The Camino de Santiago is so much more than a long and painful walk. It is a unique and privileged opportunity to discover one’s true essence as a human being, unburdened by the distractions and trappings of everyday life.
It is a great crossroads where, everyday, people from every walk of life build bridges of peace and understanding with each other. It is a place of ineffable timelessness, where clocks and calendars lose their grip, and where a lifetime can be lived in a single day. It is a great equalizer which has no tolerance for the inauthentic. No matter your gender, age, nationality, faith, or station in life, the Camino will not allow you to hide from yourself or from others. Everyone is stripped bare of his wealth, titles, possessions, and prior accomplishments. All that remains is one’s humanity.
It would be a gross understatement to say that the Camino de Santiago exceeded my expectations. My experience transformed me in ways that I will never be able to put into words, filling me with absolute joy and a profound appreciation of life and divinity that I will carry with me forever. In the words of wise young Irishman…
“I came to the camino to find myself…
but I discovered so much more.”
— Fiach Walker
The Camino is a grand University of life, open to everyone as both student and teacher. Here are some lessons that I learned at that university (Do you have some of your own to share?):
- There is no such thing as THE Camino de Santiago. Each of us walks a different Camino, just as we walk different paths in life.
- Get out of your head and into bare naked awareness. In this head-less space, “decisions” are not required… only a receptive presence that transcends thoughts and feelings.
- Embrace “emptiness”… not as a lifeless void, but as an unflappable vessel of peace and joyous freedom… unencumbered, accepting, receptive, and filled with gratitude.
- No man is an island. Your identity is impossible to define except in relation to others. Your significance as a human being is your significance to others… and your significance with others.
- True community is based on sharing what we have with each other such that giving and receiving, giver and receiver, become one.
- You do not need much, materially, in order to be happy.
- Finding peace and freedom is largely the courage to leave behind all those things that you no longer need.
- Angels are everywhere… humble, generous, and unassuming. If you do not see them, it may be that you are looking in the wrong places.
- Just because someone has a smile on their face does not mean that their life is easy.
- Happiness is largely the courage to say YES to “small” things that matter and NO to “big” things that don’t.
- Make profound gratitude a habit as you rise to each and every day.
- Each and every one of us is eminently worthy of being a source of peace and healing.
- People and LOVE are always the most important things in life, period.
- Doing the impossible is not as hard as you think. A journey of a thousand miles is accomplished by one simple commitment… the willingness to take just one more step. And, no matter how hard it seems, you can almost ALWAYS take one more step.
All of the words and pictures in the world could never capture the true essence of the Camino de Santiago. In fact, saying anything at all risks diminishing the experience altogether. Despite my best attempts to do so, my Camino experience is ultimately non-transferrable. Each person must walk and discover his own way. That said, I encourage everyone to walk the Camino, trusting that any amount of time or distance traveled there, be it six weeks or six days, will be a unique privilege to cherish for a lifetime.
Physically and emotionally, your Camino will be so much harder than you expect, but infinitely more enchanting, enlightening, and inspiring than you ever dreamed anything could be. The Camino is a grand treasure chest, overflowing with precious gifts for those who are ready to receive them. And her arms are wide open, ready to embrace and transform anyone willing to take that very first step.
So, what are you waiting for?