It’s nearly four years since I walked my first Camino, and the impact of that pilgrimage walk continues to resonate.
It resonates in a number of ways.
I now walk everywhere. Whereas prior to the Camino I would drive up to the shops, or I would drive from point A to point B, now whenever possible, I walk.
Last week I walked 82kms. That’s not a huge distance, but in amongst my work and everything else I was doing, it’s still a healthy distance. I average about 300kms a month. If I need to go somewhere, my first thought is: can I walk there.
Somehow, I’ve healed my knee.
I’m really not sure how I’ve healed it, but this is a knee that had lost all its cartilage. I was bone-on-bone. My surgeon told me that, quote: “A knee replacement is not a matter of if, but when.”
I didn’t accept that. I bought a brace, wore that on a couple of shorter Caminos, then this last year I walked the Portuguese Camino without the brace at all. My knee was a bit twingey a few days, but basically it was fine. I now don’t wear the brace at all.
How did this happen?
I didn’t accept what the doctor told me. I listened to my body, I took it easy, I exercised it, and gradually my knee improved. Whether the cartilage has grown back, I don’t know. I don’t take vitamin supplements, I haven’t had any injections – I’ve just walked most days, and as I say, I’ve listened to my body, and throttled back when the knee’s got cranky.
I don’t get het up about things like I used to. On the Camino, I adopted a mantra: What’s the worst that can happen? That mantra has stayed with me.
If I’m faced with an issue that, prior to the Camino, would have caused me concern or anxiety or stress, now I ask myself: What’s the worst that can happen? And invariably, if you honestly consider the worst, then the worst isn’t so bad.
For that to have full benefit though, you have to have your shit together.
For instance, I don’t consider death or disability or ill health to be so bad. I don’t consider loss or lack to be so bad. I trust that I am being guided on my right path, and what falls along that path falls for a very good reason. Those reasons I agreed to before I was born. So if I believe I agreed to them, how can I bitch and moan?
What’s the worst that can happen?
When you get to that realisation, life becomes very simple. I’m not there yet fully – in truth – but I’m working at it. I now meditate religiously each day, a minimum of 21 minutes, and that helps a lot.
I don’t let things bother me anymore. Even when I get back to my car and a ranger is writing me up a parking ticket, I figure: Poor bugger, I bet a lot of people yell at you.
I used to.
Also, another thing I’ve brought back from the Camino is the concept of what I call Incremental Achievement. Incremental achievement is walking 800kms across a country by walking 20kms a day, day in, day out. Putting one foot in front of the other, and not giving up till you get there.
A book is 80,000 words, give or take.
If I apply this Incremental Achievement concept to writing a book, then if I write 1,000 words a day, then in 80 days I’ll have written a book! 80 days is, what? less than three months? Bloody hell. All I have to do is write a 1,000 words a day and in less than three months, I’ll have written a book.
That’s the same as if I walk 20kms a day, in 40 days I’ll have walked the Camino Frances. That’s a pretty powerful concept, Incremental Achievement. I’ve brought that back from the Camino, and it’s changed my life.
Where do I start?
I’m not the person I was before my first Camino. Period. Before my first Camino I had the potential to be the person I now am – but I needed that experience to bring it into full realisation.
I now am in awe of wonder.
I now am in awe of possibilities.
I now have an inkling – an inkling – of life’s purpose.
And it leaves me in awe.
It’s difficult to bring the Camino back with you, back into your everyday life when you return. You have to work at it.
You have to remember what you learned.
What you experienced.
How you felt.
Maybe for you it was just a walk.
It wasn’t for me.
For me, what I learned continues to resonate.
(By the way, in the photo below, there’s too much headroom)
Dearest Bill – Thank you my friend–this DEFINITELY resonates with me!!! Ultreya and love.
Dearest Laurie – thank you! jen and I might be coming back to the ashram this year. I hope so – would love to see you again!
It will be wonderful to see you and Jen, Bill, if it happens!
Of course, Bill, there’s too much headroom in that photo … but what stunning headroom it is!
Love your ‘incremental achievement’ idea; now I just have to let go of procrastination and … bingo!! 🙂
Haha – yes Britta, beautiful skies on the Camino, as you know! And I too suffer from procrastination.
Well dear Bill it’s a lovely blue head roomy sky.😆
We each have our own Camino blessings…that continue to shape our every day life.
It surely made me re-discover who I am… and that I am enough as I am.
As always you are very eloquent in your writing, nodding my head as I read your words.
Light and Love as always Ingrid.
That’s a lovely thought Ingrid – that I am enough as I am. Thank you for that! And also for your very kind words!
Wonderful post, Bill … food for thought for us all. Thank you so much for sharing it.
The Camino was also the catalyst for the incredible friendship that we PGS siblings all share too – who would have thought we would all be where we are now by the simple reading of your post on the Forum which led us to PGS – The Way. Those Camino arms of friendship stretch around the world in the biggest hug. The wisdom you’ve shared with us, the generosity you’ve given us and the tools you’ve also given us to learn and to grow through the care and excellence of your posts are all things I am so grateful for. Thank you Bill and thank you Jen.
BTW … where was the photo taken … was it between Rabanal and Molinaseca? It looks familiar!
Much love and Camino hugs to you and Jen –
Jenny, you are always so incredibly kind and generous in your comments on this blog. Yes the friendships you make are one of the true great benefits you get from walking the Camino. Like you, we now have extraordinary friends all around the world – and largely from this blog, I have to say!
As for the location – man o man you know your Camino! I think you are right. It was after the Crux de Ferro I think – is that before or after Rabanal? Beautiful country though, wherever it was. High country. I’ve been hankering to go back lately, I have to admit. Really missing it!! love bb xx
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Thank you Bill. It’s a huge privilege to be part of the PGS family and to be a recipient of your wisdom and that of others – for example, the wonderful Michael J. Tamura.
The location of the shot – ‘glad to have my suspicions confirmed!
I know what you say about missing the Camino – the Camino really stays with you and there’s always a part of your heart that longs to be there.
Love and Camino hugs to you and Jen –
haha – yes, you really do know your Camino Jenny! And hey, isn’t it an amazing group of people here? I learn from each one of you every day… and feel so lucky to have you as friends….
That could just as easily have been taken on one particular section up after Rabanal as on the way down the other side after the Cruz — actually, given the road you can see in the background and downhill, I’d suspect the former ; the road next to the Camino down from Cruz is on the other side, and is also a much wider one. Seems like a photo not too long after sunrise on the way up to Cruz de Ferro 🙂
That day I walked to the Cruz de Ferro before sunrise – so that I would get to the Cross by sunrise, which is what happened. So I think it is the section after that, after the sun had come up a bit… You know your Camino geography too Julian!
ah !! yes, indeed, there’s that bit after the Cross, before the plunge, where you walk for a while along the crest and above the road. 🙂
Oh Bill- In the eloquent lyrics of an animated ice queen – let it go 😊.
You may see too much headroom (you perfectionist you) but I see the shadow of a fellow pilgrim, the green towel that your friend gave to you and your much loved South Sydney cap.
I know what you mean about post camino living though- I have slowed down. I am not only a participant of life and all its wonders, I now am more observant of the day to day idiosyncracies that provides the colour to this wonderous life. Slow is a great pace.
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Hi Michelle – thanks for your comments here. Yes, the Camino does get you to slow down and observe things around you. That’s one of the great things about walking. You see things ou never would get to see from a car or bus or train!
You write so intelligently and well – we love you and Jen to bits and are privileged you let us share your insights.
What a family and we have the joy of knowing that we choose it and are not dealt it at birth.
Tony and Ce
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Tony – very sweet of you to say, thank you. You and Ce and doing wonderful generous things post your Caminos! My goodness haven’t we all come a long way since meeting at that dour sydney Camino event that night!!
Mate, you and I connected on day 12 of your Camino. Been a long time. I have read every post since then. I feel like a founding member.
Yes Steve, you are a founding father of PGS! haha I’ll have to get a medallion struck!! 🙂 In all seriousness, I’ve enjoyed the connection, and bond, and friendship right from the get go!
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Spiritually, I think there’s no requirement of what you should or will or won’t gain from the Camino, and there should be no expectation that the Camino will always be a Spiritual experience — and that’s fine.
I’m not the person I was before my first Camino either, Bill, but it’s the second one that changed me profoundly, spiritually, not the first — my first Camino just taught me what I needed to do to become a pilgrim, and being a pilgrim is what I brought back from it. I was however being called further than just that, but nevertheless, for many others to simply learn to be (or to have been) a simple pilgrim within a simple life is quite sufficient — a social or a religious understanding changing lives, as a renewal of the connection between self and others, rather than a deeper spiritual one, a connection of the Soul with God on the Camino itself and after.
Emotionally I’ve become calmer (though I certainly still have my moments !! 🙂 ), but it’s intellectually that it changed me the most — simple material reality on the one hand, and the realisation of Faith in God on the other, radically shifted the very basis of my intellect out of the false notion that all things must adhere to logic. Logic is a powerful and necessary tool for proper thought — but it is NOT the source of Truth, which is to be found either around us or in the Spirit.
Physically, the Camino has given me a goodly share of both joy and pain — as much the more sportsman-like joy of my old 40 K/day average pace as a younger man, the occasional 50-65 K days, the feeling of almost flying along the Way on those days when you hit what marathon runners call “the sweet spot” — as the present consequences of that hiking, for whilst I’m glad and grateful that the Camino has given Bill better use of his knee back, the Camino has given me the damage to my knee that it took away from his.
But to be afflicted with pain rather than healed of it is not a sign of a Spirituality on the wrong path or anything — healing, if it’s not just a more biological self-healing process belonging to our physical nature, is always a gift of God for some purpose of His for some individual person or those around him — and so sometimes physical ailments can be too. So must we sometimes endure the Cross, the suffering that was foretold to Adam and Eve when expelled from the garden, and also in the lives of many, many Saints and visionaries, including even some Saints like Bernadette Soubirous who while graced with healing gifts, nevertheless lived in illness and suffering herself.
But then again, pain and even disability can also keep us in lives of simplicity and humility, even stark spareness, of the sort that should be familiar to anyone who has walked the Way of Saint James — the daily experience of being in the world and with the world, but of the Spirit, and in the Worship and Love for God.
great reflection of your camino; my husband and I walk the French Way in 2012, and it took me a long time to be able to put into words how it has influenced me, your words are lovely, and a great reminder of that special time. We have decided to walk again, so I went looking for information and found you blog, so don’t be surprise if you see more comments as I read back through some of your posts. I will try not to look too much like a stalker!
haha – you can stalk the blog, no worries! Delighted to see you here, and thank you for your kind words on the writing… Bill
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