The smell of the pine-baked forrest of late Spring reminds me not only of all the paths I’ve taken, but of all the prayers I’ve prayed while walking through the woods. The bright sun lights the path through the bare trees as the low-lying ferns and tiny wildflowers burst to life along trail, calling me not only to the practicality of putting one foot in front of another, but of also paying attention to the ways in which growth happens slowly, then all at once. There is no better place for me to cultivate attentiveness to God, to my soul, and to our beautiful world than the trail.
But recently, I’ve struggled to stay connected to all the things that hiking cultivates in me; I’ve become narrowly focused on my physical training plan, of the milage needed to get it done.
In many ways, my Camino began a month ago when my therapist asked me to consider how I was preparing not just physically, but also emotionally for the Camino. It was one of those questions that made my soul bristle because it struck a nerve of something that I was resisting. I actively avoided thinking through this, trying to lean upon my prayer life as it is and playing the “but Holy Week is coming” card to deflect this work.
The truth about therapy is that if you show up authentically, things you deflect will ultimately bubble to the surface, and what I’ve learned is that the same will be true for the Camino as well.
Yesterday, I took the longest hike I’ve done yet. My physical training plan made a leap in milage this week, and I felt pretty unprepared, but I’ve done enough things to know that training plans work, and that our bodies are far more capable than we think. But on the trail yesterday, it was not the training plan or my confidence in it that helped me put one foot in front of another, it was what I discussed in therapy as the resistance to that question posed a month ago bubbled up.
A key to the Camino is hospitality – accepting it, receiving it, and giving it away like candy. But to receive hospitality is to allow ourselves to be vulnerable, to be willing to be rejected, and to acknowledge that we cannot ever truly do things alone. And this is where I can feel my Camino beginning. It has begun because I am wrestling with my own self-reliance and with my own independence rather than leaning upon our human inter-connectedness.
My Camino has begun, not because I’m preparing physically, but because I’m opening myself up to the lessons of the Camino even though I’m walking in Kentucky and I won’t step onto the Camino until June. The Camino is a long physical journey, but like most pilgrims, I’m convicted that it is the inner journey that is the most transformational, and so my Camino begins.