Erase your past – pt2

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.)

arrow with shadow

12 thoughts on “Erase your past – pt2

  1. Bill, On my first camino, I was in a very pensive mood and was evaluating many aspects of my life. In doing so, it was necessary for me to recall elements of my past and examine them. So, I was in contact with my past, but it had no bearing on my present desire to finish the walk of the day; find a place to sleep; and food to eat. But, reflecting back on my life objectively, allowed me to evaluate and change how I intended to live today, one day at a time. That is what the Camino did for me. Not so much the last Camino as I was focused much more on other people and enjoying the group dynamics, and found my posts to be much less introspective.

    Believe it or not, we will meet in California one week from today with Jill. What a treat that will be for all of us, I think. Can’t wait to see you again, and it will complete our joint circumnavigation of the earth. We should be in history books. :-)s

    Your mate, Steve


    • Hey Steve – yes it’s seriously weird. It’s nearly 4am here. I need to get back to sleep before I head to the airport. Then six days of meetings in LA, then a road trip to Palm Springs to meet you and jill. And yes, around the world. Via Ireland too. All in less than a month. Crazy crazy. Gotta get back to sleep!! Your mate, Bill


    • Hey Steve,

      Jen and I got in yesterday. Spent most of the day doing errands – organising local phone and data sims, banking, etc. today is a day “off,” and I hope we get up to the Getty to see the Ansel Adams exhibition. Going to REI this morning though. – that should be fun!

      I’ll send you my local phone number –

      See you soon! Bill


      • Welcome to the good old USA. Can’t wait to see you and introduce Jill to the two of you. It is so great to be on such great terms with an ex. Jill and I are blessed. She remains my best friend and it is so great the 4 of us can share time together. Thanks for taking time to be with us. I know you are busy.

        Your mate, Steve


        • Thanks Steve – I’ll call you from the local phone number during the day. So far Jen and I haven’t got jet lag – we pushed through all day yesterday without napping, and then had a good night’s sleep. Speak later! bb


  2. I finished the first leg of what I hope are more caminos in April – O’Cebriero. I didn’t know why I was going. I worried I would be questioned at the pilgrims office if my camino was religious enough. What I thought about every day was the beauty of the land, the palpable love of all who passed and gratitude for all I’ve been given.
    My life had become a series of meaningless distractions, and all that fell away while I was there.
    That’s why I must go back.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Bill,

    Yesterday’s post – How brilliant, how necessary a reminder for all of us. Yes, the past is just that – past! I am in agreement it has helped form who we are today, but yes, living in the past is fruitless, it serves no purpose whatsoever. It is as you say a “dirty overcoat” that most certainly needs to be discarded.

    When I returned from Camino in 2013, I made a conscious effort to avoid people who continuously dwell on negative issues from the past. I truthfully do not need to sit by and listen to them ruminate all the woes of the past. It seemed pointless to me and I finally took a stand. As you said the past “can cripple you. The past can leave you old. And bitter.” and it seems to have done exactly that to those friends.

    Sure I had quite the spiritual release on that Camino! Yes, I now try to live as though not a single thing will hold me back. If there is a dream, that dream must be pursued! I am living as though I am 26 again, and boy is it great! No fears, no hold backs, just embracing the future and living my dreams.

    I guess that brings me to today’s post. Without having walked my very first Camino in 2012 and again in 2013 and 2014, without having learned to leave the past behind; I think I still would be stuck there.

    The Camino taught me so much, but most importantly it taught me to live in the now and forget about the past!!!!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. We are the sum of our ancestry and past, present and the future untold. I would not be who I am without my past…. I fully embrace it, without living in it. To close those thresholds, to shut those doors, is as shutting down one side of ones heart.

    On the Camino, there were times, I did not know, WHEN I was walking. All I knew is that I walked with the energy of my father and spirit and timelines would weave in and out.

    That is what made my Camino such a powerful, re-alignment of my present… questions answered, nightmares put to rest, forgiveness asked and given, energy flowing around me and through me and peacefully settling an unsettled mind.

    To walk in the present as I am, is only possible, because I embrace all of me and all of my ancestry, without guilt, without shame, without fear – only understanding. What a gift that is.

    So Bill, for myself, I never would want to forget my pasts, they are rooted in the centre of my being, celebrating the present and guidance for the future.

    Light and Love, as always Ingrid


    • Hi Ingrid, firstly that was a beautifully written piece.

      It sounds like you have erased your past – those things that were burdensome to you. And you have kept those things that bring you joy. So what you’re saying and what I’m proposing aren’t contradictory, as you’re implying – in fact you are just affirming my post. You are living proof of it.

      And interestingly, you are also affirming my pt2 post – that you needed the Camino to reach that point of understanding. Or at least the Camino aided your reaching that understanding.

      I think it’s fantastic that you’ve got to that place where you’ve embraced those enriching aspects of your past, and you’ve discarded those things which try to shackle you.

      Now, about to board the plane… !!


      Liked by 1 person

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