There’s a new film coming out soon in the US. It’s called Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon. It’s based on the best selling book of the same name.
It tells the story of a young woman in a state of distress because of the death of her mother, a failed marriage, a heroin addiction and bouts of promiscuity. So on impulse she begins to walk the Pacific Crest Trail up the west coast of America – a journey of some 1,100mls from the Mojave Desert into Washington State.
The book was championed by Oprah, which immediately made it a huge best seller. I found the book to be very moving, very engaging.
Here is a trailer for the film: WILD Trailer
I mention it here on the blog because of two separate conversations I had yesterday with some people about to begin their own long walks.
One was with a woman – a friend of Jennifer’s – who is a very spiritual lady. She’s been considering walking the Camino for some time. She has recently married a fellow who’s a walker – he’s done long walks all around the world – and soon they’ll be undertaking a trek through Turkey.
The second conversation I had was with my brother, whom I love dearly. He’s eighteen months younger than me, lives in Brisbane, and we’re very close. For sometime now he’s been considering walking the Camino with his son, aged 21yrs. His son saw the film The Way, and suggested to my brother they do the Camino together. Father and son.
I called my brother yesterday while he was going over options with his son. He asked me questions about the various Caminos – the Frances, the Le Puy, etc. They’re still undecided as to which route to take. And then he said: “But we might also do a walking holiday through Tuscany.”
Both conversations got me thinking about the spiritual quotient inherent in the Camino.
There’s no doubt it’s a walking holiday for many. It has all the ingredients; food and accommodation are cheap, it’s in an exotic land, you get to meet interesting people, it’s a healthy way to spend your holiday, and if you want, you can party until all hours in a country where the booze costs very little.
But the Camino is also a pilgrimage – an ancient pilgrimage – and for those who are seeking something deeper – a spiritual or religious experience – then it offers that opportunity.
I began to ask myself: Would I be interested in doing a long walk other than on the Camino? The Pacific Coast Trail for instance? Or doing a walking holiday through Tuscany or Turkey?
The bigger question is: Do you have to walk the Camino de Santiago to have a spiritual experience?
I’m firmly of the belief that the Camino has a spiritual energetic imprint along its sacred path, and that imprint subtly infuses itself into your soul as you walk.
That imprint is the result of millions of pilgrims walking that same route for hundreds upon hundreds of years. Each footfall of each pilgrim has left a subtle energetic residue which has leached its way into The Way.
There is a feeling of something inexplicable, something much greater, that resides there along the Camino, and which you can osmotically access should you wish to.
And yet, I’ve also been reading – researching – in preparation for the start of my filming in India in less than six weeks now. For those of you who don’t know, I’m starting filming on PGS – Intuition is your Personal Guidance System. It’s a feature length film about intuition.
I’ve been reading up on Quantum Mechanics and the Bootstrap Hypothesis, the Holy Spirit and it’s association with the Christian concept of God, Theosophy and Madam Blavatsky and her Secret Doctrine, the Eye of Shiva and the Eye of Horus, the Ancient Universal Religion during the Antediluvian Golden Age, glandular links with the chakras, Shackleton’s Third Man Factor and the Higher Self. And so forth.
Some heavy reading. And fascinating. (This is why I’ve been away from the blog a bit lately!)
And one of the things that I’ve been reminded of is that you can access a metaphysical state anywhere, anytime, if you know how. But first, you must have the intention.
The young lady who walked the Pacific Crest Trail, in Wild, had a profoundly transformative experience. But she had the intention to change. She knew that if she didn’t change, she would die.
I’ve always maintained that most people who undertake the Camino do so wanting a question answered. Often they’re not even aware of it, often they don’t even know what that question is. But I believe that question sits there within them during the walk, and somehow the Camino prises it out into the light, and provides the answer.
Sometimes the answer comes during the walk, but more often it’s well after the walk is done. The Camino creates resonances that sit within you for a long time.
So to answer two questions I’ve posed here: Do you need to walk the Camino to have a spiritual experience?
No – I don’t believe so. You can have a spiritual experience in your back yard, or doing the dishes, as some Zen masters would propose. I think walking the Camino helps – because of that spiritual energetic imprint – but I don’t think that’s the only long walk where you can commune with whatever your concept of God might be.
The other question I raised was: Would I be interested in doing a long walk other than on the Camino? The Pacific Coast Trail for instance? Or doing a walking holiday through Tuscany or Turkey?
No, it doesn’t interest me.
And that’s probably because I’m seeking something more spiritual and metaphysical when I undertake a long walk. I’m contradicting what I’ve just stated above – I’m aware of that – but perhaps I need that energetic imprint. Perhaps my nascent spiritual wiring needs the kind of jump start that a traditional pilgrimage route can provide.
Two conversations yesterday got me thinking. And it’s a fundamental question that almost everyone who walks the Camino asks: Why am I doing this?
Just a quick reply for now as my granddaughter is getting out of the hospital today after nearly dying from a ruptured appendix – two weeks in the hospital.
I have no interest in “walks” such as the Pacific Coast Trail” even though it is in my “backyard” so to speak. Bill, remember those mountains you went over when you left North Bend? No infrastructure of hostels, etc. Gotta carry everything with you. I’m too old for sleeping on the ground every night and there aren’t hotels all along the route.
When we did the Camino it really wasn’t for religious purposes but a spiritual adventure. We do intend to do more Caminos and it would be for the spiritual reasons.Italy/Assisi w Bill & Jen will be both for spiritual reasons and the friendship of Camino friends.
The Pacific Crest Trail sounds incredibly hard. I know Tim, who sometimes visits this blog (wife is Cathy, whom we met in Portugal) walked the Appalachian Trail last year – some 2000mls, and I have enormous respect for him. That’s an extraordinary achievement. From the little I know of them – just some conversations during the Camino – I would say that they’re both spiritual people. The Camino is easy in the sense that there are albergues and places to stay along the way, and you don’t have to walk far before you can find a place that sells reasonable coffee! So how good is that?
Each person walks for different reasons, and sometimes the person who has the most profound spiritual experience is the one that started off just wanting a walking holiday!
And yes, Assisi next year is going to be fabulous!
I think I will stick to the Camino, or maybe just walking to my car. Who knows the future, except it will be different than we anticipate.
There’s such a thing as walking meditation Steve – the Burmese Buddhists use it. They walk around the perimeter of their temples. You could do the same thing walking to your car! 🙂
Walking meditations are wonderful. I’ve done a few at various yoga courses and it definitely does stuff for me!! Really narrows down your thoughts and movements 🙂 This posted from Santa Barbara where I’m hanging out for a few days!
Hi Britta, lovely to hear from you, particularly from that beautiful part of the world. Rhonda Byrne (The Secret) lives in Santa Barbara.
Many years ago I read a fantastic book on walking meditation, written by a naval commander I think from memory. He spent time at a Buddhist temple in the north of Burma. It was fascinating, but sounded incredibly difficult to do properly, with full mindfulness.
Hope you’re having a great time there.
big hug mate,
Thanks, we are! Fantastic light, amazing sea food, shame about the oil globs on the beach!!!
Bill, I’m going to think on this a bit…. in your usual fashion you are reading my mind again. 😉
Hi Ingrid – as always I’ll be fascinated to hear your thoughts on it, when you’re ready.
Loved reading this Bill, a lot to ponder. I agree that having an intention causes things to start changing, and so that will give one a head start in the process of change for any reason. I also think that the long history of the pilgrims walking before is carried along the Camino and somehow makes it more sacred. There are many places you can feel a sacred energy, and that is possibly because of the history of what occurred there. I expect that is probably the same kind of sacred energy that influences a persons PGS, only on a smaller more personal and intimate level.
I will look forward to the movie as I don’t think I will have the time to read all the research you are looking at. I am continually amazed at your ability to do all that you do.
I am interested in the Italy trip, and will look forward to the details as they come to see if I/we can join.
I leave for Bali this friday to do the volunteer work with the students and schools. It has become somewhat of a sacred place for me. Maybe we are starting to create our own spiritual energy that lingers and compounds when we return. Or maybe it comes from the natural beauty and the loving people we meet there.
Hi Kathryn –
I think perhaps you and Michael have a past life thingy going on with Bali. Your connection to the place is quite profound, and it wouldn’t surprise me if you did some past life regression therapy that you didn’t discover a former life there.
It’s great what you two are doing with your volunteer/charity work. And yes, I’ll let you know re Assisi once we get all the information in.
Again, best wishes on the trip. I hope it all goes well.
I very much like this post, Bill.
What I’d interject, though, is that God is not a passive quantity, so that (no matter how rarely) He also seeks others instead of only asking them to seek Him.
I posted some fairly abstract stuff after your previous post, but the truth remains that there are multiple paths — which is the underlying concern of your piece. Most, probably, on the Camino walk it as a holiday. God Himself is however Everywhere — but each of us is constrained to the here and now. The Camino is extraordinary in part because it is the right place to go and the right path to follow for so MANY !!!
Hi Julian –
I loved your previous post. Although I didn’t feel qualified to jump in and respond. However I very much admired the intellect at work!
As for God not being passive – I guess this depends on how you define God. If God is within, and not without, then yes, you’re right…
Actually I would say that He is usually simply happy to leave us alone and not get too overbearing with us …
Also, He is both immanent and transcendental, and our own choices or needs to view Him either this way or that do not change His nature. There’s a real risk in both syncretism and relativism of making up your own god as you go along, because the devil and his lies are also real.
I do realise that I am very unusual in having had some true mystical experiences not just in the mind, the soul, and in the community — but also in the external material reality outside of all of us : in the Created Reality itself.
God is not mere Spirit, but He is also Flesh, which is why, no matter how one understands it, His Eucharistic Communion is so vital !!!
Of course that doesn’t make Him an old man with a beard either, because nor is He Flesh only, but He is also Spirit, just as He is also neither Spirit nor Flesh but also Creator.