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What is the Camino de Santiago and Why Am I Going?

The Camino de Santiago translates as “The Way of Saint James.” It is the pilgrimage to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela in northwestern Spain, where legend has it the remains of Jesus’ apostle Saint James the Elder lie. The Camino has existed as a Christian pilgrimage for well over 1,000 years, reaching its peak of popularity during the Middle Ages.

30-day Silent Retreat – June 2016

The medieval “peregrino” (or pilgrim) almost always undertook the arduous 500-mile journey for religious reasons. The modern peregrino’s reasons for walking span the range from religious through spiritual to historical and cultural to sport. Where the medieval peregrino was seeking forgiveness for sins or for Saint James’ assistance in a matter, I am walking it for more nebulous reasons. Which is for code for – I don’t exactly know why I’ve decided to do this crazy 500-mile journey by foot when I have never walked more than 5 miles at any given time in my life.

All I know is, “The Way” began calling me a few years ago, and as the saying among alumni goes, “The Camino provides” and I trust that includes
providing answers. A few months ago, I began writing my next book entitled, “QUESTions – Finding Answers on a Journey Within.” I’m committed to looking inside myself for these answers, and yet, I have found that going away actually helps create the space for me to hear the still, small voice speaking within my soul.

I understand that some may question my questioning. Like, why are you looking inside yourself for answers, just read your Bible. Or, be careful about trusting your feelings or following your heart, you know “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked who can know it.” (Jeremiah 17:9) But, here’s the thing. I know the scriptures and my head is filled with them and I am grateful for the wisdom, blessing and foundation they are in my life. I, also, want to experience God at the most cellular level of my body and I want to feel His love as deeply as I know it. And, for that, I need to get out of my head so much for awhile.

Machu Picchu - August 2016
Machu Picchu – August 2016

Earlier this summer, I went on a 30-day silent retreat. I spent countless hours simply sitting in the presence of God – without words. That was really hard for me. I love words. Reading is my strongest addiction. In most cases, I’m much more of a listener than a talker but boy-oh-boy do I have full-on conversations in my head. My thoughts are usually talking ninety miles an hour. I must confess that while I was “not talking” on my silent retreat, I cheated a little bit. I talked on paper. I ended up writing 92,000 words in my journal. Thankfully, there were still many leftover hours to just sit and be still. and know. and feel. and rest.

There are places on earth some refer to as “thin spaces.” Places where the distance between God as Spirit and us as humans feels a little less separate.  I recently returned from one of these purported sites, Machu Picchu. And, many report that the Camino is one long thin space. My hope is that as I walk for anywhere from 5-8 hours everyday without the normal daily distractions, my truest self, Christ-in-me, will have free rein to surface and reveal depths I typically don’t have time or space to pay attention to.

I’ll share some of these revelations here and who-knows-what-else. I have no idea but I’m curious. I will be walking into the unknown with my heart and soul and mind open. I like knowing you’ll be with me.



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