This post should get some discussion going!
I thought it was worth starting up a new post on this subject, because I notice it’s being discussed on another page, and I think it deserves a page (or two!) on its own.
The argument being put is that you should listen to your body when you feel pain. Pain is the body’s alert mechanism that tells you something’s not right. That you should stop what you’re doing, attend to the pain and the underlying cause or causes.
If you don’t listen to your body, if you override pain’s warning, then you risk damage to your body – and perhaps serious permanent damage.
I believe that’s correct.
But I also believe there is pain and there is pain.
Everyone who walks the Camino experiences pain. If everyone who walked the Camino listened to their bodies, very few would finish.Β
Dealing with pain I believe is part of the Camino experience.
For me, pain humbled me. Pain became an incredibly important part of my catharsis. Arguably, if I hadn’t experienced the pain I did, I would not have undergone the metaphysical changes that have subsequently had such a profound effect on my life.
Without pain, my Camino would not have been as much of a spiritual journey as it turned out to be, because at times the pain put me into a transcendent state.
I saw people give up the Camino because of pain. They would go to a nurse, or a doctor, and they would be told that they would have to rest up for two weeks, or stop. So they went home.
Of course a medical professional is going to advise you to stop. That’s their job. That’s what they’re trained to do. I felt that many pilgrims were relieved to have this professional advice, because it gave them legitimacy to stop.
Then there were those that had serious structural ailments and of course they had to stop. That’s just common sense. You can’t walk on a broken leg. You can’t walk if you’ve got life threatening asthma and there’s pollen in the air. You can’t walk if your knees are shot.
But there is pain and there is pain.
Blisters are painful. Bah! Unless you’re going to get gangrene and risk amputation, you can walk through blister pain. You treat the blister, you monitor it, but you keep walking. Tendonitis is painful. That’s more serious. But how many people have walked the Camino with tendonitis?
Let me state this very clearly and unambiguously –
- I am stupid.
- Don’t listen to me.
- Don’t do what I do, or did.
I’ve only ever written this blog from personal experience, to document those experiences so that some of you might get something from what I’ve done. But I’ve never tried to foist my point of view on anyone. Or tell anyone what to do.
If I’d given up in Pamplona, when my knee was the size of a balloon and my pain was immeasurable, I would have regretted that the rest of my life.
I rested for a day, I lightened my backpack, I iced my knee, I bought trekking poles, I took anti-inflammatories, then I continued on. And later during the walk I had more pain, and I continued on.
I got to Santo Domingo and the nurse there said I should take a week off. I took a day off, and kept walking. AndΒ I finished the Camino. And it will go down as one of my great achievements in life.
And it’s changed my life.
I don’t say this because I’m a tough guy, or macho, or that I’m better than someone who stopped. I hate pain. I’m a complete wuss. But, I had a particular need. That need was to finish the Camino. That’s all I wanted to do. And I was prepared to put that need ahead of anything else, including my own well being.
Is that achievement any greater because I walked through pain? No. I wished I hadn’t had the pain. But that’s what the Camino threw at me, to humble me, to literally bring me to my knees, to force me to look at my life from a new perspective.
There is pain and there is pain.
Listen to your body, then you decide what’s best to do.
Don’t do what I did. Necessarily…
Let me be the first to post a comment –
After I matriculated from high school, I went to university and studied Medicine. I was going to be a doctor. I stayed long enough in Med School to know that I was not cut out to be a doctor.
So I switched across to an Arts Law degree, majoring in Mandarin Chinese and Journalism. Later I was offered a job at the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, and my life went a different direction.
All my family are medical professionals. My parents were both dentists, my brother is a vet, my sister heads up the Social Work department at one of Queensland’s biggest hospitals, and my other sister is a speech therapist, married to a doctor.
Most of my long time school friends are doctors. So I have an enormous regard for the medical profession.
I don’t post this blog with any disrespect for medical professionals, nor do I advocate overriding your body’s natural defence mechanisms. That’s crazy.
But there is such a thing as pain management. And after a while, you get to know your body, and know what you’re capable of. And you know when that pain must be attended to – otherwise you’re going to be in serious strife.
Since this is the first time for a few days I can log on, I guess I am a bit behind everyone…so I am going to just tell a bit of my story.
Not long into Bill’s Camino, I realized how much in pain he was by simply remembering my own time. I had finally started to my voice recordings and had gotten to the day I call my “Waterlool” . 10 km into the Calzada Romana, no pilgrim around (because I had ask for that the night before… I had had enough of the noise), One step, I am ok, the next one I couldn’t bear weight. I have 1 walking stick that becomes my substitute leg and I hobble along, just to magically come across a female pilgrim who had taken siesta. Her name was Christine, she was from the Ukraine and she was a foot specialist. How camino magic like is that! She looks at my ankle and shakes her head and says, you are not going to keep walking, this is bad. We ice it (I had one of those gelpacks for the neck in my pack), some ipuproven cream, I take my magnetic insoles out and brace my leg, we bandage and she helps me to Reliegos and walks off, never to be seen again. Next morning I get taxied to the emergency in Leon, have xrays done they show no break, but the doctor tells me 4 days rest, with heavy duty Voltaren pills (those were bullets), voltaren cream, icing, dont walk much, take it easy and then try, slowly. Be careful, short distance, lots of meds, 4 days later I continue, with walk 1 day, bus 1 day. till I walked from Villafranca to Vega de Valcarce, to stay with friends in A. do Brasil.
The meds helped, the swelling was on and off, every time I got up to start walking, the first 5 steps were agony, as if a hot poker was being shoved up my leg, then it was tolerable and I just kept walking on, because sitting down and starting over was an agony. I had an easier time walking uphill and downhill, the flats were agony.
The day I reached Vega de Valcarce and I took my shoe and socks off , there was a unified exclamation of horror… my ankle was black… I had never seen that before and this was the first time I truly feared I had done major damage.
I decide to taxi the next morning to Samos and find my equilibrium again and figure out, what to do next. I transport onto Sarria, and meet another pilgrim who turns out to be a doctor, who takes me to the local pharmacy and fits me with the proper brace and tells me to go home.
At this point, that just was not an option. If I had had to crawl, I would have done so to get to Santiago.
I shuffled on and met Stuart my archangel who adopted me, because I was a peculiar person and needed to figure me out. We walked till Arcos o Pino about 20 km from Santiago, and then on October 20 of last year, my 60 birthday, I started at 7 am in the morning and I reached Santiago at 4:30 p.m. all along the way, meeting up with pilgrims long lost and them remembering my birthday and wishing and singing Happy BIrthday in all kinds of languages.
I had made it, with the help of meds,, angel pilgrims, camino magic.
Had they told me in Leon that my leg was broken, I would have gone home of course. AND yes the leg was broken, in 2 places, just above the ankle. That I found out once back in Canada and worried that I still was in so much pain. They slapped a cast on me then.
What did I learn about myself: I can tolerate a lot of pain and ignorance is bliss. I also experienced 2 Caminos for the price of 1. My very healthy (not a blister or any other aches before my Waterloo), happy go lucky, 59 year old women, not in too great shape, but outwalking the young ones, once they had busted their knees and shins and walked with baloon sized blisters.
To the shuffling peregrina, totally depended on the Camino magic, the healing energy, the help and the love of the spanish people given to all pilgrims, To slow down and see, listen, touch, feel, things I never would have experience uninjured.
DOES one have to experience pain and injury on the Camino to have the Camino experience…. Heck NO, But, I was taught so much about myself, how I react and act in a stage of panic, dispair, loss of control , fear, and all the joy and love and energy and acceptance of who Ingrid is.
That inner journey back to myself with such intensity happened on the second half.
I knew you’d broken your leg but I’d never heard this full story from you before. All the detail. My God – you are incredible.
And what an experience you had. And arriving on your 60th birthday? That too is incredible. I bet that’s what kept you going.
That will be an experience you will keep with you for the rest of your life.
Can I ask – how did you break your leg? Particularly in 2 places?
I am a firm believer in knowing ones own body and knowing when to run for medical intervention and when to run from that same intervention.
As I’ve said before, I personally take a more naturopathic approach to healing. My belief is – and I know I am opening myself to much disagreement – medical doctors have been taught to either prescribe drugs or to perform surgery and that for the most part is exactly what they do.
For myself, I do not wish to heal by use of chemically created concoctions unless all else fails and certainly do not want surgery if I can avoid it. I would first look at my diet, then I would seek the aid of hands-on healers (chiropractors, acpuncturists, reflexologists, etc). If that failed I would then seek a doctor practicing naturopathic medicine.
What I am saying, Bill, is I agree with you wholeheartedly. Let your body heal itself – that is precisely what it is designed to do.
Hi Arlene –
couldn’t agree more.
The body I believe has a self-righting mechanism. It wants to be healthy.
And often there are natural ways to do that.
For instance I think carefully considered yoga will help heal my knee.
But as for pain – everyone approaches pain differently. And pain can be switched on and off. In other words, you can say: Okay, I get it , you’re warning me that there’s an issue with my foot. Thanks very much for that. I’ll get back to you after I get to the next town.
There’s no right or wrong with this stuff – each person has to consider pain according to their own knowledge of their bodies, their past history of medical issues, etc.
I don’t know that we are saying anything any different. Although my hip pain was nothing compared to your knee pain, I continued To walk with the hip pain. But I knew that my hip pain was not going to cause any permanent damage, just some discomfort each day. You are right in saying there is pain and then there is plain. There is pain that is just discomfort and there is pain that can cause serious injury. The trick is to know the difference and act accordingly. Would I have walked with your knee pain and finished the Camino? Probably not. Not because I am not tough enough but because I would be concerned about permanent injury. Of course i was not obsessed with the Camino as you were, and i know that, notwithstanding your continuing physical pain, you more than offset that with your spiritual gain and sense of accomplishment. You are a remarkable man whom i am proud to call friend. There is no right or wrong answer. It is uniquely personal.
Dear Steve –
you too are remarkable and I’m proud also to call you friend, or “mate!”
I have to say, I’m pleased I didn’t have those x rays before I walked the Camino, because I might not have finished.
I really don’t know.
I guess that’s why my PGS kept me away from those pesky doctors!!
No doubt, and today it matters not. All that matters now is what you do about it today.
Bill, again a thought-provoking post.
Pain can be physical, psychological, spiritual, emotional. The pain endured by each person is known only unto them. Some seek advice, some seek a “quick fix”, some ignore, some research, some give up, but ultimately each of us has to listen to our bodies, as you have so rightly said. Each of us has to make our own decisions and no one else can be critical of that decision. After all, no one else lives in our own bodies and experiences what we do.
The tragedy of psychological / emotional pain is often misinterpreted. As we know, mental health issues are on the increase. The pain of rejection, depression, distress, grief, anxiety – all are challenging and sadly, it seems that not all can be fixed. One has to want to be healed.
Spiritual pain – I’ll leave that to Sister. π
Many years ago, when I was much younger, lacked wisdom and believed what I was told by a surgeon, I agreed to have him carve up my foot, hoping it would cure me of the pain I had. It was invasive, it was extremely painful, it took a chunk out of my life as I recovered and it failed!! Subsequently, I have had 2 further operations to try and repair the damage, 23 years of constant pain, my foot is hideous, but I can still walk. And yes, I am going to walk my Camino. I will listen to my body and do what I have to do, but, like you, I have a goal. I want to have the strength to overcome the pain and reach my goal.
Thankyou again, for inspiring, challenging and opening your heart and soul [ sole].
Now, time to go for a walk.
Dear Anne –
it’s great to hear your story. Particularly it’s great to hear that you haven’t let what’s happened to your foot handicap you.
and good on you for doing the Camino! It will be challenging – but how can change happen if you’re not challenged?
Change doesn’t happen through stasis.
I happened to stumble upon a documentary on tv here the other night. It was about three Aussie girls who were surfers down in Victoria, and how they went to Hawaii to try and be pro surfers.
Part way into the documentary the film looked at this other girl – similar age – and she only had one arm. And she was the most amazing surfer. I watched the footage of her surfing, and I couldn’t believe it. How did she get to her feet, for starters? You need both hands, arms, to push yourself up onto your feet on the board. She did it effortlessly with just one arm.
What I’m saying is that we can all overcome physical disabilities, or disorders, if we set our mind to it. And sometimes that means living within particular boundaries.
But still we live.
thank you for your wonderful post, and also thank you for saying those lovely things about this blog.
Just give yourself plenty of time so that you can listen to your body and gauge your distances and rest days accordingly. Otherwise, you will be driven by time and not by how you are feeling.
Bill, The key is “within particular boundaries”. I think that girl’s name is Bethany for some reason. I remember her story. It is amazing. A shark ate her other arm. Many limitations are self imposed, but no matter how much he willed it, Christopher Reeves was never going to walk again.
That’s so very true Steve –
Steve, I remember seeing a film about that Bethany -didn’t she have her arm bitten off when she,was twelve or thirteen?An excellent surfer,on her way to becoming even better! You’ve said a lot of things tonight that are so right, and make perfect sense.I couldn’t be more in agreement. Pain is such a personal thing, though ,isn’t it? I remember a study about five years ago that stated they were discovering that no two people feel pain the same way.Some people have high pain thresholds,too, which makes another set of variables. As you say, its absolutely personal.
Yeah, that is the one. I think she was 15 at the time several years back.
My lingering thought with all this is: would it have been less of an achievement for you to have slowed down, walked fewer kms each day, taken more breaks, even long ones? Could you not have both finished the Camino AND had a good knee to boot? Is this being made into an either/or situation when it needn’t have been.
I understand this is your personal story, I appreciate that you advise others not to copy you;-) I just wonder if it would be beneficial to look at it form a both/and point of view instead of an either/or. This needn’t change your lack of regret – or even your mind – but it’s just another way of seeing the situation.
Hi Rachael –
I know we’ve had this conversation before. And of course I can’t argue with you. What you say is absolutely correct, and sound.
I’m just wired a particular way, that’s all.
That said, I’m going to take it much easier on my next Camino. I could not imagine myself walking more than 25kms a day, and preferably less.
Maybe that Camino re-wired me
Popeye put it succinctly. “I yam what i yam”.
you look like Popeye by the way!!
(And Jill looks like Oliver Oil.)
You tell her. π
I know how tough Olive Oil is!
Right about that.
Maybe now you can be a both/and guy. It takes a strong bloke to manage that;-)
Maybe you could start by redefining pussy and wuss! Something like “someone who continues to pigheadedly proceed with an action that they know to be detrimental” as opposed to “someone who cannot manage at least 20km a day.”
You could have a PGS dictionary as part of your book!
All the best.
haha Rachael, you make me laugh –
you’re right again – and the Camino is of no purpose if you don’t learn, and grow.
Unless you do, it becomes an athletic exercise, and a showcase for bravura and ego.
I’ve never seen it as that, and certainly don’t intend to in the future.
I’ve learned some pretty massive lessons in the past four months or so, believe me.
Have you learned the dangers of walling with a bum knee?
I didn’t need to learn that. I knew it already.
That’s why I said I was stupid!
Ok, the blog isn’t going to let me respond individually to you all tonight. Soooooooooooo here are my comments all at once. Although I do believe that the body can heal itself somewhat, there are conditions that cannot be “cured” but managed. I happen to have have three of them and take medication daily for all of them. For me, the medications allow me to do more each day. I, like many of you it seems, had years stolen from me because of chronic pain, so I am happy that I can take some medications that help me live a fairly normal life now. I DO believe that emotional and spiritual health can affect our physical health. Two of my favorite books on the subject are written by Candace Pert, PhD: Molecules of Emotion and Everything You Need to Know to Feel G(o)od.
And Bill, I love your commentary about if everyone who had pain while walking the Camino stopped, very few people would finish. I think many things in life are like this. Most people who run marathons or climb mountains experience pain, as do most professional athletes. Even people who participate in religious fasting or those who stay up all night studying or writing papers for school experience some sort of pain. And consider this….if we all avoided pain we would never fall in love again after that first heartbreak, and women (and probably a fair number of men) would quit having children after that first one.
The benefits obviously outweigh the pain in most of these cases….and most of the time people learn that they are much more resilient as a human being than they ever thought possible.
Love this conversation, as usual!
Dear Julie –
and as usual, you bring something very fresh to the discussion!
You’re right about the examples you choose – the athletes and the scholars and those that push themselves to climb mountains or do things that others wouldn’t ordinarily do –
Sister Clare said something very very wise about pain not long ago – she said, and I hope I’m getting this correct, that you shouldn’t let the pain define you. When she said that to me, it really hit home. When we’re confronted with pain, we make make choices about how we deal with it.
That in part is what I wanted this blog to be about – how various people deal with pain.
I chose to ride roughshod over it, and I will pay for it. But that’s something I wanted to do. I wanted to complete the pilgrimage at all cost.
And as you say Julie, it’s only when you are challenged do you learn things about yourself, about how resilient you are. These are good things to learn.
I feel like a wise old aunt to you guys.
There is no simple answer.
You should certainly “listen to your body” but you must ignore it when it tells you to lounge in front of the TV all day.(Which mine tends to do.) A bit of pain here and there is no big deal.
There is no general rule. Sometimes following your doctor’s advice is best.
We all must make the best guess, weighing the factors we value. Sometime it works out poetically; sometimes it doesn’t.
THERE IS NO WAY OF KNOWING. We can only stack the odds as much in our favour as possible. I am inclined to go with my doctors’ advice more often than not.
I am not big on PGS or whatever. Use “common sense” and you have the best possible chance that is in your control.
Bill – I think I would normally have given the advice of stopping your camino. However, clearly you had a stronger need that made the pilgrimage more important than your knees. So be it. You did right. But who would have known? No one!
I like to think that if you had made a different decision along the camino, you could have achieved an equally transformative state through a different route.
Hi – is it Clare?
You raise an interesting question –
I like to think that if you had made a different decision along the camino, you could have achieved an equally transformative state through a different route.
I might well have – I’ll never know, of course. But the bigger question is – Did I need to walk the Camino to achieve a transformative state?
Sometimes this can happen through circumstances out of your control – the dead of someone close to you, for instance, or an event which dramatically changes your life, such as a bushfire which burns down everything you own, or a flood, or having the bank repossess your farm after a period of drought.
These things can bring a transformative change.
All I know is this – I had a very strong and totally irrational need to walk the Camino. I say irrational because as you know, I’m not Catholic and I don’t necessarily subscribe to Christian teachings.
(When I went to get the x-ray, the hospital clerk had to fill out a registration form for me and he asked me for my religion. I paused, and I laughed, and said: Good question. The question really flummoxed me.)
Anyway, I had a very strong need to walk the Camino, and then when I was confronted by pain, I had a need to keep going, no matter what. People who saw me through that period know how hard it was for me. I was grey with pain. But I had to keep going. Was that sensible? Most probably not. But that’s what I did. And now, sitting here in Mudgee at my typewriter, dreading having to stand and get a cup of tea because I know my knee will hurt like hell, I have absolutely no regrets.
But yes, I probably could have achieved spiritual and transformational change other ways. You’re right.
I absolutely love you, mate, for positing these questions! Now, PGS, for me, means Peter’s Good Sense… I’m in a cute Pension… The one just before the old bridge when you come off the Camino in Zibiri! I knew about the stream there, so the first thing I did when I got to the bottom, was cross the bridge… No. I first went down to the stream, then noticed there was shade on the other side, so backtracked over to the other side, I also noticed this little Pension with WiFi. There has been no wifi at all until now. I took off my wonderful botas, (boots), and sox and put my feet in the cold mountain stream. Oh my God… Totally worth it… Other hikers came… “Is it good?”, they asked, in Spanish… I rolled my eyes in ecstasy… Body language works beautifully on the Camino You can take care of yourself in so many ways here, wherever you are. Put ice on painful body hurts… This is a good thing. Ice is better than heat. I decided, right then, that I wanted to stay in that 30 euro, Pension, by the stream… Just the sound of the stream is a healing thing! I got it, the last room. A lovely, cheery woman came down… No English, but that didn’t matter I got the gist of what she was talking about…got my pilgrim stamp, paid, washed my clothes and showered… I’m now good. I, on only my third day, have seen lots of pilgrims, most of them in some sort of pain, whether it be existential pain they’d carried there… (This is me, by the way), or blisters… I’ve already seen others with bandaged feet, knees, arms… People deaf, handicapped in many other ways… Very old people, very young people… Large to enormous people, who uncannily, have signed up for this. It’s the big ones, women mostly who, just with their own body weight, are carrying the equivalent to two backpacks, have added to that a back pack that looks like one of those small refrigerators that you see sometimes. It’s amazing. They say you carry your fears in your pack… I’ve experienced this and I see it. Add to this the heat at noontime.
A woman I met at Orisson Hostel, asked how my hike was, from Orrison, to Roncesvalles… For she it was another difficult day… too hot… and she felt beaten… probably would stay there an extra day. she was overweight and struggling. For me, it was amazingly gentle, and beautiful, not too hot, with canopied paths through beautiful old beech forests… The first downhill path was painful using muscles that aren’t often used… My legs were shaking, and they hurt…. But I view pain as getting stronger… And I like to help people who feel defeated by their pain understand that they have already begun to get stronger, by what they have just achieved… There’s a lot of stuff… Psychic stuff going on here.
It’s like a vacuum sucking you along to Compostella… A lot of love, a lot of possibility for change and growth… I think this is what you saw and got into. This is what makes you go.
I became very angry with myself last night for falling in with the wrong crowd… Old habits that I want to change… I felt that I had gotten lost again, but I pulled myself away in time enough to make the end of the Pilgrim Mass just as the Eucharist had been served… And then the older priest invites all peregrinos forward for the wonderful blessing. It felt so good! But it took me a long time to go to sleep as I roiled in my inner pain. But I brought tools! To take care of myself… I have many.
In this case, I brought along one of my favorite books… Arthur Ransome’s “Swallows and Amazons”, a story about children in pre WW2 England who go adventuring on a lake in the Lake District in Northern England, is magic medicine for me. I use it to encourage enchantment. Sort of like Ignatian Spirituality: how to notice God in everything. This helped me today. Well, it helped me last night to… It got me to sleep, finally, instead of using a couple of Ambien tabs I have. But today, I spent the morning carrying a lot of anger. I walked through cow shit, sheep shit, but mostly it was my own shit… And I decided that it was possible to also, like the other beasts, I can leave a lot of shite,sheise, shit, on this church aisle of the Camino… And that’s a good thing… It’s gonna take while. But doable. I blew my harmonica after hearing some accordion music coming from a house… I clapped and taunted a huge group of racing Italian cyclists roaring down through Bergeta village… But what eventually took me through to Zibiri, quickly and amazingly was whistling and eventually singing with some tears and also what I’ve come to call wracking “man cries”… No tears, just wrack, was ” If I only had a heart, a brain, da nerve”. From The Wizard of Oz, probably the best pilgrim story we all know…With walking steps and using poles for the rhythm…helped me along… I also, at one place on a lovely bowery path, spied a little blue feather… Turned around, picked it up, put it in one of my ballcap’s vent holes…. And flew to Zubiri and got this room way ahead of the crowd. The curative power of enchantment at work.
I literally got lost on the first day and walked 10k, before I hiked up to Orrison. Don’t know how. I was devastated and ashamed… And used up. It made the extreme steepness more than that. My asthma kicked in, tough to breath… It only got steeper. I took a lot of breaks and questioned whether I could manage going on. I sat down to rest, jet lagged still, and had a brief nod… Which gave me the energy to get to the Bier Shtubbe… Which is what it is, when a taxi showed up and two big blonde Swedish women got out… Then, the next day, I picked up after them as they sniffled and left tissue paper all along the trail. “Leave No Trace”, is not a concept in Europe. And by the way… JabbaPapa wrote something on this blog that helped me tremendously… The pilgrim who is lost, is the purest of pilgrims… This is the condition of pilgrim… It augured well. Buen Camino
Swallows and Amazons……..and right away I am ten years old again, lying on the dock in the August sun, reading,getting lost in the words..and tacking into the wind.
how beautifully expressed.
I’m not with you on the dock!
Oh, sorry, Bill. A dock is a small boatdock or pier, usually wooden, built on a lake and for one or two families to tie up their boats and canoes,adjacent to a cottage. At my godmothers cottage there was a small dock hidden under some overhanging trees. I used to sit on it, my feet hanging in the water, watching the rock bass and minnows. It was also a wonderful place to lie on my stomach and read, the sound and scent of the water like some hypnotic summer vapour, sun on my back,breeze blowing through my hair. There was no one else around, and it was one of my life’s favourite spots.
Hi Sister –
how wonderful to have such a vivid memory.
It seems to epitomise the innocence, and the happiness, of childhood.
It was a rare, perfect moment, and a precious memory.
Absolutely beautiful! Thank you for sharing your experiences so far with us.
I am cheering you along, keep on trucking! You are doing great.
Ultreia y Buen Camino,
With love, prayers and good thoughts for your successful Camino,
this is an amazing post.
And thank you for taking the time to go into all that detail.
We all feel like we are with you – and are experiencing what you’ve been through.
I stayed at that same little hostel just before the bridge in Zubiri. The day I stayed there, it had been raining, and the track coming down into the town was very slippery and dangerous. Hell on my knee.
When you say you “fell in with the wrong crowd,” what did you mean?
And as for getting lost – I got lost leaving St. jean too! I’d originally planned on going to Orrison, but changed my mind at the last minute and decided to do the whole big day’s walk to Roncesvalles – but got lost.
What JabbaPapa said is so true – and you will look back on it as being an important start to your extraordinary Camino.
Keep blogging and contributing here – we love it!
Glad, honoured even, I was able to help, Peter !!!
Zubiri is a great place — and though I’ve never stayed in that hostel, I’ve ALWAYS taken at least an hour’s rest in the pueblo, by the bridge, with some bread & stuff and a couple of cool ones (and it’s the first place on the entire Spanish Camino where you can get to do that, so it’s been a ritual for me both times I’ve been that way so far).
Interestingly for on-topicness, the Zubiri stage is jam-packed with giver-upper pilgrims, the ones who start the Camino but for whatever reason, insufficient health, lack of prior realisation how hard physical or mental fortitude, etc, simply give up somewhere between Roncesvalles and Pamplona — but never before Zubiri !!!
Many of the crowd you’re currently walking with, Peter, will magically disappear once you’re past Pamplona …
Yes, yes, and yes……..Just to pull in one more thing here………what we all are doing here, discussing pain, is very important.My primary work is with a population of people who experience pain on a daily basis. It is easy for many of them to sit and watch TV all day or otherwise check out from their lives, family, and society. Although they call me for advice on managing their diet (I am a dietitian nutritionist), I find myself coaching them on ways to live as full of a life as possible despite their physical condition. Hope is in short supply these days for many people. But, people like us who are willing to talk about it, share our experiences and particularly our joys and achievements over challenges can change the way others think. I heard once that Satan’s biggest weapon is to steal our joy. When joy is lost, the despair can be paralyzing….and we can lose our ability to participate in the world as a fully functioning spiritual person. When we take ourselves out of the spiritual realm like that, it weakens the whole body of humanity.
I haven’t said this before, but it has been in the back of my mind for awhile now. Most of the people who have the conditions I do….the same people I try to help….wouldn’t think of attempting something like the Camino. They don’t travel. They don’t exercise much. They are fully controlled by their physical condition. (I am trying to say this without it sounding egotistical…bare with me) but I hope that by doing the Camino — both Bill’s PGS 2014 version and a future Camino — that people will learn that they can live life despite the “little” things that are thrown at them.
Now, part of me thinks, “What if I do this and fail?” But I have learned from all of you that if I have this intense calling to do the Camino, that the rest will take care of itself.
Just remember, that you cannot fail the Camino. You may not complete it, the first time, but trust me it is in your blood and you will succeed, even if it takes a few attempts!
I agree with Arlene –
there is no such thing as failure if you walk the Camino – no matter how far
I’m only in day three going on day four and I’ve been discouraged, but also, picked up and carried along with Camino energy… People pop in when you least expect it. It’s very unusual and absolutely beautiful. Spain is such a clean and cared for place. Lovely people who want to help if they can.
In SJPP, my bunkie, was a nice young man, from New Caledonia. I had gotten two hard boiled eggs from the hotel in Bayonne. I was peeling one and handed him the other when we met and we had nice conversation. Turns out, he had hiked all the way to Santiago, turned around and walked back… Told me about some of the things he saw, then, later on made me a sandwich with jamon and cheese and talked more about going down from Orrisson And seeing the pain on the faces of first day pilgrims. Wonderful man… The first trail angel for me and I gave him a block print. Relax into it, you won’t be sorry.
aren’t people amazing?
That is what Julian did too – and I have such extraordinary respect for those people.
How generous of you too to share your egg! Generosity and kindness comes back to you in spades.
Didn’t really walk back Bill, hitch-hiked back, all three times so far, but with quite a lot of hiking rather than hitching in 2005 in particular. Probably about 9 days extra walking + ~72 hours total in motor transport, though I did walk most of the Camino from Santiago to Ponferrada with a girl I met by chance, Nada (good fast walker, seriously cheerful personality, wonderful person to walk with) — though IIRC we DID cheat to get up to O Cebreiro, and also walked on the tarmac to get down rather than face that ghastly slope downwards (which would have been a detour for us anyway, as she was pressed for time, and I was longing for home after nearly three months away).
Nada got onto her bus to the airport at Ponferrada, I hitched on from there (with some days or hours of hiking between lifts), along the Camino.
I was hoping the hitching would take me back to Lourdes on the way back, but in fact I ended up leaving the Camino proper after Roncesvalles – Saint-Jean Pied de Port, which I walked about 15-25% of, on the tarmac route (in 1994, I walked the whole stage over the mountain, which REALLY felt like a reward — because I had NOT planned to hitch back along the Camino at all, but that’s where the drivers who picked me up took me anyway !!! — but I decided not to repeat that in 2005), and from SJPP onwards I actually hitched through nowhere that I’d walked through on the way there.
But still, it was certainly enough to get a seriously good “feel” for what the full walk back is actually like.– and it feels VERY different to the walk there !!
You’re on the same Camino, but almost as if in a completely different universe. The first couple of days you do see a few other pilgrims that you may have met or seen or “endured” on the way there, but after that, every other pilgrim becomes a complete stranger. You best friends on the Camino then are NOT the other pilgrims, but anyone else you may be walking with, and ESPECIALLY the hospitaleros — who are the ONLY people there who might remember having seen you before.
And the welcome that the hospitaleros give to anyone walking back is truly amazing.
Mostly though, the fresh memory of Santiago and your stay there, and the Compostela that you’re carrying in your backpack, put you into a totally different frame of mind, because you’re carrying in your head and in your pack the very things that EVERYONE else you see is still striving towards. Your goal and their goal is behind you, and you’re no longer struggling against the hardships, but heading carefree for home. It makes EVERYTHING easier, including even the walking itself.
And you can’t really even possibly “cheat” on the way back either, grabbing a lift, taking a bus, doing whatever you want, it doesn’t matter any more, because you’re on the way home, not on the way to Santiago — but somehow, you’re STILL on the pilgrimage, every step of the way.
It brings a different kind of fulfillment than the actual arrival, including while you’re doing it, because the changes that this particular Camino have wrought are already fully inside you, so that the Camino on the way back has transformed from a Way of seeking into the very fulfillment of the Way made physical beneath your feet. It’s a unique, and delightful feeling — even though it sadly sets you apart from virtually every other pilgrim that you meet…
Wow,Julian! I’ve been reading through the things you’re sharing today, and I have to say, in utter admiration, sometimes you knock me right on my behind!
Dear Julie –
firstly, you are doing very important work. Good on you. You are remarkable.
And what you say about losing joy is absolutely spot on. I would add to that, losing hope. Once joy and hope are gone, you’re on a slippery slope to checking out of life.
But it’s easy to get them back, or hang onto them. The Camino is a magical potion. It restores life. It rejuvenates – not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually.
And yes, if someone has a very real need to walk the Camino, they won’t fail. No one will fail.
We here on this blog won’t allow that to happen!!
PS — Roncesvalles to SJPP is MUCH easier than SJPP to Roncesvalles !!!
On the Way from Spain to France, you’ve got a few short Ks uphill through the forest (itself MUCH easier than that first slope out of Saint-Jean), then you immediately hit the high altitude point of the whole stage, then it’s a seriously lovely and easy downhill stroll all the way back to SJPP … ;o)
(plus you get to walk with the beautiful views over France ahead of you, instead of behind)
hi julian, i have a friend who decided to do the Camino Reverso,and she mentioned that it was a totally surreal experience. for one she got stopped so many times and told sbe was walking the wrong way π she told me the best thing was seeing the faces if the – all the emotions displayed on their faces
Ingrid – I can imagine it would be completely weird, but a truly wonderful thing to do.
Did you see that Seinfeld episode in which the whole day was played in reverse? It was hilarious, and one of the best episodes of the whole show, I thought.
I just gave them all a smile and a buen camino — which you get to do FAR more often than on the way there !!! ;o)
Not one strange remark from anyone to report, sorry …
in Ponferrada I met three people who were walking back.
In fact they were asking me directions.
I gave them a courtly bow when I realised they were going back to St. Jean – and yes, I did ask if they were lost.
and your point about seeing the expressions on the peoples’ faces – it would be worth doing a Camino Returnivo just for that!
Pain on the Camino is 24/7, and it hits you from the crown of your head to the tip of your toes.
One of the delights of finally arriving in Compostela is that it stops, or at least starts to go away.
Sorry, I can’t see any other way than to be blunt about this reality.
haha – Julian –
you’re absolutely bloody right mate.
Let’s not pussyfoot around it.
That’s why turning around and going back is such an amazing thing to do.
Bill, I have no clue how i broke my leg. both tibia and fibula,just above ankle. Xray didnt show anything in Leon according to dr. dont know why,they xrays back at home showed healing fractures. like your doctor mine just shook his head and could not understand how I kept walking on. i asked him if he believes in miracles. his response was that he might as well start, cause me waking on sure looks like one. personally I think that in Leon they might have been only and got worse as I walked on. after Santiago I still spend 10 more days in Spain,taking it easy and maybe tbe bones startec to mend then.
trying to answer via phone, not easy,it keeps jumping about, sorry for the missed words and messed up spelling. π¦
I started thinking (in the middle of the night, dangerous, I know!) about your blog post about how much time you spent stopping to take photographs. Too tired in the middle of the night to go look it up again… But I wondered if you we’re not a photographer making those stops, if your knees would completely stopped you early in your Camino. The rest breaks you gave your knees by stopping for a minute or two to frame and shoot may have saved your Camino!!!
I hadn’t thought of that, but you might be right.
My photography certainly slowed me down. I ended up averaging only about 3kms – 3.5kms an hour, but I put in long hours each day.
But you’re probably right. If I hadn’t stopped to take photos, I probably would have SERIOUSLY stuffed up my knee! π
So nice to hear somebody was into “Swallows and Amazons”! I don’t know if you know this but “ship’s boy” , Roger, later on in life, developed the asthma inhaler. He had severe asthma… These were real kids Ransome lived near and knew… Ransome WAS Captain Jim who lived in the houseboat… Anyway,
There’s so much that happens on this trail. The people I judged… As party-ers… And got away from I have tried to avoid… Impossible… Are going through a transformation too… Duh!
I have let them know that I need to be alone to have the kind of experiences I ask for. Ask and you’re gonna get something. They’re perfectly loveable… But I don’t like being smothered. And now they know. Everything good.
I walked a bit with a young woman who is the embodiment of several look alikes I’ve seen in my life… The ones I fell in love with from afar. I can name some of these girls… I can say girls because it was such a long time ago and I was such a shy and beat up kid I could never approach them… So it was sort of bittersweet, in a way… To walk at times during the day with this beauty. I can see back now, being, as you say, Bill, an old man… I have lost any interest in procreation. I can only appreciate what it was that drew me… What was it that I projected. My sister says I think too much.
I swam in the Rio Arga… In my underwear… Iced my back, shoulders and feet. But, later when I went across the heavily trafficked road and up a steep marl path, I came upon an old medieval church and took a photo of the bells there, went around to keep on walking and nice woman, a docent, I thought, offered me water from a ceramic jug, asked me where I was from… Asked me if I’d like to have a look at the bells, the oldest and largest bells around
And perhaps give them a ring… I said sure… Went in… Bowed to Christ just inside the door… And basically started crying. She came in saw me… Said it’s so hot… Gave me some space… Then handed me a piece that she wrote that opened me up some more… And I knelt and read and said a prayer for my Spanish teacher, this guys a older Dominican guy with the name of Billy Smith, who asked me to say a prayer for him somewhere on the Camino… I’m getting better at this prayer business… I talk with God like we’re two old bums sharing a joke together… Somehow soothing. Went up the old shiny from use spiral steps and rang the bells…
What she had written was this… Sorry, long winded again.
The Beatitudes of the Pilgrim
1. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that the “Camino” opens your eyes to what is not seen.
2. Blessed are you pilgrim, if what concerns you most is not to arrive, as to arrive with others.
3. Blessed are you pilgrim, when you contemplate the “Camino” and you discover it is full of names and dawns.
4. Blessed are you pilgrim, because you have discovered that the authentic “Camino” begins when it is completed.
5. Blessed are you pilgrim, if your knapsack is emptying of things and your heart does not know where to hang up so many feelings and emotions.
6. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that one step back to help another is more valuable than a hundred steps forward without seeing what is at your side.
7. Blessed are you pilgrim, when you don’t have words to give thanks for everything that surprises you at every twist and turn of the way.
8. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you search for the truth and make of the “Camino” a life and of your life a “way”, in search of the one who is the Way the Truth and the Life.
9. Blessed are you pilgrim if on the way you meet yourself and gift yourself with time, without rushing, so as not to disregard the image in your heart.
10. Blessed are you pilgrim, if you discover that the Camino holds a lot of silence; and the silence of prayer; and the prayer of meeting with God who is waiting for you.
This was pretty perfect for me… We chatted. She asked what brought me to the Camino
And I was able to tearfully give her the expanded version. She said she mentions the names of people who come through who she felt touched by and I thanked her for being there with her gentleness and for helping soften my heart. Then I went on, doubled back and gave her one of my block prints for being a trail angel, which she loved and she gave me their card with beautiful blessing she then wrote on the back.
I told Sister Marisol that back in Larrasoania, I’d given a print/stamp to the proprietor of the super market for making us all feel so good and I asked what his name is and he said…”Angel, can’t you tell?” We some yucks about that. Her order is Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus… A lovely woman.
Peter, what a wonderful post! I know of that Order, and some of the Sisters, too. They have a reputation for being angels. I have to say that your description of talking to God like a couple of bums, is one of the holiest descriptions of mans relationship with the Divine that I have ever read!Are there a couple of saints in your family way back? Our Reverend Mother says we are all saints simply by way of wanting to be with God and talk to Him constantly. I don’t know if that quite describes how I feel about it, but Im beginning to see very clearly that you have been touched by the Hand of God.
Plenty of sinners, Sister… Don’t know of any Saints. After talking with Sister Marisol, I spent the rest of the day hiking to Pamplona, playing with my little Audubon bird call… Better than a harmonica on the Camino de Santiago. Lots of struggling pilgrims… It was very hot. But for some… They make it look effortless.
Do the Spanish birds respond to it?
If I sat down and was still enough while making it chirp… I think they would come down and land. I’ve done it in Maine and the chickadees love it! I’ve played for Jamican birds and they’re curious… The Spanish birds… I heard them rustling in a low Bowery as I walked through… I’ll keep working with it. I gave my bread to some sad homeless men today and the bird call came out of my pocket and I gave it a squeak… Made a man smile. That works for me!
Seems it worked.for him, too!!
Peter – once again an amazing post…
Can I ask, when you say you give someone a block print, what is that exactly?
Can you photograph one and post it up on the blog?
See Peter’s avatar? In it he’s carving a block to do a block print of a scallop shell. So yummy!!!! You ink the carving. I’ll leave it to Peter to do the rest of the explanation because I’d love to see his work.
Me too! I’m so thick I didn’t realise thats what he was doing in the picture -well, its very small.But I love block prints, and would really like to see some of Peters work..
It would be great if he could send us a good pic of it – jpg – and I could post it up on the blog.
Waiting for desayuno here. I made up a bunch of simple Lino-block prints to give to folks who have touched me in some way.. Sometimes to encourage other pilgrims. Just a small gift for trail angels. I can write a little something on the back… Size, small a little bigger than an inch square.
Not sure how to post a photo on your blog… I’ll look into it.
Bill, I sent some jpg’s to firstname.lastname@example.org
Hope you got ’em
Hi Peter –
got them – thank you!
Will put them up on the blog later.
Can you write something – send to the email@example.com email – that can go with the shots? How you make the blocks, who you give the prints to, why you give them to people?
I will create a separate post for it, if you can do that.
Peter, I keep meaning to ask.if you also read Ransome’s ‘Peter Duck’? Was that about another real character in their lives? I always felt those books were both autobiographical, but you’re the first person to confirm it.And
I didn’t know about the asthma inhaler, either. I use one!
I think Ransome was trying to be a bit more fanciful… Didn’t care much for it. My favorite, besides “Swallows”, was “We Didn’t Mean To Go To Sea”. A rollicking sea adventure.
I haven’t thought about “We Didn’t Mean to Go to Sea” for years. I loved it! I remember only two things about Peter Duck -the wonderful houseboat and how angry I got when kids thought it was a book about a duck, not a sea captain.
That blessing is so special.
In the Old Pueblo Chapter of APOC, we read that the our returning pilgrims. A very special blessing indeed. You are so lucky to have had an Angel of the Camino bless you with it!
Buen Camino y Via Con Dios,
Sister Marisol wrote that piece… You must visit on your way thru!
Dear Peter, thanks, I too love your posts … and isn’t it extraordinary that two so well read, obviously creative and just clever people as Bill and Sister Clare could not work out what you meant by talking about your block prints π (he he he!) – and I hadn’t even seen a print nor the cutting tool since I was a little girl!! They’re such a lovely memory to leave behind for people who’ve moved you on your Way. Will look forward to Bill posting your expanded comments and photos.
haha – just finishing off the polish of Chapter 17.
the end of the meseta in my book!
Peter’s block blog coming up soon!
Actually Britta, I’ve made both lino and wood block prints -ignorance wasn’t the problem. I just couldn’t tell what Peter was doing in that teensy weensy avatar photo, even with my glasses on!:-)
I remember making block prints either at church camp or vacation Bible school. It was fun at the time. It appealed to my creative side. Somewhere along the way I seem to have lost some of that. π¦
One of our Sisters makes wonderful block.print Christmas cards, using vegetables like turnip or potato for her ‘blocks ‘. She always inspires me to get creative, and I really enjoy it. Relaxing,too.