Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Sunday, September 7, 2014

Camino de Santiago - The Way (Preparing #11)

The movie "The Way" has proven to be a source of inspiration for many pilgrims and would-be
peregrinos. Released in 2010, it stars Martin Sheen as Tom Avery who unexpectedly finds himself walking the Camino de Santiago. Sheen was directed by his son Emilio Estevez, who also plays his son in the movie. Sheen supposedly got inspiration for the movie when he was touring northern Spain with Estevez's son, Tony. Tony met his future wife on that trip and Sheen, a practicing Roman Catholic, decided to capture the spiritual and physical journeys that the peregrinos were taking. You can find the movie on Amazon and Netflix, and from what I understand, it is sometimes shown at church gatherings.

I found the film to be quite thought-provoking. In fact, as an overly sentimental person, I usually find myself crying whenever I watch the movie. And not just at certain scenes, but throughout the movie. It's not because it's especially sad. I cry because each step by every pilgrim seems to be a prayer and  an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Tom Avery intends to walk the Camino alone. As in real life, however, he cannot control who comes into our lives. This upsets him, as he always planned his life, choosing the life he wanted to have. His conflict with his son revolves around an important difference between them: "You don't choose a life, Dad. You live one."

And that's what makes Tom's desire to walk alone so fascinating. He can't walk the camino alone because it's impossible to be alive on the trail without the involvement of others. Moreover, as the movie goes on, each person introduced learns valuable lessons from each other.

Estevez compared his movie to "The Wizard of Oz". I thought this was an insightful comparison. Dorothy meets a lovable coward, a broken-hearted tin person, and a brainless flailing scarecrow. In this movie, Tom meets a lovable but passive Dutchman whose kindness is taken advantage of, a broken-spirited possibly heart-broken Canadian, and an Irishman whose brain has stopped with his writer's block.

Moreover, Tom notices aspects of their personalities that reminds him of his son. He begins to repair his relationship with his son by learning to cope and walk with these fellow travelers. He walks with strangers and in turn walks with his son.

At the end of the movie, we realize that all of us may be broken, all may be hurt, all may have failings. Yet we walk our journeys in prayer hoping that we'll cope with existential crises and understand our place. Most beautifully, we pray for hope, but it doesn't matter because we are all loved by our Creator. We are graced with a love beyond understanding that unites us in spirit with others.

Will I meet other people on my journey like Tom met these people? My husband Stephen seems to think it's inevitable. I'm extroverted and talkative. I'm bound to find others who I can befriend.

But as the movie showed, we can't control who comes into our lives. We just live life. And that's how I'm approaching this trip.

For example, have you ever taken a trip and found that you've overpacked? If you're like most people, this is likely to be every trip you've ever taken. From my understanding, the Camino offers such a challenging trial for new walkers that they overpack and bring too many things. As they continue their journey, they start to shed unnecessary items and lighten their load. I've traveled millions of miles and I still experience this, despite never packing in excess of a carry-on bag.

Because I'm expecting this to happen, I've walked locally in the mountains with my backpack to see if I can handle the weight. In fact, I can. But that doesn't mean I need to do so. So, I unpack, assess, eliminate, and bring less. My pack is now down 8 lbs in weight than when I started. I'm learning how to walk the Way with every challenge on the trail.

Isn't that what wisdom or spiritual growth about about? We build up so many facts, details, and knowledge that we no longer can make our way with any profound inspiration. It's like the tourist (perhaps me at times) who spends the entire trip taking videos and photos, without actually seeing, appreciating, soaking up anything really.

Instead we should accept the journey for what it is and trust that we'll get by. Our way is not the way we set out; our way is the road we end up walking, planned or unplanned. Life is about the journey, and not the destination. And most importantly, it's about who walks with us.

So, in a few days, I will walk with my Creator, with trust, with love. Like the movie, each step will be a prayer that opens my heart, my brain, my courage, my relationships.

Thank you and bless you for joining me on this transformational journey.

I leave Los Angeles on September 10 and land in Spain September 11.

Please walk with me by donating to Episcopal Relief and Development

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Prior blog postings regarding the the Camino
Camino de Santiago - Introduction (Preparing #1)

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