Buen Camino

It is probably the most repeated phrase on the Camino. It literally means “good road,” but has come to mean so much more when spoken by and to those on pilgrimage. “Good journey,” “Have a good journey”, or even “May God bless your journey” are what is meant when someone says to a pilgrim “Buen Camino.”

The intent behind the words is almost more important than the words. There is recognition, by the person speaking and the person being spoken to, that someone is ON A  JOURNEY. This means the person on the journey (referred to as a pilgrim from here on) realizes he is leaving where he is, is headed somewhere else, and has a destination in mind.

Buen Camino.

I think a first step to living life more fully is to recognize you are on a journey. To be willing to leave where you are and to know where you want to go.

Recognize you are on a journey. 

John and I traveled roughly 500 miles. We never got lost once. Amazing. I get lost driving around my home town!

We never got lost because we followed the signs. These usually came in the form of painted yellow arrows or scallop shell images.

If you want your journey to be successful, follow the signs. God gives us so many if we just pay attention to them. Thoughts he places in our minds (that keep coming back), our imaginations, advice from loved ones, role models are but a few. Let me mention two specific ones that have helped me.

You know the feeling when you do something dumb or wrong? No matter how right it seemed before, you now know in your heart it was a mistake. At the same time, you know that feeling when you do something right, no matter how difficult it seemed to be while the doing was taking place? Yes, you feel more. This is called conscience, or moral conscience in Church vernacular. When you pay attention to it, you will be surprised by how clearly the signs you should be following stand out.

My other example involves what Joseph Campbell meant when he said, “Follow your bliss.” We all have gifts. And when we use our gifts in some useful way, we feel good. We feel better. We experience bliss. This is a God given set of signs, meant to help us on our journey to fullness of life.

Follow the signs. 

It very quickly became apparent on our pilgrimage that, if we ever wanted to get to Santiago, we had to keep moving. Breaks that took too long, no matter how much we were enjoying the relaxation,  meant we weren’t making progress. This doesn’t mean rushing. It doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy yourself. It does mean that your natural state is moving from wherever you currently are to where you are trying to go. I think the biggest inhibitor to personal growth is our unwillingness to move out of our comfort zones and experience new life. Vitality depends upon movement. So..

Keep moving. 

“Getting ahead” is a phrase we use to describe our desire to do more with our lives; I want to get ahead so I, or those I love, will have a better life, or more of what matters, or greater respect from others, or all of the above, or… you name it. The point is GETTING AHEAD matters. This is natural. Wanting more of what matters matters.

Unfortunately, this impulse often leads to a less attractive desire; to literally get ahead of others. To be better than, faster than, quicker to get to whatever matters. When getting ahead takes on this meaning, much is lost, without even being aware of the loss.

As well documented on this blog, I walked slowly compared to everyone else on the Camino. I walk so slowly I had  a problem passing someone going in the opposite direction!

For the first day or so, this really bothered me. Why couldn’t I walk as fast as others? How could a certain person or group go by me so quickly?  Was something wrong with me? Would people PLEASE stop asking if I was all right!

I was worrying about why I couldn’t get ahead…literally ahead of others…the wrong but all too often most common way to approach life.

But then a little light went off. It wasn’t a question of how fast I walked. Only that I follow the signs and keep moving.

When I made this mental adjustment, amazing things happened. I had more time to enjoy the environment I was walking through, I made more friends (it’s amazing how helpful fellow pilgrims can be when you are walking so slowly they want to make sure you are all right). And the amazing thing is, sooner or later, I always got where we were going, but with lots of friends to celebrate success with, feeling good about quality prayer time along the way, with cherished memories of what I experienced that day.
The point is this: don’t try to move at someone else’s pace. Don’t worry about “getting ahead.” Follow the signs, keep moving, but do so at your own pace

We are now celebrating success of the journey in Santiago. Not a single person is worried about how quickly or slowly he went. That’s the beauty of the journey.

…at your own pace. 

I think the people who struggled the most on the pilgrimage are the ones who brought too much with them. Almost all of us shed stuff as we went (my backpack is about a third lighter than when I started). The point is this: if you are really going on a journey, bring only what you need for the journey. And then be willing to let go of things when it becomes apparent they no longer add value to the journey.

This applies to resentments and long held beliefs as well as material things.

They just get in the way.

Carry only what you need for the journey. 

The one way “Buen Camino” is not used is as a question, which would mean something like, “Is your journey going all right?”

The reason this true is that fellow pilgrims share recklessly. They share the physical things they have, they share their time, they share themselves. They aren’t afraid to hug, to laugh, to share their secrets. They are always asking, “Are you ok?” “Is there some way I can help?” “How are you doing?”

The priceless gems of this pilgrimage are the incredible fellow pilgrims you meet. Who know they are on a pilgrimage. Together. And they also know that the only way to make the pilgrimage better is to share it with fellow travelers.

When we share recklessly, fellow pilgrims will recognize a kindred spirit and you will both become more.

Share recklessly. 

Finally, as anyone who has read this blog will know I believe, the starting and ending point of this journey is trusting in the goodness of God.

God gave me this dream. God made this dream possible. God carried me when I needed to be carried, helped me see what I needed to see, feel what I needed to feel.

Conscious contact with God is not a matter of God taking some action. Conscious contact is a process of shedding all that prevents me from opening more completely to a God who is already intimately present. And whose only desire is my fullness of life as I find my way home to him. And who, is always saying to me…and you, “Buen Camino.”

Trust the goodness of God. 

1. Recognize you are on a journey. 

2. Follow the signs. 

3. Keep moving

4. …at your own pace

5. Carry only what you need for the journey. 

6. Share recklessly. 

7. Trust the goodness of God. 

One last question, Bill. With all you have experienced, aren’t you sad that it is ending?

No. I loved what I have experienced. I have been changed in ways I do not yet fully understand. But it is time for this pilgrimage to end.

I miss my wife, my  family and my parish family terribly. I am ready to come home.

And so, thank you to all who prayed for us.

Thank you to all who took time to read this blog.

May God bless you.

Buen Camino.
And never forget…it is good to have a dream.