Tag Archives: pilgrims

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.


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

IMG_2438 - Copy



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





Filed under happiness, humanity, Pilgrimage, psychology, self-development, spirituality, Uncategorized

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


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



Leave a comment

Filed under gratitude, happiness, meditation, Pilgrimage, spirituality, Uncategorized

A walk through Switzerland – a different Camino

All across western Europe a network of ancient trails used by pilgrims for centuries are being re-discovered as a growing number of people are realising that taking a long walk is one of the best ways to get your stress level down.

During the Middle Ages it was common practise for at least one member of the family to walk by foot to Santiago de Compostela in Spain to pay homage to what is believed to be the burial place of St. James – one of the Apostles of Jesus. Many did not survive the hazards of disease, bandit attacks and other accidents.


Following a series of recent best-selling books on the Camino including “The Pilgrimage” by Paulo Coelho and “I’m Off Then: Losing and Finding Myself on the Camino de Santiago” by the German entertainer Harpe Kerkeling, tens of thousands of people are again walking the Camino every year.

The main route, the Camino Frances, from Roncesvalles to Santiago is 737 kilometres long and will take the hiker several weeks to complete. The route is well signposted and the “peregrino” or hiker will find a pilgrims hostel in almost every village on the way where he/she can stay at a cheap price overnight. It is a far cry to the hazardous route from the days of yore.

After taking my first “small” 120 kilometre walk from Saria to Santiago several years ago I have literally become hooked to these ancient paths. Since then I have understood why many a wise teacher has pronounced that getting back into sync with nature “is your best healer”. Walking helps you find your natural rhythm, relaxes your breathing and has many other positive health effects.

On one of my longest trails lasting more than four weeks, which I walked with my good friend Tom, we took the more rugged Camino del Norte along the coast from Urquera to Santiago. It was an exhilarating experience, off the main route frequented by most other peregrinos. The landscape is spectacular with mountains, a rugged coastline and remote villages.

This year my wife Alyce, our Dalmatian dog Klara and I did a short stretch from St. Gallen to Einsiedeln in Switzerland. During the Middle Ages most pilgrims from northern Europe walked the same route, gathering at the famous monastery in Einsiedeln before commencing on the long route through France and Spain. Walking slowly by foot through a country makes you see so many things you would never see when travelling by car, bus, train or even bicycle.

After a long afternoon walk up an Alpine hill during summer temperatures of well over 30 degrees Celsius we found a hut next to the road and a fridge filled with cold drinks and ice cream. You merely put into a bottle the money for the drinks you consumed. I couldn’t help but wonder what such a gesture of trust in one’s fellow man would have meant in my home country South Africa with its spiralling crime rate. Camping sites in the Swiss Alps are spotlessly clean and equipped with all the necessary utensils with obviously no danger of theft and vandalism. People had warned us not to take a dog on the walk but we were positively surprised how accommodating and dog-friendly the Swiss really are.

True, Switzerland also has its problems, but somehow the Swiss for centuries have managed to stay on track with a grass roots democracy based on mutual tolerance for different religious, language and cultural affiliations with a broad consensus on this common value system. A general scepticism in big government is deeply embedded with the cantons or regions having wide legislative freedoms. The result: A healthy and vibrantly affluent society.


Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized