“It is solved by walking.”
- St. Augustine
In May 2014, I undertook one of the most amazing experiences in my life as I walked the Camino de Santiago.
The Camino or The Way as it is known, is a 500-mile pilgrimage across northern Spain. My trek began in the town of St. Jean-Pied du Port in western France, ascended into the Pyrenees Mountains and then descended into Spain where I would spend the next month trekking 17-18 miles per day across the beautiful Spanish countryside to my ultimate destination, Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Legend has it that the Camino began in the 9th Century as a way for early Christians to pay penance for their misdeeds by making the arduous pilgrimage to the city of St. James (Santiago), the apostle reputed to have brought Christianity to Europe.
Today, the Camino serves as a means for thousands of pilgrims or peregrinos annually to take a respite from their everyday lives for introspection, contemplation, renewal and clarity (and to party, if you are like the twenty-somethings I observed along the trail).
There are many great lessons to be learned while on the Camino and one of mine came around the second week of my journey. On this day, it became clear to me that I had been approaching my Camino as nothing more than a challenging athletic event to be accomplished (up early in the morning to hit the trail, timing myself on how quickly I could get to my next destination and then planning for the next day ahead) rather than experiencing it as a sacred journey within.
This awareness caused me to finally slow down and appreciate the journey I was on. It was at this time that I moved from doing the Camino to being on the Camino.
This realization led me to meet people and have experiences I would have literally walked past had I not made the choice to decelerate my pace and expand my awareness.
One of the amazing people I met after my insight was a middle-aged woman from Toulouse, France named Cecile, . I had met Cecile near the end of my journey, just outside the city of Arzua, about 24 miles from Santiago de Compostela.
On the Camino, pilgrims are directed on the trail by thousands of yellow arrows that mark the way. I had come to a place on the trail where I became confused as two of these yellow arrows were pointing in different directions.
As I began to venture straight ahead, I heard someone shouting to me from behind. It was Cecile. Upon reaching me, she told me the correct trail was actually to the left and we began a walking and talking together.
However, even at my more relaxed pace, I soon found that I was still a much faster walker than her and I excused myself to venture on ahead. I thanked her once again for her help and we both said goodbye to each other with the customary salutation, “Buen Camino!”.
About two to three hours later, I was sitting a café enjoying my lunch (something I would have never stopped to do at the beginning of my journey). The café was adjacent to the trail and I passed the time observing pilgrim after pilgrim walking by.
Soon, Cecile appeared. When she saw me, her eyes lit up and she began waving vigorously to say hello. She came up to my table and asked if she could join me. I happily obliged.
During our conversation, she asked what I did for a living, “I am a life coach,” I responded.
Once again, her eyes lit up and she began to tell me that she was on the Camino because of her life coach. She went on to explain that her boss had insisted she take on a coach because her life had become so terribly imbalanced by her concentrating on nothing but her work. It had become so bad that her supervisor had told her that if she did not begin seeing a coach, she would be fired.
She then went on to tell me how profoundly transformational her Camino had been. “In the three weeks I have been on the trail, I have talked to more people than I have in the last twenty years.”
I raised my eyebrows and slacked my mouth open in astonishment of her sharing, only to be even more astonished when she shared, “Tuesday was my mother’s 82nd birthday. On that day, I gave her a call and for the first time in my life I told her .......................‘I love you’.”
We both sat in sacred silence after her profound sharing. Tears welled up in both of our eyes which then began to roll down each of our cheeks. I realized I had just been witness to a profound healing and opening of another’s heart.
I have no recollection of what we spoke of the rest of time together. What I do remember is continuing on the trail alone afterwards, contemplating “Am I showing up in the best way possible in my own relationships? Am I taking the time to say ‘I love you’ to those who I care about most?
This week, I challenge all of us to slow down and take the time to share with those we love how much they mean to us and how grateful we are for their presence in our lives.
You probably don’t have to walk 500 across Spain to do this. It may simply be a walk down the hallway of your home to visit your son or daughter in their room, a walk across town to visit a friend or a walk to the other room to pick up your phone and call your own mother to say, ‘I love you.’”
These simple steps may be the beginning of your own new Way, the initiation of your own Camino.
Black Belt Leadership Speaking & Coaching
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