Last week, I took the first steps of my journey on the Camino de Santiago. Meaning I walked my first 5-mile baseline walk. My actual trip will be at the end of October, but I told myself as soon as the ice melted off the trails, I would start my training.
The day was sunny, breezy and crisp. I was excited. And, almost from the moment I started, I knew the biggest challenge I’m going to have on the Camino is my mind.
Within the first few minutes of hitting the trail, the thoughts that swirled through my head went something like this: My shoe is pressing down on the top of my left foot. I hope I can find new shoes for the Camino that fit well and don’t give me blisters. My right knee is hurting. What if it gives out on the six days of constant walking? I wonder how much harder this is going to be with a backpack on. It’s going to be really uncomfortable if it’s raining. Geez, there’s still snow on the ground! Is Spring ever going to come?
In my haze of fear-based thinking, I didn’t notice that Spring, in fact, is here. She’s just choosing to reveal herself a little at a time. My horse has noticed. On a walk yesterday, he found lots of tender new clumps of green grass among all the dried, brown weeds from last Spring, and with gusto, he chomped as much as he could. These were the same patches of green grass I might have observed last week had I not been mind-spinning about the Camino!
I know energy follows thought, so whether I’m on a pilgrimage in Spain or just on the pilgrimage of my daily life, it behooves me to let go of thoughts that put me in a fear space. What I also know is that it’s easier said than done.
Just like the seasons, everything is in constant motion. The lines between endings and new beginnings and are often blurred. Sensations in the body come and go, emotions ebb and flow, and thoughts continue to occur, one shifting to the next and the next. It is possible to redirect thought, but there is a first step that I often forget about–becoming the witness.
In choosing to be the witness, we can avoid beating ourselves up for having “negative” thoughts. We remember that we are more than our thoughts. More than our bodies. More than our emotions. That “something more” is constant and never changes, no matter what. You might call it the spirit or the soul. I often call it Light.
When we accept our true selves as Light, we don’t need to be self-critical. We can learn to observe as an outsider, simply watching ourselves having thoughts, sensations and feelings, and knowing that they are not us. Then we can work with the natural flow of energy to gently send the persistent or stuck ones on their way and welcome in the next.
In my yoga class today, I led a short version of a witness meditation, then we practiced with our bodies what it feels like to know we are more than the sensations, emotions and thoughts moving through us. I highly recommend it! You can find lots of takes on the witness meditation online, or contact me and I can coach you through one.
Like any new thing, it takes practice. I’m going to have ample opportunities as I train for my Camino pilgrimage, and of course, on the journey itself. And just like Spring in the Colorado foothills, my progress will likely be revealed a little at a time.