Tag Archives: Pilgrimage

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

                                             applepodcast         

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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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