Many of us have discovered that we are presently wandering in an area known as liminal space, a place of transition – waiting, listening, and not yet knowing. A pilgrim has been described as not just a wanderer, but a wanderer with a purpose. El Camino de Santiago offers us wanderers, and wonderers, an idyllic venue for exploring this sacred, spiritual place and provides us the opportunity for a true encounter with the mysterious divine.
El Camino de Santiago can be either a nice, long walk, or it can be a pilgrimage; you get to choose. For those who choose to be a pilgrim, as you begin your pilgrimage on The Way, remember that this is your Camino, it is your experience, and it must be walked, plodded, crawled and endured at your pace, in your rhythm. Your Camino is not a race, it is not a competition, it is not a statement. It should not be hurried or forced. It is an incredible labyrinth, always directing you forward by those yellow arrows, to a place of contemplation, meditation, reflection, and fulfillment.
In many ways, The Way, Your Way, is a magical journey of dichotomies and contradictions: giving and taking, blooming and shedding, growing and shrinking, rising and falling, succeeding and failing, living and dying, winning and losing. But it is always begging you to persevere, persist, endure, seek, and transform. You will often see the Latin word, “Ultreia!” or “Ultreya!” painted graffiti-like on walls or signs along The Way. It means something like, “Walk Further! Walk Higher! Onward! Upward! Walk On!” It is meant to be an encouragement for the pilgrim. Another Spanish word that you will often see is “Ánimo!”, which means fortitude, another form of encouragement or moral support to the pilgrim.
El Camino, The Way, is a perfect microcosm of life. Regardless of one’s own personal beliefs or faith, it is a profoundly spiritual journey, and must be respected and honored. Walking The Way is a noble act of courage and intrepidity!
The most important thing is to walk one step at a time, one day at a time, without expectations, but with acceptance and surrender, not focusing on the destination, but on the journey…and always knowing that the Camino WILL provide! I love the words of my favorite author, Paulo Coelho: “Our life is a constant journey, from birth to death. The landscape changes, the people change, our needs change, but the train keeps moving. Life is the train, not the station.”
So my friends, fellow pilgrims, and future pilgrims, walk boldly in love, compassion, and contentment, with purpose, knowing that God is walking with you, alongside you, and often carrying you…..always and forever!