PC#28 – The elusive Something Wonderful.

Walking the Camino is like having a baby.

So they tell me.

When a woman has a baby, she gets infused with an extraordinary energy. The same thing happens when you walk the Camino. The energy infusion begins from the moment you decide to do the pilgrimage. The energy builds with the anticipation, and the expectation, of the walk.

And then when you’re there, and you’re finally actually walking the Camino, energy seeps into you with every step along The Way, from the soul imprint of everyone who has trodden that path before.

Every pilgrim who walks the Camino leaves a residue of their soul with each step they take. More on that from a past post here –

(https://pgstheway.com/2013/04/19/day-10-rest-reflection/)

But also you’re also energised by other pilgrims.  It’s a collective experience. Your energy joins with theirs, theirs with yours. So when you finish the Camino, when you get to Santiago, you expect a big payday. You expect fireworks and The Answers to the Big Questions.

Instead, often all you get is a vague sense of nothingness.

Is that it? I’ve walked all this way, and all I get is a sheet of paper? 

This is why the Pilgrim’s Mass is so well attended, I’m sure. Not because everyone who attends that Mass is a Catholic, or that they actually want to take Mass, but because these pilgrims are seeking a moment of closure. They were hoping that the end of the Camino would deliver them something for all that effort, all that pain. They were looking forward to something wonderful at the end of their journey.

What they don’t realise is that something wonderful was in each step they took, not in the final step. 

Women sometimes go into a big slump after they’ve given birth. Post Natal Depression. They’ve lived with that energy flow within them for nine months, and then the baby is born. That energy now resides in the life of that new child. It’s been transferred from the mother.

But at least with birth, you end up with a baby. With the Camino, you’ve got nothing, other than a Compostela and a bunch of memories.

I think this is why a lot of people go on to Finisterre – because Santiago wasn’t enough. They’re still looking for that something wonderful. For that big Full Stop to this long sentence they’ve been writing on their soul, and maybe coming to the End of the World will be that full stop.

When you walk the Camino, you have to understand that there’s a strong possibility that it will end in a whimper, not a wail. So you have to have a plan. Sometimes that plan is to do it again. Sometimes the plan is to simply acknowledge that’s how it will be. Anti-climactic.

You can plan to keep the Camino with you every day. You’re not only a pilgrim when you’re walking in Spain. You can choose to be a pilgrim afterwards, too. Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing.

Remember, the something wonderful isn’t at the end, it’s in every step you take.

Boat in field

45 thoughts on “PC#28 – The elusive Something Wonderful.

  1. Bill,
    Great post. Every word you speak here is so true. Yes, I think that is exactly why so many of us return again to the Camino. Although the end can be somewhat unfulfilling (not unlike the excitement of counting down till Christmas when we were kids), when we remember the entire Way, we are spurred to do it again and sometimes then again.
    Arlene

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  2. Bill,

    I feel like you are writing this post to me. As you well know, I had a plethora of feelings about the Camino and my dedication to it, but in the end, I was glad I had completed it, and after a day of saying never again, I knew that I would have to return. Walking into the Cathedral plaza did not move me so much as it made me happy to know I did not have to walk the next day. I was whupped, as we say in Texas. But, to my utter surprise, Santiago began to speak to me. The most poignant moment came when I stopped by the Cathedral after dinner my last night in Santiago, and while I stood in front of the Cathedral, I heard the most wonderful rendition of “Summertime” from Porgy and Bess being sung from an operatic voice. It surprised me and moved me as it was just haunting in the evening air. As it turned out there were three people in the archway (where there are always entertainers) who must have been opera singers. Two men and a woman, and she was just finishing “Summertime” when I made my way to the archway. There was a big crowd watching and listening, much bigger than I had ever seen for any other entertainment there. I sat and listened for a while. They were truly professional, and in fact, probably were. The next morning I had to make my way back to the cathedral because I finally found out where the statue of St. James that people used to place their hands on were. I had seen it over and over, but not from the correct side, so I had no idea that was it. Walking to the cathedral that morning I heard a mandolin player and I actually got chills. I realized as I made my way back to my hotel that I had not partaken of so much that Santiago, and perhaps the Camino had to offer, and knew that I would have to return, notwithstanding that every day my feet hurt like hell. Your comment about being energized by other pilgrims is right on point, and that is part of what I was trying to communicate a few days back when I was talking about walking alone but feeling the camaraderie of every pilgrim along the way. Thanks for this nice reminder. Steve

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    • Steve, those musicians were your PGS communicating with you.

      It couldn’t get through the other eats it tried, so it slung that at you. And it worked.

      By the way, I DID write this for you!

      Bill

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    • This blog gave me some hope and reinspired me, I had such a terrible training walk with my husband on the 4th I started to think I should not join him. I tend to be a possibility thinker but I was “whupped” by the 8 mile hilly walk we undertook. Even today I was still thinking of bailing out. This did remind me, though that our first section we walked that I was able to accomplish more than I had expected.That collective energy pushed me over the Pyrenees. So maybe “the whupping” should not be an influence my decision making.

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      • Kat, Please don’t bail! Sometimes training can be whupping. Just today I felt so energized when I began my training walk but a whole heck of a lot different at the end almost 9 miles later. There are so many things that can contribute to feeling beaten down. For me it is the extreme heat of the desert where I live.

        I also think it may be better to train alone. This way you do not have to keep up with the pace of another. Yes, having a training partner does help……sometimes……but for the most part I am so much better training alone; the only one I am competing with is myself and the silly GPS that charts my pace. I promise training will get better and the Camino is so worth all the training efforts.
        Arlene

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      • Hi Kat,

        energetically there will be all sorts of circumstances that will present to you, wanting you to bail.

        Push them away. The Camino is yours.

        Bill

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  3. Oh how right you are. I was thinking about the baby analogy the other day. After you have a baby you forget about all the pain, and swollen ankles, and everything that goes with a pregnancy and birth. You just remember the good stuff. Until you’re there again and you realize “What the hell was I thinking?” Every day (and it’s only two weeks since finishing) I feel an ache and a pull to return. Yes, I had blisters. Yes, my knee ached for 90% of it. Yes, I complained about the weather. But I want to go back so badly. I see a yellow arrow on the sidewalk for some sewer maintenance, and I instinctively look in the direction it’s pointing.

    I chatted with a Spaniard in a bar after the Camino, he was full of sadness that it was finished and he would have to back to his regular life. That feeling of a simple, uncomplicated life would be over. How does one maintain that feeling when there is work, activities, so many people, chores, etc. My mind already feels overwhelmed.

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  4. Interesting thoughts Bill. We have just finished our first trial walk, 12 1/2 km or close to 8 miles with 5 kg or 12 lbs in a backpack, and I was wondering how we will feel at the end of ours in the middle of October. I will reflect on your words and take counsel from them. Peter

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    • Hey Peter, you’re absolutely doing the right thing in training with your pack on – but not having it full weight at this stage.

      Also, try and do some walking, if you’re not doing it already, on bush tracks with uneven surfaces. Your tendons and ligaments need to get used to the irregular terrain that you’ll face on the Camino.

      The thngi about training is that it not only physically prepares you, it also psychologically prepares you. It gives you confidence to know that you’ve climbed up a mountain, that you’ve carried your pack for so many hours etc.

      Of course, nothing can replicate the demands of the daily stages, nor should you over-train, because that can lead to injury. You’re doing exactly the right thing at the moment.

      Bill

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  5. Oh my goodness. I can’t wait to read what the next posts will be. I have not yet walked the Camino – that starts in Sept – and I’m already wondering what will happen when I return home after the Camino. Will I revert to my way of life as it’s been (not bad, just needing some improvements). My life is already relatively simple, and I experience many of the “unexplained” experiences and guidance others who have walked the Camino talk about. But I would like to become more trusting, a little more out-going, less judgmental (tho’ I’ve been working on that with some success, but still have a long way to go), and a few other improvements. But IF those come to me on the Camino or shortly thereafter, how do I hang on to them?

    Thank you Bill and all the followers of this blog for all the wisdom, trust, and kindnesses you have shared!

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    • Hi Terry, as I said in the post, the energetic benefits kick in from the moment you decide to do it.

      It seems that you’re well on The Way, even though you haven’t yet stepped foot on the Camino!

      Thanks for joining us.

      Bill

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    • If these things are truly a gift of the Spirit, they will be impossible to lose.

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  6. Hi Bill,
    Thank you for this post,you bring up some very important thoughts. Again 🙂

    I remember realizing that one never ‘arrives” in life, but rather undertakes a journey. It shifts the perspective in a way that is very freeing, allowing for each experience, indeed each day, to be savoured and appreciated for what it is, rather than part of a race for the finish line (hopefully as the winner).

    Steve, your description of the music in the streets of Santiago was beautiful. I had a similar experience once, inside the walls of the old city of Rhodes. It was an early Sunday morning, the streets were deserted. then came the music of a single violin, filling the empty square with beauty. Someone was sitting in a doorway, playing just for me. At least I took it as a gift, and remember it to this day, more than 35 years later, as a beautiful moment in my life.

    Bill I really appreciate the reminder to take each day of my Camino as a gift for what it brings, and not simply as something I have to get through to get to Santiago.

    Debra

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    • Debra, Funny how music can set the stage for any event in life and have such a profound impact. I thought it was so eerie and strange to be hearing that old American tune while standing in front of the cathedral. I only wish now that I had gone back and offered them several euros to sing it again so that I could savor the complete experience, but that was a pivotal point on my being in Santiago, and perhaps my Camino. Then, it was reinforced the next morning by the mandolin player playing some haunting, yet unfamiliar tune. If we open our hearts and minds, many new things are free to enter. As an aside, I found myself singing aloud and whistling along the Camino. I only knew the complete words to one song, so I used it. With my poor hearing, I never know the entire lyrics to any song unless I download them and read them, but that does not stop the enjoyment of the tune. Steve

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      • Steve that is a great experience. The mandolin is so special too, one doesn’t hear it often. After my husband passed away in Switzerland, my 2 small daughters and I went to spend several weeks on a Greek island where we had been several times as a family. We would go for long tramps across the countryside and along the seacoast. As we walked we sang every Sunday School song we could remember, (all those Psalty tapes, remember those??) mostly to get the girls to keep walking so we could get back at a decent time! We would also sing in the car on long drives. It was actually a wonderful thing, now that I am remembering it. I don’t listen to a lot of contemporary music, and have never used an ipod or equivalent. (I actually don’t understand the need to be always be plugged into earphones). So I may be walking and singing old hymns whose lyrics seem to be stored in the brain forever….

        Debra.

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        • Debra, That reminds me that I also sang Zic-Zac Zebra and Little Ducky Duddle as I learned those lyrics before I could walk and while my hearing was still quite acute.

          Steve

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  7. Bill, the Camino has to be approached thoughtfully remembering that throughout life its the journey and not the destination that will help to form you into a person living fully and joyfully.Its your feet, your spirit, your soul that will be affected so any permanent or far reaching change is going to happen within , not at the end of a road, or a cathedral.The places you end in are still part of your life’s journey, and its the pilgrim, not the pilgrimage itself that will change. The beauty of this is that you take it with you, and it can never be taken from you. Return home knowing that the Camino is a process still working in you, and you aren’t going to have an.epiphany

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  8. Bill, the Camino has to be approached thoughtfully remembering that throughout life its the journey and not the destination that will help to form you into a person living fully and joyfully.Its your feet, your spirit, your soul that will be affected so any permanent or far reaching change is going to happen within , not at the end of a road, or a cathedral.The places you end in are still part of your life’s journey, and its the pilgrim, not the pilgrimage itself that will change. The beauty of this is that you take it with you, and it can never be taken from you. Return home knowing that the Camino is a process still working in you, and you aren’t going to have an.epiphany the moment you walk in any door. It develops on the inside, matures and stays with you, for life.

    like a fine wine, and remains growing within forc

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    • How come I’m the only person whose posts get screwed up, chewed up, and spit out?!This program has something against me!

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      • Ah, but just think, Sister, how the rest of us get lots of LOL moments whenever your machinery goes astray … I say keep it up and like those ripples all those smiley faces will come back to shine on you!!

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          • While writing my blog, I have lost entire posts as well as lengthy comments into the wordpress vacumn, never to be seen again. And there is some law that dictates that the longer the post or comment, the more likely to lose it. Steve

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          • I guess I was getting a complex because it seemed it was only happening to me!So often I just get to the end of a post that came out well-and it vanishes or reprints the last sentence twice.

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    • Dear Sister –

      I think in life we’ve come to expect some kind of pay-off to effort, and the bigger the effort, the bigger the prize at the end of it all.

      Many people walk the Camino hoping that it will answer a question they might have been carrying with them – should I go through with the divorce, should I go through with the marriage, what should I do with my life now that I’ve finished college/quit my job/been fired from my job/retired/lost my life partner.

      They are hoping that the Camino will answer that question for them, and sometimes it does, and sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes it takes quite a while after for walk for the answer to become apparent.

      But that doesn’t stop a natural expectation for that answer – or for something – to be waiting for them at the end of their long and arduous pilgrimage. And when it’s not there, they feel let down. Like the Camino hasn’t fulfilled its end of the bargain. They’ve fulfilled theirs. They’ve walked the distance. But the Camino has welched.

      Actually, the Camino doesn’t welch – what it does is say: Let me get back to you on that.

      And eventually it does

      bill

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      • Is it the Camino, per se, that we may expect some life changing event from? Is that partly because of all we have read and heard about it and it’s ability to change lives and bring clarity to cloudy thinking? Is it a pivotal event in one’s life? Or is it just another stepping stone for people who are looking for life’s answers to their known or unknown questions? Could it be that any walk of several hundred kilometers might bring the same introspective thinking? Or is it the ghosts of pilgrims past that makes the Camino special? Is the Camino special, or just a great venue for introspective thinking, and of course, that alone could make it special? No doubt it is special for many reasons, but is it alone a pivotal event? Are we changed forever because of the Camino, or because we opened our hearts and minds to a spiritual awakening in hopes of giving more clarity and fulfillment to our lives? I am afraid I am beginning to get redundant, so I will quit, but these are the questions that have been rolling around in my head since returning and as I read each and every post on this blog. I don’t always respond, but I always read, as it is obvious that many of you do as well. It is a thought provoking forum. I walked the Camino thinking ahead of time that it would be impossible to walk several hundred kilometers or miles, endure the physical hardships, embrace the alone times, and mingle with others of similar thought without having some sense of change in our lives. For me, I think it raised more questions than it answered. It opened my mind to keep seeking more meaning in my life. I also think it allowed me to become more patient both with myself and the world around me. Hopefully, it is a stepping stone to be more gentle with myself and to continue the quest of personal fulfillment. Perhaps others have these same questions.

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      • Sister, At least you don’t get a lecture. I tried to put a post on Peter’s blog yesterday. When I hit post comment, this message came up in large type. “Waiting for moderation.” I could neither post nor edit. Finally I just closed the site and slunk away. I haven’t gone back to check it yet to see if judgement is still brought down on me or if it finally, along with my comment, gone into the wordpress round file.

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        • Its funny the way some computer messages are worded, isn’t it? The first time I saw.”waiting for moderation”, I thought, “Oh..no! What did I say?” And I slunk off,too!

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  9. Hi to all you wonderful PGS Bloggers,
    SisterClare I just want you to know that you are not the only one who has trouble with CyberGremlins I do too. On Thursday evening I was busy typing up a response to some things that had stirred me from the blogs of earlier in the week, when my iPad felt that it needed to visit another website that I had last been in the week before when I was still in Santiago. When I went back to the PGS site all that I had written was gone not to be found – like socks in the washing machine.
    Bill I walked my Camino wanting for The Way to work in me from the inside out, and it did. It is what was happening on the outside of me, in the the places I was walking, the things I was seeing, the people I met, the feelings and attitudes that I had each day, that worked from the outside in. Very much an outside in, inside out, process each day. That too is how I want to continue my Camino each day now that I am home.
    Steve I heard those very same musicians last week singing in Rua Villar, on my first night in Santiago they were singing in the the street just below the window of my room, I so enjoyed being serenaded as I lay in my bed, after a most overwhelming day, it was the day I completed the Camino, and I was just exhausted, not only from walk from O Pedrouza but from the turmoil of emotion.

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    • Thank you, thank you for saying you also have cyber problems.

      I really admire the insights you have already had from your Camino! I think it helps reassure and inspire others who have finished their walk and feel confused to.know that when the time is right for them,they will find clarity,too.Its an individual experience, with unique effects for each pilgrim.And it takes time!

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    • Sandy – that’s a great way of looking at it – Inside out and Outside in.

      Very true.

      Sometimes though it’s very difficult to hold onto the principals of being a pilgrim.

      You just have to get a mantra going – saying under your breath: I’m a pilgrim, I’m a pilgrim I’m a pilgrim.

      Then hope that someone doesn’t think you’re loopy and call the police

      Bill

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      • What if, instead of walking the Camino with the expectation of receiving something, rather walk it in the spirit of sacrifice? Plan only to give of yourself, your energy, your time, your thoughts, your prayers. Every step a gift of sacrifice. Perspective shifts from “what am I going to gain from this experience” (and the potential disappointment or discouragement when results don’t meet expectations) to “what do I give today”. (with no expectations at all, therefore at the end no disappointment, but who know? perhaps a heart open to accept any gift)
        Bill’s original and continuing sacrifice throughout the journey was the laying aside of Fear. I think that choice was incredibly inspired, as it is Fear that brings us down.

        Debra

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        • Debra, so very true. Fear is debilitating. And pain is a function of fear.

          I did an earlier post, where I posed the notion that you shouldn’t necessarily consider what you can get from the Camino, but what you can give to the Camino.

          Also Debra, I’ve just found your comment / post on yoga, and will get back to you after I’ve given it some thought because what you raise is complex, and warrants some consideration.

          Bill

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  10. Sounds good Bill. I am off to count sheep now. (Though we just have 8, not the hoards I really need to count to get a good nights sleep!) I will look up that past post for a re-read too. The conversations here have been very inspiring, and certainly are helping me prepare in many ways for the Camino.

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    • Debra, I was thinking about something else you mentioned on your “yoga post”, about the different kinds of spirits in the world, both good and bad.Its wonderful to hear so many stories about feeling light,love, insight and guidance while on the Camino, and I think one of the beautiful transformations Pilgrims experience is a re-dawning awareness of the good, holy and loving spirits around us.But it would be naive to think there isn’t a very real.presence of dark and evil spirits, too.They are sneaky.They can be the source of feelings that come from nowhere and disript tbe progress we are trying to make, instilling doubt, jealousy, mistrust, suspicion to name only a few. When I read about training walks causing doubts about healthy ability, crippling anxieties about leaving home, and the very common fear of.not finding a bed at the end of a long Camino day, those dark, malicious little spirits come to mind. There is only one way to fight them in the Christian faith-prayer and meditation. There are no charms to protect you or secret little rites with a medium that will scare them off, because they are the opposite of God, and only He can overcome them

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  11. Thank you once again, Bill and Bloggers. Giving birth to a precious bundle of joy, a baby, is a life changing experience. There us the preparation and anticipation, the planning and organising. It becomes an opportunity to give unconditional love, to place the needs of others before your own, to give and not count the cost, to share, compromise, adjust the sails to meet the conditions, experience the highs and lows, sleep well or have disturbed nights. I guess that is very much what I expect the Camino to be like.
    I will continue to develop this analogy as I prepare .
    Blessings
    Anne

    By the way, I lose postings also, when using WordPress. Just lost a long response to Steve. 😦

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    • “To give and not to count the cost” is one of the lines of my Order’s mission prayer! Bill is right. There are no coincidences! The original prayer in its entirety was written by St Ignatius

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