March 22, 2004

Focal Points of the Camino - Ourselves

The second focal point is ourselves. Step by step, the Camino leaves ever more personal footprints, almost imperceptibly. It is a process of personal change because the things that we are experiencing allow us to go within ourselves. The experience then becomes an opportunity to get to know ourselves better.
As pilgrims, we soon realize that whatever happens during our days of pilgrimage depends on things that are not in our hands. It will depend upon the weather, our own physical and mental state, the climatic conditions, and on the friends and companions that we encounter on the Camino. Many think the Camino is magical. The magic of the Camino is something uncontrollable. We want to overpower it, but it ends up overpowering us. It is one of the first experiences that we get from the Jacobean Route: the futility of planning. We begin full of expectations, but the day to day effort demands change. The Camino makes us live in the present, it teaches us to be open to surprises, to welcome small things, to again live without hurrying, to understand that the things that are not what we think or want can become even better than our expectations.
Along the different stages, we see that the things that happen day to day have something to do with our daily lives. Life, like the Camino, is interwoven with times of effort and rest. There are times when everything is uphill and we cannot catch our breath; other times everything is as monotonous as the high barren plains. There are days of sun and of rain, times to talk, to listen, and moments when we prefer being alone. There are times when we would like to stay longer in one place and we cannot because life pushes us forward.
The Camino and life are so similar!
Getting started on the Camino requires a fundamental attitude of letting go of things. Abandoning ourselves means relying on something greater than ourselves; it means not being the center of our lives, rising above the natural self-centeredness that does not let us grow. It means recognizing that we are not in charge of life or the Camino. It means accepting our own limitations and discovering our human frailities.
The harshness of the Camino, the austerity, the pain, the hunger, the inconveniences, the inclemency of the sun, rain, or wind, the blisters, the tendonitis, the mud, the dust, the insects, the weight on our shoulders; all these hardships make the pilgrim open up to the Spirit and become more sensitive to the Mystery and begin to understand that we are completely dependent of the Father. This is when the pilgrim feels that God is seeking him and allows himself to encounter Him.
This trust and abandoning to Providence is evident in three ways:
  • Inner freedom: The fruit of letting go of needing to be in control because the less we try to control life, the freer we feel.
  • Happiness: A direct result of the above. When things are not our achievements or successes, but rather great gifts from life, we learn to enjoy them authentically and experience serene joy.
  • Sharing, collaboration: Outside of our desire to control things, when we feel indebted to something larger than ourselves that accompanies and guides us, we draw closer to others as companions and fellow pilgrims.

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