Humility

Understanding the origins of this word provides additional lenses into its power. The one that resonates deeply with me, and tends to be used in church sermons, is the root word, “humus” (or earth). The earth that we walk on, the earth which grows plants and vegetables, which in turn forms the first link in the food chain for land creatures.

There’s a peace and serenity when one meets a holy person. Imagine meeting the Dalai Lama or even Mother Theresa, when she was alive. One is seemingly ‘transported’ into a different plane/dimension. The holy person’s focus is all on you. They speak at a level that touches you. We experience an authentic encounter. The holy person radiates humility by psychically / spiritually connecting to us, in accepting our own value without any pre-conceptions or judgment. We experience and know, deep down, that the other person, cares for our well being. Wow, imagine if we have that power impact on others that we meet! What a way to live.

Our humility is in-born in us as we intuitively recognize forces greater than us. For us Christians, we have God. Unfortunately, our educational system, our self-promoting culture (‘blow your own horn’) etc slowly but surely grounds down our humility core, like waves wearing down the coastline. But, as long as we recognize that humility is greater and of lasting significance than its anti-thesis, pride, we have a lifeline.

I have read several books on humility. The one that stands out for me, that speaks to me as a Christian, is ‘Humility’ by Andrew Murray. Pastor Murray lived from 1828 – 1917, and pastored in South Africa. How does Pastor Murray make his case that humility is the Christian’s key to God’s abiding, to experiencing His blessings and the favor of His Spirit?

In Phil 2:8, Christ “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death.” Christ’s humility is our salvation. His salvation is our humility.

Humility is not something we bring to God, or something He bestows. Rather, humility is simply the sense of utter nothingness, which comes when we see how truly God is ALL, and in which we make way for God to be ALL.

Humility will not come by and of itself, but it must be made the object of intense desire and prayer and faith and practice.

Absorbing and accepting this intellectually was all well and good. But how does this translate into life, when the rubber hits the road? Not surprisingly, simple virtues are extremely difficult to execute. You see, I was participating in a Church Zoom on the Parable of the Talents. I had prepared some additional insights that were atypical. There was an inner sense of pride, recall this is the antithesis of humility, that managed to hide itself from me. I ended ‘presenting’ it versus ‘sharing’ it. If I had done the latter, there would have been more “I” statements, my own challenges and struggles. Rather, in the former approach, I “showed off” my more developed spiritual insights. ARGH!

But the realization dawned on me where I had veered off the path I was striving for. This is largely due to the consistent spiritual time I had invested. It (divine prompt) came on me and readings affirmed the way/truth. I recorded in my journal, so that this self-realization becomes a self-purification as I continue my journey.

Postscript: Andrew Murray is one of my favorite spiritual authors. I have read and am reading several of his books, with a couple more on the bookcase to get around to. He wrote 240 books! I will read the handful that I need at this stage of my journey. 😊

Perseverance

The online dictionary indicated that perseverance means “persistence in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.”

We all have built up varying capabilities of perseverance through life experiences. Perhaps perseverance capabilities differ depending on the activity, task or objective in mind. My wife reminds me that a man will never understand the pain threshold that needs to be borne during child birth. I will grant and tip my hat to all mothers. Especially my mother!

Rather than starting from a person’s perspective, I wanted to start from an animal’s perspective. What can an animal teach us about perseverance?

This story begins with the bird feeder that we hung on our back fence since last winter. It turned out to be a hit as all species of birds dropped by to feed. Everything went well until September this year. One squirrel appeared, and it was the vanguard, as another two appeared later.

There are legendary videos on Youtube on obstacle courses that have been designed to outwit and outplay squirrels (use search term, ‘squirrel obstacle course’). It’s delightful to see how these squirrels are initially stumped, falling off said obstacles, and then, figuring out how to overcome and get at the tasty treats. Perseverance in action!

Well, my backyard squirrels were showing me their perseverance, and in turn, caused me to ‘up’ my own perseverance (and determination). After all, how can I “lose” to this animal? No matter how cuddly it may look. By golly, I am not going to let my bird seed be hijacked by these squirrels.

Firstly, I observed how they got to my bird feeder. They were dropping onto the roof of the bird feeder, and then, lowering themselves onto the feeder trough. Hmm…why don’t I extend the roof with cut off plastic sheets so that the overhang edges of said plastic sheets will not allow them to lower themselves? Oops…they got through the gaps between the two sheets. Ok, let me tape it up. Oops…they bit through the tape.

Alright, let me check what they have on Amazon.com Ah…a dome-shaped squirrel baffle. That should work. And it did for a couple of days. It was fun while it lasted as we say a squirrel fall about three times as every time it tried to reach below the dome onto the bird feeder, the baffle tilted under its weight and it dropped to the ground.

Until one of these pesky squirrels figured out how to reach the bird feeder roof via the pole/hook that the baffle/bird feeder was hung on. Ok, let me grease the pole/hook. That worked again for a couple of days. The squirrel was persistent, as eventually the grease wore off, and they were able to grip the pole, and got onto the bird feeder roof.

OK. My final attempt this time round, is to hang the squirrel baffle lower down, so that it’s not near the pole/hook and thus, the squirrel cannot swing from latter onto the bird feeder roof. Let’s see how this goes as the squirrel scorecard is something like 5-0. This is probably an understatement too, to salve some ego!

So, what did I learn about perseverance? Being tested (and bested) by an animal does wonders for one’s perseverance. This personal challenge, when taken in the right spirit, does wonders. It inculcates respect for the other opponent. It pushes one to think outside the box, and literally, anticipate the moves of the other. Perseverance brings along other pleasant companions when approached with the right attitude.

Postscript: The picture shows plastic sheets nailed to the fence post and top of fence. This is to deter them from having a foothold near the baffle/bird feeder. The nuclear option is to purchase another baffle and have a double layer baffle to outwit the squirrels!

F a l l

A friend told me that her favorite season was fall. I intuitively understand why winter sports fans would opt for their season. Likewise, the horticulturally inclined will prefer spring. And then, the majority would opt for summer, given the longer days and warmer weather that facilitates outdoor parties/picnics, BBQ get-togethers, sports, outdoor recreation, etc. So, the fall response was un-usual.

But as we started walking daily this summer, typically for an hour, the walks in early fall have been serene and colorful. The air is much brisker, and reinvigorates the body. There’s also a stillness in the air, as the summer noise has dissipated.

The falling leaves that clutter our backyard lawn does send a powerful reminder of the changing over. The need to periodically rake these leaves is off-set by the lengthening frequency required to mow the lawns. Various preparation activities are needed, so that ‘things’ are prepared to weather the winter, be it fertilizing the lawn, prepping fruit trees from diseases, etc.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
 a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
 a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
 a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
 a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

As I glance at the above verses, some call to me more than others. Definitely, as we near the end of the calendar year, there is a reflection of what must be put to death (“time to die”). The Covid-19 pandemic wrote quite a list for us given the restrictions and shut downs that have resulted. The vast majority on the list are actually beneficial as they were a short term gratification of senses. Thus, we have no regrets that we were unable to use our unlimited movie pass. For those activities that fall on the other side of the ledger, like the inability to socialize or hug others, there are creative alternatives that force us to be more expressive when we have the opportunity. It doesn’t totally make up, but as they say, the wait intensifies the hunger and greater will be the satisfaction.

But the interesting equation of that phrase is a “time to be born.” What should be born as we enter into a season of preparation, a season when most of nature and the animal kingdom slow down? How should we think about this? The breadth of possibilities is endless, and perhaps a guiding light might be, how would one’s joy or peace (or whatever quality is your priority) be enhanced in the new year through the birth of something new.

In that regard, for us personally, it has to be our closest circle of relationships. For after all, who will visit us when we are in need? Who will share a shoulder when we are in need? And thus, shedding any hurts or grudges (“time to die”) is a necessary step to renewing any strained relationships. And if fortune is such that all relationships are healthy, why not figure out how to draw the circle closer in, through more authentic sharing of persons, dreams and values?

Part of the new birth this year has been sharing our values and spiritual beliefs. It would be truly sad if at the end of our lives, friends who thought they knew us well, expressed that they never witnessed those aspects of our persons.

Do I have a favorite season? I would like to say ‘No’, as I want to relish the uniqueness of each season. Though I’ll admit that I tolerate the heat much better than the cold. But as they say, it’s “all in the mind.” 😊

On the fun side, we bought new waterproof boots and snow shoes, as we are looking forward to traipsing through the winter land trails. Nature beckons, and fall and winter are truly lovely seasons.

What will make this Fall be a better one for you?

The Great Un-covering

When we Americans look back on 2020, a defining moment will be the Covid-19 Pandemic. An equally defining moment will be the Nov 3 elections for the Presidency and Senate. In this piece, I will share some thoughts on the Pandemic.

Let me upfront acknowledge the immensity of lives lost, the inconsolable grief left behind and the shadows of uncertain futures ahead for families who have lost a breadwinner, a pillar of their hopes. These shattered lives will have meaning when we painfully self-examine the failures and establish readiness systems and measures to contain and best such pandemics.

The Pandemic is an event that I will label the Great Un-Covering.

Firstly, it un-covered our inner selves to ourselves. To what extent is my life dependent on externals, be it retail therapy, entertainment, travel, socialization, etc? To what extent can I not just only survive, but thrive, as I patiently wait in isolation? What does it imply if I cannot manage self-isolation? To what extent has this Pandemic revealed what gives me most meaning in life? How can my post-Pandemic life be qualitatively better? Such questions, by growing deep roots, gives us the contemplative nourishment needed for a towering life. But if such questions are batted away, perhaps, it has un-covered that our outer self is all we have to fritter away to the end.

The Pandemic un-covered many around us, in society, in friendship circles, in various leadership roles, etc. Like the poles of a magnet, it either attracts or repels us. And both situations are telling. This public un-covering is akin to the adage, “I cannot un-see what I have seen.” While there’s anguish at what one perceived, the un-covering is a blessing. One’s eyes have been truly opened, and all have been un-masked (pun intended).

The Pandemic un-covered that while we have technologies and conveniences that far surpass olden days, our base human nature has not evolved as much. It’s very much a survival of the fittest, the fastest man to the life rafts. In the early panic days, wealth fled on private yachts, some fled to luxurious enclaves in remote islands, etc. Those who could not afford to stop working, were exposed to high risk situations, ala meat processing workers. It would seem that as a human race civilization, we should move to a maturity (evolution?) classification that’s no longer based on GDP per capita, but on “well being” per capita. It has been said that one can tell a society by how it treats its poor, marginalized, defenseless.

The Pandemic un-covered across America, that we Americans, have ‘significant’ values that are the anti-thesis of each other. It is no longer a difference of ideologies and policies. Right now, it’s a battle of which side comes up on top via the election process. In the golden age of Greek philosophers, this would have been debated and deliberated. If the latter approach had been adopted, one can foresee a sieving of values, until the final core value choices are placed, side by side. Thus, freedom of expression, rights to worship, etc. are all sieved away until two core choices remain. Love of Self vs Love of Neighbor. As Scripture puts it, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” By the way, that same Scripture covers self-love.

And thus, my pondering comes to a conclusion. Every cloud has a silver lining. What’s the silver lining for you in this Great Un-covering?

Kingdom of God

There was a Facebook post seeking readers’ understanding of what the Kingdom of God meant to them. That was a great prompt for me to reflect myself.

There are 65 references to the ‘Kingdom of God’ in the New Testament (love the search function in the Bible apps on smartphones). Some are direct references, some are couched in parables.

It occurred to me to transform the passive ‘Kingdom of God’ into its active form, ‘God’s Kingdom’. How does God view His Kingdom, as revealed in Scripture? My thoughts:

(1)  The currency and the very breath of this Kingdom is Love. Spiritually, nothing good & holy happens without Love. There are 296 references of Love in the New Testament. Here are two of them. 2 Cor 13:11 – “….and the God of Love and Peace will be with you.”  Proverbs 8:17 – “I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me.”  Thus, one cannot conceptualize the Kingdom of God without accepting that God of Love, Himself is ever present, ever active, ever loving in this Kingdom.

(2)  The citizens of this Kingdom are all children of God. Romans 8:17 – “…we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ…”. There’s an eternal relationship implied in this scripture.

An additional scripture insight into the Kingdom of God.

(3)  The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 5 begins the sermons on the mount with the Beatitudes. There are no teachings nor parables to the people in the first 4 chapters. The first Beatitude is “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Note the word ‘is’. It’s not ‘will be’. Thus, the Kingdom of God is now, was in the past and will be in the future. There are articles expounding on what it means to be ‘poor in spirit.’

Clearly the Kingdom of God transcends space, time, laws of physics, etc. But Christ’s life & teachings on earth was meant to lead us to the Kingdom of God. With the Holy Spirit’s active leading, we can strive for Christlikeness, in our hearts and wills to fulfill the Father’s Will in our lives, and in reflecting/sharing Christ’s love to everyone around us.

God bless you on your spiritual journey.

86,400

Do you recognize this number? It’s the result of multiplying three numbers that everyone, since their childhood days, are familiar with.

60 seconds x 60 minutes x 24 hours = 86,400 seconds. This number represents the day we wake up to, expecting a full day’s worth of wakeful activity plus the sleep time when we close our eyes that night.

Time is short. Let’s do a simple pen and paper exercise. If you like, you can consult your calendar, your journal, your social media postings, etc. Pick any recent past month. Write down your key moments and experiences during that month. After completing this, scan your list and writings. Highlight those moments and experiences that ‘strike/impact’ you. The realization slowly dawns on one, that key moments and experiences don’t occur in bunches. That sometimes, we fall prey to ‘sleep walking’ without full awareness. Now, we generally live our lives as though we had decades in front of us. A decade is only 120 months. And given our pen and paper exercise, doesn’t it now feel like we don’t have unlimited runway to live out our dreams, our passions, our aspirations?

Time is passing. Time is fleeting. That means it passes very quickly, and it doesn’t register. It’s like sand in an hourglass, the seconds drip non-stop, passing through our fingers. We fool ourselves. We use a motorized lawn mower thinking it ‘saves’ us time. We hire gardeners thinking it ‘buys’ us time. We multiplex and juggle several things, thinking we can ‘make up’ time. All these are illusions, time continues to pass. The paradox of aging is that when we were young, time seemed to drag. The days were so long. When we get older, the closer we get to the end, the faster it seems to come.

Remaining time is unknown. There are many who did not wake up this morning. There are many who will not go to sleep tonight. Nothing is certain. When we reminisce too much about the Past, we live there. When we plan and project too much about the Future, we live there. Breathe and live in the Present.

Time cannot be recovered. We lose things, and can regain (repurchase, rebuild, etc.) them. Time passed can never be regained. No one can turn the clock back.

We intellectually understand all the above. But whether this understanding wakens us up to live consciously is the first question. Let me plant the following imagery in our minds to raise our awareness:

Picture an hourglass as vividly as you can. In the morning, as one wakes up, there’s a huge heap of sand at the top, representing your waking hours for the day. Then, at various points in the day, picture the same hourglass but with proportionate sand left depending on time of day. Thus, mid day, perhaps there’s only 60% left. By late afternoon, there’s only 30% left. As you turn in for the night, there’s enough sand left for your usual bedtime cycle (e.g. reading, time to drop off to sleep).

The second question is how do we live the day, so that at the end of it, we can say, ‘Today was worth the living I put in and got out’? What will work for an individual depends on one’s personality, one’s desire and one’s current circumstances. Consider the following as provoking your own ideas and plans.

Stephen Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” outlined Habit 3, “Put First Things First”. Determine the big rocks and put them in the beaker first. Then, the small pebbles. Then the sand. Finally, the water. This approach packs the beaker the fullest with the set of materials. Change the sequence, and you get a less optimal packing. Determining the big rocks is best applied over a long time frame (be it for the year, months or weeks). Then, it breaks down to the various days. Say, I want to repair a relationship with someone close in 3-6 months time. I may then figure out a progressive set of out-reaches, and then plan that over the days to come. There will be obvious open slots as this effort is fluid and dynamic.

As retirees, on non-vacation days, it’s a mix of both planned and spontaneous activities. Our passions include hiking, exploring, reading. Spiritually, there’s praying, scripture and contemplation. Nurturing relationships and staying connected. Indulging in some entertainment.

Writing this surfaced something for us. Perhaps at the end of the day, we should have an explicit dialog with each other. Perhaps lead off with the question – What should we be greatful for today? Cultivating such an attitude cannot but lead to a better tomorrow.

Reading is a many splendored thing

I reached my July 2016 goal of reading 100 books in Oct 2019. It took me 40 months, instead of the 60 months I had initially set aside. Before my Ego gets too big for its britches (that’s another story about how I am trying to diminish this self-destructive persona), the following quote is very apt.

“In the case of good books, the point is not to see how many of them you can get through, but rather how many can get through to you.” ~ Mortimer J. Adler

Which books have I read where I can honestly testify that certain aspects ‘got through’ to me?

Ted Chiang’s two science fiction books, ‘Stories of your life’ and ‘Exhalation’ had short stories that definitely got to me. Example, in latter, Ted was able to create a story about a device, that one can press to predict one’s response in a certain situation. And the entire story was predicated whether man actually possessed ‘free will’ in the light of this invention.

Even fictional stories, such as the ‘Price of Time’ by Tim Tigner, on the discovery of a formula that stops the aging process, can be a self discovery journey. Where do you weigh in on the argument that Earth’s resources cannot sustain a non-aging population for the masses? Should the formula be then restricted to all those who can pay? If one was part of this select group, what will one do with one’s life? Finally, seeing the likely outcome, is this fountain of youth quest still a noble one?

But it’s the spiritual books and the Bible that have had the most impact on me. Where I dwell on the life enriching messages which encourages and motivates me to make transformative changes.

Perhaps the genres that will work its magic on you could be health, nutrition, relationships or even copying with life and death. Perhaps you aren’t sure. The only way to find out – happy reading!

Let me end with this thought. Reading widely, reading extensively, reading with an open mind results in many splendored things – imagination, passion, hope, zest for life, re-birth and all things good.

Postscript – I have an xls where I record the books read, my rating and a one-two sentence about the book. If I wish to re-read the book at some future point, I give it 6 out of a 5 point rating scale.

Santiago de Compostela reflections

Oops….below never got completed and published. Here’s a catch up FOUR months later! Better late than never.

May 6. Approx. 11.05am. Queuing to catch the bus back to Santiago from the airport, after returning the rental car. I was the last to board the bus in one queue, when I noticed a couple at the head of the other queue. They had about 6 medium to large luggage bags. I offered the lady to help and they were appreciative. It then struck me that we often see situations around us where others might appreciate a helping hand but we are sometimes too engrossed with our own life journey, that we do not take the proactive step to extend a hand. That’s when I decided I will try my best to assist in some way, everyday, someone who I come across that might need help. This attitudinal shift changes how one views one’s fellow neighbors around us.

May 7. Approx. 10.05am. Sitting in the apartment balcony, just before walking to bus stop to catch bus to Santiago de Compostela airport.

Just sitting still, ignoring any traffic noise below. Looking up, I noticed the winds were blowing the dark clouds in one direction. And way above were white clouds that appeared to be stationary. My brain worked out the winds were at a much lower altitude. As there was a gap in the dark clouds, I could see the evolving shapes of the white clouds above then. And I saw a protuding white ‘nose’ slowly forming. Pinocchio’s nose sprung to mind, unbidded. It slowly grew longer before it dissipated.

There was a message that I gleaned from this. I had been contemplating the insights from the Camino as I was just sitting still. And the message seemed meant for me. That I should not lie to myself. That while the nearer moving dark clouds might seem to indicate that I am making progress, the further stationary clouds cautions me not to fool or delude myself.

May 9. 4.33pm. 4 hours and counting due to flight delays. Learning patience. Learning not to waste emotional energy over this. Learning how to refocus the mind.

Sept 9. Here’s something I re-read since returning from the Camino. We can sometimes fall into a ‘trap’ where our thoughts and focus is either in the ‘Past’ and/or the ‘Future’. We reminisce about the happy and joyful times in the past, be it the Camino, vacations or celebrations. Sometimes, some even continue to hanker for the times of their youth. And such memory indulgences can sometimes put ‘blinders’ on us as we obsess about re-capturing these moments in the future. Which leaves the Present a step child of our attention and energies.

One of the significant practices that I put into place was more Reflection & Contemplation time into my day. On the Camino, this came about naturally due to the several hours walk. When one comes back to everyday life, one has to intentionally carve out time. Perhaps start with 15 mins or 30 mins blocks. The benefits cannot be under-played, and eventually, one will see that such Reflection & Contemplation time creates an ‘intentionality’ to how one lives. By the way, Carpe Diem really means ‘Pluck the day’, which lends a more thoughtful and respectful tone to one’s approach, than ‘Seize the day’.

O Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostela

May 4. Day 38. 20.6 km. Departed 0607 hours, arrived 1155 hours.

We decided to have a very early start to catch the sunrise. Not surprisingly, we came across several others starting that early. Torch lights/headlamps are needed.

The walk went through some forested areas early on. And then along paved roads and through villages and residential estates.

That’s how dark it was at 0616 hours as we reached the forested trail. The spot of light ahead was by other peregrinos who walked without any hesitation.

About 5 hours later, we lingered at Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy). There was a fenced up monument as well as views of the city. We could spot the Cathedral towers.

Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy).

As it was our last day on the Camino, personal contemplation was a priority.

We were able to make it in time for the 12pm Mass at the Iglesia de San Francisco. And confessional services too.

Facade of Iglesia San Francisco. Standing room at the back and sides of Church during the 12pm Mass.

We meet Roberto after Mass. He had arrived a day earlier and recounted his crossing paths with the same group of 76 high school kids that we came across yesterday. They were exhibiting their youthful exuberance. Roberto was on the point of fatigue as his backpack hip belt had broken at the start of his Camino in Lugo, and he had hip issues. But that exuberance motivated him to continue to be in front of this school group. He later thanked the teachers as he was initially annoyed. Strange how things worked out.

We backtracked out of the historic center to have lunch with Roberto at a pulperia that locals patronize. Great racions and riberio (wine).

After which we walked back to the Cathedral, sat in the courtyard, and visited with St James/ Santiago inside.

Us with our friends, Josephine and Richard.

A panoramic view of the Cathedral from courtyard.

There were a lot of emotions. We saw tears, hugging, shouts of recognition, taking off boots/shoes, peregrinos lying flat on their backs.

Reaching Santiago is a triumph of will power over the physical, mental and emotional challenges. But the transformation (metamorphosis) had only just begun.

Most, if not all, in the Camino forums and groups agree the Camino continues when one goes back to one’s life. Many also wonder how to retain their Camino-self.

Me thinks there are several challenges post-Camino.

1. One’s mind begins to fill up with everything that one emptied during the Camino.

2. One begins to revert to past reactions, perceptions, behaviors, etc. as these lie just under the surface.

3. One neglects to spend time alone or in contemplation.

I found that putting a ‘big and long pause’ between the triggering event and my normal reaction, helps me maintain that inner peace. And sufficient time for me to prioritize what I desire as an outcome. When words quickly fly out of my mouth, the odds are high that I will regret some words used. Keeping and nurturing the vision of my Purer Version requires discipline and spiritual assistance.

There’s more to process from this Camino. Let me close this post with some pictures from Finisterra and Muxia.

0.000km milestone marker in Finisterra. May 5.

Cabo Tourinan, Muxia. May 5.

Sunset at Cabo Tourinan.

Short video clip.

Arzua to O Pedrouzo

May 3. Day 37. 19km. Departed 0745 hours, arrived 1310 hours.

The numbers of peregrinos on the walk today is several multiples higher than previously experienced. We ran into a high school group of 76 students with 6 teachers. We were pleasantly reminded of the exuberance of youth (where did those days go?). I got to chatting with one of the students too. They were walking the Camino to Santiago, from Sarria.

Today’s route was quite pleasant, especially through the forested trails. There were several inclines that got our hearts pumping, which I am sure, some will relish/enjoy.

Eucalyptus trees were introduced into Spain from Australia in 1865 with the intent for use in construction. If you see the picture, on the surface, this tree appears ideal, with tall tree trunks and minimal branches. Unfortunately it was unsuitable for such use, drives out local species and consumes lots of water.

Tranquil forested trail. Consider that some of these trees took 20-30 years or more to grow to the size and height that make up these forested trails. Who are those in our lives with those years who we should treasure more?

Morning sun beaming into forest – 1.

Morning sun beaming into forest – 2.

On our penultimate day, what has been our Camino experience? Our Camino experience unfolded over three stages.

1. Emptying Out & Pouring In of Inner Peace.

Solitude. Quiet. Stillness. Serenity. Calmness.

Being dis-connected for many hours every day for weeks has a therapeutic effect on one’s mind and soul. The world has continued on without skipping a beat. Our minds are slowly but surely being drained of worldly concerns and issues that we have no control over. Using social media to update others of our journey kept ‘social media’ in its proper servant place. These and the same daily routine, help create an emptying out of our thoughts, of our hearts from trivial and superficial concerns. We become more detached from the external during the Camino (some peregrinos go to the extent of not bringing a smartphone).

We begin to focus inwards. On our lives, our hurts, our pains, our joys. We slowly see our own imperfections and warts. We slowly see the hurts and pains don’t really matter. We learn to forgive ourselves and accept who and where we are. And we forgive others, even from decades-old events that we no longer recall with any clarity (or certainty). There is a un-burdening. An un-winding. There is a lightness. And slowly but surely, Inner Peace flows in.

Inner Peace of the mind as we let go of the past. Only the present and future matters henceforth.

Inner Peace of the heart as we let go of expectations of others and how they should respond. Only how we want to feel and act now and in the future matters henceforth.

2. Relationships, relationships, relationships.

As Inner Peace reigns, we come to realize that relationships is the crux and heart of our lives.

Relationship with our own selves. Being our own best friends. Knowing how to be a Purer Version (or Best Version).

Relationship with our loved ones. Choosing to express love vs satisfying our Ego. Tilting the scales of our focus, efforts and time to the former at the expense of the latter. Both of us struggle with the Ego, as we perceive that we are not being listened to with full attention, with empathy, and so on. This will be a work in progress until we learn to fully let go and accept without any expectations or perceptions. Expectations/perceptions is what potentially hurts the inter-personal exchanges

Relationship with our God. For us, this ultimately is the bedrock that all other relationships rest and build upon. We discuss the Spiritual within the Secular and our faith has been mutually strengthened.

3. Life with Meaning

In my first Camino, I desired to discern the purpose of my life from God. In this Camino, I have started to get glimpses and insights. I use the label, the meaning of life. It’s no longer checking off a bucket list that will satisfy my soul. The right purpose gives meaning to one’s life. It’s right when it resonates deep inside.

Thus, we begin. Living purposefully. The days of unconscious drifting is a luxury we cannot afford as the prime years of our lives are trickling away like the sand in an hour glass.

Tomorrow as we walk, we will figure out how to stay on course.