Heart Opening Along The Way

Extending my greetings to all and thanking you for your patience during my absence from writing. I went away to get in touch with my self. Having been called to walk the Camino de Santiago, I was able to clear my schedule and arrange my life so that I could go travel for 35 days. Even better, my 22-year-old son was able to join me on this journey.

You might ask, what did I find on this journey? Since my return many have asked this question, probing as to what it was all about? I have been asked over and over, “how did I feel”? “What did I find along The Way”?  “Was it all I had expected”? The questions are numerous; often I am unable to answer them. How do I begin to explain what this inner journey represented to me? I find it almost impossible, and my voice has remained silent.

I have written a lot about finding one’s voice, and in fact that was the premise of this blog, to find and hold my voice. As I am just beginning to reflect and process the pilgrimage, one thing I have found is that it is okay not to have a voice to answer the numerous questions and in that I feel at peace. There is a time and place to use your voice, and a time to remain silent, reflecting inward.

I will share that the journey was many things from beautiful, joyful, happy and fun to challenging, painful, gut wrenching and physically demanding. Oftentimes I did not think I could take another step. The Camino is a metaphor for life, it offers up a little bit of everything and it is up to us as to how we greet those challenges and joys. There were times I did not meet situations in a most prudent manner, and others when I was able to comfortably sit with whatever emotion arose.

We had walked from Atapuerca to Burgos one day. I knew the day would be a challenge in that there was much walking to get to the city center through a vast industrial area, in other words not scenic. It was also hot. I wanted to take a taxi from outside of the city into the center, where we would be staying, at least that was the plan, thus avoiding the industrial walking. This did not happen. We walked, lost our way on The Way and were unable to effectively communicate with the gas station attendant as to where to go. We saw no other pilgrims in sight. When you walk The Way you are known as a peregrino, or pilgrim. It was frustrating and my son and I became cross with one another. I asked myself why was I doing this? Whose idea was it to walk 500 miles across Spain anyway? I was miserable. Not from the physical aspect of the walk, as it was a relatively easy walk. As we made our way further and further across the dismal industrial area, which thankfully was silent as it was a Sunday, it dawned on me that I had read there was no bus service in most of the villages of Spain on Sunday, which clearly included Burgos! Just one more frustration to my day as we were standing at a large bus stop noting there certainly were none to ride on this day! I wanted to be done with this part of the walk now and I could feel my impatience mounting combined with the heat.

Suddenly, I took note that I was angry. Yes, on this pilgrimage I was angry. At first I felt ashamed. However, I stepped back and acknowledged this anger and allowed it to be. I did not shame it, stop it, or feed it. I simply allowed it to be what it was. In that moment I began to soften, I was no longer acting from fear, the fear of being lost in this city and believe me after coming out of tranquil rural villages a city the size of Burgos is an overload for the senses. I simply let go and observed what I felt; I told my son, “I am feeling angry”. It was a beautiful release, which lead to a softening of my heart.

That was part of the journey for me, the softening of my heart. I have been through many difficult and traumatic situations over these past 12 years and I have hardened my heart to a lot of life. The Camino was telling me to soften, to acknowledge things when I felt them, to observe, and to let go. This was only one of the many gifts and blessings I received along my pilgrimage. I hope to carry my lessons forward into my daily life because consistent softening of your system dissolves blocks in the flow of your life energy. It connects you with the life force in the universe. As you soften you let go of the stress and strain that have blocked your vitality. What can you do to soften your heart?

You can practice this exercise whenever you feel stress in daily life.

First, attempt to identify where the stress or emotion manifests in your body, and then try the following:

  • Begin softening into that location in your body. Letting the muscles be soft without a requirement that they become soft, like simply applying heat to sore muscles. Softening…softening…softening… Remember that you are not trying to make the sensation go away—you are just holding it in a tender embrace.
  • If you experience too much discomfort with an emotion, simply stay with your breath until you feel better. Now, begin to soothe yourself because you struggle in this way. Perhaps putting your hand over your heart again and feeling your body breathe. Perhaps bringing kind or encouraging words to mind. Hold yourself with loving awareness.
  • If you wish, direct kindness to an uncomfortable part of your body by placing your hand over that place. Maybe even thinking of your body as if it were the body of a beloved child, and gently soothing.
  • Finally, allowing the discomfort to be there. Letting go of the wish for discomfort to disappear. Allowing the discomfort to come and go as it pleases, like a guest in your own home. Allowing…softening…soothing…allowing. Repeat these words like a mantra, if you wish, reminding yourself to feel tenderness toward your suffering.
  • As you do this exercise you may find that the emotion moves in your body, try staying with your experience, continuing to use the technique of soften-soothe-allow.

Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart … Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens. ~ Carl Jung

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Under the Milky Way

All journeys are rhapsodies on the theme of discovery. We travel as seekers after answers we cannot find at home. … Centuries of travel lore suggest that when we no longer know where to turn, our real journey has just begun. At that crossroads moment, a voice calls to our pilgrim soul.

~ Phil Cousineau

I am about to embark on a journey, a pilgrimage some call it including myself. Having found myself at a crossroads moment, I hear my pilgrim soul calling. I don’t know where to turn any longer, and so I will make a pilgrimage of my heart.  I am desirous of an inward journey, one of self-discovery of my soul’s purpose in life. The other day while teaching to a grief group one of the women said she didn’t know what her purpose was any longer now that her spouse had died. I too don’t fully understand what my purpose is any longer. My spouse died many years ago, and I found purpose again after his death in raising our son. Now that son has recently graduated from university and is about to embark on furthering his education with a master’s degree on the other side of the world for 18 months. I don’t know when I might see him again after he leaves in early September, or if he will be coming back to live in the United States again. I have lived for more than a half-century, and thus with the purpose of raising my son complete, I am again much like I felt when he left for university, wondering what my purpose is in life? I most definitely have some ideas, however, I feel like I have become lazy, or content. Thus, on Monday morning I will be boarding a flight for Paris, and then a train ultimately bound for St. Jean Pied de Port, France to begin my pilgrimage on The Camino de Santiago for 35 days. I hope to find myself somewhere out there while walking 500 miles across Spain, and if I don’t well at least I will have had an enriching life experience with my son in meeting new people from around the world and catching a glimpse of Spain and its beautiful people. I pray for a safe journey. I pray for enlightenment, for good health, and no blisters. But, mostly I pray to find myself while I am out there under The Milky Way. And so, with that I bid you adieu for now.   To all the beautiful writer’s of the many blogs I read and savor, know that I will be back sometime in late July to join you on your life journeys. Blessings to all, and may you find yourself out under The Milky Way sometime this summer contemplating life and all its magnificence.

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Compassion

What if you extended the gift of compassion to all those you meet today by silently blessing them? This simple act will serve to acknowledge our spiritual interconnectedness. When we are able to salute the unity that binds us, we are more able to accept the journeys that each one of us is on, where all paths ultimately lead to the same universal spirit. It is only through respecting our unique differences that we may begin to affirm how interconnected we all are. Honoring this takes time, patience, and most importantly, practice. When you are able to see the value that everyone’s life has, you will find greater meaning in your own.

There is a plan for each of us, and each of us is precious. As we open our hearts more and more, we’re moved in the directions in which we are suppose to go. ~ Marianne Williamson

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The Way

I have been dragging my feet writing about this subject, however, it occurred to me I should use my voice and speak up, or rather write about my upcoming journey since my blog is all about finding one’s voice.

A couple of years ago someone suggested a good movie on Netflix and as luck would have it I remembered the name of the movie and watched it. I was completely taken in by the movie and found myself wanting to experience the journey. The movie was The Way starring and directed by Martin Sheen. Of course, as life would have it, other things were calling my immediate attention and the movie and any thoughts of actually walking the Camino de Santiago, as the walk is called, got stashed away within the deep recesses of my subconscious. However, it continued to lurk, while I continued to make excuses. I watched the movie again, and again. I watched the movie with my son, and he watched it again. There was something calling. I am not even certain how it happened, but somehow the call became more of a loud pounding and I answered and did the one thing that commits most of us to any travel, I booked the air tickets. Now it is real, I am going to be walking the Camino de Santiago with my son this June.

About now you might be asking yourself just what is The Camino de Santiago? You would be surprised how many people think it is some place in California or South America, no one thinks of Spain. Well, actually, the path I am taking, The Frances Way, begins in France. A brief history provided by the Unesco World Heritage Site follows:

Pilgrimages were an essential part of western European spiritual and cultural life in the Middle Ages and the routes that they took were equipped with facilities for the spiritual and physical well-being of pilgrims. The Route of St James of Compostela has preserved the most complete material record in the form of ecclesiastical and secular buildings, settlements both large and small, and civil engineering structures. This Route played a fundamental role in facilitating the two-way interchange of cultural developments between the Iberian Peninsula and the rest of Europe during the Middle Ages. There is no comparable Christian pilgrimage route of such extent and continuity anywhere in Europe: the other two pilgrimage routes, to Jerusalem and Rome, are only recognizable in a very fragmentary fashion. In addition to its enormous historical and spiritual value, it also represents a remarkably complete cross-section of European artistic and architectural evolution over several centuries.

The different pilgrimage routes converged on Santiago de Compostela, at the foot of the Apostle’s tomb, and were lined with works of art and architectural creations. The cultural heritage scattered along the length of these routes is immensely rich. It represents the birth of Romanesque art; then came the Gothic cathedrals and the chains of monasteries.

The tradition whereby the Apostle St James the Great preached the Gospel in Spain dates from the early 7th century. In the Latin Breviary of the Apostles, St Jerome held that apostles were buried where they preached, and so it was assumed that the body of St James had been moved from Jerusalem, where according to the Acts of the Apostles he was martyred on the order of Herod Agrippa, to a final resting place in Spain. It was not until the 9th century that the apostle’s tomb was identified at Compostela. The late 8th century saw the consolidation of the Christian kingdom of Galicia and Asturias in northern Spain, with the support of Charlemagne. It was to provide the base for the reconquest of the peninsula from Muslim domination, a process that was not to be completed until 1492. The apostle had been adopted as its patron saint by the Christian kingdom against the menace of Islam, and in the early years of the 9th century, during the reign of Alfonso II, his tomb was ‘discovered’ in a small shrine by the hermit Pelayo and Todemiro, bishop of the most westerly diocese in the kingdom.

The fame of the tomb of St James quickly spread across western Europe and it became a place of pilgrimage. By the beginning of the 10th century pilgrims were coming to Spain on the French routes from Tours, Limoges, and Le Puy, and facilities for their bodily and spiritual welfare began to be endowed along what gradually became recognized as the formal pilgrimage route, while in Compostela itself a magnificent new basilica was built to house the relics of the Apostle, along with other installations – churches, chapels, hospices and hospitals. The 12th century saw the route achieve its greatest influence, used by thousands of pilgrims from all over Western Europe. In 1139 the first ‘guidebook’ to the Route appeared, in the form of Book V of the Calixtine Codex (attributed to Pope Calixtus II but most probably the work of the pilgrim Aymeric Picaud), describing its precise alignment from Roncesvalles to Santiago de Compostela and listing the facilities available to pilgrims. These structures, ranging from humble chapels and hospices to magnificent cathedrals, represent every aspect of artistic and architectural evolution from Romanesque to Baroque and beyond, demonstrating the intimate linkages between faith and culture in the Middle Ages.

There are two access routes into Spain from France, entering at Roncesvalles (Valcarlos Pass) and Canfranc (Somport Pass) respectively; they merge west of Pamplona, just before Puente la Reina. It passes through five Comunidades Autónomas and 166 towns and villages, and it includes over 1,800 buildings of historic interest; in many cases the modern road runs parallel to the ancient route. The tradition of pilgrimage to Santiago has not ceased since that time, although its popularity waned in recent centuries. Since it was declared to be the first European Cultural Itinerary by the Council of Europe in 1987, however, it has resumed the spiritual role that it played in the Middle Ages, and every year sees many thousands of pilgrims following it on foot or bicycle.

I have not decided whether to blog or not as I walk. My intentions are probably not since I am not taking a computer. For my personal journey I want to be free of technology as much as possible. However, I will be taking a smart phone and, well, you never know, but my goal is to stay away from the Internet for the 33 days I intend to be walking. I am certain this walk will influence my feelings about many things in life. I am going with no expectations, only an attempt to keep my heart open and to fully experience all that the Camino provides for me on my personal journey. I have some 60 days before I leave, much of which will be filled with finding the right gear to take, which in and of itself is a journey let me tell you! It is a religious experience just to find the best shoes, backpack and what to fill it with! So many opinions, so many stories of what works and what doesn’t . . . all of which is wonderful advice, but in the end leaves my head spinning. Don’t even ask about all the trips to REI and discussions with sales persons, all having differing opinions as to what you should take. Of course, none have done the walk themselves! So you can see why I say it is already a religious experience simply by the preparations.   When one comes from the US, it is no easy feat to get to the start of the Camino and requires planes, trains, and automobiles! Whatever it brings, it is certain to provide me with an amazing experience and I hope to be able to share my voice in some fashion with what I find along the path. Thank you for supporting me in my endeavors and for reading my blog. It means a great deal to me and it fills my heart and soul with sustenance for just such a journey as the Camino. As the saying goes, Buen Camino

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A strong person knows they have strength enough for their journey, but a person of strength knows that it is in their journey where they will become strong.~ Nishan Panwar

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In a Holy Book I Have

In a holy book I have there are pages from
the Bible and the Koran.

And pages from the sutras and from the
Upanishads, the Torah, and the Gita.

And pages of things that unknown saints
wrote in collaboration with the heavens
that people have never seen.

And pages of the wisdom of animals and
their young singing while they played, the
way we once did with the stars.

And pages of plants and pages of sounds.
And pages of earths.

Yes, it is all there in my soul, anything ink
has ever preserved, anything that stone ever

begged to have carved on it, anything any
instrument gifted from its mind, or a brush
left for us to see. Any space sanctified by
dance, I know.

And anything that will ever be, written in
your heart. You, the eyes or ears and cells
that now hear this.

In a holy book I have, in a sacred text I carry,
is the face of everyone who will ever be.

An Excerpt from A Year with Hafiz: Daily Contemplations by Daniel Ladinsky

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May all the Stars Shine Upon Your Path

What’s difficult in life is to stay centered when somebody does or says something that tempts us to close our hearts because their heart was closed. That is hard. But that is also how we grow. We go through those circumstances in order to evolve into people who can hold to our loving center no matter what the world throws us.~ Marianne Williamson

What do you notice about yourself, deep in your heart what do you feel? Does your heart feel whole and complete? Do you feel love in your heart? My heart often feels wounded, and when it does often my go to place is to shut down, to withdraw, and to isolate. This has been my life’s pattern, to isolate and withdraw when things don’t feel good. In looking back, I recognize this is what I was taught to do. I was taught to hide things, never discuss them or acknowledge them. It is inherently more comfortable for all concerned if we just put our emotions away, neatly mind you, in the corner, a box, somewhere other than for anyone to see, least of all myself. And then comes the all too familiar rush of being out of balance.

Lately, and most often, I worry a lot about money. I worry if I am going to have enough for my future care. I worry if I should be thinking of planning the trips I want to take. I worry if I should be purchasing organic foods rather than the cheaper foods. Then I worry if I eat the cheaper foods that I will be ingesting toxins! I worry if I have been a good mother, a good friend and the list goes on and on. I think you get the picture, and perhaps you can see yourself in this picture as well. We spend so much time worrying that we forget to stop and experience the moment. The moment is all we truly have, and in it we can find little slices of joy. This joy fills our hearts and when our hearts are full, that joy overflows out into the world, as opposed to when our hearts are closed off, stashed in the corner out of sight.

This living fully and in the present is a practice, one we must come to each and every day. We are not less than if we notice we have gone astray, if we feel anger wash over us in the moment someone cuts us off in traffic, or when we feel that monkey mind start spinning. We are never less than, after all how could we be since we are all god like in our infinite being. We can acknowledge these feelings, let them wash over us, leaning into each and every one as it arises, remembering our breath as we sit.  We must allow for these things to pass, and become a witness to life in all of its magnificent glory. It is to be found in the simple moments, from the sun’s rays that brilliantly shine through the window, the rain falling softly on the ground, the snowflakes gently covering our magnificent mother Earth. This is where the stillness lies. Take note of it, step into it and breathe. You are a perfect child of God just as you stand in this moment. There is no need for anything more. Be that love that light and let it shine like a beacon onto the world. May all the stars shine upon your path.

Everything you have in life can be taken from you except one thing, your freedom to choose how you will respond to the situation.
This is what determines the quality of the life we’ve lived.
Not whether we’ve been rich or poor,
famous or unknown, healthy or suffering.
What determines our quality of life is
how we relate to these realities.~Viktor Frankl

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Walk Out of Your Dream

The Buddha was no different from you. No different. That is why he serves as a good model, because he was as you are now. So don’t worship the Buddha. Don’t put him on a pedestal. Don’t even look up to him. Become him. Have the same intentions, take the same stand. Be the Buddha now! Put an end to all delaying, to all excuses, to all bowing down to saintly figures of the past or present. Stand up!

You are the Buddha! You are freedom itself! Stop dreaming your dream! Stop pretending that you are in bondage – stop telling yourself that lie! Stop pretending to be someone, or something! You are no one, you are no-thing! You are not this body or this mind. This body and mind exist within who and what you are. You are pure consciousness, already free, awake, and liberated. Stand up and walk out of your dream. I am here to say that you can do this.  ~ Adyashanti

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