My kitchen table was littered with guide books, maps, and travel brochures. I looked over the cacophony as I waited for the Travelocity genie to search flights. The aim was Madrid, to begin the Camino De Santiago with a seven-day trek from France. This trip, known as “The Final French Way” is a 100 kilometer trek on the pilgrimage to Santiago. It’s the shortest pilgrimage on the trail that will still get you a Compostela (an accreditation certificate of the pilgrimage). I wanted to be there, but I was here.
I could make the time off work. The money to fund the trip, however, was a concern. The wheel on the website kept spinning, supposedly assuring me the best deal while simultaneously feeling like a roulette wheel with all my money on a single number. The wheel stopped and, like roulette, my number didn’t come up. So, I did what I did in either situation, I stood up and walked away from the table.
I HAD to Go Somewhere
When wanderlust strikes, it is difficult fro me to ignore or suppress. When I feel stuck in life, I need to go…somewhere…anywhere. Solvitur Ambulando: it is solved by walking. I walked to the bedroom and grabbed my daypack. If I couldn’t hike the Camino, I was going to wander somewhere. I drove to a local preserve to spend an hour hiking and thinking about where else I might be able to go.
I Am Here
As I wandered, through a stand of sycamore trees the icy remains of a winter runoff, the words of Thich Naht Hanh whispered to me. I tried to resist them, but they were persistent.
“We have more possibilities available in each moment than we realize.” —Thich Naht Hanh
In the pursuit of a life worth living, we often look to the “big” experiences when, in reality, the smaller ones make up the bulk of our lives. What if we embraced those? Could all those small moments add up to more than a few “big” experiences?
I am here.
I decided to practice what Thich Naht Hanh suggests in his book How to Walk: with each breath in I silently told myself, “I am here, breathing in.” With each exhalation, “I am here, breathing out.” After a few cycles of this practice, my mind slowed down. I came back into my body and the present experience.
A few days earlier, on a wander, I came upon a large boulder with a spiral painted on it. It reminded me of a labyrinth. The moment didn’t strike me until I became present. As I walked through that sycamore stand, a realization flooded over me: we are all walking in spirals. Only some of us are heading toward our center and others are trying to escape theirs.
Which Way Are You Walking?
Before you answer, where are you? Define “here.” Are you here?
I find that very few people, myself especially, are really “here.” Usually they are reliving the past or projecting the future. Why not be right here, right now?When we embrace the present and all its joy, pain, and uncertainty, we begin walking toward our center rather than away from it.
Consider a labyrinth:
We may be anywhere on the path of this spiral. If we move toward the center, we stay in it, we can continue to walk it deeper and deeper. If, however, we walk away from our center, we will eventually run out of path and find ourself outside of everything. I’m still working through the personal meaning of this. I’m still trying to understand where my center is, but I have decided to keep walking toward it rather than walk off the map.
Perhaps, someday soon, I will get the chance to walk the Camino de Santiago, but for today, I’m going to be present and journey in the places where I am. Won’t you join me?