In a little less than a month now, Jennifer and I will be leading a tour of the Portuguese Camino, taking 13 New Zealand carers from Porto to Santiago – a walk of about 240kms.
Carers are those amazing folk who care for someone; whether they be sick, injured, infirm, elderly, incapacitated in some way – in other words, those that need to be cared for.
These carers are remarkable people.
But what they do day-to-day is demanding, depleting, and emotionally draining.
I was contacted some time ago now by a wonderful lady named Laurie Hilsgen, who is the head of an organisation in New Zealand that represents carers. Laurie asked if we could mount a pilgrimage walk, because she believed it would be a wonderful way for some of these carers to fill their tank again, so to speak.
She believed a Camino would be a great way to rid themselves of any pent-up anguish, emotional turmoil, exhaustion, frustration, sorrow and any or all of the sundry other psychological debris that comes from what they do each day.
More importantly, Laurie hoped that a Camino would be restorative, and a way for these wonderful carers to recharge their batteries, and to renew and refresh themselves physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
We will finish the tour not at Santiago, but further on at Cape Finisterre – the End of the World – where we plan to hold a ceremony at sunset – a ceremony that will represent the “casting off” of any negative emotional energy that might still cling to them.
I’m sure they will find the Camino to be a magic elixir.
On a purely physical level, the mere act of getting up early, walking in the fresh spring air of Portugal and Spain, walking long distances up and down hills and across streams and through magnificent medieval villages – that in itself is incredibly restorative.
Then there’s the meditative aspect of walking – walking sometimes 25kms in a day – the hypnotic nature of that, of being at one with your breath, with the rhythm of your steps, with the movement of your limbs.
It takes you inside yourself. It shakes loose old worries, old fears, bitter regrets.
It brings them out into the light, into the sunshine, where you can look at them, and laugh at them, and walk way from them. Leave them behind, on the trail.
It cleanses you.
Yes you get tired, yes you get sore, yes you wonder sometimes if you’ll complete the day’s walk – but that’s all part of it. That’s what makes getting to Santiago, and getting your Compostela – your Official Certificate of Completion of the Camino – so worthwhile. That’s what makes it such a special achievement.
There is an enormous sense of achievement completing a Camino.
It lifts your self esteem – and that doesn’t fade. That stays with you for years and years.
They talk about the Camino “glow,” that glow that pilgrims acquire during the walk, and when they get to Santiago. You can see it in photos. You can see it in those around you as the Camino takes hold. It is a glow. It’s palpable. Something happens inside you that imbues you with this very special quality.
Let’s talk about energy – because that’s where, for me, it all happens.
The Camino – any pilgrimage walk – is imprinted with soul energy. The energy of all those souls who have come before you. It’s in the very earth beneath your feet, as you walk. It’s the residue of the soul intention of the millions – yes millions – of pilgrims who have walked that path too. Each footprint has left an imprint of soul energy.
That soul energy then comes up through the earth, through your feet chakras, and it enters your energetic system, and that’s what gives you that glow. That’s what imbues you with that magical quality. That’s what enables 70 year olds to walk 800kms. That’s what heals the sick. That’s what gives cripples the strength to climb mountains.
It happens. It’s real.
After my first Camino I threw away my glasses. I’d had glasses for fifteen years. After the Camino, I realised my eyesight had improved so much I didn’t need them anymore. If I needed validation, last year I passed an eyesight test to renew my drivers license. Before the Camino, I’d needed glasses to pass that test.
This energy of healing, of restoration, is in the air you breath, it’s in the fresh foods you eat, it’s in the ancient churches and monasteries and alburges.
Jennifer and I are really looking forward to this pilgrimage. For me, it will be my fourth. But this one will be very special, because of the wonderful people we’ll be walking with.
I want to hear their stories.
Because I’m sure they’re remarkable…