What does it take for you to hit your reset button? For me, it was a week on Spain’s Camino.
The Camino de Santiago, or the “Way of Saint James”, is a network of pathways serving pilgrimage to the shrine of the apostle Saint James the Great in the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain. It was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during the Middle Ages. For centuries, many have followed the Way of St. James as a form of spiritual growth. In more modern times the route has attracted a growing number of international pilgrims and become popular with hiking and cycling enthusiasts.
In May of 2018, I had the good fortune to spend a week walking on the Camino in somatic pilgrimage with a group of bodyworkers from around the globe. I had heard of the Camino through different avenues, and each time it crossed my path, it became more compelling. Given my body’s history and injuries, I had concerns about the physical demands of walking 10-20 miles per day yet something deeper and more internal called me to go.
We traversed a special coastal stage of the Camino, the Finisterre-Muxia Way, also known as “The Pagan’s Way”. Trekking 100 miles through scenic Spanish countryside, villages and hamlets brought many lessons. The most surprising and profound was in my state of mind. I had spent months at home before the journey preparing for the Camino mileage. Most training days I would walk while plugged into headphones, using the purposeful distraction of music to combat my mental chatter. Just two days into the journey; no headphones, no music…. and my mind was quiet. The absence of incessant anxiety, of contemplating difficulties of a future that is yet to be, worrying about what might happen and creating resistance to imagined obstacles, caught in habitual negative thoughts patterns. Yet here amidst the Spanish fields and flora, the clear turquoise ocean, and my aching muscles, there was no mental noise. Where had it gone? When I realized how different it was in such a short time, I was stunned.
Since I’ve returned home, I’ve watched my mind with a greater sense of detachment. The chatter comes with the squeeze of stress driven by the fear of the unknown. It doesn’t come as frequently or as quickly as it used to, but I’ve come to realize that monkey mind is a choice. There is a moment where I can jump on the wheel, follow the thought train and increase my mental spin or I can make a different move. As I deepen my breath, I remind myself that these thoughts aren’t useful. My heart settles and my mind slows. For me, the value in this lesson was worth 100 miles.