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An attempt at a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#1
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all. Especially shortly after walking part of the St. Olavsleden with my wife, where it became clear that she didn't share my enthusiasm for walking a pilgrim path. While reading a recent thread where someone admitted 'not getting it', I asked myself yet again what 'it' is that makes me a camino addict but doesn't hold the same attraction for my beloved. Still not an easy question. And I'm not looking for anecdotal evidence: I get the appeal of freedom, new vistas or meeting wonderful people. I am looking for a closing argument, and maybe even for a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything.

Until I get there, I'm not too proud to borrow, steal or copy things that might help me on my way. For instance: I read an online article on tourism (that I unfortunately can't find anymore) where an expert from the field stated that the motivation behind travel these days seems to shift from simply sightseeing or chilling out on a beach, to chasing a transformative experience. You have to come back a little different after a holiday, was the gist of his observation. This would be one explanation for the rising popularity of pilgrimages, I thought immediately.

But still the question remains: why is the camino so attractive for some of us? How come that we find walking through a country so much fun? While getting blisters or other injuries, suffering sleepless nights because of snorers and bag-rustlers, getting lost and forced to walk extra miles, slogging along boring stretches of industrial areas, wearing a (often too heavy) pack and having to wash out our undies by hand on a daily basis? Isn't that just some kind of masochism, that highlights the good things that also happen, or perhaps makes us appreciate our 'normal' life more?

Then I looked at it from another angle. What if the camino is so attractive because of these hardships and challenges, instead of despite of? And that it isn't about a desire to suffer, but a desire to rise above the pain and suffering and to use it as a tool for personal growth? It is after all an amazingly powerful (and empowering) feeling to find out that you can push through the hurt and come out on top. An initiation process or rite of passage usually involves pain of some sort: growth or rebirth hurts, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Secondly, the pain and suffering during a camino are on the whole quite manageable. A sleepless night is not the end of the world, blisters can be treated everywhere and you can get used to a heavy pack, or you can learn to leave unnecessary stuff behind. As pain and suffering go, and with some serious exceptions, most of it can be dealt with by gritting your teeth and getting on with it. A modest investment for a fresh outlook on life or yourself.

And thirdly, elaborating on the above, the camino is a safe environment where you always have an out. You know where the start and endpoint is and everything in between is waymarked. Medical help is a phone call away and almost all pilgrims look out for each other. There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and food. You have access to apps, guides, GPX and KLM files, and the knowledge of fellow pilgrims. And when you don't like it after all, you can hop on a bus or a train and go to the beach or the nearest big city within a day. Until that moment you can stretch yourself to your personal limits, knowing that there is a strong and stable safety net underneath you.

So masochism as a tool, a way to rise above yourself. It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. I reconnected with my physique because of soreness. Sometimes you need a shock to the system to recalibrate. But since that adds up to a bit more than (non-sexual) masochism, I needed to add some depth to that. The popular quote "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" was a little too easy for my liking. But it opened the door to the Existentialists, because it raises the issues of choice and responsibility.

In a nutshell, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the starting point of the Existentialists goes something like this: each individual is personally responsible for giving meaning to their own existence and living it 'authentically'. Which means that you'll have to be conscious of the choices you make and take full responsibility for them. The catch is that you also have to understand that nothing in your life (apart from death and taxes) is fixed or certain. You, and you alone, are at the helm of your life.

When you look at pain or suffering from an existential viewpoint, and why not call it existential masochism, it can provide clues on which to base a choice. It might be smart to avoid pain, but it might be wiser to look beyond it and find out if (temporary) pain or discomfort is worth suffering when it might make you a better person or puts you in a better place in the long(er) run. Walking with blisters hurts, but it will get you to that albergue where you can rest up and heal. Bringing a rice cooker in your pack might make it a bit too heavy, but if that means your wife will come along, it could be worth it. Pushing your friend in a wheelchair across Spain (or letting yourself be pushed!) will take all your strength and resolve, but it could be the best thing you ever did. You will however only find that out after you've done it. After you've pushed through.

And that is also the existential disclaimer. With some luck and perseverance you will end up happier if you choose to live 'authentic' and learn to suck it up every now and then. But happiness isn't a guarantee. Nothing is fixed or certain, especially in the short run. So we're stuck in the here and now, and have to figure out how to navigate towards the end of our existence every day. Our obstacles and courses may vary, as will our mileage, and the outcome is uncertain. But the greatest lesson I learned on the way to Santiago: if I keep moving along I can learn to stop worrying and love the journey. Even if, or especially when, it is painful sometimes. And nowhere else than on the camino have I felt this so clear and unmistakable. I seem to need the simplicity of the camino to really tune into that frame of mind and that's why I'm hooked.

As for my wife, and I imagine a lot of others: I suspect she learned this lesson long before I did and doesn't need or even want a camino to help remind her every now and then. I can recognise she applies this knowledge every day, whereas I can get easily sidetracked and distracted. She chooses to take advantage of a holiday to take a breather, relax and quietly potter along, where I like a refresher course on life occasionally. At first I was sad I couldn't share my passion for walking a camino with her. Now I find joy in the realization that although we're not walking the same path, our tracks do run parallel most of the time.


(Thanks @SabineP for proofreading!)
 

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hel&scott

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
2004 St Jean - Santiago, 2008 &18 Seville - Finesterre, 2010 Ferrol - Lisbon, 2012 from Cartehenga.
#2
Interesting post Purky. But I think you dwell to much on the pain. When my daughter was walking her first Camino with me, after a week she asked me when it would it stop hurting. I laughed and replied that it wasn't so much that it stopped hurting, it was that you stopped caring.

I don't like to overthink my pilgrimage, preferring to surrender to the way and focus on putting one foot in front of another. I think that makes me more of a fatalist then an existentialist.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#3
Interesting post Purky. But I think you dwell to much on the pain. When my daughter was walking her first Camino with me, after a week she asked me when it would it stop hurting. I laughed and replied that it wasn't so much that it stopped hurting, it was that you stopped caring.

I don't like to overthink my pilgrimage, preferring to surrender to the way and focus on putting one foot in front of another. I think that makes me more of a fatalist then an existentialist.
It's not so much dwelling on pain, what struck me was the sudden realization that it actually served a purpose. But you are right about the fact that you stop caring at a certain point. At least I did too, right about the same time I stopped thinking too much...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, Inglés, Fisterra/Muxia, Baztanés x2, Primitivo, Norte, Portugués & hopefully many more.
#4
An interesting theory, @Purky. If it's the right one (for you), how would a pain-free Camino work out? Do you think it would be less fulfilling?

Here's another theory that's kind of in the same territory as yours. It refers to flow - the idea of a person being completely at one with what they are doing. There are lots of other sources on this - it's a very old idea that has always resonated with me.

I think that's how I feel on a good Camino day and it's probably what draws me back. The simple routine of putting one foot in front of the other, walking in the footsteps of those who went before and feeling totally at peace. At one with the journey, the earth and the sky -and no distinction between who I am and what I'm doing.

It reminds me of the final lines of the WB Yeats poem 'Among school children':
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#5
I have found through self and confessions of pilgrims the pains of life are ameliorated by the Way!

Rollercoasters come often without warning or volition.

Nothing like a wee dander to make that ride a journey of life joyful and transcendent and a piece of heaven: as opposed to hell on Earth!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
some and then more. see my signature.
#8
An interesting theory, @Purky. If it's the right one (for you), how would a pain-free Camino work out? Do you think it would be less fulfilling?

Here's another theory that's kind of in the same territory as yours. It refers to flow - the idea of a person being completely at one with what they are doing. There are lots of other sources on this - it's a very old idea that has always resonated with me.

I think that's how I feel on a good Camino day and it's probably what draws me back. The simple routine of putting one foot in front of the other, walking in the footsteps of those who went before and feeling totally at peace. At one with the journey, the earth and the sky -and no distinction between who I am and what I'm doing.

It reminds me of the final lines of the WB Yeats poem 'Among school children':
O body swayed to music, O brightening glance,
How can we know the dancer from the dance?

Thank you Nuala, I have always loved his views and books.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#10
... the idea of a person being completely at one with what they are doing.
Frederic Gros, writer of a book called 'A Philosophy of Walking' said in an interview:

"And if you walk several hours, you can escape your identity. There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking.”
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP - Finisterre (2005) ; LePuy - Muxia (2007) ; Porto - SC. (2009) planning Lourdes- SC (2018)
#11
As much as I follow your arguments on transcending pain, and pain being a vehicle towards transformation of a more limited self, your theory does not explain the Camino pull to me. What you are saying would apply to any other long distance trail, or similar endurance test also - yet rather than reminding themselves in this way on any of the millions of walking trails in the world, people keep returning to the Camino instead. Your theory, it appears to me, leaves out too many of the specifics relating to the Camino, which (for me at least) include heightened intuition, serendipity, meaningful encounters with others, a constant process of self-undoing and renewal, a mysterious feeling of being athome again and again. How one views such occurences depends on one’s world view of course, easy for a believer in an intelligent force, still comfortable for an agnostic, but for an atheist? We then must look at natural forces other than a personalised God or gods...
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#12
Curious innit. Rock climbing: one with the rock. Fishing: one with the river. Camino: one with one's self?

Edit: in part in response to @LGLG above. I've never regarded my Old Guys as an "intelligent" force - they just are; old, hard, unchanging, indifferent earth; ever moving air; life-blood water and that all consuming change-maker fire. And they are there on my every camino. Then again maybe my understanding of my world takes me out of the secularist camp. Is there such a thing as a faithless believer? I love @Purky 's questions. Something to meditate on as my make my next offering to the road.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, De Soulac, Norte, Madrid-Salv-Primitivo
#14
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all.
Wow Purky, great post but way too deep for me – existentialism and all that. But you’ve definitely hit the nail on the head with the Grand Camino Theory of Everything – you don’t have to be religious to “get it”.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#15
Know what is so lovely? Loveliness. Can’t camouflage it. Plenty of it around. The willingness to pick up ideas and contribute is just lovely. I don’t know much about unbelief, or belief. Some day we will know. One way or another...
I have written and deleted about four responses, by the way! Then someone else posts and I say, how silly mine seems.. so off it goes. Looks like becoming a great post, Purky.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning on startting first time at e d of april start of may
#16
Thank you☺ are you familiar with the cartesian-newtonian theory? It does make sense in some pockets of life nature etc
And yes ime glad you think you dont have too be religious too get it so too speak!!
Hope youre fine
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#17
Wow Purky, great post but way too deep for me – existentialism and all that. But you’ve definitely hit the nail on the head with the Grand Camino Theory of Everything – you don’t have to be religious to “get it”.
I'm afraid it's way too deep for me too. I'm just groping in the dark, trying to figure out why I felt what I felt and attempting to make some sense of it. I doubt it will ever happen, but I can at least try. And have some fun while I'm doing it.
 

Syncro

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francais
#18
Hi Purky - I like your question.

My own 2 cents:

I was drawn to The Camino by what I believe to be synchronicity. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a calling. The beauty of The Camino is that it brings together others who hear this calling as well. Together we witness and partake in the finest examples of humanity no matter what continent, race, or creed we may share or not share. We all care for one another and lift each other when we need it most....and it's a hard journey, so at one point, we are all either a recipient of kindness or the giver of kindness. This experience is truly beautiful as it is challenging if one is open to it. The Camino also reinforces so many life's lessons which are more than just platitudes. I have often described The Camino as the most "loving" experience I ever had (not including relationships/family, etc.)....and I don't even talk that way. I think in the end, it is a personal journey just like life. Our meanings and takeaways may differ, but for many it nourishes the soul in ways other things just can not. I try not to over analyze it and just accept it and feel eternally grateful to have experienced it.
Oh, btw, I'm also agnostic and enjoy studying Buddhism.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#19
Your theory, it appears to me, leaves out too many of the specifics relating to the Camino, which (for me at least) include heightened intuition, serendipity, meaningful encounters with others, a constant process of self-undoing and renewal, a mysterious feeling of being at home again and again.
I am convinced that all the things you describe happen in everyday life as well. Personally I also felt closer to the 'mystery' on the camino than ever before, but it might very well be that I was far more receptive because of the zone I walked myself into. Since the camino I made an effort to really try and connect to people in my 'normal' life. Talk to strangers, engage in spontaneous random conversations, go beyond polite smalltalk. And I've had some amazing results, like I did on the camino. I found hospitality, curiosity, compassion, deeply meaningful connections, real honesty between strangers. It did take a lot more effort to get there, I agree, but it's there. And most people long for it, as do I.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#20
Although I am a Christian, I have not walked my four caminos for religious reasons. I too, have wondered why I seem to be addicted, especially when I gain no special enlightenment, spiritual or otherwise, like so many others do. Nor do I feel I've become a better or kinder person by walking.

What I do know is this... I love the feeling of being far away from home on an adventure and being retired it makes me "think" I am still young. I love visiting European countries, as they are so different than the US, yet I feel safe. I like that many of the camino routes are an inexpensive way to spend quite a bit of time in Europe and that there is a roof over my head each night (no camping gear needed). It's exciting to meet people from many countries all over the globe. I love walking step by step and seeing the landscape, villages and everything else unfold before me, rain or shine. I like persevering through the happiness and occasional hardship of "come what may" along the path. I enjoy the thinking and planning of the next camino during the more isolated winter months. I enjoy the religious feel of the camino and the beautiful churches, both large and small.

In a nutshell, all these things make me feel good, and alive, so I am pulled towards "the next one". My life at home is good, but of course mostly routine. I do share other types of travel with my spouse, but for me the caminos are in a special category all their own and I hope my health and life circumstances allow me to continue going.
 
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Davey Boyd

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Seven Compostelas in Three years and counting......
#21
I once asked an old lady I had just met why she has been walking the camino's for eight years almost none stop.

She answered 'because of you'.

It took me a good while (and a few thousand kilometers) to finally understand her answer. In fact I keep coming back because of all of you too.

Lovely thought provoking post Purky
Davey
 

james mcev

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
camino
#22
Well first up, I am not well versed in philosophy, (and indeed I am happy to admit, that I am glad you explained "existential"), so here is my (probably) simplistic view.

Walking a camino is an extended exercise in mindfulness.

To me the Frederic Gros quote by @Purky and also @Tincatinker's opening line also points to this, mindfulness.

I don't know the author, but someone sent this to me only a couple of days ago, and it resonates with me in terms of mindfulness and by extension the Camino. (maybe @Syncro will know?)

" Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is. The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is, In the very here and now,
The practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today. To wait till tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly. How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who dwells in mindfullnes, night and day
The one who knows the better way to live alone."


By way of explanation the following was attached.

"It is the way of deep observation, in order to see that the past no longer exists and the future has not yet come, and to dwell at ease in the present moment, free from desire. When a person lives this way, they have no hesitation in their hearts. They give up all anxieties and regrets, lets go of all binding desires, and cut the fetters which prevent them from being free. This is called the better way to live alone. There is no more wonderful way of being alone than this.

Then the blessed one recited this gatha

Observing life deeply
It is possible to see all that is.
Not enslaved by anything.
It is possible to put aside all craving
Resulting in a life of peace and joy. This is truly to live alone.


So, maybe that was a long winded way of saying, that it is the simplicity, the focus on the here and now, the mindfulness of the Camino, that keeps us coming back, unfettered by our "normal worries", and maybe putting our issues into perspective.

Or maybe it's something more, who knows for sure?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#23
I once asked an old lady I had just met why she has been walking the camino's for eight years almost none stop.

She answered 'because of you'.

It took me a good while (and a few thousand kilometers) to finally understand her answer. In fact I keep coming back because of all of you too.

Lovely thought provoking post Purky
Davey
That’s it, Davey. I also apply that to participating in threads on the forum. The time might come sooner rather than later to fade out - and that is ok too.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF: (2001, 2002, 2004, 2014). Hospitalera: 2002, Ponferrada. 2004, Rabanal del Camino.
#25
Hi Purky - I like your question.

My own 2 cents:

I was drawn to The Camino by what I believe to be synchronicity. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a calling. The beauty of The Camino is that it brings together others who hear this calling as well. Together we witness and partake in the finest examples of humanity no matter what continent, race, or creed we may share or not share. We all care for one another and lift each other when we need it most....and it's a hard journey, so at one point, we are all either a recipient of kindness or the giver of kindness. This experience is truly beautiful as it is challenging if one is open to it. The Camino also reinforces so many life's lessons which are more than just platitudes. I have often described The Camino as the most "loving" experience I ever had (not including relationships/family, etc.)....and I don't even talk that way. I think in the end, it is a personal journey just like life. Our meanings and takeaways may differ, but for many it nourishes the soul in ways other things just can not. I try not to over analyze it and just accept it and feel eternally grateful to have experienced it.
Oh, btw, I'm also agnostic and enjoy studying Buddhism.
Its like being a member of a holy order with an ever changing population, no rule, with Santiago as our founder.
 
Camino(s) past & future
CF SJPdP to SdC
(May 2015)
CF Sarria to SdC
(May 2016)
CF SJPDP-SdC
(Apr/May 2018)
VdlP (2020)
#27
Interesting...........

I find it way too easy to overthink why I enjoy walking a Camino.

So perhaps for me it comes down to one simple thing?

I feel at home doing it. I feel this is what life is supposed to be like.

I have tried transferring the 'lessons' of the Camino to my 'real' life back home.
It doesn't work for me........ at all......
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#28
Hmmm....
I never found walking the Camino to involve a lot of pain or suffering. Sure, some sore muscles and feet. The occasional blister. A wrist sprain. Nothing any worse than playing football when younger, or doing actual backpacking trips in the wilderness.
I never found the Camino to be austere. I was never in want of food. Drinking water. A place to sleep or bathe. Clean clothes.
Really nothing masochistic about a modern Camino walk. Besides, for anyone who is in any really bad pain while walking the Camino, I recommend they cease immediately and seek medical attention before whatever is causing the pain becomes a torn ligament, stress fracture, etc.
I never saw anything resembling a rite of passage about walking the Camino.
I have a calling to walk it that I cannot explain and was not looking for when it hit me like a punch to the gut. So I walk it.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Aug-Sept(2016) SJPDP-Finisterre, July-Aug(2017) SJPDP-Muxia-Finisterre, July-Aug(2018) El Norte
#29
It's so hard to put into words how the Camino makes me feel and why I do it, but some of you have been able to say how I feel:

I have not walked my four caminos for religious reasons. I too, have wondered why I seem to be addicted, especially when I gain no special enlightenment, spiritual or otherwise, like so many others do. Nor do I feel I've become a better or kinder person by walking.

What I do know is this... I love the feeling of being far away from home on an adventure and being retired it makes me "think" I am still young. I love visiting European countries, as they are so different than the US, yet I feel safe. I like that many of the camino routes are an inexpensive way to spend time in Europe and that there is a roof over my head each night (no camping gear needed). It's exciting to meet people from many countries all over the globe. I love walking step by step and seeing the landscape, vilages and everything else unfold before me, rain or shine. I like persevering through the happiness and hardship of "come what may" along the path. I enjoy the thinking and planning of the next camino during the more isolated winter months. I enjoy the religious feel of the camino and the beautiful churches, both large and small.

In a nutshell, all these things make me feel good, and alive, so I am pulled towards "the next one". My life at home is good, but of course routine. I do share other types of travel with my spouse, but for me the caminos are in a special category all their own and I hope my health and life circumstances allow me to continue going.
I like the people I meet. Like minded, adventuresome seekers. Oh and I lose whatever weight I’ve gained since the last time out.
I definitely like my body during and after the Camino - lean and strong.
find it way too easy to overthink why I enjoy walking a Camino.

So perhaps for me it comes down to one simple thing?

I feel at home doing it. I feel this is what life is supposed to be like.
YES!
I never found walking the Camino to involve a lot of pain or suffering. Sure, some sore muscles and feet. The occasional blister. A wrist sprain. Nothing any worse than playing football when younger, or doing actual backpacking trips in the wilderness.
I never found the Camino to be austere. I was never in want of food. Drinking water. A place to sleep or bathe. Clean clothes.
Really nothing masochistic about a modern Camino walk. Besides, for anyone who is in any really bad pain while walking the Camino, I recommend they cease immediately and seek medical attention before whatever is causing the pain becomes a torn ligament, stress fracture, etc.
I never saw anything resembling a rite of passage about walking the Camino.
I have a calling to walk it that I cannot explain and was not looking for when it hit me like a punch to the gut. So I walk it.
I also don't feel like the Camino is any sort of a hardship. I've been tired and sore at the end of the day, but I always want to get up and walk again the next day. If I'm not having a particularly good day on the Camino (though any day on the Camino is better than not being on the Camino) I know that the next day will bring new landscapes and new friends to meet.
 
#30
I am convinced that all the things you describe happen in everyday life as well. Personally I also felt closer to the 'mystery' on the camino than ever before, but it might very well be that I was far more receptive because of the zone I walked myself into. Since the camino I made an effort to really try and connect to people in my 'normal' life. Talk to strangers, engage in spontaneous random conversations, go beyond polite smalltalk. And I've had some amazing results, like I did on the camino. I found hospitality, curiosity, compassion, deeply meaningful connections, real honesty between strangers. It did take a lot more effort to get there, I agree, but it's there. And most people long for it, as do I.

“Authenticity” ?

And a widely-shared three words that have resonated with me since the late 60s:

Be
Here
Now
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#31
So many good posts here about why walking the Camino is so compelling! This sentence of yours especially got at something important:

[[It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. ]]

If you've ever been exposed to meditation practice, you know that it is easy to get caught up in the chaos of the mind; the rehashing of the past and rehearsing of the future that constantly flow through our minds in the form of Thoughts. In meditation, you use various techniques to acknowledge and then LET GO of these thoughts and bring yourself back into the PRESENT.

One way to do this is to come back into your body, to focus on breathing, for one thing. Pain, while not pleasant, also forces you to come back into your body and into the present. When you are walking the Camino, every day brings you into a new interesting place, carrying only what you need on your back, with limited resources and no list of errands or shopping you need to do. Really feeling your body, too. It is blissful to live simply, and in the present. When we go home and get caught up in the minutia and detail of our lives, it can be harder to experience life so intensely. We want to go back there.

Not to discount the impact of the fields of flowers, the ancient stone walls and the red wine, of course.
 
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JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#33
Guess I should read the whole thread before I respond... Yes, James talks about this, too.
Well first up, I am not well versed in philosophy, (and indeed I am happy to admit, that I am glad you explained "existential"), so here is my (probably) simplistic view.

Walking a camino is an extended exercise in mindfulness.

To me the Frederic Gros quote by @Purky and also @Tincatinker's opening line also points to this, mindfulness.

I don't know the author, but someone sent this to me only a couple of days ago, and it resonates with me in terms of mindfulness and by extension the Camino. (maybe @Syncro will know?)

" Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is. The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is, In the very here and now,
The practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today. To wait till tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly. How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who dwells in mindfullnes, night and day
The one who knows the better way to live alone."


By way of explanation the following was attached.

"It is the way of deep observation, in order to see that the past no longer exists and the future has not yet come, and to dwell at ease in the present moment, free from desire. When a person lives this way, they have no hesitation in their hearts. They give up all anxieties and regrets, lets go of all binding desires, and cut the fetters which prevent them from being free. This is called the better way to live alone. There is no more wonderful way of being alone than this.

Then the blessed one recited this gatha

Observing life deeply
It is possible to see all that is.
Not enslaved by anything.
It is possible to put aside all craving
Resulting in a life of peace and joy. This is truly to live alone.


So, maybe that was a long winded way of saying, that it is the simplicity, the focus on the here and now, the mindfulness of the Camino, that keeps us coming back, unfettered by our "normal worries", and maybe putting our issues into perspective.

Or maybe it's something more, who knows for sure?
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#34
Sometimes when I am walking a familiar trail at home, I imagine that I am in a far-away place like Australia or Kenya, where I've never been. It helps me see my usual surroundings in a new, captivating way. I look at plants differently, I see birds and wonder what kind they are. I wonder what kind of people I will run into. It's just tricking my mind, which I don't have to do when I'm walking somewhere that is actually new or far away.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés ('14/'15)
St Olav/Francés ('16)
Baztanés/Francés ('17)
Ingles ('18)
#35
I'm still gestating some reflections about this, but have really enjoyed everyone's perspectives...
Camino: one with one's self?
Or not-self. ;) Which is what @Purky was referring to in his quote.
" Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future.
The past no longer is. The future has not yet come.
Looking deeply at life as it is, In the very here and now,
The practitioner dwells in stability and freedom.
We must be diligent today. To wait till tomorrow is too late.
Death comes unexpectedly. How can we bargain with it?
The sage calls a person who dwells in mindfullnes, night and day
The one who knows the better way to live alone."
It's based on a verse from The Buddha (from the Bhaddekarrata Sutta in the Majjhima Nikaya), cherry-picked and a little 'tweaked,' the original referring too the development of insight that is quite a bit deeper than simply being mindful.
“Authenticity” ?
And a widely-shared three words that have resonated with me since the late 60s:
Be
Here
Now
Yes!
In meditation, you use various techniques to acknowledge and then LET GO of these thoughts and bring yourself back into the PRESENT.
One way to do this is to come back into your body, to focus on breathing, for one thing. Pain, while not pleasant, also forces you to come back into your body and into the present.
Very true. And you get over the illusion that things should be pleasant all the time, arriving at a mature understanding that pain happens in life to everyone. And what comes from that is compassion - which we see all the time both on the Camino and here. Much more so than in most life situations.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#36
I find that it is easier to be compassionate and generous on the Camino and here than in my regular life situations with the regular players. It is simpler, when you don't have all the baggage built up around the people that you meet who are like you, on the same path. We need to work harder to be compassionate with the rest of those we interact with at home, too.
 
Camino(s) past & future
C. Francés (2004-), C. Portugués, C. de Madrid, 1/2 V. Plata, 1/8 Levante, hospitalera Grado 2016.
#37
Oh, what a lovely thread!

For me, there's not a lot of suffering in walking - in fact, if I start suffering (like I did with the heat on the Ecumenical Way in Germany this summer) too much, I stop walking.

But there's one thing that has struck me, again and again. The Camino helps me remember that there are really only two important things in life, as on the Camino: Putting one foot in front of the other... and what's for lunch?

In other words, quoting my tae kwo do master: "Keep on keeping on" and at least a little thought on the necesssities of life - such as lunch.

I occasionally have a few seconds of "being in the now" in tae kwon do practice - the seconds where I'm not thinking about what has happened, not thinking about what will happen, but just going along, observing, in the moment, what my body is doing. That happens to me on the Camino, too, and not just for a few seconds, but for many, minutes at the time.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#38
When I woke up this morning (enjoying a day off), I was pleasantly surprised by all your responses. Thanks for playing along and for providing all sorts of different insights and varying opinions on why the camino can have such a strong pull. It seems that the majority of us value two things most: the relative ease with which we can make meaningful connections with others and the strong sensation of being in the 'here and now'. Apparently this is easier to achieve on the camino than at home, as I have found out myself too. I find it a good indicator of what is really important in life...
 
Camino(s) past & future
C/F: 2013, 2014
C/M: 2016
C/P: 2015, 2017
C/I: 2018
Voluntario: 2014 to 2018
#39
This is perhaps one of the best threads I have read or been part of in the more than six years I have been a member. Moderators, PLEASE protect this thread from closure.

Everyone has been intelligent, thoughtful, reflective and sincere. I appreciate each and every post, comment and opinion. I actually find myself in near total agreement with the OP and much of what follows.

My observation of all of the foregoing is that it is very well describes the affect and effect of actually DOING a Camino. Some posters used those same interpretations to describe their motivation for continuing to return and do more Caminos. I found all of these accounts accurate and reasonable as well.

What I missed above was a discussion or mention the initial "spark" that set the entire 'thing' into motion over 1,200 years ago. The entirety of the Cult of Santiago and the Christian practice of pilgrimage to a site containing holy relics, was proclaimed as authentic and worthy of pilgrimage by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, at that time.

Given the time, place, politics, and societal context in place in the ninth century (or thereabouts) pilgrims did not need to justify or rationalize why they were doing the pilgrimage. They did it simply because Holy Mother Church told them it was a good thing to do, and worthy of the sacrifice. Period, end of argument.

Things were, in some ways much simpler then. Most societies were feudal or near so. Everyone was very poor and victimized, except for the nobles and landowners. All lived short, brutal lives. In that milieu, heavenly salvation was frequently all you had to look forward to. And people craved a nicer life in the hereafter.

To spur this motion towards pilgrimage, the Pope also declared special spiritual indulgences or benefits to those successfully completing the pilgrimage. These benefits predated, and were were separate and apart from the 'selling' of indulgences that later split the Catholic Church into separate religious factions. The faithful, and the fearful (of eternal damnation for dying in 'sin') flocked to the clarion call.

Finally, there was a studied, and some still say cynical, effort to introduce more Christians into the Iberian peninsula, as the Moors had invaded from North Africa in the year 711 and were growing their civilization, rather advanced for the times. To counter this, more Christians had to be in what is now Spain. Seen more than a thousand years later, and as a military tactic, it was a brilliant move for the times.

Everything we are discussing here, some 1,200 years later, is all proper and correct given our historical understanding of the Camino de Santiago, our contemporary cultural context, and all the many good reasons for finding meaning in our lives, purpose to our struggles, and gratification in our accomplishments. I merely added my observations to add the original 'spark' that got this all started.

My reason for adding these observations is simple. To this day, there are those pilgrims amongst us who remain faithful to the religious traditions they were raised in. We are, each if us, the sum total of our life experiences. That includes our earliest nurturing by our parents, family, teachers and yes, religious leaders.

So, in that context, many of us simply have a default setting of "I believe...therefore, I will walk this religious pilgrimage...in affirmation of those beliefs." To be sure, there are often other instigating factors prompting us to walk. They have all been aptly discussed above. I am just trying to complete the paradigm.

This does not denigrate or diminish the secular aspects of the Camino de Santiago. Indeed, once one goes beyond the original motivation, if religious-inspired, for making a Camino, EVERYTHING that follows once you begin, is or can be interpreted as being essentially secular in nature or effect.

I sincerely hope this helps the dialog... keep it up...:)
 
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JamesVT

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances 2018
#41
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all. Especially shortly after walking part of the St. Olavsleden with my wife, where it became clear that she didn't share my enthusiasm for walking a pilgrim path. While reading a recent thread where someone admitted 'not getting it', I asked myself yet again what 'it' is that makes me a camino addict but doesn't hold the same attraction for my beloved. Still not an easy question. And I'm not looking for anecdotal evidence: I get the appeal of freedom, new vistas or meeting wonderful people. I am looking for a closing argument, and maybe even for a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything.

Until I get there, I'm not too proud to borrow, steal or copy things that might help me on my way. For instance: I read an online article on tourism (that I unfortunately can't find anymore) where an expert from the field stated that the motivation behind travel these days seems to shift from simply sightseeing or chilling out on a beach, to chasing a transformative experience. You have to come back a little different after a holiday, was the gist of his observation. This would be one explanation for the rising popularity of pilgrimages, I thought immediately.

But still the question remains: why is the camino so attractive for some of us? How come that we find walking through a country so much fun? While getting blisters or other injuries, suffering sleepless nights because of snorers and bag-rustlers, getting lost and forced to walk extra miles, slogging along boring stretches of industrial areas, wearing a (often too heavy) pack and having to wash out our undies by hand on a daily basis? Isn't that just some kind of masochism, that highlights the good things that also happen, or perhaps makes us appreciate our 'normal' life more?

Then I looked at it from another angle. What if the camino is so attractive because of these hardships and challenges, instead of despite of? And that it isn't about a desire to suffer, but a desire to rise above the pain and suffering and to use it as a tool for personal growth? It is after all an amazingly powerful (and empowering) feeling to find out that you can push through the hurt and come out on top. An initiation process or rite of passage usually involves pain of some sort: growth or rebirth hurts, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Secondly, the pain and suffering during a camino are on the whole quite manageable. A sleepless night is not the end of the world, blisters can be treated everywhere and you can get used to a heavy pack, or you can learn to leave unnecessary stuff behind. As pain and suffering go, and with some serious exceptions, most of it can be dealt with by gritting your teeth and getting on with it. A modest investment for a fresh outlook on life or yourself.

And thirdly, elaborating on the above, the camino is a safe environment where you always have an out. You know where the start and endpoint is and everything in between is waymarked. Medical help is a phone call away and almost all pilgrims look out for each other. There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and food. You have access to apps, guides, GPX and KLM files, and the knowledge of fellow pilgrims. And when you don't like it after all, you can hop on a bus or a train and go to the beach or the nearest big city within a day. Until that moment you can stretch yourself to your personal limits, knowing that there is a strong and stable safety net underneath you.

So masochism as a tool, a way to rise above yourself. It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. I reconnected with my physique because of soreness. Sometimes you need a shock to the system to recalibrate. But since that adds up to a bit more than (non-sexual) masochism, I needed to add some depth to that. The popular quote "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" was a little too easy for my liking. But it opened the door to the Existentialists, because it raises the issues of choice and responsibility.

In a nutshell, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the starting point of the Existentialists goes something like this: each individual is personally responsible for giving meaning to their own existence and living it 'authentically'. Which means that you'll have to be conscious of the choices you make and take full responsibility for them. The catch is that you also have to understand that nothing in your life (apart from death and taxes) is fixed or certain. You, and you alone, are at the helm of your life.

When you look at pain or suffering from an existential viewpoint, and why not call it existential masochism, it can provide clues on which to base a choice. It might be smart to avoid pain, but it might be wiser to look beyond it and find out if (temporary) pain or discomfort is worth suffering when it might make you a better person or puts you in a better place in the long(er) run. Walking with blisters hurts, but it will get you to that albergue where you can rest up and heal. Bringing a rice cooker in your pack might make it a bit too heavy, but if that means your wife will come along, it could be worth it. Pushing your friend in a wheelchair across Spain (or letting yourself be pushed!) will take all your strength and resolve, but it could be the best thing you ever did. You will however only find that out after you've done it. After you've pushed through.

And that is also the existential disclaimer. With some luck and perseverance you will end up happier if you choose to live 'authentic' and learn to suck it up every now and then. But happiness isn't a guarantee. Nothing is fixed or certain, especially in the short run. So we're stuck in the here and now, and have to figure out how to navigate towards the end of our existence every day. Our obstacles and courses may vary, as will our mileage, and the outcome is uncertain. But the greatest lesson I learned on the way to Santiago: if I keep moving along I can learn to stop worrying and love the journey. Even if, or especially when, it is painful sometimes. And nowhere else than on the camino have I felt this so clear and unmistakable. I seem to need the simplicity of the camino to really tune into that frame of mind and that's why I'm hooked.

As for my wife, and I imagine a lot of others: I suspect she learned this lesson long before I did and doesn't need or even want a camino to help remind her every now and then. I can recognise she applies this knowledge every day, whereas I can get easily sidetracked and distracted. She chooses to take advantage of a holiday to take a breather, relax and quietly potter along, where I like a refresher course on life occasionally. At first I was sad I couldn't share my passion for walking a camino with her. Now I find joy in the realization that although we're not walking the same path, our tracks do run parallel most of the time.


(Thanks @SabineP for proofreading!)
Congratulations, Purky, on your thoughts and writing that struck a chord with so many Camino pilgrims. Obviously, the Camino has deep meaning and lives on in the hearts of those who have trod the path. I loved the replies to what you wrote and happily read them, noting how individual in tone and thought they were. You did a good deed, Purky, setting off a good hearted discussion of why putting one foot in front of another is such a rich, transformative undertaking.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#42
Sometimes when I am walking a familiar trail at home, I imagine that I am in a far-away place like Australia or Kenya, where I've never been. It helps me see my usual surroundings in a new, captivating way. I look at plants differently, I see birds and wonder what kind they are. I wonder what kind of people I will run into. It's just tricking my mind, which I don't have to do when I'm walking somewhere that is actually new or far away.
I had a similar experience as you when I walked the meseta. We'd taken a rather long variant on a very warm day in early May and no one else was on the trail that we could see. The landscape reminded me of "somewhere" in Africa, so I walked and fantasized that I was there and imagined giraffes eating leaves in the sparsely placed trees. Thankfully there were no lions around! ;). It is a memory I will not forget!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#43
@t2andreo, as usual, Wow. As so often, you are a walking encyclopedia, or should I say walking wikipedia in this world of the internet. I'm sure your historical knowledge and interest in the camino will spark more dialogue here in a new direction. "It's all good."
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#44
This is perhaps one of the best threads I have read or been part of in the more than six years I have been a member. Moderators, PLEASE protect this thread from closure.

Everyone has been intelligent, thoughtful, reflective and sincere. I appreciate each and every post, comment and opinion. I actually find myself in near total agreement with the OP and much of what follows.

My observation of all of the foregoing is that it is very well describes the affect and effect of actually DOING a Camino. Some posters used those same interpretations to describe their motivation for continuing to return and do more Caminos. I found all of these accounts accurate and reasonable as well.

What I missed above was a discussion or mention the initial "spark" that set the entire 'thing' into motion over 1,200 years ago. The entirety of the Cult of Santiago and the Christian practice of pilgrimage to a site containing holy relics, was proclaimed as authentic and worthy of pilgrimage by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, at that time.

Given the time, place, politics, and societal context in place in the ninth century (or thereabouts) pilgrims did not need to justify or rationalize why they were doing the pilgrimage. They did it simply because Holy Mother Church told them it was a good thing to do, and worthy of the sacrifice. Period, end of argument.

Things were, in some ways much simpler then. Most societies were feudal or near so. Everyone was very poor and victimized, except for the nobles and landowners. All lived short, brutal lives. In that milieu, heavenly salvation was frequently all you had to look forward to. And people craved a nicer life in the hereafter.

To spur this motion towards pilgrimage, the Pope also declared special spiritual indulgences or benefits to those successfully completing the pilgrimage. These benefits predated, and were were separate and apart from the 'selling' of indulgences that later split the Catholic Church into separate religious factions. The faithful, and the fearful (of eternal damnation for dying in 'sin') flocked to the clarion call.

Finally, there was a studied, and some still say cynical, effort to introduce more Christians into the Iberian peninsula, as the Moors had invaded from North Africa in the year 711 and were growing their civilization, rather advanced for the times. To counter this, more Christians had to be in what is now Spain. Seen more than a thousand years later, and as a military tactic, it was a brilliant move for the times.

Everything we are discussing here, some 1,200 years later, is all proper and correct given our historical understanding of the Camino de Santiago, our contemporary cultural context, and all the many good reasons for finding meaning in our lives, purpose to our struggles, and gratification in our accomplishments. I merely added my observations to add the original 'spark' that got this all started.

My reason for adding these observations is simple. To this day, there are those pilgrims amongst us who remain faithful to the religious traditions they were raised in. We are, each if us, the sum total of our life experiences. That includes our earliest nurturing by our parents, family, teachers and yes, religious leaders.

So, in that context, many of us simply have a default setting of "I believe...therefore, I will walk this religious pilgrimage...in affirmation of those beliefs." To be sure, there are often other instigating factors prompting us to walk. They have all been aptly discussed above. I am just trying to complete the paradigm.

This does not denigrate or diminish the secular aspects of the Camino de Santiago. Indeed, once one goes beyond the original motivation, if religious-inspired, for making a Camino, EVERYTHING that follows once you begin, is or can be interpreted as being essentially secular in nature or effect.

I sincerely hope this helps the dialog... keep it up...:)
And for another bit of social context, don't forget the judicial pilgrimages (pilgrimage as penance) from the 13th century on. Forced to walk barefoot or even naked if you had been a really bad boy, or walking with the murder weapon around your neck if you had been caught killing someone. Heretics had to wear two yellow crosses (front and back) so bystanders knew you could be publicly humiliated. This practice killed two birds with one stone: punishment was dealt out and it saved the community the cost of imprisonment.

EDIT: Maybe this is also the reason why some people think I'm crazy for walking caminos; it could be that the stigma of a pilgrimage as punishment still sticks. ;)
 
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RJM

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
A few times, but soon again I hope....
#45
What I missed above was a discussion or mention the initial "spark" that set the entire 'thing' into motion over 1,200 years ago. The entirety of the Cult of Santiago and the Christian practice of pilgrimage to a site containing holy relics, was proclaimed as authentic and worthy of pilgrimage by the Pope of the Roman Catholic Church, at that time.
Thank you for pointing that out. A zillion likes.
Discussions of a secular or non-secular Camino (or any of the holy pilgrimages of all religions) aside, the Camino would not exist if not for organized religion, and this forum would not exist, or this thread, or even my typing this comment out at this very moment.....
*Just looked at this thread again and cannot help but chuckle a bit to myself when I read explanations why something called "The Way of Saint James" is secular. lol
 
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#46
I just made this a sticky so that we can keep it on the top. I haven’t responded because I always find that others are so much more eloquent when it comes to dissecting the camino experience.

But I was so happy to see that there are many who like me can’t really identify what it is except to say that it is the place where all of my parts, the physical and the ephemeral, come together to work in harmony.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances April-May 2018
Planning 2019
#49
Great thread! When asked by a close and very philosophical friend why I loved the Camino I said without thinking that by focusing on the simple but essential tasks i.e. walking, eating, sleeping, my mind was free to ponder things that have been camoflauged by the noise of my normal life. A certain clarity presents itself.
 

charliec

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
camino del norte(2012) camino portugese(sept. 2014)
#51
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all. Especially shortly after walking part of the St. Olavsleden with my wife, where it became clear that she didn't share my enthusiasm for walking a pilgrim path. While reading a recent thread where someone admitted 'not getting it', I asked myself yet again what 'it' is that makes me a camino addict but doesn't hold the same attraction for my beloved. Still not an easy question. And I'm not looking for anecdotal evidence: I get the appeal of freedom, new vistas or meeting wonderful people. I am looking for a closing argument, and maybe even for a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything.

Until I get there, I'm not too proud to borrow, steal or copy things that might help me on my way. For instance: I read an online article on tourism (that I unfortunately can't find anymore) where an expert from the field stated that the motivation behind travel these days seems to shift from simply sightseeing or chilling out on a beach, to chasing a transformative experience. You have to come back a little different after a holiday, was the gist of his observation. This would be one explanation for the rising popularity of pilgrimages, I thought immediately.

But still the question remains: why is the camino so attractive for some of us? How come that we find walking through a country so much fun? While getting blisters or other injuries, suffering sleepless nights because of snorers and bag-rustlers, getting lost and forced to walk extra miles, slogging along boring stretches of industrial areas, wearing a (often too heavy) pack and having to wash out our undies by hand on a daily basis? Isn't that just some kind of masochism, that highlights the good things that also happen, or perhaps makes us appreciate our 'normal' life more?

Then I looked at it from another angle. What if the camino is so attractive because of these hardships and challenges, instead of despite of? And that it isn't about a desire to suffer, but a desire to rise above the pain and suffering and to use it as a tool for personal growth? It is after all an amazingly powerful (and empowering) feeling to find out that you can push through the hurt and come out on top. An initiation process or rite of passage usually involves pain of some sort: growth or rebirth hurts, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Secondly, the pain and suffering during a camino are on the whole quite manageable. A sleepless night is not the end of the world, blisters can be treated everywhere and you can get used to a heavy pack, or you can learn to leave unnecessary stuff behind. As pain and suffering go, and with some serious exceptions, most of it can be dealt with by gritting your teeth and getting on with it. A modest investment for a fresh outlook on life or yourself.

And thirdly, elaborating on the above, the camino is a safe environment where you always have an out. You know where the start and endpoint is and everything in between is waymarked. Medical help is a phone call away and almost all pilgrims look out for each other. There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and food. You have access to apps, guides, GPX and KLM files, and the knowledge of fellow pilgrims. And when you don't like it after all, you can hop on a bus or a train and go to the beach or the nearest big city within a day. Until that moment you can stretch yourself to your personal limits, knowing that there is a strong and stable safety net underneath you.

So masochism as a tool, a way to rise above yourself. It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. I reconnected with my physique because of soreness. Sometimes you need a shock to the system to recalibrate. But since that adds up to a bit more than (non-sexual) masochism, I needed to add some depth to that. The popular quote "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" was a little too easy for my liking. But it opened the door to the Existentialists, because it raises the issues of choice and responsibility.

In a nutshell, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the starting point of the Existentialists goes something like this: each individual is personally responsible for giving meaning to their own existence and living it 'authentically'. Which means that you'll have to be conscious of the choices you make and take full responsibility for them. The catch is that you also have to understand that nothing in your life (apart from death and taxes) is fixed or certain. You, and you alone, are at the helm of your life.

When you look at pain or suffering from an existential viewpoint, and why not call it existential masochism, it can provide clues on which to base a choice. It might be smart to avoid pain, but it might be wiser to look beyond it and find out if (temporary) pain or discomfort is worth suffering when it might make you a better person or puts you in a better place in the long(er) run. Walking with blisters hurts, but it will get you to that albergue where you can rest up and heal. Bringing a rice cooker in your pack might make it a bit too heavy, but if that means your wife will come along, it could be worth it. Pushing your friend in a wheelchair across Spain (or letting yourself be pushed!) will take all your strength and resolve, but it could be the best thing you ever did. You will however only find that out after you've done it. After you've pushed through.

And that is also the existential disclaimer. With some luck and perseverance you will end up happier if you choose to live 'authentic' and learn to suck it up every now and then. But happiness isn't a guarantee. Nothing is fixed or certain, especially in the short run. So we're stuck in the here and now, and have to figure out how to navigate towards the end of our existence every day. Our obstacles and courses may vary, as will our mileage, and the outcome is uncertain. But the greatest lesson I learned on the way to Santiago: if I keep moving along I can learn to stop worrying and love the journey. Even if, or especially when, it is painful sometimes. And nowhere else than on the camino have I felt this so clear and unmistakable. I seem to need the simplicity of the camino to really tune into that frame of mind and that's why I'm hooked.

As for my wife, and I imagine a lot of others: I suspect she learned this lesson long before I did and doesn't need or even want a camino to help remind her every now and then. I can recognise she applies this knowledge every day, whereas I can get easily sidetracked and distracted. She chooses to take advantage of a holiday to take a breather, relax and quietly potter along, where I like a refresher course on life occasionally. At first I was sad I couldn't share my passion for walking a camino with her. Now I find joy in the realization that although we're not walking the same path, our tracks do run parallel most of the time.


(Thanks @SabineP for proofreading!)
Only to say thank you for your careful explanation of my own understanding of my camino (walked 3 x to Campostella).
along with the understanding that it's personal and different for everyone. Yes, many thank you's to youl.
 

JillGat

la tierra encantada
Camino(s) past & future
C. Frances
SJPP - Finisterre - Muxia, May 2016
C. Frances, Sept 2017
Via de La Plata (spring, 2019)
#52
Given the time, place, politics, and societal context in place in the ninth century (or thereabouts) pilgrims did not need to justify or rationalize why they were doing the pilgrimage. They did it simply because Holy Mother Church told them it was a good thing to do, and worthy of the sacrifice. Period, end of argument.

Things were, in some ways much simpler then. Most societies were feudal or near so. Everyone was very poor and victimized, except for the nobles and landowners. All lived short, brutal lives. In that milieu, heavenly salvation was frequently all you had to look forward to. And people craved a nicer life in the hereafter.]]
Wow, great addition to fill things out, t2andreo!

It made me ponder again the differences between walking then and walking now. Today, we have electric lights at night, heating and cooling in our houses, immunizations and modern dentistry, knowledge of bacterial control, cars and planes to get around, nowhere near as much random butchery, etc. etc. etc. We are far healthier and live more than twice as long. And so, with those blocks of Maslow's hierarchy satisfied, we fill our lives with minutia, head trips, buying more shit, fighting with people at work, and more minutia.

Many here mentioned the draw of a simpler life, walking the Camino with few belongings, living a day at a time, walking, eating, washing clothes by hand, sleeping, repeat. It is addictive to us modern folks, who are so challenged to simplify our lives the rest of the time.

Our excuses for not walking nowadays are a tweaking knee, lack of financial cushion, not able to get enough time off work.

Compare all this to a thousand years ago. People suffered constantly with infections and toothaches. They had barely enough to eat and some of it was rotten, the water was contaminated. Mothers died early in childbirth, children died from various diseases. Men butchered each other with even more wanton abandon than they do nowadays in Albuquerque, New Mexico where I live! :) They had no goretex or even shoes with real soles, no technical shirts, zip off pants, altus ponchos, Pacer poles, Osprey packs, plastic bags to rustle in the morning, earplugs, permythrin, etc etc (but maybe - come to think of it - the women probably DID walk in something like Macabi skirts...) Instead of plastic water bottles or pack bladders, they apparently carried water in a gourd attached to the top of a tall wooden pole. How did THAT work?

Anyway, I wonder.. did the Camino walk simplify their lives in any kind of fulfilling way or make it more difficult, facing the unknown each day? Did having religious faith make their Camino walk much more meaningful than we can imagine? Did any of them just like to get away from home and traipse through the red poppies, drinking wine with new friends, but use the bones of Santiago as an excuse to the family for taking off?
 

Jeff Mayor

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
French route (04,05,06) Portugues (07) VDLP (09,10,11) Aragon (0413) Levante (16) French (18)
#53
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all. Especially shortly after walking part of the St. Olavsleden with my wife, where it became clear that she didn't share my enthusiasm for walking a pilgrim path. While reading a recent thread where someone admitted 'not getting it', I asked myself yet again what 'it' is that makes me a camino addict but doesn't hold the same attraction for my beloved. Still not an easy question. And I'm not looking for anecdotal evidence: I get the appeal of freedom, new vistas or meeting wonderful people. I am looking for a closing argument, and maybe even for a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything.

Until I get there, I'm not too proud to borrow, steal or copy things that might help me on my way. For instance: I read an online article on tourism (that I unfortunately can't find anymore) where an expert from the field stated that the motivation behind travel these days seems to shift from simply sightseeing or chilling out on a beach, to chasing a transformative experience. You have to come back a little different after a holiday, was the gist of his observation. This would be one explanation for the rising popularity of pilgrimages, I thought immediately.

But still the question remains: why is the camino so attractive for some of us? How come that we find walking through a country so much fun? While getting blisters or other injuries, suffering sleepless nights because of snorers and bag-rustlers, getting lost and forced to walk extra miles, slogging along boring stretches of industrial areas, wearing a (often too heavy) pack and having to wash out our undies by hand on a daily basis? Isn't that just some kind of masochism, that highlights the good things that also happen, or perhaps makes us appreciate our 'normal' life more?

Then I looked at it from another angle. What if the camino is so attractive because of these hardships and challenges, instead of despite of? And that it isn't about a desire to suffer, but a desire to rise above the pain and suffering and to use it as a tool for personal growth? It is after all an amazingly powerful (and empowering) feeling to find out that you can push through the hurt and come out on top. An initiation process or rite of passage usually involves pain of some sort: growth or rebirth hurts, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Secondly, the pain and suffering during a camino are on the whole quite manageable. A sleepless night is not the end of the world, blisters can be treated everywhere and you can get used to a heavy pack, or you can learn to leave unnecessary stuff behind. As pain and suffering go, and with some serious exceptions, most of it can be dealt with by gritting your teeth and getting on with it. A modest investment for a fresh outlook on life or yourself.

And thirdly, elaborating on the above, the camino is a safe environment where you always have an out. You know where the start and endpoint is and everything in between is waymarked. Medical help is a phone call away and almost all pilgrims look out for each other. There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and food. You have access to apps, guides, GPX and KLM files, and the knowledge of fellow pilgrims. And when you don't like it after all, you can hop on a bus or a train and go to the beach or the nearest big city within a day. Until that moment you can stretch yourself to your personal limits, knowing that there is a strong and stable safety net underneath you.

So masochism as a tool, a way to rise above yourself. It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. I reconnected with my physique because of soreness. Sometimes you need a shock to the system to recalibrate. But since that adds up to a bit more than (non-sexual) masochism, I needed to add some depth to that. The popular quote "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" was a little too easy for my liking. But it opened the door to the Existentialists, because it raises the issues of choice and responsibility.

In a nutshell, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the starting point of the Existentialists goes something like this: each individual is personally responsible for giving meaning to their own existence and living it 'authentically'. Which means that you'll have to be conscious of the choices you make and take full responsibility for them. The catch is that you also have to understand that nothing in your life (apart from death and taxes) is fixed or certain. You, and you alone, are at the helm of your life.

When you look at pain or suffering from an existential viewpoint, and why not call it existential masochism, it can provide clues on which to base a choice. It might be smart to avoid pain, but it might be wiser to look beyond it and find out if (temporary) pain or discomfort is worth suffering when it might make you a better person or puts you in a better place in the long(er) run. Walking with blisters hurts, but it will get you to that albergue where you can rest up and heal. Bringing a rice cooker in your pack might make it a bit too heavy, but if that means your wife will come along, it could be worth it. Pushing your friend in a wheelchair across Spain (or letting yourself be pushed!) will take all your strength and resolve, but it could be the best thing you ever did. You will however only find that out after you've done it. After you've pushed through.

And that is also the existential disclaimer. With some luck and perseverance you will end up happier if you choose to live 'authentic' and learn to suck it up every now and then. But happiness isn't a guarantee. Nothing is fixed or certain, especially in the short run. So we're stuck in the here and now, and have to figure out how to navigate towards the end of our existence every day. Our obstacles and courses may vary, as will our mileage, and the outcome is uncertain. But the greatest lesson I learned on the way to Santiago: if I keep moving along I can learn to stop worrying and love the journey. Even if, or especially when, it is painful sometimes. And nowhere else than on the camino have I felt this so clear and unmistakable. I seem to need the simplicity of the camino to really tune into that frame of mind and that's why I'm hooked.

As for my wife, and I imagine a lot of others: I suspect she learned this lesson long before I did and doesn't need or even want a camino to help remind her every now and then. I can recognise she applies this knowledge every day, whereas I can get easily sidetracked and distracted. She chooses to take advantage of a holiday to take a breather, relax and quietly potter along, where I like a refresher course on life occasionally. At first I was sad I couldn't share my passion for walking a camino with her. Now I find joy in the realization that although we're not walking the same path, our tracks do run parallel most of the time.


(Thanks @SabineP for proofreading!)
Sounds like you answered your own questions about the “why”. I always thought it was because of the Ley lines alighned with the Milky Way.
 

jeannick

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Vezelay to Santiago 2014
#56
.
the thing about the incomfort and some mild suffering is that happiness is not a state ,

it's a change for the better , being sore and having the endorphins pumping is actually a good high
then there is the sudden burst of happiness when arriving at the end of the stage dropping the pack cracking a beer ( or a coffe or juice ) and shooting the breeze with others pilgrims
That feel fantastic , knowing you are able , willing and it's over for the day is a grand feeling

the Camino is a small world by itself , safe with little material concern ,in the real world but distinct from it
I was once working on oversea construction sites and it was the same feeling , in the world but in a special group
it's like some spiritual alternate universe
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 -SJPP- Santiago .Oct/Nov
2017 -Porto to Santiago.Oct
2017- Santiago- Finesterre. Nov
#57
I can relate to the idea of the Camino being a way of rising above the physical pain and emotional suffering and it being transformed in some way by the arduous nature of the walk .i don't think it requires a huge unified theory to process it . It's just real life lived in a lucid way with mindfulness and an attitude of acceptance .

In both my last caminos I had accidents or situations that tested me -in 2015 I fell and cracked my skull in Santo Domingo della calzada (it was a pretty serious hit and I had to go to the local infirmary and after a rest day and suffering concussion I had to dig deep to make the decision to keep walking which I did do ) and in 2017 after walking from Porto to Santiago and a breakdown in a relationship I had , I then struggled walking to finisterre - I reached my goal but then a serious gall bladder attack & complications meant I had to get to a hospital for emergency operation to have my gall bladder removed -spent 7 days in hospital !

All these events were significant for my Camino experience. The Camino kind of compresses our life into the kind of walk we end up doing and all of the highs and lows can be present AND we can also be given wonderful blessings in our encounters with the extraordinary generosity , and kindness of strangers and an appreciation of the simplicity and beauty of nature and routine of putting one foot in front of another over a long distance . These things don't require a religious perspective or belief per se but they nonetheless resonate with us in a deep way as human beings . I think this is what we are hungry for in the modern era . Authenticity and connection with ourselves , others and nature . Modern life has been making us strangers to ourselves over the last 30 years or so . The Camino helps us reconnect with our true selves again .
 
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martin1ws

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Somport to Finisterre Jul-Aug 2018
#58
Thank you very much for this thread.


Why did I like my first camino so much?
Hmm...
I think 'getting through the pain' was not the main reason for me. My pain level was rather low... thanks to good preparation because of this forum and probably a little bit of luck (or at least not being unlucky).


.... It seems that the majority of us value two things most: the relative ease with which we can make meaningful connections with others and the strong sensation of being in the 'here and now'. Apparently this is easier to achieve on the camino than at home, as I have found out myself too....
Yes... I think the little pain and other things
(the heat was so hot in the meseta in the afternoon (sometimes without enough water) or
it was so cold (and windy) on Monte Faro or
being sad because I had to say good-bye to a pilgrim or
I was so hungry and then the food so good or
moments with the right music and the flowers beneath the road or
the smiles of the pilgrims or ...
or ... or ...)
has helped me to be often completely in the here and now.

I had much time for my own on the Camino Aragones and Camino de Invierno.

Meaningful connections (the lonely caminos (albergues) and Camino Frances & Finisterre): Probably the most important point for me... so many pilgrims with the same aim (Santiago)... no stress of the 'capitalistic system' at home... every day seeing a progress to Santiago... never working 'not enough' or 'not fast enough' ... no status symbols... helping each other with 'all what we have' on the way... 'partying' each evening if we want... and maybe during the day in the bars... so many pilgrims I know... but so many 'new' pilgrims as well ... being so open-hearted between so many open-hearted pilgrims... confidence and trust to pilgrims I have not seen before... good wine ... almost always having enough time and very much time in the afternoon...
and I loved the smiles... the smiles of the pilgrims after a hard walking day...
"... The Camino is God's dream of how people should be when they are with each other. ..."

...
I have tried transferring the 'lessons' of the Camino to my 'real' life back home.
It doesn't work for me........ at all......
This is for me the really hard part of the camino.
I think at the moment that being a 'true pilgrim' means in some way to get camino addicted (and probably come back because of this) and to live the normal life a little bit more like the camino life (this is the hard part).
I cannot even describe what I really mean with this if you do not live as a hospitalera or something like that or like e. g. SYates or Rebekah Scott where the camino life is 'integrated' in the normal life...

I think the camino helps every pilgrim so much to live the life in a 'good' way...
and the 'normal system' distracts so much from living the life in a 'good' way. The ideals of the 'capitalistic system' (more money, more consuming, status symbols, looking 'perfect', power, working much, deliver in time, news with so many 'bad' actions of humans, efficiency... ) are not 'good' ideals for living the life in a 'good' way.

I think in the 'normal life' of the 'capitalistic system' it can be only minor changes...
For my 'normal' life I want to try to live more in the moment... try to achieve a better work-life-balance... try to live in a 'good' way... but I think it is so difficult in normal life compared to camino life.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Frances(2006) portugues(2013)San Salvador (2017)
#59
Thank you very much for this thread.


Why did I like my first camino so much?
Hmm...
I think 'getting through the pain' was not the main reason for me. My pain level was rather low... thanks to good preparation because of this forum and probably a little bit of luck (or at least not being unlucky).




Yes... I think the little pain and other things
(the heat was so hot in the meseta in the afternoon (sometimes without enough water) or
it was so cold (and windy) on Monte Faro or
being sad because I had to say good-bye to a pilgrim or
I was so hungry and then the food so good or
moments with the right music and the flowers beneath the road or
the smiles of the pilgrims or ...
or ... or ...)
has helped me to be often completely in the here and now.

I had much time for my own on the Camino Aragones and Camino de Invierno.

Meaningful connections (the lonely caminos (albergues) and Camino Frances & Finisterre): Probably the most important point for me... so many pilgrims with the same aim (Santiago)... no stress of the 'capitalistic system' at home... every day seeing a progress to Santiago... never working 'not enough' or 'not fast enough' ... no status symbols... helping each other with 'all what we have' on the way... 'partying' each evening if we want... and maybe during the day in the bars... so many pilgrims I know... but so many 'new' pilgrims as well ... being so open-hearted between so many open-hearted pilgrims... confidence and trust to pilgrims I have not seen before... good wine ... almost always having enough time and very much time in the afternoon...
and I loved the smiles... the smiles of the pilgrims after a hard walking day...
"... The Camino is God's dream of how people should be when they are with each other. ..."



This is for me the really hard part of the camino.
I think at the moment that being a 'true pilgrim' means in some way to get camino addicted (and probably come back because of this) and to live the normal life a little bit more like the camino life (this is the hard part).
I cannot even describe what I really mean with this if you do not live as a hospitalera or something like that or like e. g. SYates or Rebekah Scott where the camino life is 'integrated' in the normal life...

I think the camino helps every pilgrim so much to live the life in a 'good' way...
and the 'normal system' distracts so much from living the life in a 'good' way. The ideals of the 'capitalistic system' (more money, more consuming, status symbols, looking 'perfect', power, working much, deliver in time, news with so many 'bad' actions of humans, ... ) are not 'good' ideals for living the life in a 'good' way.

I think in the 'normal life' of the 'capitalistic system' it can be only minor changes...
For my 'normal' life I want to try to live more in the moment... try to achieve a better work-life-balance... try to live in a 'good' way... but I think it is so difficult in normal life compared to camino life.
I think in the 'normal life' of the 'capitalistic system' it can be only minor changes...
For my 'normal' life I want to try to live more in the moment... try to achieve a better work-life-balance... try to live in a 'good' way... but I think it is so difficult in normal life compared to camino life.


I like this.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#60
Great post and great responses - this pain/discomfort thing .. it sort of smacks of that awful mantra "no pain, no gain" .. and i am not too sure .. is there worthiness in suffering when it can be avoided? And really, isn't it all about the mind? Attitude? This constant internal discourse - or monologue?
As we all know, Shakespeare has Hamlet say "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so" and is this not the case? - but then ... who has, if not broken by it, not become more human through suffering? more empathic, kinder, more patient?

That said, I too have worked on this whydowedoitthingy, like a tongue constantly reaching for the jagged truth (see what I did there?) and find myself no closer to an answer (in fact I Kant find an answer ;) )
Migrating herds get that urge and off they go, twice a year ... we watch the birds gather, swarm, and again, off they go .. many die on their epic journeys, but still they go - we have explanations for it but do those creatures know why or wherefore? It, surely, just is?

If we go further in we get to the two basic problematic questions of existence - is any of it actually real? and why do we exist - for the second I have an answer!!

Chicken-Why-Do-We-Exist.jpg

Buen Camino!
 
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DLJ

Member
Camino(s) past & future
(4/2012) St.Jean to Santiago; (9/2013) Geneva to Le Puy-en-Velay and beyond
#61
Hi Purky - I like your question.

My own 2 cents:

I was drawn to The Camino by what I believe to be synchronicity. I won't bore you with the details, but it was a calling. The beauty of The Camino is that it brings together others who hear this calling as well. Together we witness and partake in the finest examples of humanity no matter what continent, race, or creed we may share or not share. We all care for one another and lift each other when we need it most....and it's a hard journey, so at one point, we are all either a recipient of kindness or the giver of kindness. This experience is truly beautiful as it is challenging if one is open to it. The Camino also reinforces so many life's lessons which are more than just platitudes. I have often described The Camino as the most "loving" experience I ever had (not including relationships/family, etc.)....and I don't even talk that way. I think in the end, it is a personal journey just like life. Our meanings and takeaways may differ, but for many it nourishes the soul in ways other things just can not. I try not to over analyze it and just accept it and feel eternally grateful to have experienced it.
Oh, btw, I'm also agnostic and enjoy studying Buddhism.
I agree with your 2 cents, and add a penny more - it is a shared experience of respect, love, equality, etc., it is also living in the now, away from the white noise of societies 24/7 technologies, a chance to communicate with our inner-selves. As Shakespeare wrote "the whole world's a stage and we are the actors," so it is an opportunity for the actor self to decide if he is playing a role, approved by the inner-self. I believe the diversity of the experience of the Camino, asks some questions, answers some questions, and the wondering calls you back.
 

owms2323

Credential question
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Frances (2014) Camino Frances (2016) Camino Finisterre/Muxia (2017)
#62
Although I am a Christian, I have not walked my four caminos for religious reasons. I too, have wondered why I seem to be addicted, especially when I gain no special enlightenment, spiritual or otherwise, like so many others do. Nor do I feel I've become a better or kinder person by walking.

What I do know is this... I love the feeling of being far away from home on an adventure and being retired it makes me "think" I am still young. I love visiting European countries, as they are so different than the US, yet I feel safe. I like that many of the camino routes are an inexpensive way to spend quite a bit of time in Europe and that there is a roof over my head each night (no camping gear needed). It's exciting to meet people from many countries all over the globe. I love walking step by step and seeing the landscape, villages and everything else unfold before me, rain or shine. I like persevering through the happiness and occasional hardship of "come what may" along the path. I enjoy the thinking and planning of the next camino during the more isolated winter months. I enjoy the religious feel of the camino and the beautiful churches, both large and small.

In a nutshell, all these things make me feel good, and alive, so I am pulled towards "the next one". My life at home is good, but of course mostly routine. I do share other types of travel with my spouse, but for me the caminos are in a special category all their own and I hope my health and life circumstances allow me to continue going.
How was the LePuy? Do you speak French or feel the need for it?
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#63
How was the LePuy? Do you speak French or feel the need for it?
I wrote some thoughts on the forum about my walk on the Le Puy route after I returned home at the end of June. I called my original post "I'm back home!" so hopfully you should be able to find it.
I loved this route and walked as far as Auvillar with two camino friends. I do not speak French and picked up very little, but managed fine in spite of it and you will too. :)
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Frances, 2017 Frances, (2019 ???)
#64
Frederic Gros, writer of a book called 'A Philosophy of Walking' said in an interview:

"And if you walk several hours, you can escape your identity. There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking.”
You are walking.

The body is walking.

You and the body are walking.

None of the above.

Peace be with you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Frances, 2017 Frances, (2019 ???)
#67
That said, I too have worked on this whydowedoitthingy, like a tongue constantly reaching for the jagged truth (see what I did there?) and find myself no closer to an answer (in fact I Kant find an answer ;) )
Migrating herds get that urge and off they go, twice a year ... we watch the birds gather, swarm, and again, off they go .. many die on their epic journeys, but still they go - we have explanations for it but do those creatures know why or wherefore? It, surely, just is?
I shared this observation once before on another post.

As to why???

"...because, because I (we) have no choice." st. cyrian

The answer?...

Patience...

It will Kome.

Peace Be With You.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#70
I've got it! It isn't just us, it is all humans in this false world .... that interim between Caminos, even if it ended with "I will never go back" .. we are drawn .. drawn .. called .. why? Because this non-Camino world isn't home.

I realised when I heard this - part of the sound track to a film I just watched - replace the word 'Home' with 'Camino' and see .... have started a new thread with this.

Trust me - volume up at max, maybe full screen .... play it a few times ... no books, just music .... ;)

 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Frances, 2017 Frances, (2019 ???)
#71
I've got it! It isn't just us, it is all humans in this false world .... that interim between Caminos, even if it ended with "I will never go back" .. we are drawn .. drawn .. called .. why? Because this non-Camino world isn't home.

I realised when I heard this - part of the sound track to a film I just watched - replace the word 'Home' with 'Camino' and see .... have started a new thread with this.

Trust me - volume up at max, maybe full screen .... play it a few times ... no books, just music .... ;)

This thread just keeps getting better and better.

A Hindu holy man, when asked about the journey on the path to enlightenment replied, "There is no where to go".

Just ask Dorothy.

Peace be with you.
 
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Aurigny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, 2016; Português Central, 2017; Port. Interior, 2017; Primitivo, 2018; Port. Coastal, 2018.
#72
I'm afraid I can't contribute to a secular theory, because I do it entirely for religious reasons. The truth of the matter is that I don't particularly like walking. I would take a 'bus to the bathroom if there happened to be one running up the stairs.

I'm out there because I think God cares. If He didn't, I wouldn't either.
 

mguillen

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2019
#73
Although I am a Christian, I have not walked my four caminos for religious reasons. I too, have wondered why I seem to be addicted, especially when I gain no special enlightenment, spiritual or otherwise, like so many others do. Nor do I feel I've become a better or kinder person by walking.

What I do know is this... I love the feeling of being far away from home on an adventure and being retired it makes me "think" I am still young. I love visiting European countries, as they are so different than the US, yet I feel safe. I like that many of the camino routes are an inexpensive way to spend quite a bit of time in Europe and that there is a roof over my head each night (no camping gear needed). It's exciting to meet people from many countries all over the globe. I love walking step by step and seeing the landscape, villages and everything else unfold before me, rain or shine. I like persevering through the happiness and occasional hardship of "come what may" along the path. I enjoy the thinking and planning of the next camino during the more isolated winter months. I enjoy the religious feel of the camino and the beautiful churches, both large and small.

In a nutshell, all these things make me feel good, and alive, so I am pulled towards "the next one". My life at home is good, but of course mostly routine. I do share other types of travel with my spouse, but for me the caminos are in a special category all their own and I hope my health and life circumstances allow me to continue going.
Beautiful. Eloquent. Thank you for this response.
 
#74
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all. Especially shortly after walking part of the St. Olavsleden with my wife, where it became clear that she didn't share my enthusiasm for walking a pilgrim path. While reading a recent thread where someone admitted 'not getting it', I asked myself yet again what 'it' is that makes me a camino addict but doesn't hold the same attraction for my beloved. Still not an easy question. And I'm not looking for anecdotal evidence: I get the appeal of freedom, new vistas or meeting wonderful people. I am looking for a closing argument, and maybe even for a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything.

Until I get there, I'm not too proud to borrow, steal or copy things that might help me on my way. For instance: I read an online article on tourism (that I unfortunately can't find anymore) where an expert from the field stated that the motivation behind travel these days seems to shift from simply sightseeing or chilling out on a beach, to chasing a transformative experience. You have to come back a little different after a holiday, was the gist of his observation. This would be one explanation for the rising popularity of pilgrimages, I thought immediately.

But still the question remains: why is the camino so attractive for some of us? How come that we find walking through a country so much fun? While getting blisters or other injuries, suffering sleepless nights because of snorers and bag-rustlers, getting lost and forced to walk extra miles, slogging along boring stretches of industrial areas, wearing a (often too heavy) pack and having to wash out our undies by hand on a daily basis? Isn't that just some kind of masochism, that highlights the good things that also happen, or perhaps makes us appreciate our 'normal' life more?

Then I looked at it from another angle. What if the camino is so attractive because of these hardships and challenges, instead of despite of? And that it isn't about a desire to suffer, but a desire to rise above the pain and suffering and to use it as a tool for personal growth? It is after all an amazingly powerful (and empowering) feeling to find out that you can push through the hurt and come out on top. An initiation process or rite of passage usually involves pain of some sort: growth or rebirth hurts, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Secondly, the pain and suffering during a camino are on the whole quite manageable. A sleepless night is not the end of the world, blisters can be treated everywhere and you can get used to a heavy pack, or you can learn to leave unnecessary stuff behind. As pain and suffering go, and with some serious exceptions, most of it can be dealt with by gritting your teeth and getting on with it. A modest investment for a fresh outlook on life or yourself.

And thirdly, elaborating on the above, the camino is a safe environment where you always have an out. You know where the start and endpoint is and everything in between is waymarked. Medical help is a phone call away and almost all pilgrims look out for each other. There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and food. You have access to apps, guides, GPX and KLM files, and the knowledge of fellow pilgrims. And when you don't like it after all, you can hop on a bus or a train and go to the beach or the nearest big city within a day. Until that moment you can stretch yourself to your personal limits, knowing that there is a strong and stable safety net underneath you.

So masochism as a tool, a way to rise above yourself. It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. I reconnected with my physique because of soreness. Sometimes you need a shock to the system to recalibrate. But since that adds up to a bit more than (non-sexual) masochism, I needed to add some depth to that. The popular quote "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" was a little too easy for my liking. But it opened the door to the Existentialists, because it raises the issues of choice and responsibility.

In a nutshell, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the starting point of the Existentialists goes something like this: each individual is personally responsible for giving meaning to their own existence and living it 'authentically'. Which means that you'll have to be conscious of the choices you make and take full responsibility for them. The catch is that you also have to understand that nothing in your life (apart from death and taxes) is fixed or certain. You, and you alone, are at the helm of your life.

When you look at pain or suffering from an existential viewpoint, and why not call it existential masochism, it can provide clues on which to base a choice. It might be smart to avoid pain, but it might be wiser to look beyond it and find out if (temporary) pain or discomfort is worth suffering when it might make you a better person or puts you in a better place in the long(er) run. Walking with blisters hurts, but it will get you to that albergue where you can rest up and heal. Bringing a rice cooker in your pack might make it a bit too heavy, but if that means your wife will come along, it could be worth it. Pushing your friend in a wheelchair across Spain (or letting yourself be pushed!) will take all your strength and resolve, but it could be the best thing you ever did. You will however only find that out after you've done it. After you've pushed through.

And that is also the existential disclaimer. With some luck and perseverance you will end up happier if you choose to live 'authentic' and learn to suck it up every now and then. But happiness isn't a guarantee. Nothing is fixed or certain, especially in the short run. So we're stuck in the here and now, and have to figure out how to navigate towards the end of our existence every day. Our obstacles and courses may vary, as will our mileage, and the outcome is uncertain. But the greatest lesson I learned on the way to Santiago: if I keep moving along I can learn to stop worrying and love the journey. Even if, or especially when, it is painful sometimes. And nowhere else than on the camino have I felt this so clear and unmistakable. I seem to need the simplicity of the camino to really tune into that frame of mind and that's why I'm hooked.

As for my wife, and I imagine a lot of others: I suspect she learned this lesson long before I did and doesn't need or even want a camino to help remind her every now and then. I can recognise she applies this knowledge every day, whereas I can get easily sidetracked and distracted. She chooses to take advantage of a holiday to take a breather, relax and quietly potter along, where I like a refresher course on life occasionally. At first I was sad I couldn't share my passion for walking a camino with her. Now I find joy in the realization that although we're not walking the same path, our tracks do run parallel most of the time.


(Thanks @SabineP for proofreading!)
Everybody has a different draw to the Camino experience. For me, a long-distance walk over at least several weeks is a “journey,” a word that conjures an unfolding story, with a new chapter added every day; possibly even an adventure if you’re lucky.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
camino frances,camino del norte,camino frances
#76
I don't know about you, but I'm (intermittently) still trying to figure out what exactly got me hooked on walking caminos, being an atheïst and all. Especially shortly after walking part of the St. Olavsleden with my wife, where it became clear that she didn't share my enthusiasm for walking a pilgrim path. While reading a recent thread where someone admitted 'not getting it', I asked myself yet again what 'it' is that makes me a camino addict but doesn't hold the same attraction for my beloved. Still not an easy question. And I'm not looking for anecdotal evidence: I get the appeal of freedom, new vistas or meeting wonderful people. I am looking for a closing argument, and maybe even for a secular Grand Camino Theory of Everything.

Until I get there, I'm not too proud to borrow, steal or copy things that might help me on my way. For instance: I read an online article on tourism (that I unfortunately can't find anymore) where an expert from the field stated that the motivation behind travel these days seems to shift from simply sightseeing or chilling out on a beach, to chasing a transformative experience. You have to come back a little different after a holiday, was the gist of his observation. This would be one explanation for the rising popularity of pilgrimages, I thought immediately.

But still the question remains: why is the camino so attractive for some of us? How come that we find walking through a country so much fun? While getting blisters or other injuries, suffering sleepless nights because of snorers and bag-rustlers, getting lost and forced to walk extra miles, slogging along boring stretches of industrial areas, wearing a (often too heavy) pack and having to wash out our undies by hand on a daily basis? Isn't that just some kind of masochism, that highlights the good things that also happen, or perhaps makes us appreciate our 'normal' life more?

Then I looked at it from another angle. What if the camino is so attractive because of these hardships and challenges, instead of despite of? And that it isn't about a desire to suffer, but a desire to rise above the pain and suffering and to use it as a tool for personal growth? It is after all an amazingly powerful (and empowering) feeling to find out that you can push through the hurt and come out on top. An initiation process or rite of passage usually involves pain of some sort: growth or rebirth hurts, but the rewards are more than worth it.

Secondly, the pain and suffering during a camino are on the whole quite manageable. A sleepless night is not the end of the world, blisters can be treated everywhere and you can get used to a heavy pack, or you can learn to leave unnecessary stuff behind. As pain and suffering go, and with some serious exceptions, most of it can be dealt with by gritting your teeth and getting on with it. A modest investment for a fresh outlook on life or yourself.

And thirdly, elaborating on the above, the camino is a safe environment where you always have an out. You know where the start and endpoint is and everything in between is waymarked. Medical help is a phone call away and almost all pilgrims look out for each other. There is plenty of choice when it comes to accommodation and food. You have access to apps, guides, GPX and KLM files, and the knowledge of fellow pilgrims. And when you don't like it after all, you can hop on a bus or a train and go to the beach or the nearest big city within a day. Until that moment you can stretch yourself to your personal limits, knowing that there is a strong and stable safety net underneath you.

So masochism as a tool, a way to rise above yourself. It makes a certain amount of sense, because I found that the little pains, aches and discomforts on the way got me out of my head and back into my body. I could stop thinking and fretting and worrying because the pain forced me to pay attention to my body. I reconnected with my physique because of soreness. Sometimes you need a shock to the system to recalibrate. But since that adds up to a bit more than (non-sexual) masochism, I needed to add some depth to that. The popular quote "Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional" was a little too easy for my liking. But it opened the door to the Existentialists, because it raises the issues of choice and responsibility.

In a nutshell, and please correct me if I'm wrong, the starting point of the Existentialists goes something like this: each individual is personally responsible for giving meaning to their own existence and living it 'authentically'. Which means that you'll have to be conscious of the choices you make and take full responsibility for them. The catch is that you also have to understand that nothing in your life (apart from death and taxes) is fixed or certain. You, and you alone, are at the helm of your life.

When you look at pain or suffering from an existential viewpoint, and why not call it existential masochism, it can provide clues on which to base a choice. It might be smart to avoid pain, but it might be wiser to look beyond it and find out if (temporary) pain or discomfort is worth suffering when it might make you a better person or puts you in a better place in the long(er) run. Walking with blisters hurts, but it will get you to that albergue where you can rest up and heal. Bringing a rice cooker in your pack might make it a bit too heavy, but if that means your wife will come along, it could be worth it. Pushing your friend in a wheelchair across Spain (or letting yourself be pushed!) will take all your strength and resolve, but it could be the best thing you ever did. You will however only find that out after you've done it. After you've pushed through.

And that is also the existential disclaimer. With some luck and perseverance you will end up happier if you choose to live 'authentic' and learn to suck it up every now and then. But happiness isn't a guarantee. Nothing is fixed or certain, especially in the short run. So we're stuck in the here and now, and have to figure out how to navigate towards the end of our existence every day. Our obstacles and courses may vary, as will our mileage, and the outcome is uncertain. But the greatest lesson I learned on the way to Santiago: if I keep moving along I can learn to stop worrying and love the journey. Even if, or especially when, it is painful sometimes. And nowhere else than on the camino have I felt this so clear and unmistakable. I seem to need the simplicity of the camino to really tune into that frame of mind and that's why I'm hooked.

As for my wife, and I imagine a lot of others: I suspect she learned this lesson long before I did and doesn't need or even want a camino to help remind her every now and then. I can recognise she applies this knowledge every day, whereas I can get easily sidetracked and distracted. She chooses to take advantage of a holiday to take a breather, relax and quietly potter along, where I like a refresher course on life occasionally. At first I was sad I couldn't share my passion for walking a camino with her. Now I find joy in the realization that although we're not walking the same path, our tracks do run parallel most of the time.


(Thanks @SabineP for proofreading!)
.
Purky,gracias for the nice letter as Antonio Machado said caminante no hay camino se hace camino al andar
 
Camino(s) past & future
(2017)
#77
I'm afraid it's way too deep for me too. I'm just groping in the dark, trying to figure out why I felt what I felt and attempting to make some sense of it. I doubt it will ever happen, but I can at least try. And have some fun while I'm doing it.
So Purky, I agree with some others that pain was not a significant factor. Yes, I got a blister following an especially vigorous German pilgrim- but it was not so much to manage. Nor was the heavy pack insurmountable ( and I had a pair of jeans and 2 cotton shirts in there). In fact, when I stopped walking with a pack and returned to my other life, it felt strange to not have a pack on. I could go on, but you get the drift...
What I was looking for (and found) was an odyssey. An old as time experience of walking for a month, carrying my needs on my back. It takes time to have this experience and the unexpected bonus was meeting so many wonderful people from everywhere! I am not a religious person, but this odyssey certainly renewed my faith in the essential goodness to be found in people who are doing this Camino for many different reasons.... why, didn’t matter.
I return often in my mind and am actively planning my next one.
Best to all and Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2016
del Norte 2017
#78
So Purky, I agree with some others that pain was not a significant factor. Yes, I got a blister following an especially vigorous German pilgrim- but it was not so much to manage. Nor was the heavy pack insurmountable ( and I had a pair of jeans and 2 cotton shirts in there). In fact, when I stopped walking with a pack and returned to my other life, it felt strange to not have a pack on. I could go on, but you get the drift...
What I was looking for (and found) was an odyssey. An old as time experience of walking for a month, carrying my needs on my back. It takes time to have this experience and the unexpected bonus was meeting so many wonderful people from everywhere! I am not a religious person, but this odyssey certainly renewed my faith in the essential goodness to be found in people who are doing this Camino for many different reasons.... why, didn’t matter.
I return often in my mind and am actively planning my next one.
Best to all and Buen Camino

Best advice I can give is just walk the walk and see what happens. People spend far too much time looking for meaning and religious enlightenment. For me, it's good exercise, I feel physically much better for doing it, I experience different parts of Spain and the Spanish people and I meet a lot of caminantes. Something very special and very human emerges from all of this as we help each other through our various challenges. It doesn't matter what we do in our normal lives, on the Camino we're all together with a common purpose. Sometimes people divulge a bit of their personal lives, knowing that they're talking to strangers and that allows them, perhaps, to say things that they couldn't otherwise say. One thing is certain, whenever I've walked the Camino I've made friends who I'm still friendly with now.
 

Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#79
Frederic Gros, writer of a book called 'A Philosophy of Walking' said in an interview:

"And if you walk several hours, you can escape your identity. There is a moment when you walk several hours that you are only a body walking. Only that. You are nobody. You have no history. You have no identity. You have no past. You have no future. You are only a body walking.
I too read that book and was so frustrated. Because of all the modes and reason Frederic Gros presents for walking - But each of them is true to the individual.

My reason, I think is development (s?)
I first heard about the Way in 1968, my schoolmate was taken to Spain to walk with a physiotherapeut of some renown due to his contact with drugs. One of the first ones in my town.. After some years he got clean and only died two yrs ago of an OD...
I asked my dad back then, a 5th generation Lutheran pastor: ´Jacobs Way, I thought that was in the Middle Ages?´ - ´So did I´ , he said, but since then it was a goal for me to be ticked off at my 60 yr mark.
Enter Cancer and a double hernia op at 55 which stressed the importance of healing.
To develop a good physique enter walking . I chucked my bicycle and walked to my job only 3 kms away, and I developed into "the Old Man that Walks"; to my clients, to the locals and to the district nurses that pass me every time in their small Peugeots. They wave and secretly dream to be outdoors, I think !!

I was wary about being able to complete a full Camino, so I started on a slightly curtailed walk towards SdC in ´14, four years after my operations, and to my great surprise reaced my end goal a whole week early !!

I have now since ´12 walked a good 2200 kms a year and 4 sets of boots later, I am fitter, younger in spirits, alas not in looks and yet am taken for a much younger geezer...
But that is never so important as my resolve to take more trails ...

I had developed into an avid walker, and two more trips to Spain, last time the VdlP I find I have developed into a Pilgrim...

And as you all know, chance encounters develop into deep conversation and mutual understandings on every Camino. Every day, every where and every how often......

And every time around, I am still surprised over how well everything pans out, practically, and how well the common level of physical pain, afflication or worry develop into being dealt with, tolerated and managed.
-This spring, my new sacro-iliac joint problem kept me from sleeping more than 40% every night and every night I feared I had to stop and go home, and still I reached as far as Zamora as planned !
I knew I still had a problem, and still went off anyway !!

My old cub scout leader, eons ago, used to say that you could do double of what you yourself thought you could do and 10 times what your mother thought you could do, and generally we watch each other trundle along with ailments that should otherwise keep us chained to a living room chair back home ..don´t we.
I am impressed with everyone I meet, and am likewise impressed by myself hanging in there...

We seem to have developed a robustness to make a camino happen and we do it willingly, because the rewards are so obvious that we risk a lot.
If we think it is the stretch itself, it takes another camino somewhere else to see it that the same transformative processes happens here as well.....
But most of all, I feel that life has to be challenged to be enjoyed to the full,
if I shouldn´t develop into an obstinate old geezer with an attitude in some old people´s home...

Nah, that´ll never do..
 
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Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#80
.
Purky,gracias for the nice letter as Antonio Machado said caminante no hay camino se hace camino al andar
I subcribe to that same poem, too....
Ant. Machado Selected poems, in Spanish and translated to English by Alan S Trueblood ISBN 0-674-04066-X
( Harvard Univ. Press) c) 1982 / 6th print ´97
 
#81
The views of each of us are all most valid and I respect each one. For me, the Camino is a deeply religious experience as well as an adventure. You never know who you will meet, for a few seconds, minutes, hours , days, weeks or months. You never know exactly what lies ahead or how the day will turn out. We all prepare, in our own ways, for the journey. But, again for me, the only things that are definite are the arrival, the destination, (which I have not yet experienced), and the return home.

My overriding purpose is to listen to what God wants me to hear. If I am lucky, it will become a conversation and I will learn so much more, and about myself.
 

leichecerca

Can’t stay away
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Finisterre: May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2018
Camino Frances: April-May 2017
#82
Love love love this thread, and agree it is one of the most compelling I’ve seen on this forum....

Note to history buffs, and to those who are compelled and/or mystified by the Camino’s very intense, magical, magnetic pull on otherwise very grounded, left-brain types like me: The Camino has a long and very rich pre-Christian history .... see below (excerpt from website - link follows):

“...it is a proven fact that there was a pre-Christian necropolis on the site and also that the Path followed by the Camino existed long before the finding of St. James’ remains in the 9th century.

Up until then the route had been known as Via Finisterre (from Latin, the Way to Land’s End) and archaeological sites along it show that Celtic peoples travelled it 1,000 years before Christ in search of Land’s End and the Sun’s resting place, celebrating all sorts of ceremonies, as did other peoples before them‑pagans travelling across northern Spain in a born-again ritual on a Megalithic path following the Milky Way. Therefore the origins of the Path are lost in time.


Some scholars believe that another clear antecedent to the Camino is the old “Callis Ianus” or “Via Janus” named after the god Janus, who occupied the highest rank among Etruscan-Latin divinities and represented the “Earth’s Axis”, the initiation to the Mysteries, the protection of life on Earth. Janus was the God of gods – the god of beginnings and transitions, thence also of gates, doors, passages, endings and time; the god of motion that caused the starting of action and change; and master of the four seasons and consideration that the magnetic pole has changed and in the old days Finisterre was the most western point in mainland Europe. For those knowledgeable about the mysteries of the cult to Janus, the Camino has specific characteristics left by the Masonic masters, by the toponimy of the places and by the old shrines that have protected pilgrims for centuries.”
—From “A Pagan History of The Camino

I believe the Camino evokes something very ancient and very deep in all of us, something that is in neither specifically Christian nor pagan… a sort of prehistoric human inheritance that is our birthright as humans... something ineffable that calls to our deepest selves, regardless of physical externals or religious beliefs.

Buen Camino one and all.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#83
The views of each of us are all most valid and I respect each one. For me, the Camino is a deeply religious experience as well as an adventure. You never know who you will meet, for a few seconds, minutes, hours , days, weeks or months. You never know exactly what lies ahead or how the day will turn out. We all prepare, in our own ways, for the journey. But, again for me, the only things that are definite are the arrival, the destination, (which I have not yet experienced), and the return home.

Buen Camino!
Hi Michelle, I have no idea what this God thing is; born as Catholic, brought up religion free, now a Unitarian Franciscan, and also now a God believing heretic (to Romans) - I pray at least twice day, often much much much more, and all are thank yous ... Why do I do this? No idea at all, except that I am not arrogant enough to believe that I actually know what is going on in this reality. Physicists only know of 5% of phenomenal reality, the other 95% is utterly dark to them, and these are the best scientific minds that we have! Camino? God? Are they one? No idea at all - except - to me, each one of us are called - we don't know why, there is no reason nor rhythm, but, to me - (this is my own personal opinion)- whether agnostic, aetheist .... believer - of any religion - we are called, and, after nagging for however long, we respond. I make jokes on here, I respond to threads with a no religious content, but, to me, here I am - I believe that we, all of us, are called - and the One who calls us, knows why; Personally I haven't a clue! Just my personal opinion .

Buen Camino!
 

Emma_Kate

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
2015
#84
There's something so hard to explain to people back home about how it feels and what it means - I think others have touched a lot on what I found to be a huge part of it's appeal - the simplicity of just walking each day, without the pressures from regular life and a big one for me - the ability to form deep and sincere connections along the way, particularly after living in a big city for so long and getting so used to shutting off a certain part of yourself, of the ability to just be able to connect in such meaningful ways to strangers. That was such an unexpected, huge part of my camino. I wonder sometimes if I were to do it again, if I would be disappointed because I had such an incredible, meaningful time the first time, but judging on the experiences of others, each is equally different and special in it's own way.

I made a film a couple years ago after my camino to try to verbalise and share what it meant to me. You might like it:

 

martin1ws

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Somport to Finisterre Jul-Aug 2018
#85
Thank you very much for your video, Emma_Kate.

I have watched it many times until today...
one of my many camino stories is that I showed it to Emma from Canada on my Camino (because of her name) and that she liked it very much as well.

There's something so hard to explain to people back home about how it feels and what it means...
Probably it is impossible to explain. I asked (with my very basic skill of Spanish) my first (Spanish speaking) camino family on the Camino Aragones how to explain the "camino magic" to a friend who has not been a pilgrim... and Fernando just said 'Es imposible'.

If a friend would say... please, try it to explain the camino magic... I would maybe say this:

* "The Camino is God's dream of how people should be when they are with each other"
* Look at the face, the eyes, the smiles... listen to the voice of someone who did a camino if he / she talks of the camino... a pilgrim probably cannot explain the camino magic... but maybe he/she can 'mirror' the own emotions and the camino magic...
* Watch the Emma_Kate video. This does not work for everyone... but it works for me.
 
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Stivandrer

Perambulating & Curious
Camino(s) past & future
I´ve got Camino plans until 2042,
- or till I fall flat on my face, whichever comes first !!
#86
There's something so hard to explain to people back home about how it feels and what it means - I think others have touched a lot on what I found to be a huge part of it's appeal - the simplicity of just walking each day, without the pressures from regular life and a big one for me - the ability to form deep and sincere connections along the way, particularly after living in a big city for so long and getting so used to shutting off a certain part of yourself, of the ability to just be able to connect in such meaningful ways to strangers. That was such an unexpected, huge part of my camino. I wonder sometimes if I were to do it again, if I would be disappointed because I had such an incredible, meaningful time the first time, but judging on the experiences of others, each is equally different and special in it's own way.

I made a film a couple years ago after my camino to try to verbalise and share what it meant to me. You might like it:

I truly believe that the magic of connecting is eternal on the camino, it happens even if you do not seek it...
 
Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#87
Don't get me wrong, I am really enjoying this thread, from the initial post through all the responses .. but, well, it is an odd thing, isn't it? The Camino is specifically a Roman Catholic religious pilgrimage to the relics of St James, upon which journey all are welcome, and has been for some twelve hundred years - we are even interrogated (kindly) in the pilgrim office and get a modern version of the medieval Compostela in Latin.

So 'Secular Camino' is really an oxymoron isn't it?

Whyever we go to Camino ... we are all pilgrims ... all drawn, sometimes repeatedly ... called? .... and if called we don't need to know how or why ... ?
and the whole thing out there, it seems to me, is - to use an NT quote - is "to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves" -
anyway - just a thought .... ;)

Buen Camino all!
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#88
Don't get me wrong, I am really enjoying this thread, from the initial post through all the responses .. but, well, it is an odd thing, isn't it? The Camino is specifically a Roman Catholic religious pilgrimage to the relics of St James, upon which journey all are welcome, and has been for some twelve hundred years - we are even interrogated (kindly) in the pilgrim office and get a modern version of the medieval Compostela in Latin.

So 'Secular Camino' is really an oxymoron isn't it?

Whyever we go to Camino ... we are all pilgrims ... all drawn, sometimes repeatedly ... called? .... and if called we don't need to know how or why ... ?
and the whole thing out there, it seems to me, is - to use an NT quote - is "to be as wise as serpents and as innocent as doves" -
anyway - just a thought .... ;)

Buen Camino all!
I chose to add the secular thing in my OP because I felt like an oxymoron myself when I started my camino. An atheïst on a pilgrimage? You've got to be kidding me... But along the way I learned a couple of things. One of them was that all my initial and rather vague ideas about undertaking such a journey started to melt away. They stopped being important, but most of all stopped being relevant. Including my atheïsm.

Some of the responses above also touched upon the seemingly contradictory nature of a secular camino, if there is in fact such a thing. @Tincatinker wrote: "Is there such a thing as a faithless believer?" And @Stivandrer noticed the same thing I did when walking: "I find I have developed into a Pilgrim". Which, personally, is a strange thing to feel happening as an atheïst.

But the biggest thing I learned was that in the end the camino isn't about me. It is about losing preconceived ideas and excess baggage. About willingly leaving a comfortable situation and learning to accept everything that comes your way. About facing the world and the people around you and forgoing past and future to be (in the) present. Whether it be in a religious or atheistic context doesn't really matter, in my view.

Maybe my growing feeling of a deep trust, the trust everything will pan out exactly right (which is very different from how I think it should pan out), very closely resembles the faith that people who believe in god have. Or vice versa. And since I'm a big believer in building connecting bridges rather than dividing walls, I will go with that. Because we might all start different on our caminos, but we arrive pretty much the same. As pilgrims, and distinctly human.

But, as you said, it is an odd thing, isn't it?
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Moissac to Santiago Spring 2005 was the first foray.
#89
I chose to add the secular thing in my OP because I felt like an oxymoron myself when I started my camino. An atheïst on a pilgrimage? You've got to be kidding me... But along the way I learned a couple of things. One of them was that all my initial and rather vague ideas about undertaking such a journey started to melt away. They stopped being important, but most of all stopped being relevant. Including my atheïsm.

Some of the responses above also touched upon the seemingly contradictory nature of a secular camino, if there is in fact such a thing. @Tincatinker wrote: "Is there such a thing as a faithless believer?" And @Stivandrer noticed the same thing I did when walking: "I find I have developed into a Pilgrim". Which, personally, is a strange thing to feel happening as an atheïst.

But the biggest thing I learned was that in the end the camino isn't about me. It is about losing preconceived ideas and excess baggage. About willingly leaving a comfortable situation and learning to accept everything that comes your way. About facing the world and the people around you and forgoing past and future to be (in the) present. Whether it be in a religious or atheistic context doesn't really matter, in my view.

Maybe my growing feeling of a deep trust, the trust everything will pan out exactly right (which is very different from how I think it should pan out), very closely resembles the faith that people who believe in god have. Or vice versa. And since I'm a big believer in building connecting bridges rather than deviding walls, I will go with that. Because we might all leave different on our caminos, but we arrive pretty much the same. As pilgrims, and distinctly human.

But, as you said, it is an odd thing, isn't it?

Coo!! Marvellous post!!!!!
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino frances,camino del norte,camino frances
#90
There's something so hard to explain to people back home about how it feels and what it means - I think others have touched a lot on what I found to be a huge part of it's appeal - the simplicity of just walking each day, without the pressures from regular life and a big one for me - the ability to form deep and sincere connections along the way, particularly after living in a big city for so long and getting so used to shutting off a certain part of yourself, of the ability to just be able to connect in such meaningful ways to strangers. That was such an unexpected, huge part of my camino. I wonder sometimes if I were to do it again, if I would be disappointed because I had such an incredible, meaningful time the first time, but judging on the experiences of others, each is equally different and special in it's own way.

I made a film a couple years ago after my camino to try to verbalise and share what it meant to me. You might like it:

Thank you very much for your video, Emma_Kate.

I have watched it many times until today...
one of my many camino stories is that I showed it to Emma from Canada on my Camino (because of her name) and that she liked it very much as well.



Probably it is impossible to explain. I asked (with my very basic skill of Spanish) my first (Spanish speaking) camino family on the Camino Aragones how to explain the "camino magic" to a friend who has not been a pilgrim... and Fernando just said 'Es imposible'.

If a friend would say... please, try it to explain the camino magic... I would maybe say this:

* "The Camino is God's dream of how people should be when they are with each other"
* Look at the face, the eyes, the smiles... listen to the voice of someone who did a camino if he / she talks of the camino... a pilgrim probably cannot explain the camino magic... but maybe he/she can 'mirror' the own emotions and the camino magic...
* Watch the Emma_Kate video. This does not work for everyone... but it works for me.
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino frances,camino del norte,camino frances
#91
It is impossible to explain to any one the magic of the camino,you just have to go and do the camino to experience it.
 

Purky

The Dutch guy
Camino(s) past & future
Breathe properly.
Stay curious.
And walk a camino.
#93
@Purky, I love this!...."I'm a big believer in building connecting bridges rather than dividing walls."
I borrowed it from Pope Francis, who also believes people "should not build walls, but bridges". I'll leave out the context in which he said that, because it would be in violation of forum rule #2...
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Frances, 2017 Frances, (2019 ???)
#94
There's something so hard to explain to people back home about how it feels and what it means - I think others have touched a lot on what I found to be a huge part of it's appeal - the simplicity of just walking each day, without the pressures from regular life and a big one for me - the ability to form deep and sincere connections along the way, particularly after living in a big city for so long and getting so used to shutting off a certain part of yourself, of the ability to just be able to connect in such meaningful ways to strangers. That was such an unexpected, huge part of my camino. I wonder sometimes if I were to do it again, if I would be disappointed because I had such an incredible, meaningful time the first time, but judging on the experiences of others, each is equally different and special in it's own way.

I made a film a couple years ago after my camino to try to verbalise and share what it meant to me. You might like it:

Your film is excellente! I have seen it before, but had forgotten how well it was edited. The voiceovers were/are most poignant.
My experience on a second C.F. in 2017 was a true joy. I was more relaxed and at ease. I followed all the advice I so righteously passed on to others and had two small blisters, short days, and wonderful nights sleep. All that and lopped a week off my first Camino time.
Your film shows you with a retinue of compardres. Did you walk with them for the entire length, or most of it? If you did and formed a tight relationship that might or might not happen a second time. For me, a rather solitary pilgrim, the first had a series of fellow travelers that came and went. The second had fewer, but the solitude was just sublime.
My conclusion would be if you walk again do so with no expectations. You will most likely will be disiapointed if you do. If you accept your pilgrimage as the gift that it is it will unfold before you and you will return, and perhaps like me and many others, plan for your next Camino.

Peace be with you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Frances, 2017 Frances, (2019 ???)
#95
I chose to add the secular thing in my OP because I felt like an oxymoron myself when I started my camino. An atheïst on a pilgrimage? You've got to be kidding me... But along the way I learned a couple of things. One of them was that all my initial and rather vague ideas about undertaking such a journey started to melt away. They stopped being important, but most of all stopped being relevant. Including my atheïsm.

Some of the responses above also touched upon the seemingly contradictory nature of a secular camino, if there is in fact such a thing. @Tincatinker wrote: "Is there such a thing as a faithless believer?" And @Stivandrer noticed the same thing I did when walking: "I find I have developed into a Pilgrim". Which, personally, is a strange thing to feel happening as an atheïst.

But the biggest thing I learned was that in the end the camino isn't about me. It is about losing preconceived ideas and excess baggage. About willingly leaving a comfortable situation and learning to accept everything that comes your way. About facing the world and the people around you and forgoing past and future to be (in the) present. Whether it be in a religious or atheistic context doesn't really matter, in my view.

Maybe my growing feeling of a deep trust, the trust everything will pan out exactly right (which is very different from how I think it should pan out), very closely resembles the faith that people who believe in god have. Or vice versa. And since I'm a big believer in building connecting bridges rather than dividing walls, I will go with that. Because we might all start different on our caminos, but we arrive pretty much the same. As pilgrims, and distinctly human.

But, as you said, it is an odd thing, isn't it?
Well Purky I couldn't help but notice your discerning argument about the abandoning of "preconceived ideas and excess baggage."

And, I had this wonderful epiphany about not only this thread, but countless others on this forum. I mean, if one were to go over all the forums content I would wager a princely sum that a large majority of them have some shred of content about just what you are talking about.

EXCESS BAGGAGE!!!

The pilgrim's battle with the ghosts of the Camino and the magic remedies and potions that they add to their pack(s),both mental and physical. To thwart their nemises and conquer their fears. It, the Camino, is really a miniature metaphor in motion to aid us in turning away from our incessantly active minds and turn towards simpleness. As in when Jesus encourages his followers to sell what they have, give the money to the poor and follow him.

In the docmentary Six Ways to Santiago Jack, from Canada, states the obvious to the camera.
"You get up every morning, put all you have into a bag and walk. Weather you want to or not."
It's the epitome of simple. And, as you lighten your load (s) the walk/way becomes lighter/easier. More natural. The way it's supposed to be.
When you leave the Camino and return (I refer to it as 're-entry') to your life (???) and begin the process of intergrating your experiences that you had in Spain, or wherever you may have walked, the whirlwind of the 21st century will be upon you; be prepared to watch some of your ideals and aspirations fade as you struggle to keep yourself from going 'down the drain of 'keep'n up to stay alive'.
It doesn't all disappear as witnessed by forums like this as pilgrim's speak to their ideals and seek others to confirm their inner desires of 'did that really happen? did I really feel that way? am I the only one who feels a bit dis-associated? ' I'm going back!!! (really continuing forward).

Peace be with you.
 
Camino(s) past & future
SJPP - Finisterre (2005) ; LePuy - Muxia (2007) ; Porto - SC. (2009) planning Lourdes- SC (2018)
#96
I chose to add the secular thing in my OP because I felt like an oxymoron myself when I started my camino. An atheïst on a pilgrimage? You've got to be kidding me... But along the way I learned a couple of things. One of them was that all my initial and rather vague ideas about undertaking such a journey started to melt away. They stopped being important, but most of all stopped being relevant. Including my atheïsm.

Some of the responses above also touched upon the seemingly contradictory nature of a secular camino, if there is in fact such a thing. @Tincatinker wrote: "Is there such a thing as a faithless believer?" And @Stivandrer noticed the same thing I did when walking: "I find I have developed into a Pilgrim". Which, personally, is a strange thing to feel happening as an atheïst.

But the biggest thing I learned was that in the end the camino isn't about me. It is about losing preconceived ideas and excess baggage. About willingly leaving a comfortable situation and learning to accept everything that comes your way. About facing the world and the people around you and forgoing past and future to be (in the) present. Whether it be in a religious or atheistic context doesn't really matter, in my view.

Maybe my growing feeling of a deep trust, the trust everything will pan out exactly right (which is very different from how I think it should pan out), very closely resembles the faith that people who believe in god have. Or vice versa. And since I'm a big believer in building connecting bridges rather than dividing walls, I will go with that. Because we might all start different on our caminos, but we arrive pretty much the same. As pilgrims, and distinctly human.

But, as you said, it is an odd thing, isn't it?
Just beautiful, Purky ... this really speaks to my heart, and as I'm about 220 km off from Santiago at the moment - more or less my thoughts also.
 
Camino(s) past & future
camino del norte(2012) camino portugese(sept. 2014)
#97
Charlie here, thanks for all your comments.
as for me: camino 1. del norte, wonderful pilgrims, sore feet, etc. as an ex-catholic, I resented the crucifixes everywhere. Then after a while, realized that it was a reality in roman times to crucify- Suffer. and so does everyone. camino 2, Portugese, inland. wonderful pilgrims, my question was, "are we connected?" in my loneliness I suppose. One woman said, "yes, we are, but we each must find our way to connect." Great walk and then my ankle gave out. So I went to an historic site and connected with my rest-of-my life partner. camino 3. Portugese, ocean walk. wonderful pilgrims. I learned that at 75 yrs old, not many kilometres in the old legs, but I still love camino. Buen camino to you,
thanks for reading.
 

ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
#98
I've got it! It isn't just us, it is all humans in this false world .... that interim between Caminos, even if it ended with "I will never go back" .. we are drawn .. drawn .. called .. why? Because this non-Camino world isn't home.

I realised when I heard this - part of the sound track to a film I just watched - replace the word 'Home' with 'Camino' and see .... have started a new thread with this.

Trust me - volume up at max, maybe full screen .... play it a few times ... no books, just music .... ;)

Love this. At about the 2 min mark, the line I love the best:

So I gotta make it back, but my home ain't on the map.


Home is always how I think of the Camino, no matter the route. So no, it ain't on the map. :)
 
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