Day 37 New Stories

Thursday November 3. Salceda to Santiago de Compostela. 7hrs 40mins, 29km.

[St James] Cathedral de Santiago

There were hand made signs along the way suggesting that one should relish the remaining miles. It’s like letting a tasty morsel linger in one’s mouth and on the taste buds!

Our adrenalin kicked in, I woke up at 4am, Joon woke up at 5am. We tried our best to go back to sleep. Eventually, we got out of bed about 6.30am, prepared, packed, had our breakfast and walked out at 7.50am. We were not the earliest because when I looked out our bathroom window at 6.47am to check whether the rain forecast was accurate, I saw a Camino pilgrim already walking on the road, heading away from our hotel! The forecast was correct, with intermittent drizzle till 9am.

9.43am. The road direction is where we are walking towards, and it’s clear skies!
10.31am. The forested trails were a delight as the sunlight started streaming in.
12.21pm. A grove of trees with the afternoon sun.
12.22pm. The trail we were on.
1.22pm. One final look at how trees appear at different times of the day.

After A Lsvacolla, as we were climbing a fairly steep incline, we noticed a home owner had built something into the side bank of his property. We slowed down and paused to take a look given there were bars and a lock.

This was set into the bank of the homeowners land bordering the trail path. The Yellow Arrow showed the upwards climb. But what was the bars and lock for?
A tiny statue of St James!!

Because we had started the walk from Salceda, which is 11.3km nearer to Santiago than Arzúa (latter is the recommended stop in most guidebooks), we didn’t experienced the crowd of pilgrims that we had expected. This made for a more quieter and contemplative walk!

I took this time to walk ahead of Joon and “rest” and “ponder”. It takes effort to coral the mind from wandering, the so-called ‘monkey mind.’ And the Camino built upon my earlier insights to peel back another layer for purification and cleansing. Here are my code words for my own recollection – The Foolishness of Expectations, Precision, of Being Right; and Recognizing the Inner Child, Preferring Heavenly Rewards.

One of the areas to pause, which is very difficult for most pilgrims, is Monte de Gozo. This is because this is within 5km of the Santiago Cathedral, which draws all pilgrims.

Monte de Gozo, a.k.a. Hill of Joy, provides one a first view of Santiago and the spires of the Cathedral. There used to be a monument that was torn down. But there are still significant in ground and structures that makes it worthwhile to ‘pause’ here.

This was the monument that was removed due to stability concerns. This was taken in 2019, when we walked the Camino Frances. Our friends Richard and Jo joined us in Lugo.
In ground monuments.
Close up of one of the four in ground monuments.
Pilgrim statues. This is off the Camino route, on a hill. One has to head towards the ‘meadow’ section of Monte de Gozo. It’s probably 500-600m away.

Reaching the Praza do Obradoiro, which is the square in front of the Cathedral is a poignant moment. Pilgrims are spread out throughout, many sitting, some lying down. All reflecting on their journey, struggles and joys.

3.50pm. Our arrival.

We arrived during the siesta hour, which turned out to be a grace for us. The majority of the shops were closed and thus, we were not exposed to all the consumerism and shoppers. It was like night and day compared to our previous Camino arrivals.

Close up of St James. In this Matamoros depiction, it was to rally believers against incursions.
This is the Holy Door that’s open this year due to the special dispensation from Pope Francis. There’s a stained glass of St James above this door.
The main altar of the Cathedral de Santiago.

At the Pilgrim’s Chapel, there was a running slide show with contemplative music. Here are some of the “Beatitude of the Pilgrim” that I found particularly meaningful (there were 8).

  • Blessed are you Pilgrim, if you discover that the ‘Camino’ opens your eyes to what is not seen.
  • Blessed are you Pilgrim, when you don’t have the words to give thanks for everything that surprises you at every twist and turn off the way.
  • Blessed are you Pilgrim, if on the way you meet yourself and gift yourself with time, without rushing, so as not to disregard the image in your heart.
  • Blessed are you Pilgrim, when you contemplate the Camino and you discover it is full of names, [stories] and dawns. [my addition]

Here are several stories. We met Eun Kyung, a Korean lady on the trail on this last day. She was walking slowly as she had a bad knee. She’s on a several months vacation in Europe as well as plans to travel to New York. She had absolutely no plans to do the Camino when she left Korea. But in her travels, she kept bumping into pilgrims who had completed the Camino and encouraged to do it, despair her apprehension. She accepted the promptings, and she’s relishing the experience.

We met Benoit, a Belgian at dinner. He did not have a reservation and was advised by Shanta (cook, waitress, owner all-in-one) to return in 15 mins or so, when space would open up. We invited him to join our table as there was ‘one’ extra chair (in a table for four!).

Benoit had wanted to do the Camino in March 2020 due to stress (work, Life, etc.) He was in the verge of just resigning but Covid struck. So, he continued working. And when travel restrictions lifted sand vaccines became widely available, he was granted a three month no-pay leave (as his Company correctly deduced that he would resign otherwise. Engineers like him are hard to find!)

Benoit was able to slowly and contemplatively work through his ‘stuff’ through the long walks. As he himself said, if he wasn’t on the Camino, these concerns would surface at random times during his normal day and he wouldn’t be able to work through them, and they would fester.

We also met an Austrian on the trail. He shared that his Camino started 15 years ago for a small stretch. He started resuming the stages left uncompleted, especially after a recent heart condition was rectified.

Finally, this story is about Shanta, the owner-cook of the Green House restaurant in Santiago. Her mother is Malaysian, and she herself was born in Wales. She now lives in Santiago, and was hankering for Asian food. She decided to set up a restaurant, and hearing from pilgrims hope difficult it was to find vegan food, she set up Green House. By the way, she does eat meat! What a noble aim – filling a need for Others!

Shanta, Green House owner-cook. Reservations recommended as it’s a small cost set up. Open except for Tuesdays. She plans to close from Jan 10 (after Feast of Epiphany) – Feb 10

On the Camino, New Stories are being written every step, every moment, every day. We are the Authors, both perceptible and what lies deep within and unseen. Learning to listen within creates that New Story, as creation is on-going. Blessings abound, we just have to open our hands and hearts to receive. God Bless you.

Day 32 The Camino Conspires

Saturday Oct 29. Lourenza to Abadin. 30 mins, 24.3km.

There’s a well known saying amongst Camino pilgrims, which is “The Camino provides.” Almost every pilgrim will either have a personal experience, or heard from another pilgrim or read about an experience wherein based on a personal need or situation, something unexpectedly turned up and ‘provided’ for said person. Camino forums have many such stories and sharing.

But I am beginning to perceive a different way that the Camino can influence our pilgrimage and walk. I use the verb ‘conspire’ in place of ‘provide’. What do I mean by that?

Firstly, I definitely do not mean to imply any negative or adverse outcomes that typically are implied by this verb, ‘conspire’. Secondly, I do mean that unplanned circumstances/events arise to influence a particular course of action. Thirdly, I do mean that the course of action would not normally have resulted because there was no triggering need/circumstance.

What happened? Well, we had planned to take a bus to an intermediate stage Mondonedo, and then walked the rest of the way to the end stage, Abadin. This was knowing there was a forecast of rain in the 40-60% range from 8am-12pm in the region. We figured we could cope with the rain from Mondonedo to Abadin.

As we waited at the bus stop, another two pilgrims turned up. One was a Spanish (Pedro), the other a Japanese Canadian (Hiro). Pedro was taking the bus to Abadín. He planned to wait out the rain in Abadin before walking further. Pedro was quite adamant that attempting to walk the mountain trails before Abadin was not a wise move. Pedro was in his late 20’s.

There was no arm twisting by anyone but we were persuaded by Pedro’s travel plan. At the end of the bus journey, while having coffee with a Pedro at a cafe in Abadín, we learnt that Pedro was about to start his new job at the Spanish Meteorology Department after his Camino. He had an App that was showing how the rain clouds were being blown across the region! At this point, one could say that the “Camino Provides” as in arranging for Pedro to come to our bus stop and influencing our travel plans.

Where is the “conspire”? It has to do with ‘what is next?’ We now have a consecutive free day. And we only have FIVE days left before arriving in Santiago de Compostela!

Clearly we will spent the time in meditation and contemplation. But a tiny spark in my mind suggested that I should complete reading the spiritual book that I had partially read yesterday. And so I did. And I am now convinced that the Camino conspired to ensure that I read this book and reflected upon it, as part of this Camino experience.

Postscript – it’s a book that I have read multiple times, and I had brought this copy to gift to my sister who I will be meeting in Rome after the Camino! It was as impactful as previously but definitely much needed and at a different point in my spiritual journey.

In my top 10 personal list.

Day 12 Giving Thanks

Sunday Oct 9. Santona to Guemes. Approx. 22km, 7 hours.

The weather forecast was supposedly mainly overcast with cloud cover, with perhaps 1 hour of sun. The forecast fooled us (and several others). We even over-heard a pilgrim much later in the day telling another group resting under a shady tree that she may have over tax herself. We resolved to carry an umbrella the next time regardless of the forecast (while caps, hats shade the head, it does trap the heat). We did a number of rest stops to cool down, and drank lots of water with electrolytes/energizing elements.

Getting out of our hotel at 8.18am onto the Camino route was easy given Santona is a small town. This was the first stage when we encountered more pilgrims than we had seen cumulatively the past 10 days! Perhaps they were always there in the bigger cities, but because they walk faster/earlier, we never encountered them.

The route out of town was a road parallel to the beach, but a couple of pilgrims ahead veered onto the beach. We stopped to check our Camino App, and when another pilgrim was passing, we asked about this beach route (Playa de Berria) that didn’t appear in the App. She said it was walking along the beach until it joined the route at the end of the beach. Ah, we just met pilgrims who love to walk on beaches! So, we did that for most of the way, before getting onto the road and joining the route proper.

Sun rise at Playa de Berria

The route was up a hill, about 220 feet above sea level. It wasn’t the height that was the challenge. It was that it was a sandy trail up the hill! So, climbing up loose sand (which seemed similar to the beach sand) on a hill slope was a new experience. And after that, there were rocky trails, which can be a challenge for those with short legs. The guidebook advises against this route on rainy days.

Sandy trail up Punta del Brusco
The village at Playa de Berria

The views going up were great, and as we rounded the top and started to descend, we caught sight of another beach (Playa de las Helgueras).

Next beach, Playa de las Heigueras

It was time for a coffee break and a bathroom stop. There was a cafe open at this second beach, where we caught up with Kim, we had crisscrossed multiple times. He’s the one with the pilgrim mindset mentioned on Day 11.

A very short but welcoming walk with trees
The open countryside, aromas included!

Since we are undertaking the Camino as a spiritual pilgrimage, one of our practices is reading the Daily Readings prior to our walk. That way, we can then discuss along the walk. Today’s Gospel reading was from Luke 17:11-19. I was struck by verse 18, when Jesus healed 10 lepers, but only one returned to thank Him. “Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner”

This set the tone for my day, to thank God. And there were many reasons. We have the health, time and resources to do this Camino. There has been amazing healing in our family. There has been amazing spiritual awakening and gifts among family members.

This posture of gratefulness and the graces seemed to ripple into our Camino day. The temperatures reached 78F by 11am and then 80F by noon. Walking minutes is fine, but walking hours in this temperature can be a health risk, especially should the body over-heat. Thus, we were making multiple stops under shady areas. However, when we were really in need of a rest break, in a mixed stretch of homes and open countryside, where shade was largely non-existent, we spotted a small shady area at the front of a house driveway. The home owners had actually set up a bench under their over-hanging tree branches, with a Yellow Arrow painted, and the words, “Buen Camino.”

Blessings to the home owners who prepared this for pilgrims.
This shaded stop was so needed to cool down our bodies and allow us to have a sandwich break.

A second occasion was when we reached a crossroads. We had already seen Kim ahead of us and saw him climbing a consistent incline in the distance (of about 0.5km), without any shade at all. We decided to rest in the shadow of a home at this crossroads prior to making this climb. At that point, our conversation was such that it prompted me to use Google Maps to determine how far out lodging was. Maps showed that we could take the other road instead and bypass that other town that Kim was headed towards. It would shaved off probably 40 mins of walking, at the pace we were going. So, we’re opted for this. A handwritten sign confirmed that this route would led to our destination even though the Yellow Arrow was pointing to the route that Kim took. This road was also known as Camino de Santiago!

Sign confirming alternative led to our destination town

A third occasion presented itself when we were climbing this alternative road and nearer the top of the hill. We spotted a group of 4 pilgrims resting under a tree. Clearly, they were there for some time, and were planning to rest till the heat of the day had passed. That prompted us to likewise stop under a shady bush, rather than push on. Sometimes, seeing others do prudent things helps one consider the same.

Finally, when we reached our lodgings for the night, Posada Valle de Guemes, we spotted a bona fide (i.e. swimmable) pool. And our room has an AC that works.

We did swim in the pool, a great way to cool down the body!

Truly a day for Giving Thanks, most especially how God has blessed our Family.

Day 11 Inner reflections

Saturday, Oct 8. Islares to Santona. 7 hours; approx. 25km.

Sun rise today was 8.12am. The weather forecast yesterday evening showed rain overnight in several of the towns that we were going to pass through today, and said rain was over by 5-6 am. It took me 10 days to implement this tactic in my Weather App; ‘better late than never’ since we had dry weather after the first two days of rain & wind.

We left Hotel Arnillas at 8.00am. Within minutes we were skirting the beach. To our surprise, we spotted some people in the sea, and quickly deduced they were surfers. Another group of people who monitor the earth’s rhythms (i.e. ocean tides) closely. There was a pedestrian walkway that made it safe during this stretch, but the sidewalk eventually ran out on the N-634.

Surfers already in the ocean at 8.15am

One thing about the Camino del Norte is there are quite a number of options for various stretches. We opted for a ‘highway variant’ which would be 4.7km shorter, and bypass a mountain climb. Though the highway does go up hill, but at a more manageable gradient.

Fortunately, for the most part, this arterial road was less busy than the major freeways, until we neared Laredo, a major city. There was more traffic heading into Laredo (and thus coming from behind us), than traffic heading to us. For the most part, we walked against the traffic.

There was a short bypass through a forested area that the planners had designed for walkers, that took us away from the N-634 before re-joining the N-634. I assumed this must be because of the narrowness, road curves and/or steepness of gradient. It allowed us to at least have some greenery and walk on dirt paths.

Our guidebook lists 32 stages for the Camino del Norte. What happens when one faces a stretch or chosen route which does not have wonderful scenery and walking experiences?

I found today an ideal time to reflect more within. Perhaps on various life situations or the trajectory of my spiritual life. Perhaps to converse more with one’s traveling companion. I contemplated prayers. When there’s no external stimuli, but just walking, it can be an opportunity for great interior reflection.

When we caught our first view of Laredo, coming off the N-634, we were struck by the size and length of the beach. We later learnt that it stretched for close to 5km! The sidewalks were not as broad as Costa Urdiales but Laredo’s had many metal art sculptures. There were also more benches to sit on facing the beach.

Laredo and its massive beach
An art sculpture at start of Laredo beach. I wonder if that empty space was strategically designed for posers.

We walked all the way to the end of the beach to catch the boat ferry to Santona. It costs Euro 2 per person for the 600m crossing.

Catching the boat ferry from Laredo to Santano. It wasn’t far from our walk onto beach, so one can’t miss an approaching boat.
Selfie as we approach Santona in background.

We had bought provisions to have a simple lunch of cheese, ham and membrillo on a multi-grained baguette. This was our pilgrim lunch experience in Laredo. There was a busker nearby and his music provided a soothing background.

We bumped into a fellow pilgrim who had stayed in the dormitory at Markina-Xemein 5 nights ago when we returned to our Hotel Arnillas in Islares yesterday afternoon. He was checking out the price there, and was walking to another lodging. Here’s the gist of our conversation.

  • Us: Oh, it’s you again.
  • Him: Oh, are you staying here?
  • Us: Yes.
  • Him: They are asking Euro 35 for a single. I feel guilty to spend so much as a Pilgrim.

Hmm…what a wonderful mindset to have on this Camino! If one is here only for sensory delights, it defeats the purpose of walking (and for many, carrying your backpack all the way).

A factoid about Santona. Christopher Columbus’ ship Santa Maria was built here.

This is the monument that memorializes Columbus expedition and ship. There’s also a bust nearby of the cartographer for the expedition.

Santona reminds us of the journeys that await us!

Darkness can lead somewhere good

Darkness can be suffocating. There’s much turmoil in our heads and hearts. We curl up in bed, we crawl under the blanket.

Curling up is instinctual; it is a healing move. We physically turn inward. And that awakens our inner spirituality.

Our fetal submission is our humble acceptance of God’s embrace of love and peace. We wait and wait, till God’s time arrives.

Surviving vs Thriving

In Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s book, “Warning to the West”, in his first speech to the West, he expressed hope that the West would learn from the Russians’ experience. This was when Solzhenitsyn was released from the Gulag, and had commenced a speaking tour to share his experiences. As time progressed, and the West started bending backwards as a result of détente, Solzhenitsyn pulled back on that optimistic expectation, and expressed doubt that human experiences could be transferred, that it seemed to be part of human nature to only learn first-hand. And thus, history does repeat itself.

On the COVID pandemic front, we are seeing this play out as un-vaccinated patients are hospitalized with the Delta variant. Mostly, they offer excuses for their vaccination hesitancy, with a handful still hanging onto their delusions as they are put on ventilators. Fortunately, the vaccination rate increases though the level of objection to proven masking tactics is stupefying this late in the pandemic; namely, this is the FOURTH wave, with several localities hitting all time records in ICU ward occupancies.

It appears there’s a lesson in this. That we can go through life solely based on our experiences, or taking in informed experiences of others. Clearly, we have to develop and exercise a critical discernment faculty when we start scanning and absorbing what is beyond our personal experiences. Perhaps that is the difference between surviving vs thriving.

Wicked men will be wrathful. Their anger we must endure as the badge of our calling, the token of our separation from them: if we were of the world the world would love its own. Our comfort is that the wrath of man shall be made to redound to the glory of GOD.

Charles H Spurgeon (on Psalm 76:10)

After mastering the 3 R’s, isn’t the next primary task of getting an education, the inculcation of a critical thinking/discernment ability? If so, how has America’s education system performed?

But there’s a critical assumption, that facts and logic will win out. Unfortunately, some are willing to bet their lives on deeply held convictions. This would be noble when a loving God was involved, not so when it’s self-centered values of individual liberty without regard to the common good.

And so, this generation will learn through their first hand experience. Perhaps the scars and trauma will serve the next generation(s) better. But unfortunately, our track record isn’t promising.

Reflecting Back to Journey Forward

A year unlike any, must surely be handled with care. Brought out the instruments, the special scopes, the probing devices because there’s much to discern. For to slumber through this reflection will surely result in fool’s gold being mistakenly added to my treasure store.

It was a year when I judged less, but discerned more. Judging matters in courts of law, but discernment triumphs in the court of life.

Blessings came disguised, sometimes wrapped initially as losses. The closure in cinemas consigned our annual unlimited movie pass into the back of our drawers. But the hours freed up enrich us beyond expectation. We cannot buy Time, so price-less is it.

Being scammed of a minor amount turned out to be another blessing in disguise. Anger at being fooled, a disruption in inner peace, an internal seething – all never made an appearance. What joy to know that this no longer troubled me. What joy to see it as God helping someone else, with what He blessed me with. Or what He consented to have me steward.

Walks, near and far, fair weather or drizzling rain was nature’s therapy to our souls. Conversations could not but work to bond us, as we employed our hearts more. Growing in the companionship, giving and receiving the simple joy of walking together, in the presence of each other. Aren’t these ingredients for love?

Friendships deepen, friendships die. A mere handful blossom into fellowship. Giving up others un-burdens both, as growth requires different.
As the exterior distractions shrinks, the interior opens up. Wisdom is so accessible and available, not requiring one to seek and visit sages in person like of old. My birthday gift of bookshelves are rapidly filling up. Perspectives change. Hearts softened. Hands reach out.

Pain and hurts arose. But not a few are due to internal expectations. And when I examined latter closely, I realized that it was much easier to re-calibrate those expectations than to manage or bury the pain and hurts. It’s like kicking the soccer ball first, and then, putting up the goal posts after the kick. How sweet.
Oh, I have taken a step forward and two steps back. It happens. Crying over split milk doesn’t do any good. What does good is knowing the motivation/trigger for the different steps. And making sure the feet is pointed in the right direction when moving forward.

The year in reflection is not so much the changing scenery outside my cabin window as I traveled from January to December. It’s more about the changes in me. And for that, there’s only One to thank.

“What is grace?” I asked God.

And He said, “All that happens.”

Then He added, when I looked perplexed,

“Could not lovers say that every moment in their Beloved’s arms was grace?”

Existence is my arms, though I well understand how one can turn away from me, until the heart has wisdom.

(St John the Cross / Daniel Ladinsky)

Self Actualization

I recall my idealistic genes kicked in real hard during my mid-teen years, when I was 17 years old. There was a not-brief interlude when I fell head over heels in love, but these genes kept on plugging away.

That period was colored by a greater awareness of the social and global issues prevalent then, and continues in one form or another to this day. It was augmented by respected teachers who broadened one’s awareness beyond the formal school curriculum. It was sharpened by student leadership courses and late discourses with those of like mind.

In hindsight, it seemed natural, not unexpected, when those idealistic genes turned its focus to the question of one’s own potential. After all, didn’t Michael Jackson sing that change started with the “man in the mirror”?

Thus, there was quite a prolonged period during my career when I devoured self-improvement books like cereal in the morning. It was all about self mastery, uncovering and honing one’s strengths and potential, and cultivating new mindsets and habits. I found this cool label, “self-actualization” that appealed to my evolving consciousness. As I was also attempting to climb the corporate ladder, there was a healthy mix of management, leadership and organizational reading thrown into the blender. I probably accumulated more than 150 books, if not more. I never did an exact count and many were left behind as I made the trans-pacific journey Stateside.

So, how has this worked out for me? There has been no regrets. I feel strongly grounded, confident and self-assured. There’s no doubt that this internal work has positioned me for career opportunities that I was able to take advantage of. There’s also no doubt that this “self-actualization engine” will not take me where I want to go in this next phase of life. What do I mean?

Life is never a straight climb upwards. Life provides us plateaus. As the commercial goes, the “pause that refreshes.” Plateaus allow us to cast our eyes ahead in time. To discern if the anticipated (future) outcome of our current trajectory remains our desire now that we are further in our journey. To ask if success is still the aim, or if significance and legacy is the new aim. Some fortuitously perceive a ‘better’ path ahead. They become self-aware, and paradoxically, adjust that internal engine, from self-actualization to other-actualization. The “other” can be children, grand-children or even a larger community. Those of us familiar with William Shakespeare’s notable quotes will recognize this, “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet“. And thus, “other-actualization” is the same as Christ’s Second Commandment.

For me, the plateau involved an awakening of my spiritual self. The new self was stirring itself. And I threw off my self-actualization totally with these Scripture from Isaiah 64:8.

But now, O Lord, you are our Father;

    we are the clay, and you are our potter;

    we are all the work of your hand.

How wonderful the thought, that all we have to do is yield, be pliant and God will wrought His goodness according to His will. I can rest in Him and cease all my striving.


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. 😊

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.