Yes to your open road, your warm invitations.
The Camino de Santiago (‘Way of Saint James’) pilgrimage is becoming more and more popular these days among vacationers, spiritual seekers and adventurists. People can start wherever they like – from Saint James’ Gate in Dublin, Saint Jean Pied de Port in Southern France, Lisbon in Portugal – but all are destined to Santiago de Compostela (‘Stars field’) in North Western Spain and often beyond to Finisterre (‘End of the earth’) on the Spanish coast. I have walked the hilly, flat, and rocky roads on four occasions: alone, with family and a Church group. Each time was special, each time had its challenges, but what they all had in common was an experience of ‘group consciousness’.
On one occasion I began the pilgrimage alone and walked for many long, hot miles with pain in my limping, blistered feet. I felt like giving up and indeed my physical symptoms seemed to suggest this was a good idea. But I found solace in seeing the same faces again and again. My heart mellowed a little as they passed me out on the path or as I hobbled by while they were sipping coke or coffee. Then a larger group gathered at a hostel one evening and we became more aware of each other’s presence. My physical pain decreased once I started to walk with a pair from Canada and it became great craic when meeting the international group of nine in the evenings. We noticed when any of us was missing and we stayed in contact until the very last step.
Every day is a camino or way with so many uncertainties, worries and niggles and we open ourselves up to a collective consciousness the more we connect with people, places and circumstances. I have recently joined a triathlon club, and I enter more deeply into the present moment through cycling on the roads, swimming the laps of the pool and running in the fields. It is daunting when I think of taking part in a triathlon race, but I find consolation in slowly building up the training and sharing experiences with other club members. At 37 years of age, I could take an easier exercise path but there is something calling me to develop my talents and live life to the full. I am invited to shake off the cobwebs of fear and anxiety and to tap into the wellspring within.
The spiritual journey is about getting in touch with this dynamism toward fullness of life, which I think we all have the capacity for. When I behold the painting of the forest path, I am reminded to walk with attentiveness, to see the bright leaves, to be anchored in peace and stillness. We can take a break and rest a while, listen to the sounds of birds, notice the sun’s rays and feel the gentle breeze. Each season has its unique features, and as nature changes we are invited to do likewise. Whether we go on pilgrimage or develop our talents, the open road is not to be feared but to be embraced. It is meant to be lived and shared with others. It is meant to lead us to a wonder and beauty in all things. It is meant to warm our wounded hearts.
Oil painting by Siobhan Murphy.