Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Learning & Re-learning. Re-tracing Your Footsteps

I've been re-reading and commenting on my blog postings written while walking along the Camino de Santiago in 2014. The blog postings are on this page and are also visible on the right sidebar of this web site.

I'm quite surprised at all that I was learning during that trip. Clearly, there was much to learn and absorb. There's a noticeable change in tone going from one challenge to the next. Most apparently in retrospect is the way my expectations and plans subvert and impede the movement of the Holy Spirit, as she moves me along the Camino.

And the lessons I learn and re-learn are similar to the re-tracing your footsteps on a trip. You want to think that once you've learned something, it's there, emblazoned upon your heart and mind, forever changing you. That's a wonderful aspiration and it's just not realistic. Like any journey or walk, you go astray. You wander. And you need to re-trace your footsteps to make sure you're on the right path once again.

During this review of blog posts, one day in particular - 18 months after it happened - made an impact on me. I'm referring to the post with the video I made re-creating my stop at the Cruz de Ferro.
The Cruz de Ferro is an enormous cross along the Camino. Many place objects of love at the base before continuing onward. Others like myself choose to leave a stone brought from back home. These stones are carried from hundreds or thousands of miles away in a pocket or in the backpack, representing the weight - emotional, spiritual, psychological - that holds us down, hurts us, breaks our backs. It might be a small pebble, but over the length of time and miles, we inevitably feel the pain of a boulder.

And we take this pebble and leave it at the foot of the cross. We leave it there for Christ, relieving our burden to the One who can bear it for us. It's a powerful metaphor that might be my favorite practice along the Camino Frances route to Santiago de Compostela.

I am truly wrecked re-reading that blog posting. I filmed via re-enactment a video that you can still watch. But what moves me is what I did. I admitted without any hesitation that the re-enactment was a sanitized moment of my personal act... where I could be strong, where I wouldn't be crying.

But I did cry. I sobbed, gasping for air. My stone represented the pain I carried from my divorce, and how I still felt it weighing upon me, even in re-marriage. It represented the poor choices I've made through my life, the impediments to healing, and the fears of intimacy.

I didn't film that intimate moment as it actually happened because I wanted to be seen more composed. Distilled. Strong.

I'll be frank here. This is singularly the area I'm most focused right now. I'm trying to stay "in the moment", always with a knowledge and acceptance of my authentic self. If I grow weak, if I mourn, if I cry out, if I fall to my knees in humility, I need to accept that this is ok. That there's no need for a mask. That I must be something more than I am. To be something other than myself is to reject the authentic self that theologians like Thomas Merton have described. That Christ wanted us to discover.

And any false self that we put forth only makes it harder for us to see, live with, and move towards the God of love.

I'm thinking that when I return on this Camino of Healing, I will again have a stone that I will have carried all the way from here. I will lay down the burdens of all who walk with me in that new stone. But there's something else I must do when I put down those burdens.

I'm bringing a stone from the Grand Canyon during a visit last month. I FELT and GRASPED that I was in a thin space, closer to a divine indescribable world that I imagine the Native Americans felt in that never-ending valley. I will place this sacred stone down for others...

And that something else I must do?... I will place it for me. For my weaknesses, for my pains, for my tears. Leave it out there in public for all to see. No masking. No re-creation. No false bravado.

For I do have fears when taking this journey. I'm noticing that I downplay my fears when talking with people. So here they are.

It's 600 miles from Lourdes to Santiago de Compostela. I can do the walking, as I walk long distances every week. Yet, I've got long-term health considerations that are genetic and of my own doing. I wonder if my hypertension will finally get to me. I wonder if, as I've read in news accounts, I will have a sugar level issue that exacerbates my borderline diabetes. I fear the rain, which along with my falls to the ground, brought on blisters. I fear the threat of bedbugs, even though I didn't see any. I fear heatstroke. I fear backaches. I fear being away from work. I fear being away from Stephen for a whole month until he meets me in Leon. I fear and yet I don't talk about those fears.

I will have walked 450 miles by the time I get to the Cruz de Ferro, carrying this stone, this rock that represents a bundle of anxiety that I knowingly and unknowingly carry with me.

And I'll leave that stone there, in the rain, in the sun, in the wind, in the dark, in the hail, in the public for all to see... There... at the foot of the cross.