instead of aligning ourselves with life. For me walking the Camino each year is taking time out to digest, to reflect and to cleanse body and mind.

Why is the Camino so different than an ordinary hike?

But why not walk the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States or the Bruce Trail in Canada or some of the many other famous nature trails?

The many conversations, I have had with the pilgrims passing through the pilgrims’ hostel in Najera the past two weeks,  however, confirmed my impression that the Camino is in so many ways different than a normal hike.

The Camino works on many different subtle levels. For one thing, you are literally walking through a history book with every town and village along the Camino steeped in centuries of human architectural and artistic marvel.

A unique cultural and architectural heritage 

Najera, the little village that is the eighth stage of the Camino starting from the little French hamlet of Saint-Jean-Pied-Le-Port, dates back to Roman times, strategically located along the Najerilla river with the hilltop offering a perfect military observation area. It was the capital of the Kingdom of Navarre until it was conquered by the Muslims and then later recaptured by the Christians.

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         Bridge leading into the town of Najera, monastery to the right 

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And, right in the middle of this small town of hardly 3,000 people, you will find one of the most marvelous monasteries on the Camino.

It is believed that the Camino pilgrimage path even predates the Christian era when Celtic priests celebrated ritual walks.  “I started walking the Camino as a sporting adventure and ended it as a pilgrim,”  a young man said in sharing the experience many people make on the Camino.

Celebrating the moment

A precondition to really internalizing the magic of the Camino is in the celebration of the present moment which comes after several days of walking and if you are able to avoid the treadmill trap and falling into the robot and monkey mind by constantly checking your cell phone.

It is the one big advice I would give to pilgrims starting their walk. Limit the use of your cell phone to 15 minutes a day.  So often I’ve observed people talking for hours on their cell phones while walking the Camino, robbing themselves of a truly magical experience.

Walking alone and in nature is a challenge initially. It’s about learning to accept the company of self with all its light and shadow. The feelings and emotions can at times be overwhelming but are part of the process of opening the doorway to within.

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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