Further to yesterday’s post about erasing your past – it’s generated some discussion – which is wonderful. But let’s think about it within the Camino context. Think about this:
Walking the Camino requires you to erase your past.
For that period when you’re walking, the past does not exist. It doesn’t exist for a number of reasons:
The Camino returns you to a primitive state.
Your existence, your survival if you like, is contingent on the basic necessities of life – food, water, shelter. When you’re in a primitive state, nothing else matters.The past doesn’t matter. The future only matters to determine your survival needs.
Where will I sleep tonight? Will I get a bed? Where will I eat? Will the stores be open in the next village? How much water should I carry up that mountain? Will there be a fountain part way up the track? Do I need to rest a day? Am I getting sick? Will this blister become infected? How much food can I carry before my backpack becomes too heavy?
These are survival questions. The past doesn’t matter. There’s no room for thinking about the past when you’re in survival mode. And the Camino requires you to shift into survival mode. Into your primitive state. Into your true state. As a human being. And as a being.
The Camino strips you of status.
You are like everyone else. Whether you’re wealthy, whether you’re on welfare, whether you have a good job, whether you’re unemployed – on the Camino none of that matters. You all are essentially the same.
You all wear essentially the same clothing. You all wear the same “uniform.” There are no diamond earrings or pearls. There are no Dior outfits. No Zegna suits. Who knows if your boots cost $50 or $500? More importantly, who cares? None of that matters.
What you’ve accumulated in your life, whether it be possessions or power or position – status – it means nothing on the Camino. What separates you is your wisdom, your empathy, your generosity, your spirit. Who you really are.
The Camino reduces your past.
Most people who walk the Camino do so wanting a question answered. They may not know it when they start off, they may not be aware that they’re wanting a question answered, but invariably that question presents itself – and sometimes the answer too, but often the answer comes much later. Sometimes weeks, sometimes months, sometimes years later.
That question is a function of your past, and will determine your future. What should I do with my life? Should I continue with my relationship? Should I change jobs, change careers? Do I really love that person? What do I need in my life to make me truly happy?
In the process of examining your past, within the spiritual crucible of the Camino, the past disappears. Like a chemical process. Like alchemy. Apply heat, within the crucible, the past reduces, breaks down, combusts, and becomes something else. A new element in your life. And in becoming a new element it ceases to be what it once was.
The Camino forces you to overcome your past.
If you want to continue, if you want to finish, if you want to achieve your goal of reaching Santiago, you must overcome your past. Your past might be blisters, it might be injury, it might be a flagging spirit, it might be a backpack that’s too heavy, it might simply be fear.
If walking the Camino is representative of your journey through life, then the blisters, the injuries, the burden, the flagging spirit, become representative of aspects of your life – your obstacles, your trepidations, the material and metaphysical burdens that you have chosen for your life.
Because they are all choices that you’ve made. Life hasn’t put obstacles in your path. You have chosen to put obstacles in your path. You have chosen to burden yourself with material possessions. You have chosen to become dispirited.
If you want to reach Santiago, you have to overcome these things. You have to choose to get rid of your past. You cannot choose to allow the past to stop you. The Camino forces this upon you. It forces you to make a decision – will I allow the past to stop me? Will I allow the past to shackle me? Will the past overcome me, or will I overcome the past?
Very few people who reach Santiago arrive with the past they had when they started their pilgrimage. The Camino has forced them to overcome their past.
On the Camino, the past doesn’t matter. All that matters is that you keep putting one foot in front of the other.
(this is my last posting before Jennifer and I depart for the US.)