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El Camino

Your spiritual well will not run dry if you take the time and care to replenish it by self-loving actions.  Julia Cameron

It was one of the most important Christian pilgrimages during medieval times, this journey that can be taken on several routes through Spain and Portugal all leading to the seaside town of Galicia and the cathedral of Santiago de Compostela where it is believed that the remains of the apostle St. James are buried.  And for modern-day spiritual adventurers, it still is a popular pilgrimage, the trek through towns and villages on ancient paths that takes weeks and weeks on foot or horseback to complete.  El Camino, it is called, and I know several women who have embarked on this adventure, three who have just completed it in the past few months, and one who will be setting off in September.

I think it was my friend who walked her way across Spain to Galicia some years ago who told me that the El Camino gives to you what you, at your deepest core, are seeking and needing, that its gifts are tailor-made for each one of us.  I remember her saying that she realized on the trek that she wasn’t wanting for anything, that, at one point, she was walking through a field of clover and wondered whether it was possible to find one with four leaves, and, just at that moment, that very moment of deep breath and reflection, she looked down and there it was, staring back at her, her own four-leaf clover.  It was like that throughout the whole several-week pilgrimage; whatever she needed — food, a place to rest, a companion to talk to – was provided for her.  And she has carries this deep trust with her to this day.  And my friend who walked the ancient path this past April, my friend, who is deeply spiritual and intuitive and has spent years studying and meditating and learning from some of the most well-known teachers alive today, found the El Camino to be a playground of fun, that, at her deepest core, she remembered how full-bodied snort-filled laughter and out-of-the-box silliness and a month of wild adventure can be just as spirited as sitting still on a mat and watching your own breath and mind, and may be just what you need to move forward into that full-out fun-filled life you’re longing for.  And last month, a well-known spiritual teacher who I have admired and studied with, set foot on the El Camino and had a vastly different experience.  She, who has written best-selling books and has led workshops throughout the world, whose life is often out there in the public realm, spent her days, step by step, mile by mile, mostly in silence, stripping away the mind-talk and the old stories and the roles that she is well-known for, until, by the time she reached Galicia, all that was left was the gleaming shimmering present moment and a sparkling essence of who she is at her core.

I am drawn to it, to a pilgrimage that pulls me inward, that connects me to that core-remembering of what I’m truly seeking and needing.  I am drawn to that feeling of alignment, to the sparkling clarity, to the knowing of what feels right from the inside-out.  However, my summer is unfolding in a vastly different way.  No trip to Spain or Portugal for me.  No thirty days of solitude, no miles and miles of trails set out before me.  I’m in the throes of busy-ness.  I’m in the throes of family life.  My son and daughter-in-law and twelve month old grandson are visiting us in the Upper Peninsula for the month, dividing their time between our place and the home of her parents.  And, in a few days, we, my husband, my son, my daughter-in-law and grandson will join my other son and his fiancé in Maine for a week of visiting with family and friends.  It has been a dream of mine to get the whole family to Maine and I’ve made it happen.  I’ve rented a house for us, close to my birth-town of Bath, close to the peninsula where our family still owns land, where my brother and cousins live, close to two State Park beaches, close to restaurants, close to L.L.Bean.  I’ve collected brochures of activities that might be of interest, written down a list of favorite places to eat, contacted relatives and arranged a few get-togethers.  And yet, I’m under no illusions that the seven days in Maine will be smooth-sailing on a calm Casco Bay, at least not all the time.  I’m envisioning that the waters will probably feel choppy now and then.  Seven of us will be taking this pilgrimage to the coast, seven of us will be living in this rental home, seven of us, each with our own inner agendas, will be sitting around the table at night.  And, oh yes, it’s really nine of us, because my husband’s mother, who has lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan her whole life, who went to college at Wellesley over sixty years ago, has reunited with her college boyfriend from Maine and the two of them will be joining us for a few days of the week.

This is a path that I’ve stepped foot on willingly – eagerly, even.  I know what it is like to connect with my core while alone, while on a yoga mat, while with my mate and friends, while living my day-to-day life, while on long treks through wilderness and villages and towns.  That’s all familiar territory to me.  My footsteps aren’t so confident, however, when family is visiting for a month, or when we, as family, set forth on an adventure together for a week, especially to a place that has such a special place in my heart.  This is virgin soil.  This is my edge.  How do I, who adores this family of mine, who adores having a twelve month old waddling and toddling and chirping and babbling and banging and playing his way around our house, how do I, who is jumping up and down at the prospect of all of us being in Maine together, who wants to share this place with those she loves, how do I sink down into my own center and hear what my personal El Camino is showing me?

I’m not sure how I do it.  But I’m thinking that my friends who set forth on that ancient path in Spain and Portugal weren’t so sure how they would do it either.  I’m sensing that each one of my friends had to surrender to the journey, to the process, and I’m sensing that I need to do the same.  I’m sensing that they just put one foot in front of the other and kept moving forward.  And that is not bad advice for me either.  One step at a time.  One breath at a time.  Sometimes alone.  Sometimes with that baby who I am gloriously addicted to.  Sometimes in the family clan.  And the El Camino?  We’ll be there.  We really will.  The whole family.  It is my favorite restaurant in the whole world and it is located in Brunswick, Maine.


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