Embracing Your Camino -- Mindfully

I love the word "camino" in Spanish.  It is, perhaps, my favorite Spanish word.

Camino means "way" or "path" in Spanish.  Its use is versatile.  It can mean a physical path, or it can mean a more metaphysical one.  

Stairs in Madrid

Stairs in Madrid

In Spain, "camino" also refers to the Camino de Santiago, or the Way of Saint James.  The Camino de Santiago represents a pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Saint James in northern Spain.  Because the Camino de Santiago contains several paths, there are many tours that Spain offers to walk or bike part of the Camino.  

One form of self care that I often promote to others as a quick pick-me-up is inspirational quotes.  The other day, I saw one that went something along these lines:  "If you know your way, it may not be yours."  The idea is that, if your path is already laid out before you, is it really your way?  How do you know your camino before you decide the next step?

In early May 2018, I took a vacation to Madrid.  I stayed in the heart of the city and intended to move about via the metro.  However, I quickly realized that walking suited my interests much more than cramming myself into an already packed subway.  That week, I probably walked 15-20 miles.  During my lengthy strolls, I took a long walk with a friend; I participated in a walking tapas tour; and I visited a landmark by foot that I had never taken time to seek out before.  For me, the best walks are those that you take where you get lost not only physically but also in conversation.  I love a conversation so rich that I forget where I am going or wish I had more time to talk to get there.

On one occasion, I walked and talked with a friend for about three miles.  We walked and talked for hours through the streets of Madrid about life, love, joy, and pain.  As we progressed, I noticed the pattern of not only our physical journey through the streets but also the rhythms -- the ups and downs -- of our conversation.  The conversation went from low to high and back down again as we shared stories with each other that we had only shared with those closest to us.  Watching this pattern of highs and lows taught me that our identities are not a place of arrival or even a stop along the way; they are a collection of experiences that we have as we traverse the camino.  The accumulation of these experiences is what breathes life into our self-worth and self-awareness.  Each experience makes up the whole camino.

Sometimes it is challenging to focus on the step you need to take now, or sometimes it is difficult to identify what the next step should be.  The key is to keep moving.  Focus on the scenery that surrounds your very next steps.  The boldness of the landscape's colors make the dull hues dimmer.  Don't discard these contrasts; rather, embrace them.  Embrace them for all of the lessons they present.  Spend time in the valleys so that you will know the difference when you get to the mountain tops.  

What does embracing your "camino" mindfully mean?  It may mean focusing on each step -- one after another -- with intention, observation, and grace until you reach your destination.  It may mean noticing the vibrant colors of the store signs that line the streets, inviting passersby to enter and buy.  It may mean listening to your own breath as you walk up a hill and you notice that your heart rate increases.  It may mean listening intently to a friend explain her deepest fears -- and greatest opportunities for courage -- to you while you gently coax her toward the desires of her heart and toward knowing her human worth and potential.  Or it may mean all or some of these things at once.  The idea is to embrace the camino by walking in it and noticing it instead of rejecting it or wishing it were a different path altogether.  

The camino's twist and turns cannot be avoided.  You can't simply wish them away.  Yes, you may take different turns and routes.  You may change course.  But you cannot skip the parts that you don't like.  And why would you want to?  Because sometimes those parts are exactly what we need to experience to fully appreciate the good ones, and to know ourselves at different points along the camino as we self-develop and allow the process of self care.

© 2018 Melanie Glover. All rights reserved.