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The Camino and discernment/insight/life decisions

Backagain

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo (2017)
Frances (2020)
I'm looking forward to my camino in September as a time when I will be able to think, listen, and pray about some opportunities and possible new directions in my life. For me, it is an opportunity for discernment and I hope for some new inspiration or insight as I consider some big life questions. I'm boringly middle aged, happily married with a supportive spouse and children who are old enough (11 and 15) not to miss me for a few weeks, and things are for the most part going as they should. My questions are pretty pedestrian, but I'm hopeful that time walking, away from the "noise" of my everyday life, will be helpful (or perhaps even life-changing?)

I am a christian so I understand this as a time of discernment, when I will be able to listen to my own thoughts and to God, but I believe that people of all faiths or none can have the experience of new insights and life-changing decisions emerging from a camino.

This isn't a post about religion and I don't want to debate the specifics of discernment, but I would love to know: has your time on the camino changed your life's journey? Have you found a new direction or become clear about a next step, or even made a big change in your life back home because of your time spent on the way? Or did you take a "big question" and return with no answers? Please tell me what you heard and learned and how your life was (or was not) changed on the camino.
 
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Anamiri

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2016, 2017, 2019 Camino Frances
I'm looking forward to my camino in September as a time when I will be able to think, listen, and pray about some opportunities and possible new directions in my life. For me, it is an opportunity for discernment and I hope for some new inspiration or insight as I consider some big life questions. I'm boringly middle aged, happily married with a supportive spouse and children who are old enough (11 and 15) not to miss me for a few weeks, and things are for the most part going as they should. My questions are pretty pedestrian, but I'm hopeful that time walking, away from the "noise" of my everyday life, will be helpful (or perhaps even life-changing?)

I am a christian so I understand this as a time of discernment, when I will be able to listen to my own thoughts and to God, but I believe that people of all faiths or none can have the experience of new insights and life-changing decisions emerging from a camino.

This isn't a post about religion and I don't want to debate the specifics of discernment, but I would love to know: has your time on the camino changed your life's journey? Have you found a new direction or become clear about a next step, or even made a big change in your life back home because of your time spent on the way? Or did you take a "big question" and return with no answers? Please tell me what you heard and learned and how your life was (or was not) changed on the camino.
I think the main thing is not to have expectations - dont go expecting answers, just relax into the experience. The magic comes from things you don't expect, often little things like the repetition of walking each day, meeting people, seeing the poppies on the edge of the wheat fields, the huge sky. The mind works in strange ways, if you demand answers they are elusive, if you just let them happen - they just might do that.
Yes I made some changes in my life - but mainly I learned things about myself.
 

Backagain

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Primitivo (2017)
Frances (2020)
I think the main thing is not to have expectations - dont go expecting answers, just relax into the experience. The magic comes from things you don't expect, often little things like the repetition of walking each day, meeting people, seeing the poppies on the edge of the wheat fields, the huge sky. The mind works in strange ways, if you demand answers they are elusive, if you just let them happen - they just might do that.
Yes I made some changes in my life - but mainly I learned things about myself.
I think there is a difference between expecting or demanding answers and doing the work necessary to prepare and hope for possibilities. The way we approach a journey, the intentions we set, and the work we are willing to do can be a help - or a hindrance.

I'm glad your camino was both eye-opening and life changing.
 

Rick M

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
April ('16,'18, '19, 21)
I'm hopeful that time walking, away from the "noise" of my everyday life, will be helpful (or perhaps even life-changing?)
I think you are on the right track. I can't say that the Camino led me to any life changing revelations or decision points. But it DID offer a chance to look at things from a completely different perspective. Before my Camino, I never once in my life, for a moment, gave a thought to the state of my socks, and what shape they were in. After a few days on the road, I realized that the condition of my socks would have a profound impact on the state of my life tomorrow. I never really thought about my health at all before my Camino, but afterwards I realized that this was probably something I needed to be more concerned with in my day to day life, and it led me change a number of habits in my lifestyle. While this example is true, and hopefully amusing, it is not my point.

The time away from the noise of your everyday life is an opportunity to examine your priorities. Most people are barely conscious of what they are. They have their priorities foisted upon them first by their parents and teachers, later by bosses and spouses, and forever by the relentless spigot of advertising and social media we swim in all day, everyday. One of magical aspects of Camino is escaping all the external priorities, and having a new, very simple and obvious set of priorities imposed by the physical day to day aspects of walking. The priorities are so simple, that for many, its effectively a priority vacuum, for the first time in your life. - No texting your sister back before she gets cranky - No getting into town early enough before the parking garage is full - no getting the electric bill paid today so you avoid a late fee - no nagging your son to put away the dirty dishes - none of it.

Something that was oh-so-important in your previous life, is now oh-so irrelevant when your priority is walking the last 8 Km into town before that ominous looking thunderstorm ruins the rest of your day. With your previous priorities "Not In Service", its a good time to get out the microscope. For many, this is the first time in their life that they have a chance to examine them dispassionately, and see their priorities for what they are: a mass of things that matter, things that don't matter, things that I convinced myself matter, and things that other people tell me should matter. Camino offers a golden opportunity to sort through the pile, and maybe shuffle a few things around.

Buen Camino
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
I did not read closely what others have said but I am sure they are all heartfelt and honest and you may get some hope/insight/guidance from them.
For information purposes I am the opposite of religious and do not believe in it all. But having said that I strongly believe that whatever brings you peace and happiness is just as valid and important as anything I believe.
There is an old saying that the Camino gives you what you need, not what you want. Nothing about the Camino is more true than this. I have found that for me and for many others why you went on your first Camino ends up not being as important as what you learn by just walking, feeling, listening and loving.
I have also learned, for myself, that thinking about all the things you believe brought you to pilgrimage are usually worthless. The junk that has circulated in my head is what brought me to my pilgrimage is not helping me at all. If I haven't figured it out by now maybe it is because it is not really what I need to learn or resolve. I try to learn to walk without intention or mindfulness. I walk with un-intention and mindlessness. In that way it allows the universe, God, energy or often in my case, the voice of my father to enter my head. By letting go of as much as I can it clears the spaces in my head, heart and spirit to allow in the things I need. Of course within weeks of returning the crap returns but each time it is a little less and I recognize that it is crap a little sooner. I am starting Camino 6 in October. I figure by Camino 30 or 40 I will have it down pat!!! Buen Camino Perigrino.
 
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Bob91

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
2022
Great thread and excellent comments by all! I have not yet done my planned pilgrimage across Spain, so I can't speak specifically for the camino. However, I have walked a number of 1-2 week long backpacking trips. Walking alone for hours at a time can be painfully boring or blissfully rewarding. One's attitude is important but not a guarantee. Keeping an open mind might allow deep and revelatory thoughts, but such thoughts must be interrupted by the obligatory needs of navigation, meals, accommodations, weather, safety, etc. But all-in-all, there's ample time to reflect, discern, and to experience a conversation with God. Even a one way conversation can be rewarding. Covid has been a blessing in disguise for me. I originally planned a spring 2020 trip. Covid forced a delay but also provided time to reflect on why I wish to go. Originally, I looked forward to experiencing Spanish culture and learning about the local history. Now, I look forward to a religious pilgrimage during a Holy Year. I trust 800 km will go a long ways on freeing myself from some of the baggage that needs to be jettisoned, as well as providing ample access into the deep recesses of my spiritual self.

Pray for a quick resolution to Covid!
 

LesR

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
I'm looking forward to my camino in September as a time when I will be able to think, listen, and pray about some opportunities and possible new directions in my life. For me, it is an opportunity for discernment and I hope for some new inspiration or insight as I consider some big life questions. I'm boringly middle aged, happily married with a supportive spouse and children who are old enough (11 and 15) not to miss me for a few weeks, and things are for the most part going as they should. My questions are pretty pedestrian, but I'm hopeful that time walking, away from the "noise" of my everyday life, will be helpful (or perhaps even life-changing?)
I cannot say that my first Camino (CF 2017) "changed my life" but it did set in train a chain of events that changed my respective on something that happened to me 45 years earlier which had been an intermittent 'monkey on my back'...

Coincidentally, I recently came across some advice to intending pilgrims- a suggestion that they use their time on the Camino to 'make peace with their past...'

Good advice as I realised when i reflected on my first Camino!
 

RJM

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
A few times
One thing I always keep in mind when I walk the Camino, and I have walked several, is just how fortunate and blessed I am to be there in the first place. Blessed to be able to walk it so many times. Blessed to have the time and resources to do so when there are so many out there that want to walk it that never will because they just plain do not have the means. The faithful poor. People who could care less about packs and sleeping bags that cost 200 euros, or 50 euro wool shirts. People for whom the Camino isn't even a light at the end of a tunnel.
So I never walk it expecting anything or looking for anything. Have never had angst or self pity for not finding whatever I was looking for, if I was looking for anything at all.
I'm just happy and thankful to be there.
 
Last edited:

RRat

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Planning 2017
I'm looking forward to my camino in September as a time when I will be able to think, listen, and pray about some opportunities and possible new directions in my life. For me, it is an opportunity for discernment and I hope for some new inspiration or insight as I consider some big life questions. I'm boringly middle aged, happily married with a supportive spouse and children who are old enough (11 and 15) not to miss me for a few weeks, and things are for the most part going as they should. My questions are pretty pedestrian, but I'm hopeful that time walking, away from the "noise" of my everyday life, will be helpful (or perhaps even life-changing?)

I am a christian so I understand this as a time of discernment, when I will be able to listen to my own thoughts and to God, but I believe that people of all faiths or none can have the experience of new insights and life-changing decisions emerging from a camino.

This isn't a post about religion and I don't want to debate the specifics of discernment, but I would love to know: has your time on the camino changed your life's journey? Have you found a new direction or become clear about a next step, or even made a big change in your life back home because of your time spent on the way? Or did you take a "big question" and return with no answers? Please tell me what you heard and learned and how your life was (or was not) changed on the camino.
I am no longer a hiker, I'm a pilgrim.
 
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Joe C

New Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Francés (2019)
I did not read closely what others have said but I am sure they are all heartfelt and honest and you may get some hope/insight/guidance from them.
For information purposes I am the opposite of religious and do not believe in it all. But having said that I strongly believe that whatever brings you peace and happiness is just as valid and important as anything I believe.
There is an old saying that the Camino gives you what you need, not what you want. Nothing about the Camino is more true than this. I have found that for me and for many others why you went on your first Camino ends up not being as important as what you learn by just walking, feeling, listening and loving.
I have also learned, for myself, that thinking about all the things you believe brought you to pilgrimage are usually worthless. The junk that has circulated in my head is what brought me to my pilgrimage is not helping me at all. If I haven't figured it out by now maybe it is because it is not really what I need to learn or resolve. I try to learn to walk without intention or mindfulness. I walk with un-intention and mindlessness. In that way it allows the universe, God, energy or often in my case, the voice of my father to enter my head. By letting go of as much as I can it clears the spaces in my head, heart and spirit to allow in the things I need. Of course within weeks of returning the crap returns but each time it is a little less and I recognize that it is crap a little sooner. I am starting Camino 6 in October. I figure by Camino 30 or 40 I will have it down pat!!! Buen Camino Perigrino.
Interestingly, in my case, the crap when I returned -- professionally and personally -- was actually much worse than anything I was dealing with before the Camino. I got to the point that I wondered whether it had been "worth" it... But then a friend pointed out that -- rather than walking the Camino to process the past or present -- maybe it was toughening me up for the challenges ahead. I like that perspective. In the midst of so many challenges -- job meltdown, contentiousness in my community, countless acquaintances and friends dying -- over the next 18 months, I could always look back to my Camino and find my place of peace. May we all find that place!
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
I have read and heard many accounts from people for whom the Camino was truly life changing. For me the effects were more subtle. Perhaps that was, in part, because I didn't walk in a time of transition in my life as many do. I wasn't looking for direction, or where to go in the next stage of my life.

How the Camino changed me was that it broadened my perspective and my ideas of success. My focus became less on my personal success and more on the success of the people around me. As well, there were lessons from the Camino that continue to be helpful. But no huge changes in direction. Except for perhaps an obsession with Caminos.
 

Kitsambler

Jakobsweg Junkie
Year of past OR future Camino
Le Puy 2010-11, Prague 2012, Nuremberg 2013, Einsiedeln 2015, Geneva 2017-19
The "answers" and "guidance" I received was subtle, and truly only discernible at the remove of some time later. To insist on immediate answers is to make demands on the Divine, which is never a great plan. So, part of my tutelage was learning to listen to the silence.
 

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
CF(2012) Le Puy/CF (2015) Portugues (2017) Norte (2018) CF (2019) VDLP?
Interestingly, in my case, the crap when I returned -- professionally and personally -- was actually much worse than anything I was dealing with before the Camino. I got to the point that I wondered whether it had been "worth" it... But then a friend pointed out that -- rather than walking the Camino to process the past or present -- maybe it was toughening me up for the challenges ahead. I like that perspective. In the midst of so many challenges -- job meltdown, contentiousness in my community, countless acquaintances and friends dying -- over the next 18 months, I could always look back to my Camino and find my place of peace. May we all find that place!
I think you have hit the nail on the head. We may find each other's perspectives, insights and meanings of the Camino interesting or enlightening or even a possible framework for guidance. But when it gets right down to it we all have our own unique experience, similar often but still unique. We also end up processing our experiences in our own ways. Does the camino really change our perspective on life or how we live it? I am not sure and only time and maybe some honest retrospection is the only way to answer that question and find yours or mine place of peace. I am still just beginning to have brief moments experiencing my place of peace. I do know that is why I keep returning and why I walk long camino's because the longer I walk those brief moments become a bigger and bigger part of each camino day.
 
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RobertS26

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, (2013)
Camino Frances, (2014)
Camino Frances, (2015)
I think its important to remember how you can help yourself to have deep thoughts on the Camino. When you walk at your own natural pace, your mind is free of its biggest obligation because it does not need to devote much conscious effort to the act of walking. When you walk long distances at your own pace, you create an unadulterated feedback loop between the rhythm of your body and your mental state. This allows your attention to freely wander beyond the static of daily activities. In a sense, you are hypnotizing yourself. Studies show that this is the mental state that leads to innovative ideas and strokes of insight.

Sadly, many people agree to walk others who do not share their walking pace. Or, worse, OCD individuals continually push themselves to walk faster at an unnatural pace to stay "on schedule."

In order to get to get to a place where you can have deep thoughts, you need to give yourself permission to walk at your own pace--literally and figuratively. While its fun to join Camino families, or to walk with others even for a few hours, doing so can rob you of important time to think.
 

William Garza

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances, The Jakobsweg
Coming to terms with yourself .

Time
Distance
Silence of mind,body and spirit and the perspicacity to know when to "shut up" and simply exist.
Thats the moment doors open.
 

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