Friday, March 1, 2013

Wandering Mystic Meditation From Camino Santiago

Setting off on a trip around the world, I knew one thing I wanted to do was walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain. I'd heard about the pilgrimage from friends, and it seemed the perfect way to put my journey into perspective. I envisioned an epic Lord-of-the-Rings quest thru amazing natural surroundings. There would be much time to think and maybe even practice the Vipassana meditation I had learned in India, quietly observing the connection between my physical and spiritual sensation.

My 35-day walk turned out quite differently. On the second day, in the French Pyrenees, a Spaniard with a broad smile asked if he could join me for coffee. Fernando and I then continued over the pass together, descending into Roncesvalles. Thus, my social Camino began. He introduced me to others he'd met along the way, as my vision of a solitary passage vanished.

Instead, I watched Jamie trying to teach fire-juggling to Charlotte and Corine. Got drunk on wine and tapas in the vineyards outside Logroño with Fernando’s home town guidance. I arrived feverish in Carrion del los Condes, having only managed to weave my way 15 kilometers past Fromista. Adam put me to bed, brought me medicine and fixed me dinner. I fell far behind my newfound friends, because of my illness. To catch up, I walked 45 kilometers in a day and met them at Leòn. Hugs of surprise and welcome ensued. I pushed my body to its limits to be with people I'd met just three weeks before.

In the middle of my Camino, at a small village called Foncebadon on the slope of Mount Irago, I finally sat to meditate on a bunk amidst a busy pilgrim hostel. It was the day before I would reach the symbolic Cruz del Ferro, an iron cross on the mountain summit. Pilgrims traditionally leave a rock there that they have brought from home to symbolize laying down one’s burdens. 

With all the noise around me, I at last understood why I was so happy putting one foot in front of the other day after day, why I felt an overwhelming sense of peace not experienced in my normal life. I was exactly where I wanted to be, doing exactly what I wanted to do, with no rush to get ahead, no tomorrow to worry about. There was only walking, eating, talking when I wanted, and occasionally washing the clothes I wore every day.

In this environment, I relaxed, opened my heart and lived in the moment. I warmed to the people I walked with openly, because there were no real-world complications to hold me back. I simply offered myself and they then responded in kind. Of course, when Santiago and reality came crashing in, Camino romances began to unravel and we began to ask "What next?" Still, when I laid down a rock picked up in the Nepalese Himalayas and looked up at the iron cross, I forgot my fear of connecting with others and just lived my beautiful shining moment with those around me.

Alanna Tyler is a travel lover hanging up her backpack after three years on the road for her next big adventure: being a mom. Originally from Colorado, she is now living in Tuscany. She has visited every continent but Antarctica, learning craft techniques from artisans and discovering local products from every corner of the world.

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